This week I learned something new about the Lord’s Prayer: “The Jewish rabbis were in the habit of teaching people outline prayers that were known as ‘index prayers.’ They would gather together a number of short sentences each of which suggested an item for prayer. They would recite one sentence and then, before proceeding with the next, would enlarge upon it, drawing out some of its implications and applications. So when Christ’s disciples sought instruction in prayer, He gave them an ‘index prayer’.”*
In other words, Jesus intended the prayer to contain spaces between the thoughts, so that we could talk to God about each. I just love that because every line reminds me of some of my favorite things about God. If I pray this way, I praise Him and look eagerly to His coming kingdom. I ask for His will, His supply, and His forgiveness. I gratefully acknowledge His protection, His goodness, His power, and His eternal glory. But I can also stop and linger at each line as the Spirit leads me. The prayer gives order and structure, but it also gives me plenty of room to get really personal. Best of all, the focus stays on Him, not me. Give it a try:
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. Matthew 6:9-13
Jesus, I am so thankful that You are my great High Priest. Because of You, I can come boldly to the throne of grace, where I find mercy and grace to help in time of need. Because of You, I can pray without ceasing. Because of You, I can pray about everything. Because of You, I don’t have to find the “right” words when I pray. So often I don’t even know what to pray, but Your Spirit Himself makes intercession for me with groanings which cannot be uttered. Thank You Jesus. Hebrews 4:14-16, 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Philippians 4:6, Romans 8:26
I know that I ought always to pray and not lose heart. Lord I believe; help my unbelief! I need to come to You in faith, with no doubting, for the person who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. When I pray and still doubt, I cannot suppose I will receive anything from You. I confess I am often double-minded, unstable in all my ways. But You are near to anyone who calls upon You in truth. (Luke 18:1, Mark 9:24, James 1:6-7, Psalm 145:18)
Jesus, You taught Your disciples to be persistent in prayer. You told them to keep on asking, and they would receive what they asked for. If I keep on seeking, I will find. So when I call upon You and pray to You, I will find You. If I seek You with all my heart, I will find You and You will set me free. Luke 11:5, 8-9 NLT, Jeremiah 29:12, 13
Jesus, I am so grateful that You are at God’s right hand right now, interceding for me. Please pray for me that my faith may not fail. Romans 8:34, Luke 22:31-32
Lord, I know that if I don’t confess the sin in my heart, You will not listen to my prayers. If I ignore Your Word, You will detest my prayers. So I confess my sins to You, because You are faithful and just to forgive me my sins and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. Psalm 66:18 NLT, Proverbs 28:9, 1 John 1:9
Father, I confess that I have such a hard time getting along with other people. There are evil desires at war within me. Yet I don’t have what I want because I don’t ask You for it. Or sometimes I ask, but You don’t give it because my motives are all wrong. I only want what gives me pleasure. Please cleanse my heart so I am motivated to seek Your righteousness first. Then everything I need will be given to me. James 4:1-3, 8, Matthew 6:33
When I pray, Lord, don’t let me be a hypocrite about it. Some people love to pray where they can be seen by other people. Help me find a quiet, secluded place so I won’t be tempted to role-play before You. Help me sit before You simply and honestly. Shift my focus from me to You, so that I can begin to sense Your grace. This world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They are full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques about how to get what I want from You. Please, Lord, guard me from that nonsense. You are my Father and You know what I need better than I do. Matthew 6:5 NKJV, 6-8 MSG
Jesus, help me trust You when I pray. You taught Your disciples by asking questions: if a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give them a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If I then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to my children, how much more will our heavenly Father give the Spirit to those who ask? Luke 11:11-13
Lord, make me steadfast in prayer. Help me to pray always, with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit. Let my prayer be set before You as incense, the lifting up of my hands as evening sacrifice. Romans 12:12, Ephesians 6:18, Psalm 141:2
O Lord my God teach my heart this day where and how to find You.
You have made me and re-made me, and You have bestowed on me all the good things I possess, and still I do not know You. I have not yet done that for which I was made.
Teach me to seek You, for I cannot seek You unless You teach me, or find You unless You show Yourself to me.
Let me seek You in my desire; let me desire You in my seeking. Let me find You by loving You, let me love You when I find You. -A prayer of Saint Anselm
* Lockyer, Herbert. All the Prayers of the Bible. Zondervan 1959. p.192.