Life is a Journey - Lesson 5

Speaking with God

Healthy communication requires not only listening but also talking. Prayer is simply talking with God, about anything and everything. He is our new Father, and he wants to hear from you. How do you pray? What do you pray about? What if I have trouble listening to him speaking?

Bill Mounce
Life is a Journey
Lesson 5
Watching Now
Speaking with God

A. How do I pray?

B. “Our Father in heaven”

C. Focus first and foremost on God

1. “Hallowed be your name”

2. “May your kingdom come”

3. “May your will be done”

D. Express total dependence on God

1. “Give us this day our daily bread”

2. “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors”

3. “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”

E. Two practical suggestions

1. Speaking with God is a dialogue

2. Memorize the Lord’s Prayer

3. Pray its structure

  • Looking back over your conversion experience. It’s always a good idea to look back over your conversion experience. What do you think happened when you became a follower of Jesus Christ? Are you unclear about anything? Could you possibly have misunderstood anything? Did anything happen of which you might not be aware?

  • The change that is happening in your life. “Conversion” means you converted from one thing to another. In your case, you changed from not being a disciple of Jesus to being one. It also means that God is now at work in your life, starting to make you be more like Jesus. Does this surprise you? What actually happened when you became a Christian? What does this new life as a follower of Jesus look like? Does my life change automatically?

  • When you stumble in your new walk with God. Even though God’s power is at work within you, helping you to become more like Jesus, you will stumble. This is not to remove the joy of your new faith; it is to prepare you for the joy of spiritual growth that lies ahead. God knows this and is not surprised, and it does not affect his commitment toward you. What is “sin”? Is temptation sin? How will you tell God that you sinned and are sorry? Does he forgive? Can you be cleansed?

  • A crucial element of any relationship is communication, both listening and speaking. God has spoken to us two basic ways, through creation and through his Word, the Bible. What do the terms “inspiration,” “authority,” and “canonicity” mean? Can we trust the Bible? How do I listen to God as I read his word? Am I supposed to do anything beyond reading it?

  • Healthy communication requires not only listening but also talking. Prayer is simply talking with God, about anything and everything. He is our new Father, and he wants to hear from you. How do you pray? What do you pray about? What if I have trouble listening to him speaking?

  • When you became a Christian, you understood certain things about God. But did you know that he knows everything? That he is present everywhere? That he is all-powerful? How then should we respond to a fuller knowledge of God? What is worship? How should we respond to what we know of God?
  • Jesus is the best known person in history. He has had more affect on world history than any other leader or philosophy or political movement. Many people know the name, but who is he? What did he say about himself? What did his followers say about him? And what is the significance and relevance of these questions and our answers?

  • Jesus did many things while on earth, but the most significant of all was dying on the cross. But what exactly happened? What was accomplished? What does the Bible mean when it talks about Jesus being the “lamb of God”? Is there anything that can help me understand the significance of his death. Do I need to be reminded about it on a regular basis?

  • Christians are monotheists; we believe in one God. But we are also Trinitarians; we believe in three “persons” of the Trinity — God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Who is this third member of the Trinity? What actually does he do? What is his on-going role in my life? What does it mean to be led and empowered by the Holy Spirit? Do I have to do anything, or does he do all the work? Where would we be if it were not for the work of the Holy Spirit?

  • When you became a Christian, you started to walk with God. It is a day-by-day process in which sin has less hold on your life and you more and more look like Jesus. But some days are more difficult than others, especially when difficult things happen. Why do these “bad things” happen? Can I keep back parts of myself from God if doing so helps me avoid pain? Are there any consequences to allowing sin in some parts of my life? What does it mean that Jesus is both “Savior” and “Lord”?

  • While we become God’s children one disciple at a time, as children we are members of a new family with a new father, new brothers and sisters, and a new home. How do I relate to these people? Do I need to spend time with them? Is this an easy or difficult task? How does the early church help us understand these issues? How does my love for God show itself to others?

  • Disciples are to make more disciples. This is one of the most joyous experiences of your life as you share how God made you alive, and he will do the same for your friends, neighbors, and others. This isn’t a frightening process; it is in fact natural for people who have been changed and are living changed lives. How will people respond to you? What is a “personal testimony”? How do I tell people they too can be a disciple of Jesus? What if they don’t like me?

  • We are thankful that you have attended Life is a Journey. We trust that it has encouraged you to continue in your spiritual journey. Your next step is to take the next class in the Foundations Program, Bible Survey, A Big Screen Perspective. It will give you a broad stroke understanding of the basic structure of the Bible. Just be sure not to study alone. Get a group together that wants to learn the same information.

