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"Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed by Thy Name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy 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.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.  Amen" ("The Lord's Prayer," Matthew 6).
Much can be gleaned from our Lord's teaching on prayer.  Specifically, I want to focus on three areas in the Lord's prayer that are helpful in understanding the purpose of prayer and also practical helps in the area of how to pray.  Jesus, of course, was answering the latter statement directly when his disciples asked him, "Lord, teach us to pray."  As a result, three distinct ideas are taught by Jesus to his disciples on the subject of prayer.

1. Prayer is chiefly concerned with the glory of God.
"Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed by Thy Name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven...
For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.  Amen."
First of all, it is important to see that Jesus bookends his prayer with a proper view of God.  Jesus teaches his disciples to recognize that God is in heaven, that even his name is holy, that he has a kingdom, and that all authority (shown in the word "kingdom"), power, and glory belong to him and should be acknowledged as his.

This first point is crucial to understanding prayer.  Prayer is for the glory, praise, renown, and worship of God.  This should not surprise us, as everything in creation is for this purpose.  As Colossians 1:16 states, "All things were made by him and for him."  In the Westminster Shorter Catechism, question one states the purpose of man as "to glorify God."  In all things, the glory - the worship - of God should be in the highest place.

When we first see this, we can now move on to the other two points Jesus is making in his prayer.

2. Prayer is making a request that our circumstances be changed.
"Give us this day our daily bread...
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."
These requests are primarily about changing our circumstances.  For instance, "Lord, I need certain things; please give them to me.  Please change my circumstances so that I have what I need."  Or "Lord, please take control of this situation so that I am not faced with this temptation."

In light of the glory of God as the central purpose of prayer, we can see how this falls directly under the first point.  "Lord, if you give me what I need, I will praise you because I know you gave it to me."  Do you see what is the result of our answered prayers for circumstantial change?  It is the praise of his glory!

However, point number two is where our prayers often start and stop.  What this does is falsely views God as our errand-boy or our personal servant to get what I want.  Or, as some have put it, God is not our "cosmic bellhop."  When rightly viewed as the ruler with all authority, power, and glory even our requests for things to change around us can be times of worship.

But what happens when our circumstances don't change?  What happens when diseases aren't healed and food isn't given to us?  How can we praise God for that?  This leads us to our third point.

3. Prayer is making a request that we be changed.
"... forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors."
Jesus uses a simile here, distinguished by the word "as."  Essentially, he is comparing the character of God (specifically his forgiveness of sins) to our character (that we, like God, should also forgive others their sins against us).  Jesus is teaching, therefore, that prayer is a means to make us more like Christ; that is, prayer is a request to change us even if our circumstances do not change.

This, too, results in the worship of God.  In conjunction with point number two, our prayer may look something like this, "Lord, please heal my son's heart, but if you choose not to, then please help my wife and I to accept it, to trust in you, and to make us more like you.  As you do these things in us, we worship you for you have done them, for no one else can!"  This is a promise to be sure: that God will make us into the image of his son (Romans 8:28-29).  And how does he do that?  Through circumstances, sometimes circumstances that don't change; instead, he changes us.

Jesus' teaching on prayer and the model he shows us is vitally important to understand so that we can pray with a better motivation, attitude, and practicality.  Additionally, there are other prayer models that are helpful, such as the ACTS model: A-Adoration, C-Confession, T-Thanksgiving, S-Supplication.  After we have first adored our Father, then we confess our sins to him.  Next, we thank him for both who he is and what he is doing.  Finally, we bring our supplications (requests) to him in humility.  I think the three point teaching, modeled in the Lord's Prayer, is helpful when applied to our supplications.

Regardless of how we pray, we need to know what prayer is and how it works.  The Lord Jesus gave us much insight into prayer through his teaching on prayer.  I pray that it helps you and I to pray more fervently and effectively.

Much of the content in this article is borrowed heavily from David Powlison's article entitled "Praying Beyond the Sicklist" published in "The Journal of Biblical Counseling."  If you would like to read this article, click here.