If you’re not sure how to pray, you’re in good company. The disciples, the first followers of Jesus, asked Jesus about this directly:
The prayer that follows you may know off by heart in the traditional version. Here’s a more modern translation:
Whether Jesus meant it as a prayer for us to learn word for word, or as a model for our own prayers, isn’t entirely clear, but it can be used both ways. You can speak the prayer as written, or you can follow its structure like a recipe, to make your own prayer. Like this…
Our Father in heaven,
help us to honour your name.
Jesus recommends starting in an attitude of praise and reverence to God.
Come and set up your kingdom,
so that everyone on earth will obey you,
as you are obeyed in heaven.
Jesus prays for good to prevail on earth, for peace, justice, morality, love. You may have specific things to include at this point. The prayer is also for God’s rule to come in our own lives, for us to be more like the people we should be.
Give us our food for today.
Then we pray for ourselves. In the western world, the day’s food is rarely the most pressing need, but here we can talk about the needs we do have – and we can pray for people who really don’t know where their food for today is going to come from.
Forgive us for doing wrong, as we forgive others.
Here we come clean – to God and ourselves – and Jesus takes this chance to remind us that we have no right to ask God to forgive us if we are not willing to do the same to others.
Keep us from being tempted and protect us from evil.
The last part of the prayer asks for two kinds of protection: from suffering and from temptation. Jesus invites us to pray that things will not go wrong for us, and that God will give us the strength not to do wrong.
Try using this structure to make your own prayer. Or perhaps memorise the prayer, and say it in the morning or evening for a week. Or make time each day (perhaps in a lunch break, or in the bathroom, or in bed) to use the different sections to spend five minutes in prayer.
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Jesus was someone who stretched the faith of people around him. He constantly dared people to see things differently, to act differently and to take steps of faith towards God.
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