“This then is how you should pray,” Matthew 6:9a
The familiar introduction to the Lord’s Prayer reminds us that Jesus modeled prayer to His disciples, and not just in this instance. But here we find that He teaches them how to speak to God the Father, just as we should pass along the understanding of how to pray to our children.
- Start by addressing Him as Father, for that is who He is for all of us who have accepted Jesus as Lord of our lives [Matthew 6:9].
Children can understand a parent relationship, but they will also spend the first part of their lives watching their earthly father to understand their heavenly one. This is a weighty responsibility.
- And even though we speak to God as we would our father, revere–honor–His name [Matthew 6:9].
Don’t come to God disrespectfully, by failing to fully understand and acknowledge who He is. This part comes with experience. For a young child, they can be told many things about God and given a formulaic way to sit and pray reverently, but they will spend a good many years working out understanding and reverence for themselves. It is the silent inner struggle we all come through on our way to spiritual autonomy.
- Your plans and purposes prevail through my life, because you are also God my King. Make me as faithful and obedient as the angels in heaven [Matthew 6:10].
Paraphrased, yes, but the essential meaning of this verse is to recognize God’s sovereignty over heaven and earth and to realign our daily lives with that Sovereignty. But living as citizens of heaven is in direct conflict with the natural sinful state into which we are born. Here we teach young children to begin to ask God to show them if they’ve committed any sin and then to ask Him to forgive them. We also teach them to read God’s Word and pray for God to help them become more and more Christ-like every day.
- Provide for us.
Now my children early on, developed a funny habit of saying, “I wish…” during portions of their prayer. We took this as an opportunity to make sure they understood that God was not a genie in a lamp that grants all our gimmes. Rather, He is a loving Father who provides for all our needs. So when we teach children to pray, we also instruct them in the difference between needs and wants [though God grants us the desires of our hearts as well–Psalm 37:4–but there is a whole other discussion to be had here.]
- Forgive us, because we also forgive those who wrong us.
Forgiveness is huge! Because when we don’t forgive others, our sins are not forgiven either[Matthew 6:15]. Even a little child can understand forgiveness. Meaning it, on the other hand, is something they often grow into. In this part of prayer, we’re essentially asking God to make us more loving, more like Him.
- Keep us from testing, and set us free from evil.
In this world we will have trouble, but Jesus has overcome [John 16:33]. And we can ask God to keep testing out of our lives, though sometimes we may have to endure it anyway. Jesus did [Matthew 26:36-56]. But other times He will grant our petition. And we can ask to be set free from evil. This can be taken two ways: 1) for our own salvation from sin, and 2) for protection or removal from the evil in the world around us. Jesus tells us we can ask God for divine intervention in our struggles! Praise the Lord!
We are all probably familiar with this passage of scripture, let us pass it faithfully on to our children, helping them to develop a prayer life from the earliest age to the glory and honor of God. Amen.