This Is How We Should Pray
Most people wait until they're in a bad emergency. Then they'll get on their knees and start crying for God's help. And they'll start saying things like "if you only help me this one time, I promise I will..." Sound familiar? Most only pray to God when they need Him. Then when they get no help, they start complaining: "I thought I was born-again!" or "I thought I was praying the rosary daily", which is praying to Mary mainly.
The proper way to pray is to start with the Lord's Prayer, which is the prayer Jesus taught us. This opens up the communication channel with God. Then afterwards you can ask for your needs. And He will answer.
The Lord's prayer from the Bible:
Jesus said: This, then, is how you should pray:
Our Father who are in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our sins,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
Very important: the "bread" in this prayer is not our earthly necessities. It is the bread of life that God gives, the body of Jesus, for the forgiveness of sins.
Our God is to be worshiped with respect. There is a proper way to approach God, not to be taken casually. What is the proper way? Jesus showed us in His prayer. Summarizing the main parts in other words: 1st. Praise, worship, & submit-to God, using a term of endearment "Our Father", 2. Give us the "bread of life" to cleans us from our sins and renew us for the day, 3. We promise to also forgive others, 4. Keep us away from evil.
Jesus started by saying these exact words: "this is how you should pray..." It is acceptable to view this as, He gave us the proper form of praying. So as long as we follow the 4 parts above, we can use our own words. But why would anyone want to do that? I personally prefer to use His wording. Jesus, God Himself word-smithed those words. They are perfect in every way. And note, once a day is not repetitive; once a minute, would be. God wants to hear from us daily. This is why Jesus advised these exact words. Of course we can still pray for our other requests to God, but after we pray the Lord's Prayer for that day.
Why Did Jesus Teach Us to Pray This Prayer Daily?
Praying the Lord's Prayer daily means God hears from us daily; He wants this relationship with us at the daily-level, as evident throughout the scripture. Example, God's daily walk in the garden to talk to Adam & Eve, God's commandments to the Jewish people of daily sacrifices for forgiveness of sins, the manna in the desert that couldn't be hoarded more than one day, and the Lord's Prayer specifically saying "give us this day our daily bread". James 4:8 clearly describes God desiring a relationship with us, if we're willing:
Come near to God and he will come near to you.
God accomplishes 2 objectives when we pray the Lord's prayer daily:
1. We worship Him, daily.
2. We receive His Bread of Life, for the forgiveness of sins, daily.
The daily need for forgiveness of sins has always been God's command in both of His redemption plans, the old and the new. But most people missed this in the new-covenant, calling it "not needed because Jesus paid for this too". And those who suspected it might be, called it "works" and moved on!
In the old-covenant, the Jews had to execute many commandments, daily, for the forgiveness of their sins. The daily aspect of it in those days, was also two-sided: (1) Daily forgiveness of sins, (2) keep the relationship with God daily. Jesus fulfilled the first and turned it into a spiritual act in the form of a daily prayer, but the second remains God's desire for all times.
God loved us so much that He gave us the smallest daily spiritual obligation - just pray this prayer in your heart daily! Jesus' prayer is very clear. He gave the specific wording of it, and showed it in two Gospels, Matthew and Luke. And yet so many people are ignoring it! And instead, are going with their own plans of all kinds of other prayers, to other humans, to angels, to their ancestors' spirits, to the pope, etc., or not praying at all "because it's 'works'"!
These painful actions from people remind me of a clip from a cartoon show I used to watch with my kids when they were little. After Patrick was carefully taught a simple task of how to put the lid on the jar, this is what he did, in this clip. But seriously, this radical rejection of the Lord's Prayer, and instead praying to humans and other things, must be very depressing to God. Jesus alluded to a similar frustration here:
"43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. 44 How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?"
I can give you my guess why not many pray the Lord's Prayer:
Many Protestants preach that "Jesus' teaching was for the Jews, and Paul's for the Gentiles." And that Paul did not teach to pray the Lord's Prayer. A huge misinterpretation of the Bible. See Why didn't Paul Preach the Lord's Prayer?.
We all know that the Lord's Prayer is recited in Catholic sermons. So I think Protestant churches don't say it because they oppose Catholics. In the same way that Catholic people don't read the Bible, because Protestants do. And where is God in this picture?
Most people are well provided for these days. And therefore, feel they don’t need to bother God anymore by asking for the daily bread (implying earthly necessities).