When we became a follower of Jesus, we started on the spiritual journey of our life. We went through the gate of conversion and started up the path of discipleship. As we travel the path, we will start to change, not because we have to but because we want to. We won't always make the right decisions; we will stumble, but Jesus and your fellow travelers are there to help you get back on your feet. The further you travel, the more you will learn about God, how to listen to him, and how to talk with him. You will learn more deeply who God is, who Jesus is and what he did, and who the Holy Spirit is and what he does for us. And you will learn about walking with other believers (the “church”) and inviting others to join you (“evangelism”). Because life is a journey, God does not expect you to get everything right the first time; we are all on a learning curve and God is patient with us. However, we were never intended to walk alone. We were saved into a new family, with new brothers and sisters, and a new Father.. In this study, you are encouraged to find an older traveler and invite them to walk with you.

The "Notebook" to which Dr. Mounce refers in the introduction is the Student Guide that you can download or order in paperback form by clicking on the link on the course page on the website (not the app).

Be sure to download the chart (to the right) that aligns questions from the New City Catechism with Life is a Journey. This way, when you have completed each lesson, you can know which catechism questions you will understand. 

While the course was originally designed for new believers, we have found that it functions well as a foundation class for all believers.

Recommended Books

Life is a Journey - Student Guide

Life is a Journey - Student Guide

When we became a follower of Jesus, we started on the spiritual journey of our life. We went through the gate of conversion and started up the path of discipleship. As we...

Life is a Journey - Student Guide

Dr. Bill Mounce
Life is a Journey
Speaking with God
Lesson Transcript


When you became a Christian, you entered into a relationship with your creator, and like any relationship, communication plays a major role. God speaks to us primarily through the Bible, and we listen to him; but God also listens to us, and our listening to, and speaking with God, is called prayer.

Prayer is simply listening to God, and speaking with him and talking to him about anything and everything. It’s a joyous time. It’s a privilege. And it should be a natural thing for his children, even if it is a bit mysterious.


As a new Christian, you may be asking, well, how exactly do I pray? Jesus’ disciples ask the same question. And Jesus’ answer is known as the “Lord’s Prayer.” It’s in the Gospel of Matthew, the first book in the New Testament, in chapter 6, verses 9 to 13. Jesus teaches us how to pray.

Jesus says, “Pray then like this: our Father in heaven, may your name be hallowed, may your kingdom come, may 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. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”

Notice how Jesus starts, pray then “like this.” Jesus did not intend his model prayer to be mindlessly repeated as if it were some kind of magical incantation. He never intended the Lord’s Prayer to be something we would be saying in church while we’re thinking of something else. The Lord’s Prayer is intended to give us the basic structure and the basic content of what prayer should look like. I think there’s quite a bit of room for flexibility, but we’re supposed to pray like this.


Jesus starts, “Our Father in heaven.” Prayer starts with a proper view of God. Prayer starts with our understanding of who God is and what he is like.

He’s our Father. When Jesus was speaking, he would’ve been speaking in the Aramaic language. The Aramaic word for father is “Abba.” Abba was the name that a child would use to address his or her father. It’s a term of familiarity. By starting prayer with “our Father,” Jesus is teaching us to approach God with that same sense of familiarity, that sense of family. He wants us to understand that the God to whom we are praying, the God with whom we are speaking, cares for us in the same way that a Father cares for his children.

But he is also our Father “in heaven.” Jesus is teaching us that we can never forget that our Father is also the God who has created all things, who sustains all things, who merely spoke and galaxies came into existence. He’s teaching us to approach God, not only with familiarity but also with astonishment and trembling and reverence and awe.

So Jesus teaches us to start our prayers, “our Father in heaven.” We should pray with this mix of familiarity and reverence.


Jesus then moves into the actual prayer. In the first half of the prayer, we see that we are the focus first and foremost on God, not on ourselves.

It’s not going to be clear in most Bible translations, but the Lord’s Prayer is made up of a series of imperatives. “Imperative” just means the statement is a command. In the Lord’s Prayer, we are calling on God — that’s the imperative — to act. But we are not calling on him to act primarily on our behalf; we’re calling on him to act primarily on his own behalf. In our prayer, we are calling on God to act in such a way that he will be glorified. We’re calling on God to act in such a way that people will praise and honor him.

1. “Hallowed be your name”

Now, the first of those imperatives is, “hallowed be your name,” or more accurately it could be translated, “may your name be hallowed.” “Hallowed” is an old word that means “holy” or “sinless.” When we refer to God’s “name,” we’re talking about who he actually is. The name represents the actual person.

