A Prayer of Jesus
I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will.

By Edgar Jones

1. The Rules

This paper will list and briefly discuss the Rules of Prayer as defined by our Lord Jesus.  After stating the rules, he delivered a model prayer commonly called "The Lord's Prayer" to illustrate the proper application of the rules and to guide his disciples when we pray.  This paper will continue, after listing and discussing the rules, to show how the Prayer is a model that illustrates the application of the rules.  I will discuss each petition of the prayer in subsequent papers, so that this is the first in a series of papers devoted to prayer, and especially to the Lord's Prayer.

Jesus set forth clear, precise, and specific rules governing the practice of prayer.  We find them in the Sermon on the Mount and, contrasting with some commandments of the Sermon, these rules are easy to obey.  Yet the churchmen in general ignore them just as they do the hard commandments.  This practice of disobedience, of both the hard and the easy commandments, can only result when people don't really care about Jesus and his commandments.  They do not love Jesus, for if they did, even a little bit, they would surely obey the easy ones!  Jesus had other things to say that are relevant here and I direct you first to two utterances:

 If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (John 14:15)

 Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do what I tell you? (Luke 6:46)

Listing the Rules

Let me refer you next to his specific rules governing prayer, and you may or may not agree that they are surely very easy to obey.  We begin by examining the relevant texts of Matthew and Luke and deriving the list.
Matthew 6

1 Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
2 Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.
3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,
4 so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
5 And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.
6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
7 And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words.
8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
9 Pray then like this: Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread;
12 And forgive us our debts, As we also have forgiven our debtors;
13 And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil.
14 For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you;
15 but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Luke 11

1 He was praying in a certain place, and when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples."
2 And he said to them, When you pray, say: "Father, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come.
3 Give us each day our daily bread;
4 and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive every one who is indebted to us; and lead us not into temptation."

Matthew's version is the focus of our attention, and we read the rules of prayer beginning with 6:6.  We list them here:

1. Go into your room. (v. 6)

2. Shut the door. (v. 6)

3. Pray to your Father in secret. (v.6)

4. Do not heap up empty phrases.  (Be brief, v. 7))

5. Follow the standard model. (Pray like this: . . . v. 9-13)

6. Forgive men their trespasses. (vs. 12, 14, 15)

That's really all there is to it!  Well, no, there are only six rules here; shouldn't there be seven? (the perfect number of completion)  Ah! here it is:
7. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. (Mark 11:24)
Now, don't you agree that these are easily obeyed?  Or, do you balk at No. 6, "Forgive men their trespasses"?  If so, where is the difficulty?  With a little introspection you must agree that, if there is a difficulty, it must reside only within yourself and it only requires you to make it easy.  Why not do it . . . make it easy?  If you find it hard, you have only yourself to blame.

Or perhaps you balk at No. 7: "believe that you have received it and it will be yours"?
Again, where lies the problem?  By the same process of introspection you must also agree that any difficulty lies only within yourself.  And again, only you can make it easy.  As before, you have only yourself to blame if you find it hard.

You must have observed, also, that these rules are only a subset of a larger general rule that we find at Matthew 6:1 above:

Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
This prime commandment applies not only to prayer but also to almsgiving and fasting, and to any other practice that can be defined as "piety."  The thing is, when we pray publicly, we are seen by others.  And, it is unarguable that, with some exceptions,  we do it to be seen by the others.  Otherwise, why do people not obey the rules of our Lord and pray only in secret, in obedience to his command?  We should also note that this general rule is also a very easy one to keep.

The Model Prayer

Jesus concluded this set of instructions on prayer by presenting a model to guide his disciples.  Having presented the rules, the then said, "Pray then like this." (Rule No. 5)  Clearly the prayer was framed with the rules in mind and the first evidence of that is its brevity.  We see immediately that it does not "heap up empty phrases" in accord with Rule No. 4. It is brief and to the point.

It remains for us, his disciples, to practice obedience to the other rules:

1. Go into your room.

2. Shut the door.

3. Pray to your Father in secret.

6. Forgive men their trespasses.

7. Believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

Very important now to note that Jesus was not praying while presenting the model prayer, hereafter referred to as "the Prayer".  He was addressing the disciples with instructions on prayer.  He was not addressing the Father and so was not violating these three rules.  He clearly intended the disciples to obey all the rules by taking the Prayer back to their rooms, closing the door, and praying to the Father in secret.  They surely obeyed them, for there is no evidence in the New Testament that they ever had the practice (of the modern church) of uttering this prayer in unison in their gatherings.  That would break the secrecy rule!

What a contrast when one examines the religious scene now, in the beginning of the Twenty First Century.  Wherever "Christians" gather, whether in churches, homes, schools, public buildings or whatever, it seems to be a rule among them that they must display their piety publicly, to one another, by repeating the Prayer in unison.  Please now note carefully what this practice signifies:

1. It first violates the general rule (Matthew 6;1) prohibiting the exhibition of piety.

2. It next violates rules No. 1, No. 2, and No.  3 that protect this secrecy.

Now, when we accept, as I do, the claim by Jesus that he was uniquely speaking for the Father, we must recognize these as the Father's rules.  They establish the accepted protocol for communication with the Father.


Jesus submitted brief and simple rules of piety, including the practice of prayer.  The rules require that one enter into one's room, close the door, and pray in secret.  Then he immediately followed, as part of the same text, with a model prayer that the churchmen have made a public ritual!

Let us ask some simple questions:

1. Is it reasonable to expect the Father to hear and respond positively to communications directed to him in violation of his established protocol?

2. Is it reasonable to believe that they love Jesus who consistently ignore protocol and violate his commandments after this manner?

3. Is it reasonable to think that the Father accepts worship that consists of an act of gross insubordination?

I do not need here to present an answer to these questions.  You will know, in your hearts, what is the only reasonable answer!
Return to List of Papers         email ed@voiceofjesus.org         Return to Home Page