Pray then like this: "Our Father 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 debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."Matthew 6:9-13
We often think of prayer primarily as a solitary activity. We might picture a lone woman bowing her head behind closed doors or a single child on her knees at the foot of her bed. Such private prayer is important, and Jesus clearly taught this practice both by his example (Mark 1:35) and his teaching (Matt. 6:6).
But Jesus also taught his disciples to pray together as people in relationship with the Father and therefore in relationship with one another. Today’s passage, which we often call the Lord’s Prayer, may be so familiar to us that we miss the fact that this prayer is not a private prayer but a corporate one. By giving us this prayer, Jesus is teaching us to pray together.
First, we see here that corporate prayer is not optional. Jesus has just finished giving two instructions about prayer that each begin, “when you pray” (vv. 6, 7) and he introduces his climatic lesson with “Pray then like this” (v. 9). This is not a lesson for if you pray; it is a lesson for when you pray. We should remember this as we interact with others in our homes and communities and churches: praying together is something Jesus expects us to do.
Next, we notice that Jesus’s language in the prayer is consistently corporate. “Our Father,” it begins, and is quickly followed by petitions for “our daily bread,” the forgiveness of “our debts,” and God’s deliverance of “us” from evil (vv. 9, 11, 12, 13). So, too, when we pray together, we should use corporate words. When one person prays aloud in a group, everyone present is joining her heart “with one accord” (Acts 1:14). One person may be speaking but all are praying. Our language should reflect that.
Finally, we see that Jesus teaches us to pray for common concerns. Each of his disciples had individual struggles, particular needs, and unique circumstances, and yet Jesus taught them to pray together primarily for the needs and desires which they all shared. He instructed them to pray for God’s glory and his kingdom’s advancement because those are the first priorities of every Christian’s heart. Beyond that, Jesus taught them to ask for their daily needs to be met, their sins forgiven, and their souls protected from the devices of the Evil One. Though we can certainly mention specific personal needs in group prayer, casting our shared burdens on the Lord together fosters our mutual love for one another and for our heavenly Father who hears us all.
And all God’s people said, “Amen.”
Suggestions for Prayer
- Thank God for teaching you to pray with other Christians.
- Confess the times you have failed to pray helpfully--or at all!--with believers in your home, community, and church.
- Ask God to use this passage to teach you to pray with others clearly and corporately for their good and His glory.
Megan Hill is a pastor’s wife and a pastor’s daughter who has spent her life praying with others. She serves on the editorial board for Christianity Today and is a regular contributor to Her.meneutics and the Gospel Coalition. She is the author of Praying Together: The Priority and Privilege of Prayer In Our Homes, Communities, and Churches.