Teach Me to Pray
By Timothy Tow
(Originally published in Bible Witness Magazine Vol. 12 Issue 3)

Let me ask you a question in the opening words of our hymn: “Ere you left your room this morning, did you think to pray?” I have a strong suspicion many of you cannot say you have prayed. We belong to a rushing generation; it is so hard to find time. We are also a people who are too well off, so we do not see the need to pray. Now, let me ask you another question: “Do wives pray for their husbands and vice versa?” Also, we are not concerned for the salvation of our younger generation either. Do grandparents pray for their growing up grandchildren? Do parents teach their children to pray when they get up in the morning, when they go to bed at night and at meal time – three times a day? King Solomon says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). We are like little children, not knowing what to pray. Just like the disciple in Luke 11:1, we also plead, “Lord, teach us to pray.”

This Lord’s Prayer is composed of six petitions. The first three petitions are devoted particularly to the glory of God. The remaining three petitions concern ourselves. The first petition: “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name” is that God’s name may be hallowed or revered. By this, we wish God to receive all the honour and glory that He deserves as opposed to the profanation (disrespect) that has become too common in the world. The second petition: “Thy kingdom come” is that the kingdom of heaven may come. The kingdom consists of two parts: the one, God correcting all our carnal desires; the other, His making all our powers to obey His commands. We are commanded to pray that He will subdue the hearts and minds of all men to a voluntary obedience to His kingdom.

The third petition: “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” is that the will of God may be done on earth as it is in heaven. In praying for this, we renounce again our carnal desires in order that God may rule according to His pleasure. Isaiah 42:8 says, “I am the LORD: and my glory will I not give to another.”

Now follows the next part of our prayer in which we descend to ourselves. It is the fourth petition: “Give us this day our daily bread.” This is a general request to God to supply our physical needs. The expression “this day” restrains the desire for more. We must realise what we have is not our own. We must learn that “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4; cf. Deuteronomy 8:3). It teaches us to earn an honest living. In fact, God gives us plentifully and we must return one-tenth to Him, which is tithing. This we bring to God’s storehouse, the church. “And prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:10).

The next and fifth petition is conditional: “And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us.” This is different from the Bible text which says “debts” because we were influenced by “trespasses” in the Common Prayer Book of the Anglican Church when Singapore was a British colony. Mission schools, like ACS, followed the Common Prayer Book. Here, Jesus further impresses on us that if we do not forgive others, God will not forgive us either. So, how many times are we to forgive those who have hurt us? Peter asked the Lord, “Seven times?” Jesus said unto him, “I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven”, for that is how God deals with us (Matthew 18:21, 22).

But I have heard of a church member who being hurt by another, was fuming over it. “I will not forgive!” she shouted at her. She will not obtain forgiveness from God either. Even elders will not forgive one another in their hearts. How can God bless their ministry in church? The result is one of the two left the church and they have not made up to this day. Even pastors do not forgive. I remember two old pastors, the best of friends, who became the worst of enemies without any reconciliation until death.

The sixth petition is: “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” The forms of temptation are many. Satan is very cunning. He uses adverse and prosperous events at the same time to tempt us – prosperous events such as riches and power, and adverse events such as poverty and afflictions. Satan is the enemy and sin is his weapon. Our petition is that we may not be conquered by any temptations but in the power of the Lord, be superior to sin and the whole kingdom of Satan. This is deliverance from evil. Will we submit to God?

Note to Readers

The church prayer meeting is held every Tuesday, 8:15 p.m., on level 3. We thank God for some senior members who recently made it a point to attend the prayer meeting despite weaknesses in the body. Their desire to pray is an encouragement to all of us.

We are fighting a spiritual battle. Our foes are not flesh and blood, but “against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12). Spiritual battles must be fought with the whole armour of God. This armour must be put on with prayer (c.f. Ephesians 6:18). How can we fight God’s battle and do His work if we do not come together to pray? We therefore greatly urge all to come and join us in prayer in the weekly prayer meeting.

We also praise God for the upcoming church camp, where Preacher Joshua Yong will speak to us on the theme Effectual Fervent Prayer. May the Lord be pleased to teach us what it means to pray!

Preacher Clement Chew