This Bible lesson on prayer for adults is a simple and brief overview of the powerful truth about praying, and is no way an exhaustive study on the practice or power of prayer.
Perhaps you have been asked to lead a small group Bible study. If so, congratulations!
Or perhaps you may be looking for a Sunday school lesson on prayer.
Maybe you just want to learn more about prayer for your own personal walk with God.
No matter what brought you to this article, every Christian should strive to have an effective prayer life because they are children of God. As such, we all need to practice frequent communication with our Heavenly Father.
What is Prayer?
- Prayer is communication with God, the Creator of the universe.
- Prayer is a connection between heaven and earth.
- Prayer is a supernatural action performed by natural, sinful people.
- God, our heavenly Father, delights to hear the prayers of His children.
- Every follower of Jesus Christ needs God’s help, and prayer is that vehicle to ask for God’s help.
The Lord’s Prayer
The most famous prayer, what is commonly called “The Lord’s Prayer,” is found in two different Gospels in the Bible — Luke and Matthew. Luke records that after Jesus Himself was finished praying, one of His disciples requested that Jesus teach them how to pray.
And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.
The wise and unnamed disciple realized both the power of prayer, and the importance of prayer, and he wanted to learn this skill. Jesus graciously answered this request, and gave His disciples the model prayer, “The Lord’s Prayer.”
Matthew’s account of this prayer, found in Matthew 6:9-13, reads like this:
“Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 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.” (KJV)
This particular prayer was not intended to be repeated meaninglessly, but rather, gives us a model to shape our own personal prayers. Some have even dubbed this prayer, “The Disciples’ Prayer,” since Jesus gave this particular prayer to His disciples.
Regardless of what you may name this portion of Scripture, studying it gives us a format for us to pattern our own prayer life, and can be adapted in various ways to all of our prayers.
Here is a dissection of the different parts of this prayer.
Our Father which art in heaven
Many times, we start our prayers with something like, “Dear Heavenly Father…” This phrase is borrowed from what Jesus taught.
When we begin our prayers, we are addressing God the Father — He is in heaven. Some people simply start their prayers with saying, “Dear God…” This, too, is perfectly fine.
There are no particular or exact words to say in prayer, and there are an endless variety of ways to structure your own prayers, but a good start is to address exactly Who you are praying to — God the Father.
The pattern of prayer in the Bible is to pray to God the Father, in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, through the silent, but powerful, help of the Holy Spirit.
Keep in mind, all three Persons of the Godhead are involved in your prayers.
Hallowed be thy name
God’s name is holy, and it needs to be honored, because God is holy and honorable above all. Although we are bringing our requests and petitions to Him, our prayers are to God, and we need to pause just for a moment and realize what a honor it is to be allowed to approach God with whatever is troubling us.
When we pray, we need to mentally place Him in the exalted and respected position that He deserves before we go any further with our prayer.
Thy kingdom come.
The ancient Jews would say that a prayer without a mention of God’s kingdom was not a prayer at all. The fact of God’s eternal kingdom should be in the back of every Christian’s mind.
If we use this model prayer of Christ Jesus, a mention of His coming kingdom will be a part of both our personal desires and our daily prayers. Jesus placed this reference to God’s kingdom, before our personal requests and wants.
Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Again, before petitioning God with our desires, we need to have our hearts ready to accept His will in relation to what we will be asking Him. This is trusting God in that, despite what we want, we make the conscious decision that He knows what’s best while we submit ourselves to His will.
The statement “Thy will be done” is a discipline of faith on our part, while we ask for God to help us accept His decisions.
Give us this day our daily bread.
Here we now ask something for ourselves. While we may not be asking God directly for food because our refrigerator and pantry may be full, nevertheless, we have needs.
The needs may be physical of some sort, such as health, or financial, mental, or emotional. We may be petitioning God for someone else. The key word in this model prayer is “daily.”
We have issues and struggles every single day. Because of our lack, we need to come to God’s throne of grace daily through the vehicle of prayer.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
The word “debts” here is a reference to sins. Sin hinders our prayers according to Psalm 66:18, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me”. (KJV)
Even after God has saved our souls from hell, we still struggle with sin. Sin is our first nature, and we need God’s forgiveness daily as we live in a sinful, fallen, world.
Thankfully, God is willing and eager to forgive us as we confess our sins to Him according to 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (KJV)
We need to also be willing to forgive those who have wronged us, especially when they desire our forgiveness for their offences.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
The word “temptation” here has the idea of trials and tests. Also, God has allowed us a permissive will, and because of that we make foolish, even sinful, decisions that we later regret.
These two, short, related, phrases have much power and truth since Jesus Christ is reminding us to pray for God’s protection from Satan, from all those doing his bidding, as well as from the deceitfulness of our own human heart.
This idea about deliverance from evil was prayed by Jesus Himself when He prayed to God His Father for His disciples (And us, too!) before He went to the cross. This prayer of Jesus is recorded in
John 17:15 “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.” (KJV)
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.
The prayer closes with a sense of trust in the attributes of God. God reigns over all, He has all power, and all things are for His glory. We can confidently place and rest all of our petitions in His powerful hands knowing that there is no better place. The close of this prayer shows faith.
By praying about our needs, we have done all that we can do. We have put our cares into the only One Who can do anything about them. Now we trust that God will move on our behalf.
Jesus taught to finish a prayer with the final word “Amen.” The word Amen comes from a Hebrew word which means “faithful,” or “true”. Jesus Christ Himself is called “Amen” in
Revelation 3:14, “These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God” Revelation 3:14 (KJV)
Using this word to end a prayer reiterates that the petitions are placed before a God Who is both faithful and true. Prayers to God begin with God, include our concerns and petitions, and concludes with God.
May you include some of the meaning of these examples the next time you pray.
Encouragement to Pray
Now that there is a pattern of prayer, it is time to employ the practice of prayer. Just as Jesus taught His disciples how to pray, He encouraged them to pray, and to keep praying. He did so by telling the parable of the persistent widow as recorded in
“And he [Jesus] spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?(KJV)
The widow’s persistence in this parable is an example to Christians today. Just as the widow knew that she had a “case” against her adversary. She wanted justice, and she was not going to rest until she got what she desired.
So, too, when we pray, we want something from God. Jesus encourages us to keep coming and keep asking until we get what we desire. God, unlike the judge in this story, does not get weary of His children coming to Him with their requests.
When we repeatedly petition God for what we desire of Him, this shows our faith in Him.
Parable of the Pharisee and Publican
Immediately after Jesus told the parable of the persistent widow, He told another parable about to men who prayed. This time, He addressed the attitude of the heart.
“Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” (KJV)
The man who was a Pharisee was a member of the religious leadership of Jesus’ day. The Pharisees believed in, and trusted in, their own righteousness. This man prayed, and although he addressed God, according to what Jesus said, he prayed “with himself.”
God ignored his prayer as he listed all of his good works. The other man, a tax collector (the King James Version of the Bible translates his profession as a publican) cried out to God for mercy; he knew he was a sinner. He knew he needed, and he desperately wanted, God’s mercy, and He knew he could do nothing but cry out to God for it.
God heard the cry of this humble man and forgave him of his sins. The example of the publican is something that we need to emulate.
Anything good that we do is totally because of what God has done for us, and what He can do through us. No matter what your requests to God may be today, if you have received God’s mercy like the publican, don’t forget to include some prayers of thanksgiving for God’s mercy to you every day.
Let us pray.
To learn more about prayer, especially praying prayers in the Bible check out Paul’s Ephesians Prayer.