So when we pray, “may your name be hallowed,” we’re calling on God to act in such a way that people will see that he is holy. We’re calling on God to act in such a way that people will see he is glorious, sinless, and perfect in all of his attributes. Through what you do, God, may you be seen to be what you truly are: holy, perfect, sinless, glorious. In all that we say and don’t say, in all that we do and don’t do, may people see that you are indeed a holy God.

That’s what we mean when we say, “Hallowed be your name.”

2. “May your kingdom come”

The second imperative is, “may your kingdom come.” God’s kingdom is not an earthly realm. Jesus took care of that misunderstanding with Pontius Pilate when he said, “If my kingdom were of this world, my followers would have fought for it. My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). God’s kingdom is not a physical kingdom. Rather God’s kingdom is his kingly rule in the hearts and lives of his children.

When you and I pray, “may your kingdom come,” what we are praying is, God, will you exercise your kingly rule first in me. May I submit to your kingly rule. And then through what I say and do, may your kingly rule spread out to everyone with whom I come into contact. May your kingdom spread through what I say, and don’t say. May your kingly rule spread through what I do, and don’t do.

At the end of time, when God’s done with this world, he will send Jesus back. As Paul says to the Philippian church, “Then every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:10–11). Someday God’s kingdom will come in all its fullness, and every knee will bow to the king. But in the meantime, it is our prayer that his kingly rule pervades our lives, takes over our lives, controls us, and then moves out through us to everyone with whom he comes into contact. “May your kingdom come.”

3. “May your will be done”

The third imperative is, “may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” God’s will, his purposes, his desires, are always done perfectly in heaven. What the prayer is teaching us is that we are to pray like Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, “not my will but yours,” God, “be done.” Your will be done, not mine. And may it be done perfectly on earth as it is perfectly done in heaven.

This part of the prayer should come as no surprise to a Christian because being a Christian means we understand that it’s no longer about us. Paul tells the Galatian church, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). Elsewhere, Jesus asks, “Do you want to be my disciple? Then deny yourself,” say, no to your own will, “and take up your cross and live every day as someone whose will has been crucified (Mark 8:34). This is how you follow me.” This is the whole point of being a Christian: it’s no longer about us.

This is a hard lesson to learn, isn’t it? The temptation keeps coming back and says, “But it is about me. I don’t like the way that you do things, Jesus. I want to do what I want to do.” I have to constantly remind myself that it’s not about me, and praying the Lord’s Prayer is one of the ways in which we remind ourselves, “may your will, Father, be done.” “May your will be done on earth in me, may your will be done on earth through me, just as it’s done in heaven.”

Biblical prayer begins with God and puts God first. As we pray, “our Father in heaven,” we fade into the background and we become consumed with his glory, and with his praise, and his will. Our lives become not about what we have done, but about what God wants to do in and through us.

Prayer teaches us that we start by worshiping God, praising him for who he is, and for what he has done.


The second half of the Lord’s Prayer makes a slight shift. In it, we are taught that prayer is an opportunity for us to express our total dependence on God.

I know that it’s common to think that the second half of the Lord’s Prayer is about me. That’s not really accurate. In the first part, we pray for God’s glory. In the second part, we express our complete and total dependence upon him. So prayer is still focused on God, even though we’re part of the picture.

Self-reliance is not a Christian virtue. Self-reliance is a sin. God does not help those who help themselves; that sentence is not in the Bible. God helps those who, in the words of the Psalmist, cry out, “You are my rock! You are my salvation! When I am attacked, and when times are tough, it is to you that I run! And it is under your wings that I hide!” Self-reliance is stoicism, a worldly and sinful attitude; Christ-reliance, complete dependence on God for all things, is what we pray for.

The second half of the Lord’s Prayer is about expressing our total dependence on God.

4. “Give us this day our daily bread”

In the fourth imperative, we admit our total dependence on God for our physical needs. We pray, “give us this day our daily bread.” God is concerned with the details of your life. He’s concerned about the mundane and the boring and the normal. He’s concerned about your daily bread. After all, what kind of friend would he be if he weren’t interested in the details of your life.

But the point of this fourth imperative is not so much that we pray for food and nothing else. The point is that we have the opportunity to admit our dependence upon him for all of our physical needs, which includes things like food and clothing and shelter. This is the point that Jesus discusses later in Matthew 6. In verse 25 he says, “Therefore, I tell you do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on.” He then goes on in verse 31 and says, “Therefore, don’t be anxious saying, ‘What shall we eat or what shall we drink? Or what shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles,” which in our culture means the non-Christian, “the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added, will be simply given, to you. Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.” Security is an illusion. It is always God upon whom we base our trust, even for the most basic things of life.

