Devotion Practical

Right Words to Pray

Much like fasting, Christians are expected to pray. We are expected to pray and are permitted to pray to our Father in heaven because we have been made to be His dear children and because of this, He is our dear Father. Jesus, the Son of the Father, has reconciled us to His Father in […]

Much like fasting, Christians are expected to pray. We are expected to pray and are permitted to pray to our Father in heaven because we have been made to be His dear children and because of this, He is our dear Father. Jesus, the Son of the Father, has reconciled us to His Father in heaven through His death and resurrection. Now, in this life on earth, we may ask of Him as dear children ask of their dear Father.

The questions remains, “How shall we pray?” Perhaps we may feel, at times, as though we don’t know what to say. We may not know, at times, how to pray—as though our words are vain thoughts in a bottomless pit and that they aren’t worthy enough to be received by our Father who is in heaven. In fact, I am reminded of an Internet meme that has been passed around recently in various Lutheran Facebook groups that provides this statement,

“Dear Lord, I can’t find the right words. Can you please just listen through my heart?”

Should we allow our hearts to speak on our behalf? Should we relegate Jesus to listen to what our sinful hearts have to say? For what comes out of the heart? Jesus answers this when He says, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.” (Mt. 15:19, NKJV)

Our sinful hearts know not what to pray. Left to ourselves, we know not the words to say. But thanks be to God! He has provided us meet, right, and salutary words that we can use in prayer. Even the disciples asked Jesus this important question, “Now it came to pass, as [Jesus] was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples asked, ‘Lord, teach us how to pray, as John also taught his disciples.’ So He said to them, ‘When you pray, say:

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us day by day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. 
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one." (Luke 11:1-4, NKJV)

As we can see, we are never without the right words. The Lord’s Prayer—the prayer that Jesus taught us—is the most perfect prayer. It consists of the right words that we can use to pray to God, our Father, who is in heaven.

The Lord’s Prayer is the prayer that Jesus taught us. He gives us this prayer for a reason. We aren’t to use vain repetitions of words like others in different Christian denominations. In fact, Jesus addresses this very fact in the Sermon on the Mount. He says, “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think they will be heard for their many words. Therefore, do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. In this manner, therefore pray:

Our father in heaven, 
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom com.
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one." (Matthew 6:7-13, NKJV)

Should we still desire more right words that fit our situation in this life, we have the Psalms. The Psalter fits whatever situation, in which, anyone may find himself to be in this life. Anyone can apply the Psalms to his situation in life, in such a way, that it may seem that the selected Psalm that he is currently praying was written solely for him.

The Psalms are written as songs to be sung. They have been written for us as prayers to be prayed. The Psalms can match any situation in life that we are going through and can speak to any situation that we are struggling with. If you cannot find the right words, open up your Bible to the Psalms and begin reading. Read the Psalms out loud. Begin to pray these words that are laid out before you. They have been written down for your edification and for your benefit.  

Now, the Psalms are first and foremost about Christ. They speak of His life, His suffering, His death, and His resurrection. But because we have been crucified with Him in Holy Baptism and have been raised from death to new life, in a resurrection like His, the Psalms are also about us. The Psalms are our words that we may use to pray.

The truth of the matter is that we are never without the right words to pray. Never. We have God’s Word. We have the Bible. We have all that we need. We have the Lord’s Prayer. We have the Psalms. They are God’s words. Using His words, He teaches us how to pray. He supplies us with holy words so that we might speak to Him in Holy conversation. God commands us to pray and in doing so, gives us the right words so that we will never be lacking.

About the author

Pr. Thomas Van Hemert

The Rev. Thomas C. Van Hemert has been the pastor of St. John Lutheran Church in Center Point, Iowa, since June 2020. He holds an M.Div. (2020) from Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Prior to seminary, he graduated from the University of Iowa with a B.A. in Psychology (2015). He is a native of Muscatine, Iowa. Pr. Van Hemert and his wife Elizabeth enjoy the outdoors, staying active, and various other activities.

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