Hearing the disciples’ plea, Jesus seized a teachable moment. This is what he said:
When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men…. When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed by your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:5-13)
No other passage in Scripture reveals in such straightforward fashion how to pray:
- Pray regularly – Jesus said, “When you pray…,” not “If you pray…”
- Pray privately – God is not impressed by public displays of piety.
- Pray sincerely – God is not interested in formulas. He wants to hear what is on our hearts.
- Pray specifically – Take the prayer we call the Lord’s Prayer as a model.
And the best news of all is that the advice Jesus offered his disciples two thousand years ago applies to all of us still today.