How to Pray—Is the Lord’s Prayer the Best Way?
The Bible’s answer
The Lord’s Prayer provides guidance for us as to how we should pray and what we should pray about. Jesus gave it in response to his disciples’ request: “Lord, teach us how to pray.” (Luke 11:1) However, the Lord’s Prayer, or the Our Father prayer, is not the only prayer that God accepts. a Rather, Jesus gave it as a pattern for prayers that God hears.
In this article
What does the Lord’s Prayer say?
The Lord’s Prayer, recorded at Matthew 6:9-13, is worded differently in various Bible translations. Here are two examples.
New World Translation: “Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified. Let your Kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also on earth. Give us today our bread for this day; and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the wicked one.”
King James Version: “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.” b
What is the meaning of the Lord’s Prayer?
Jesus’ teaching agreed with the rest of the Scriptures, so we can expect other parts of the Bible to shed light on the meaning of the Lord’s Prayer.
“Our Father in the heavens”
It is fitting to address God as “our Father” because he created us and gave us life.—Isaiah 64:8.
“Let your name be sanctified”
God’s name, Jehovah, should be honored and treated as holy, or sacred. Humans share in sanctifying God’s name when they speak of his qualities and make known his purposes.—Psalm 83:18; Isaiah 6:3.
“Let your Kingdom come”
God’s Kingdom is a heavenly government with Jesus as its King. Jesus taught us to pray for this government to exercise its rule over the whole earth.—Daniel 2:44; Revelation 11:15.
“Let your will take place, as in heaven, also on earth”
Just as there is no evil or death in heaven, God’s will for the earth is that humans live forever on it in peace and security.—Psalm 37:11, 29.
“Give us today our bread for this day”
In Jesus’ time, bread was a staple food. We should remember that we depend on our Creator to provide the things we need in order to live.—Acts 17:24, 25.
“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors”
In this context, the word “debts” is another word for sins. (Luke 11:4) All humans sin and need forgiveness. But if we want to receive God’s forgiveness, we must be willing to forgive others for their sins against us.—Matthew 6:14, 15.
“Do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the wicked one”
Jehovah God never tempts us to do wrong. (James 1:13) But we are tempted by “the wicked one,” Satan the Devil—who is also called “the Tempter.” (1 John 5:19; Matthew 4:1-4) We ask that Jehovah not permit us to give in when we are tempted to disobey him.
Is reciting the Lord’s Prayer the only way to pray?
Jesus provided the Lord’s Prayer as an example. It is not to be recited word for word. Just before providing the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus warned: “When praying, do not say the same things over and over again.” (Matthew 6:7) When he provided a model prayer on another occasion, he used different wording.—Luke 11:2-4.
The best way to pray is to use sincere personal expressions from our heart.—Psalm 62:8.
How should we pray?
The Lord’s Prayer provides a good example of how to pray in a way that God hears. Note how it agrees with other Bible verses about prayer.
Pray only to God
Scripture: “In everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving, let your petitions be made known to God.”—Philippians 4:6.
Meaning: Our prayers should be addressed to God—not to Jesus, Mary, or saints. With the opening words, “Our Father,” the Lord’s Prayer teaches us to pray to Jehovah God alone.
Pray for things that harmonize with God’s will
Scripture: “No matter what we ask according to his will, he hears us.”—1 John 5:14.
Meaning: We can pray about anything that is in harmony with God’s will. Jesus taught us how important God’s will is by including in the Lord’s Prayer the expression “let your will take place.” We can learn about God’s will for the earth and for humans by studying the Bible.
Pray about personal concerns
Scripture: “Throw your burden on Jehovah, and he will sustain you.”—Psalm 55:22.
Meaning: God cares about our concerns. Just as Jesus included several personal requests in the Lord’s Prayer, we can pray for our daily physical needs, for guidance when making important decisions, for support in troubled times, and for forgiveness for our sins. c
a For example, Jesus and his disciples offered other prayers that did not stick to the specific words used in this model prayer.—Luke 23:34; Philippians 1:9.
b The King James Version concludes the Lord’s Prayer with the phrase: “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.” This expression of praise to God, also found in some other Bibles, is known as a doxology. However, The Jerome Biblical Commentary states: “The doxology . . . is not found in the most reliable [manuscripts].”
c Those who sense that they need God’s forgiveness might feel too guilty to pray. But Jehovah appeals to such ones: “Let us set matters straight between us.” (Isaiah 1:18) He will not reject any who sincerely seek his forgiveness.