I recommend we all take Jesus’ advice when it comes to how to pray (and other things!).
Matthew 6 (KJV): Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.
2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:
4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.
5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13 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.
I didn’t really know what it meant to pray when I became Christian. I knew I wanted to be like Jesus, and I applied that to my thoughts, speech, and actions. I didn’t know how to pray, and that bugged me. I grew up citing the dinner prayer, but it was vain repetition that Matthew instructed us not to do. More recently, I would read scripture, think about Jesus, and reflect on my actions, but there wasn’t any structure to it. I don’t think there has to be, but Jesus does tell us how to pray, which is better. Best, actually.
He tells us how, starting with his call to action: “After this manner therefore pray ye.” Silly that I didn’t really pick up on this before. It’s right there in His words.
“Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.” God is great, and He is good. We should honor God, and prayer is a time to do that: to reflect on the good things and consider where things aren’t so good, where things aren’t Godly. We can do something about those. Stop and think about this. This prayer isn’t meant to become one of those “vain repetitions” that Matthew called out. It’s supposed to be a time to connect our spirit with that of God.
“Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” This is the second time to really stop and reflect during the prayer. We are not to wait until death to be virtuous and praise God. We are to do His will, starting now. Are your actions aligned with God’s will? Are you making excuses for why you can’t begin now? Go out and do it!
“Give us this day our daily bread.” Another pause here. What is it that you want? Think about that. Is it in line with what God wants? Or are you in want of material goods? Stop wanting those!
“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” What sins have we committed? Repent! Make a plan and a promise, before God, to not commit these anymore. Likewise, God forgives us, so too we should forgive others. Are you carrying any jealousy? Anger? Judgement? Well then stop doing that, silly.
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.” Temptation is literally evil. Avoid it. Do not be lured in by evil, no matter how attractive it is, in shiny objects, pretty packaging, and skimpy dress.