February 25, 2019

Learning from the Lord’s Prayers

During the Sermon on the Mount, the Savior gave what we now know as the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13). This beautiful prayer has been offered by billions of people around the world and is a wonderful template for teaching us how to pray. In addition to this prayer, we have several other recorded prayers that the Savior offered during His mortal ministry. Studying and learning from each of the Lord’s prayers can better help us in our own personal worship to the Father.

As the Lord sat teaching the Sermon on the Mount, he taught the multitude to pray by beginning with, “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9-10). Here the Savior begins with addressing the Father in a personal, yet reverential way. The expression, “Hallowed be thy name” is a form of praise and is more than just gratitude, but recognition of the character and attributes of God. We do not just thank God for how He has blessed us, but we praise Him for who He is.

The Lord next teaches that we are to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” (Matthew 6:11-12). In ancient times women spent a significant portion of each day grinding, mixing and cooking the daily bread for their family. Bread was the main staple of every meal and was considered sacred because of its importance for sustaining life. Thus, we are taught that God wants us to pray for our daily support. Daily bread can also remind us of the manna that the Lord gave Israel while in the wilderness, and of our own need to daily partake of the true bread of life, the Savior Jesus Christ (see John 6:35).

Jesus concludes the Lord’s Prayer with “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.” (Matthew 6:13). The Savior here teaches that we are to pray for strength to overcome sin, teaching us that we should not think that we can do it alone. Even the Savior prayed for fortitude while in Gethsemane, showing us by His example how to overcome our greatest trials.

Another recorded prayer of the Savior relates to when He fed the multitude of 5000. According to the Gospel of John “Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed [them] to the disciples” (John 6:11). Notice that according to John, the Savior did not actually bless the bread, but instead offered thanks. This can also be seen in both Matthew and Mark during the feeding of the 4000 when Jesus likewise only offered thanks (see Matthew 15:36 and Mark 8:6). Similarly, the prayer offered by the Savior when raising Lazarus from the dead, is a prayer of gratitude, not of requesting a miracle. “And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always … And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.” (John 11:41-43). This does not mean that Jesus did not pray for miracles, but perhaps the Savior is teaching us here that expressing gratitude has far more power than asking for miracles.

The timing and circumstances of when Jesus offered prayer is also highly significant. Though we only have the recorded words of a handful of the Savior’s prayers, we are told that Jesus prayed often. These times of prayer include when Jesus was baptized (Luke 3:21), after healing people (Mark 1:35), before walking on the water (Matthew 14:23), before choosing and calling his disciples (Luke 6:12), at the transfiguration (Luke 9:29), at the Last Supper (Luke 22:19), in Gethsemane (Mark 14:36), and on the cross of Calvary (Luke 23:34). [1] Each of these prayers were offered before and or after significant events of the life of Christ—moments when the Savior knew He needed added strength and inspiration from His Father. In many of these situations, the scriptures also tell us that these prayers were offered early in the morning, or lasted all through the night, showing that Jesus did not just offer short simple prayers. [2]

He also often prayed for others, praying for Peter’s faith, for His disciples and all of humanity while offering the great intercessory prayer in Gethsemane, and for his enemies while on the cross. The scriptures also teach us that Jesus often prayed on mountain tops, in quiet wilderness areas, in gardens, and also at the beautiful temple of Jerusalem.

Though this is only a small sampling of the many prayers and lessons we can learn from the Savior, the study of how, when, and why the Lord prayed can greatly add to our own personal worship. Truly, the Savior did not just preach about how to pray, but time and time again, He showed by example. Prayer was an integral part of His life. He praised the Father for His greatness. He prayed for daily strength to have the power and inspiration of God. He offered gratitude instead of just asking. He prayed in those moments when He most needed strength. And perhaps most important, He used prayer to bless our lives as He atoned, suffered and died for us, that we might have our prayers answered by our Heavenly Father.

[1] Prayers of Jesus, Wikipedia
[2] How to Pray by Reuben Archer Torrey