Prayer is a part of our faith that most believers, young and old, assume will simply develop naturally. Yes, the Holy Spirit will lead us to a better understanding about prayer, and, yes, He will continually craft our prayer lives to be a unique experience between us and our amazing Father. But if we go a step further and study what Jesus taught his disciples about prayer, then we can gain a greater understanding, which will help us reach our maximum potential as a people whose lives should be marked by a constant dialogue between us and our God.
Nowhere else is this need for clear teaching more obvious than in the lives of our kids. As parents we cannot make the mistake of assuming our kids understand how to pray. We must take them through scripture and teach them about the model prayer Jesus taught His disciples:
Luke 11:1-4 (New International Reader’s Version)
One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples spoke to him. “Lord,” he said, “teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
Jesus said to them, “When you pray, this is what you should say. Father, may your name be honored. May your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we also forgive everyone who sins against us. Keep us from falling into sin when we are tempted.’ “
Not too long ago I was preparing a message for our kids in Cross Street, and within our 252 Basics Curriculum (Rethink) I came across this explanation that seemed to be easy to understand and effective in communicating Jesus’ model prayer:
Okay, think about this with me for a minute. When a house is being constructed, what is the very first thing that is built? The foundation. The foundation is the base upon which the entire structure sits. It needs to be solid because if it’s not, that structure isn’t going to stand for long.
After the foundation is securely constructed, you begin seeing the framework for the walls. The walls are there to protect you from weather, from intruders, and from anything that’s unsafe on the outside.
Once the walls are framed, comes the roof. The roof covers the house. It keeps out the harsh, burning sunlight. It doesn’t let snow or rain inside, saving the house from the permanent damage these elements could inflict.
Lastly, the finishing touches are added, like windows, doors, paint, and landscaping. That’s the part of the house that catches the attention of others. It’s the flashy part—the part that others see and notice.
So what does building a house have to do with the prayer model that Jesus gave His disciples? Let’s look again at the scripture from Luke and connect its wisdom to the construction of a house.
“Father, may your name be honored.”
Think about the foundation of prayer. What’s the first thing Jesus emphasized? Jesus first gave honor to God. He acknowledged that God is King. The foundation of our prayers should be an acknowledgement of God’s holiness.
“Give us each day our daily bread.”
What are the walls? What’s our source of protection? This part of the prayer reminds us that God is our Father. We have a relationship with Him. He desires to provide for us. He provides us with food and so much more. He is a wall of protection because we are His dearly loved children.
“Forgive us our sins”
And the roof? What serves as the roof in our relationship with God? His forgiveness. God’s forgiveness saves us from our sin. His forgiveness keeps us from suffering the consequences of our sinful nature. If we believe Jesus is God’s Son and ask Him to be our Savior, we are forgiven and will spend eternity with God in heaven! God’s shielding roof of forgiveness keeps our sinful nature from destroying us.
“. . . as we also forgive everyone who sins against us. Keep us from falling into sin when we are tempted.”
Finally, the finishing touches. This is the part that everyone sees, and the part that draws attention to the house. What are those things? We have the ability to forgive others because we know how it feels to be forgiven. If you’re regularly going around forgiving others—not treating them like they deserve to be treated, but instead realizing I should treat others the way I want to be treated and showing them the love and mercy that God shows you—then that’s the kind of ‘finishing touch’ that others will notice! Also, if we are not constantly falling into sin like those around us, others will see and be drawn by the difference in our lives.