Pray then like this:
How staggeringly wonderful that Jesus would present us with such a succinct and powerful model of prayer! Of course, the Lord’s Prayer is that model. Christ effectively delivered it to us as a guideline, a standard and parameter for how praying ought to look for His followers. This importance is clarified by Jesus Himself in the opening words: “Pray then like this”.
These four simple words can easily go overlook as we eagerly jump to the meat and potatoes of the matter; however, this opening statement is no less important than any other aspect of the Lord’s Prayer.
First, from these words, Jesus informs us that there is a correct way to pray. Just as we discussed previously, the disciples realized over the course of Jesus’ ministry that His prayers were effectual in a manner that they had never before witnessed. Jesus spoke to God as His Father, and God answered in spectacular fashions. He knew that the Father “knows what you need before you ask him (Matt. 6:8).” So Jesus made His prayers, knowing that the Father would not fail to accomplish His will, and by praying, Jesus sought to conform Himself to the will of the Father.
Second, since there exists a correct form of prayer, there must also be incorrect praying. It is most important for us to understand that not all prayer is really prayer, and because of this, not all prayer is effectual. After all, the Pharisees and Sadducees would also spend a great deal of time praying to God, yet their prayers seemed empty, regardless of the speaker’s eloquence. Jesus smashes the preconceived notions of prayer into rubble, giving a remarkably short prayer as the pattern for us to follow. A well-spoken prayer that is delivered to appear holy receives only the reward of being esteemed holy by others, but prayer that is made to the Father, seeking to do His will, is prayer that is truly holy and is truly prayer.
Third, we must remember that the Lord’s Prayer is a model. Jesus said to pray like this. The Lord’s Prayer is not a Christian mantra to be repeated endlessly to gain credit with God. Heartless repetition of these words is no more holy than the heaped “up empty phrases” that defined a hypocrite’s prayer. To be true, there is nothing wrong about praying the Lord’s Prayer word for word; however, if doing so is to be true prayer, it must come from the heart, not from bottomless replication. Instead, I believe that we ought to use the Lord’s Prayer as a basic outline for how we might structure our prayers, that we would be guided by Jesus’ example to pray regularly for God’s name to be made holy, for His kingdom to come, for His will to be done, for our daily provision, for forgiveness, and for strength to conquer sin. This is the approach we will take as we meditate upon each component of the Lord’s Prayer.
Meditate upon Jesus words: “Pray then like this.”
Pray to conform to Jesus’ example of praying.