The Right Way to Pray
After this manner therefore pray ye. Matthew 6:9
suggested further reading: 1 Samuel 2:1–11
Jesus tells us we are free to offer six petitions to God. Nothing is more advantageous to us than such instruction. Though prayer is the most important exercise of piety, yet in forming our prayers and regulating our wishes, all our senses too often fail us. No person will pray aright unless his lips and heart are directed by the heavenly Master.
For this reason Christ tells us how to form our prayers so that they can be accounted lawful and approved by God. It is not the intent of the Son of God to prescribe the exact words we must use to limit our freedom from departing from the words he has dictated. Rather, his intent is to guide and restrain our wishes that they might not go beyond certain limits. Hence we infer that the guide for prayer that he gives us relates not to the words themselves but to the petitions they represent.
The first three petitions refer to the glory of God, without any regard to ourselves. The remaining petitions refer to those things that are necessary for our salvation. Likewise, the law of God is divided into tables, of which the former contains the duties of piety and the latter the duties of charity. So in prayer, Christ invites us to consider and seek the glory of God first and then to ask him to consider our own interests.
We know that we have the right approach to prayer if we give first place to the honor and glory of God, then earnestly give expression to ourselves and our own concerns. It would be altogether preposterous to mind only what belongs to ourselves while disregarding the kingdom of God, which is of far greater importance.
for meditation: If our prayers seem to stumble, perhaps we are failing to honor what Christ himself taught us about formulating our prayers. Consider framing your prayers according to the guidelines offered here and in the Lord’s Prayer. This may be a challenge for us, since we are not prone to be as earnest about God’s kingdom and glory as we are about our own daily needs. But the Holy Spirit can help us not to rush through the God-centered part of prayer and immediately move on to the things we want. What grace we need to truly pray!