My mother first taught me to pray. Those prayers were refined and became an increasing part of my life as I grew older. They were influenced by additional teachers—the most important being the Savior.
I learned the Lord’s Prayer as a child, but it was years later that I learned that our Savior’s elegant, simple, masterful words were actually a commandment. In the Lord’s Prayer, recorded in Matthew 6:9–13 [Matt. 6:9–13], he teaches us how to pray and tells us to follow his model. Once I began obeying that commandment, my prayers were more personal, more purposeful, more powerful.
“After this manner therefore pray ye,” the Lord instructed. Since he had just warned against “vain repetitions” in prayers, we know that he meant for us to use his prayer as a model for our own. We do not need to use his words, but we do need to build his intent in our hearts.
He began: “Our Father which art in heaven.” Christ addressed his Father just as we should; we should realize to whom we are speaking when we pray. Through prayer we address the God of all creation, the God who created us, God our Eternal Father.
As I prayed with this in mind, I realized that God is a real being, a real father. I realized that he loves us. He wants us to be happy, to succeed. He wants us to speak to him.
“Hallowed be thy name.” We should reverence and worship the being to whom we pray. Particularly those of us who have, through baptism, taken upon ourselves the name of Christ should remember that God’s name is hallowed.
As I prayed in reverence, I recognized why I would want to use God’s name with care, and why I should consider carefully all that I did in his name.
“Thy kingdom come.” Here an interesting thing happens. By praying that the Lord’s Kingdom will be built, we commit ourselves to helping build it. Knowing our own abilities and opportunities, we can confer with God about the ways we—individually and as a church—can help build that kingdom.
As I prayed that the Lord’s kingdom would come, I caught the excitement and vision of helping in that cause. I felt committed because I was committed.
“Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” Having committed ourselves to building the kingdom of God, we need to commit ourselves to doing God’s will. There seems no point in praying if we want someone else to do the building or obeying for us! When we pray that the Lord’s will be done, we commit ourselves to helping bring it to pass. Also, we commit ourselves to accepting it.
There is no doubt that this commitment is difficult to say and mean. Yet once I promised the Lord that I would help with his work and do his will, I found that my will actually began to match his. That’s one of the miracles of the principle of obedience.
“Give us this day our daily bread.” An honest, reflective person will realize that all he has comes from God. Our “daily bread” is indeed heaven-provided manna, even if we must work long hours to “earn” it. As we ask the Lord to supply our necessities, we acknowledge that they come from him. At the same time, we commit ourselves to doing our part to be worthy of them.
“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” We must be willing to forgive others if we are to be forgiven of our own weaknesses and deficiencies. The Lord was so concerned about making this principle clear that immediately after completing his model prayer, he explained the principle of forgiveness:
“For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
“But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matt. 6:14–15.)
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” In your last prayer, did you ask the Lord to help you overcome the temptations that confront you? Did you ask him to guide you safely through the evils of our day, of your life? Temptations are made available to us through the nature of mortality so that we can prove ourselves and learn valuable lessons. The Lord has promised us that if we ask, he will not allow us to be tempted beyond our ability to resist and overcome.
I have learned to ask for that assistance. If I don’t ask, I may not be delivered.
“For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.” Here Christ gives us a goal for life. He tells us what is important in life: his kingdom. Like you, I enjoy the joys and diversities of mortality. But the Lord’s kingdom must be my goal if I am to reach it.
Forsaking earth’s temporary pleasures, we must recognize that the only genuine, eternal power and glory are the Father’s. Recognizing that, we commit ourselves to bringing glory to the Lord.
Also, the words “for ever” should remind us that we are speaking of eternal, not temporary, things. Our commitments are not momentary; our actions have eternal consequences.
“Amen.” With this word, we speak our “so be it” to the prayer we have spoken. With this ratification, we again give our commitment to doing all we can to be worthy of the blessings we request.
Not every prayer has all of these elements. In a dangerous situation, as you speak a few silent, pleading words, you might not have time for this praise and adoration of “Hallowed be thy name” or for the maturity of “Thy will be done.” In the same way, a brief prayer of gratitude and joy that fills your heart might not include a request for “daily bread.”
Even so, the attitudes Christ demonstrated in his prayer can be part of your attitude and character. As you ingrain the traits and patterns of Christ’s model prayer into your prayers, you develop an attitude of perfection. Godlike traits become your traits. As you pray like Christ, you can become more like Christ.
It has been many years since I first recognized that the Lord’s Prayer is a commandment, not just some well-known words. Because of my early childhood training, I never felt, as some do, that I was foolish in kneeling by the side of a bed and speaking out into open space. But all who follow the Lord’s commandment to pray soon learn, as I have, that our prayers are heard and answered. They learn that God is closer to us than we ever know.