Notice, though, that in the promises in Scripture, God wants to give us our needs, not our greeds, as one modern writer says. We are called to pray for our daily bread, not yearly bread. At times, I find myself praying for yearly bread, “Oh, God, do this or that, so I won’t have to worry.” What I’m really praying is, “God, I don’t want to trust you right now. So I’d rather have enough money in the bank so I don’t have to worry about the rest of the year.” Those are our greeds, but our commitment is to trust him. We get the joy of trusting him, and in that trust he provides all that we need day in and day out. “Give us this day our daily bread.”

5. “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors”

The fifth imperative is that we are able to express our dependence upon God, not just for our physical needs, but also for our spiritual needs. And so we pray, “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” God, forgive me what I owe you, just as I have forgiven what other people owe me. And Jesus is not talking about money or favors. Jesus is picturing our sin as a debt, a debt that we owe to God, and the payment for that debt, which is forgiveness, comes only from God.

You may be familiar with another Bible translation that uses the word “trespasses” instead of “debts.” “Forgive us our trespasses,” which means forgive us our sins, “as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Both translations make the same point, that we are to come before God’s throne of grace and ask him to forgive us, just as we have forgiven people who have sinned against us.

Please note the relationship between God’s forgiving us and our forgiving others. If we want to be forgiven, we must forgive others. The point is so important and perhaps so difficult to understand and certainly difficult to put into practice that Jesus repeats himself after the prayer. Verses 14 and 15, say, “for if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Jesus is not talking about the forgiveness that paid the penalty for your sins and allowed you to become a friend of God. Those trespasses have been eternally forgiven. Jesus is talking about ongoing sin in the life of the believer, and the quality of our relationship with him. If we don’t forgive, then he will not forgive our ongoing sin. As a result, a wall is erected between us and God, a relational barrier that damages our friendship with him.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you are going to be sinned against. You’re going to be sinned against by perhaps a friend, perhaps by a coworker, perhaps by a pastor, or perhaps by an elder or someone in the church. When that happens, the temptation will be to cross your arms and in sinful arrogance and pride say, “I’m right and they’re wrong” — and by the way, you could be right. “They hurt me and I’m not going to forgive them until they come crawling to me. I’m not going to forgive them until they repent. I’m not going to forgive them until they at least admit that what they did was wrong.”

The only person that we really hurt when we do this is ourselves. If we do not forgive the other person, God will not forgive our ongoing sins. And there’s no qualification here that if they repent, if they admit that they were wrong, if they come crawling to you, then you forgive. That’s not what Jesus says. He simply says, “Forgive, or God will not forgive you.” If you do not forgive, then your relationship with God will be damaged as you erect walls of unforgiveness between yourself and God and damage that relationship.

There are two other passages that are very strong on forgiveness that I want to mention. Ephesians 4 verse 32 says, “Be kind, tenderhearted, forgiving one another. When they’ve come crawling to you in repentance and sorrow.” No, “Be kind, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you.” I have been sinned against, just like you, but no one has ever nailed me to the cross, but I nailed Jesus to the cross. And on the cross, it is as if Jesus said, “Father, forgive Bill Mounce. He doesn’t have any idea what he’s doing.” Certainly, if God has forgiven me in Christ, then I can be obedient to him and forgive anyone who has sinned against me. When I forgive others, it’s a sign that I have been truly forgiven by God. “Be kind, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you.”

Just to mention something in passing. I like to think of forgiveness as the selfish practice. It’s what I do for myself. If I don’t forgive, it hurts me. So I try to forgive. It doesn’t mean that a relationship of trust has been rebuilt with the person who sinned against me. It doesn’t mean that there will ever be a relationship, but that’s another issue. For now, do what Jesus has asked you to do, forgive and stay in a close relationship with Jesus.

The other passage that is actually stronger is in Matthew chapter 18. It’s the parable of the unforgiving, unmerciful servant who owed a large sum of money to his master, millions, perhaps billions of dollars. He pled with his master to forgive the debt because he couldn’t pay it. The master was a gracious person. He said, “Okay, I forgive your debt.” But then this unmerciful servant went home and found someone who owed him a couple of hundred dollars and was unable to pay the debt. The unmerciful servant refused to forgive him and had him thrown in jail. The friends of the man now in jail didn’t like what the unmerciful servant had done, so they went to that servant’s master and told him what had happened.

