Webmaster Note: Jim received some pushback from others on this article because it was incorrectly perceived that he was writing against all public corporate prayer. Public prayer was common and essential among the Apostles and disciples in the NT church (Acts 1:12-14). Jim believes that corporate prayer is important in the Church and while that involves someone praying publicly, that's not what Jesus was addressing in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus was addressing the boisterous prayers some were making in the public squares only to draw attention to themselves. “Look how righteous I am by praying so loudly for everyone to hear!” Reading the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 5 through 7 should help the reader understand the intended context of this article.
This might be a good time to review what Jesus taught us when he gave his model prayer at the Sermon on the Mount.
Jesus begins by warning us against praying to bring attention to ourselves. He says the hypocrites do that. We’re to pray privately where only God will hear our prayer. Worldly people repeat a lot of vain babbling, but we shouldn’t pray like that. God already knows our needs and those repeated ritual phrases are useless (Matthew 6:5-7).
“After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.” (Matthew 6:9-13 KJV)
Praying for His Kingdom’s return truly is praying for all the world’s issues to be corrected. All will be made right in that day and his will be done (Revelation 22). We ask for our own forgiveness in the same way we forgive others. “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15)
Ask him to lead us away from temptation. A picture of this can be seen in the 23rd Psalm, comparing the Lord as a shepherd leading us to the green grass and along the still waters, the guidance of his rod and staff comforting us, not threatening.
And deliver us from evil. Satan tempted Jesus to turn stones into bread after 40 days of fasting. Jesus quoted scripture, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Deuteronomy 8:3). Satan challenged him to test God, but Jesus again quoted scripture, “...thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” (Deuteronomy 6:16).
Satan said he would give Jesus “...all the kingdoms of the world; and the glory of them” if Jesus would just worship him. Jesus once again quoted scripture, “...thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Deuteronomy 6:13, 10:20). Although Satan promised him “all the KINGDOMS and their GLORY”, Jesus closes his prayer by affirming that those aren’t the kingdoms we want anyhow! “For THINE is the KINGDOM and the POWER and the GLORY forever”. It’s God’s kingdom that we want!
Jesus told us to pray “in this manner”, not necessarily these exact words. There are no magic words. I think he meant to pray from the heart, briefly and asking for things that are of God’s will rather than our own will. We’re to ask with faith and confidence (Matthew 7:11). If we pray for the things that are of God’s will, he’ll take care of our needs as well!