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The Model Prayer

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Luke 11:1–4

Prayer is not getting God to do things for us. It is a matter of properly recognizing and honoring Him and humbly recognizing how dependent on Him and needy we are. The Lord’s Prayer, or more properly the disciples’ prayer, is an enlightening model of God-honoring prayer. 


Just about every Christian I meet would agree that prayer should be a priority in life. But the truth is, according to one religious survey, only about 20 percent of Christians spend ten minutes or more in prayer daily.[1]

Chapter 11 of Luke’s Gospel begins by telling us, “Jesus was praying in a certain place.” Jesus is not just praying; He is providing a model. And apparently, His disciples are watching. Whether they can hear His words or not on this occasion, they had heard Him pray before.

And now one of the disciples is moved to make a request of Jesus, and he makes it on behalf of them all: “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” By the way, this is the only time the disciples ever asked Jesus to teach them how to do something; they request that He teach them how to pray.

The Lord responds by doing just that. He gives them something, not necessarily to memorize, but to serve as a model for prayer.

Most people call this model prayer the Lord’s Prayer, when it really should be called the Disciples’ Prayer. If you’ve been sailing along with me on this Wisdom Journey, you might recall our earlier lesson from Matthew 6, where Jesus spoke similar words as these in the Sermon on the Mount.

But I believe these are two different occasions. The Sermon on the Mount was delivered to a massive crowd, but here the Lord speaks to His disciples. And that explains why the two prayers have slightly different wording. This model prayer in Luke’s Gospel emphasizes the characteristics of true, God-honoring prayer. I want to pull out six different characteristics.

First, genuine prayer is focused on the divine audience. Jesus begins in verse 2 by addressing the prayer to the “Father.” Now that would be a shocking way to start praying. Why? Because the Jewish people knew nothing about this kind of intimate, family communion. God was referred to as “Father” only seven times in the Old Testament, and even then, it was a national reference and not personal.

Opening with “Father” is a wonderful invitation to the children of God, but it is also a qualifier. In other words, you cannot pray unless you can call God your Father. When God the Son becomes your personal Savior, God the Father becomes your personal Father. And it is on this basis you can approach Him with confidence.

Second, genuine prayer honors God’s reputation, or “name.” Verse 2 continues, “Hallowed [sacred] be your name.” This is essentially praying, “Let me keep Your name sacred in the way I live; as Your child, help me to live in such a way that nobody would be surprised to learn that You are my Father.” Beloved, God’s reputation is not one ounce better than your reputation out there in the world; your reputation actually determines His reputation to others.

Third, genuine prayer should be focused on God’s kingdom. Verse 2 concludes, “Your kingdom come.” Beloved, this request has room for only one King. If we are going to be the king of our own castle, then we cannot pray this prayer. We want Him to reign in our lives.

But this request actually looks forward to, and prays for, the coming of Christ’s literal, millennial kingdom on earth. That kingdom will follow the seven-year tribulation, which brings that generation of Israel to full repentance.

We live our lives, looking forward to the coming reign of Christ on earth. One author writes that the kingdom of God is not just a destination for where we will live one day; it is a motivation for the way we live right now.[2]

Verse 3 shifts from the glory of heaven, as one author puts it, “down to the dusty streets of everyday life.”[3] “Give us each day our daily bread” gives us another characteristic of genuine prayer: it recognizes our dependence on God.

This kind of prayer request involves more than just bread on our breakfast plate. This request actually leads us to live today and trust God for tomorrow. Jesus is teaching us to be satisfied with bread for today. And every time we satisfy our hunger, we have one more reason to thank Him. And as I have already said in earlier studies, the Lord is teaching us to pray for bread, not cake. “Lord, give us just what we truly need, one day at a time.”

The Lord teaches us another prayer request in verse 4: “Forgive us our sins.” This is the fifth characteristic of genuine prayer: it acknowledges our need for forgiveness. By the way, this request is why this is not the Lord’s prayer—Jesus never needs to pray this, because Jesus cannot and did not sin.

This is our prayer, and keep in mind, this is not a prayer for salvation; it is a prayer for communion with God on a daily basis. This is our daily prayer—and we do not have to be saved every day. We are saved and sealed forever the moment we trust Christ as our Savior. So, this request, “forgive us our sins,” is a prayer for daily forgiveness so we can have daily communion with our Father. When I sin against my wife with some selfish act or unkind word, I don’t have to marry her all over again; but I do need to restore fellowship with her, by asking her forgiveness. That is the picture here.

Verse 4 does not end with our asking God for forgiveness. Jesus adds this significant phrase: “for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.” Now do not misunderstand this; Jesus is not saying God forgives us because we have forgiven others; He is saying we should forgive other people just like we have been forgiven.

So, in a very personal manner, the Lord effectively teaches His disciples to pray, “Father, teach us to treat other people’s debts like You have treated ours.”

Yes, somebody out there is indebted to you. They owe you something—they owe you an apology, money, restitution, kindness, gratitude. Then God brings them to a recognition of their offense, and they come to you and ask your forgiveness. So, what will you do?

Well, forgiven people ought to be forgiving people. And beloved, you are never more like your heavenly Father than when you choose to forgive someone—and you are never more unlike Him than when you refuse.

Now the last characteristic of genuine prayer is that it seeks help in resisting temptation. Verse 4 concludes, “And lead us not into temptation.” Now that almost sounds like God is responsible for us being tempted, and we are asking Him not to do it. The idea, however, is this: “Cause us not to yield to temptation.”[4]

Satan is the original tempter; his kingdom works in cooperation with our fallen flesh, putting an appealing face on sin—and he never lets up. He never lets up because sin is something we are always interested in.

So, this prayer is an admission that our hearts are the problem: they are like little sin-manufacturing plants, where temptation is invited to come and work and then given a key to every room in the building.

You can’t decide to get rid of temptation, but you can decide not to go along with it—you can decide not to hide it, plan for it, or make room for it. Martin Luther, the reformer, made this point 500 years ago when he wrote, “You can’t keep the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from [making a] nest in your hair.”[5]

And with that, the Lord wraps up this model prayer. Why do we need to pray? English pastor George MacDonald, once wrote, “Communion with God is the one need of the soul beyond all other need: prayer is the beginning of that communion.”[6]

That is at the heart of genuine prayer—to have communion with our Father, whom we need every single day.

[1] “Infographic: How Is Your Prayer Life?”, November 2, 2019.

[2] Warren W. Wiersbe, On Earth as It Is in Heaven (Baker Books, 2010), 68.

[3] R. Albert Mohler Jr., The Prayer that Turns the World Upside Down (Nelson Books, 2018), 110.

[4] Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Luke (Zondervan, 2012), 291.

[5] J. I. Packer, Praying the Lord’s Prayer (Crossway, 2007), 93.

[6] George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons (reprint, Cosimo, 2007), 166.

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