Do Not Pray to Humans
There are many so called Christians today, praying to humans! Praying to some favorite saint, or to the Blessed Mary. Calling them "mediators" between us and God. But the Bible says differently:
1 Timothy 2:5
“For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus.”
There are millions out there, who've missed God's redemption plan altogether, and took off with their own plan. Again here, people will be people. No wonder God called them "stiff-necked" and "I never knew you", and in the book of Timothy:
“For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”
And don't pray to Mary after praying to God, thinking to yourself "it doesn't hurt, she's His mother anyway". She's not His mother! It is blasphemy; God will reject your prayers altogether. See Mary the Mother of God?
So how should we pray?
After praying the Lord's Prayer, then of course you can add to it your own words, requests, and other prayers to God. The Lord's Prayer is proper-protocol to start the communication with God and become filled with the Holy Spirit. Then you can follow it with your requests of "... I need a job, I need a car, I need a husband, my child is sick, please heal my mom, etc.." But if you faithfully pray the Lord's Prayer daily, you'll notice that your other earthly requests become fulfilled before you even ask for them! Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount said: "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you." (Matthew 6:33).
The Proper Relationship With God
Let's make sure we understand what this relationship with God is. He is our God and we are His children, not to be mistaken with we're friends. So worship God with the respect He deserves, not "...He knows me; I've been talking to Him; I tell Him what I need, we're cool." Learning the proper way, is part of the spiritual growing that God expects of us.
Throughout history there was always a proper protocol for approaching God. And no, Jesus' death on the cross did not make God your friend. Yes He opened the channels for us to speak directly to God, but must be in the proper way. Example of historical communications with God, Moses had to remove his sandals when at the burning bush. The Jewish people when Moses was talking to God, had to stay a distance away from the foot of the mountain. And in the Jewish law only the high-priest could enter the inner room the Holy place with God's presence, and only after executing a long list of precise requirements. Today the death of Jesus on the cross did away with much of this, and gave us direct access to speak to God. But this does not mean that God is now your bestie. There is still a proper protocol to approaching God. Jesus' prayer showed us exactly how to do it. And note, God will hear you better if you pray this prayer on your knees in private. Kneeling is a symbol of humility, worship, and reverend to God. "Kneeling" was mentioned hundreds of times in the old-testament about the Jews "bending their knees" to other gods, which angered God tremendously. This teaches us about God's personality, for example how much the act of "kneeling" means to Him; it is the perfect gesture for worshiping.
Jesus word-smithed the words in the Lord's Prayer perfectly. Exactly as God did throughout history. After the fall God was the One that taught Adam and Eve how to present a sacrifice fitting to Him. God was the One that crafted the Leviticus law to Moses that had to be executed precisely for the daily forgiveness of sins. And finally God was the One that word-smithed the Lord’s Prayer for the daily forgiveness of sins. It's a prayer that we say in our hearts once a day. It keeps us close to God, and fulfills John 15:5: "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."
The Lord's Prayer is at the center of God's redemption plan through Jesus. It is the final and simplest covenant spiritual-obligation outcome of Jesus' sacrifice on he cross as compared to the previous old-covenant of hundreds of ceremonial commandments required daily to accomplish the same.
Don't Pray when on the Toilet
Don't be shocked. If it is stated in the Bible, it's God's view. Here is what God said to the Israelites in the days of Moses when He was present among them in their camp in the desert:
“Designate a place outside the camp where you can go to relieve yourself. As part of your equipment have something to dig with, and when you relieve yourself, dig a hole and cover up your excrement. For the Lord your God moves about in your camp to protect you and to deliver your enemies to you. Your camp must be holy, so that he will not see among you anything indecent and turn away from you.”
If you only have time to pray when you're on the toilet, then God must be very low on your priority list. God is alive, and when we establish a communication channel with Him, by praying the Lord's Prayer, we become standing in His presence. Sitting on the toilet is disrespectful. On your knees in a private room should be the proper form.
The Bronze Snake
Humans have proven throughout history that it is difficult for them to worship the invisible true God. But have shown time and time again that they are very good at worshipping physical things they can see. Here is an example from the old testament. Moses had made a bronze snake as instructed by God for a specific short time in order to avert and end the penalty God inflicted on people. But people decided to worship the snake for hundreds of years after that!
Numbers 21:4-9 (The Jewish people in the desert with Moses)
But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!”
Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.
The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.
2Kings 18:3-4 [King Hezekiah, a few hundred years after King David, and many hundred years after Moses]
"He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father David had done. He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it."