The master called in the unmerciful servant, the one who had been forgiven a large sum of money, and he said to the servant in Matthew 18, verse 32, “’You wicked servant, I forgave you all that debt, because you pleaded to me. You should have had mercy on your fellow servant as I had mercy on you.’ So in anger,” the Bible says, “the master threw the unmerciful servant in jail.” In verse 35, Jesus concludes, “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother, from the heart.”

“Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who sin against us.” It’s not an easy thing, but it is a necessary thing.

6. “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”

The sixth and final imperative in the Lord’s Prayer is, “and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” We know from James chapter 1 verse 13 that God doesn’t tempt anyone with sin. What Jesus is calling us to do is to express our dependence upon God so that we can resist the power of temptation, to resist the power of sin, to resist the power of evil, especially the power of the evil one, meaning Satan. You and I do not have the ability in and of ourselves to resist evil, especially Satan. So we express our dependence on God to deliver us.

Elsewhere, Paul says, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood.” When I read that, I want to say, “Well, I don’t know about you, Paul, but I wrestle against flesh and blood. I wrestle against my own flesh and blood. And sometimes I wrestle with flesh and blood of other people.” But Paul says, “No, if you really knew what was going on, Bill, you would see that your primary fight is not against human beings, flesh and blood, but,” as Paul continues in the verse, “against the evil, spiritual forces of this world, the principalities and the rulers. And you cannot win that battle alone” (Eph 6:12). So we cry out to God in dependence upon him to not allow us into temptation that we cannot resist, but rather deliver us from Satan and from his evil.


That’s the Lord’s Prayer, and that’s how he taught his disciples to pray. The Lord’s Prayer provides the general structure and the general content of how you and I are to pray. I’m going to leave you with two practical suggestions on prayer.

1. Speaking with God is a dialogue

The first is about speaking with God. Notice the title of this lesson. We are not speaking “to” or “at” God; we are speaking “with” God. Healthy communication is always a dialogue. There’s always give and take. When Robin and I sit down in the morning, we don’t talk at each other. We share. We go back and forth. We interact. We mull over things. We speak with each other. It’s a dialogue.

One of the things that I struggle with in prayer is that my mind wanders, which means I am not dialoguing with God. Am I the only one? We have come into the presence of the God who spoke galaxies into existence, standing, sitting, or kneeling before the God of the universe, and then a minute later I’m wondering if I have to mow the lawn today. I just hate that.

About three or four months ago I was reading a book by AW Tozer, and he talked about the same thing. He gave a suggestion that I put into practice the last several months, and it has been helpful. Tozer says, don’t just start in the morning and pray. It’s too hard to stay focused. What he does is start by reading the Bible. As he’s reading, he’s also listening for the Spirit’s promptings. What will happen is that you’ll read a verse, and the Holy Spirit will say, “Do you understand that?” Or the Spirit will say, “You need to be encouraged today. I know what is going to happen. Listen to this verse.” Or perhaps the Spirit will say, “That is something you need to work on.” So Tozer encourages us to start by reading the Bible and listening. As soon as you hear that prompting in your heart, stop, reread the verse, and then move into prayer saying, “Okay, Lord, what is it that you want me to see? How do I need to be encouraged or convicted? How should I understand the passage? How can I apply its truth in my life?”

After you have asked these questions, read the passage, and if necessary, read it again and again, and then be quiet. Listen for the promptings of the Spirit. You probably won’t hear a voice, but you will feel the Spirit moving in your heart. What is happening is that you are entering into a dialogue with God, and it is out of the dialogue that you’re able to move into an extended time of prayer. And you won’t be thinking about mowing the backyard.

2. Memorize the Lord’s Prayer

The second practical suggestion is to memorize the Lord’s Prayer. Don’t memorize it so you can repeat it mindlessly. It’s not some magical incantation. It’s not going to get you out of trouble simply because you repeat the words. Memorize it so you can repeat it, understanding the meaning of every word.

There will be times in your life when you just can’t find the right words. Something is going on and you’re in distress or you’re hurt, or you realize you’ve been caught in sin or something like that. The words just aren’t there. When you find yourself in that situation, repeat the prayer, reflecting on each phrase, and how it affects your life at that moment.

3. Pray its structure

The other thing that I encourage everyone to do is to memorize the prayer so that you can pray its structure. Once you’re aware of the basic structure of the Lord’s Prayer and understand what those six imperatives mean, it’s possible to go through and start paraphrasing the Lord’s Prayer and to start inserting the specifics of your life.

“Our Father in heaven” — tell him that you love him as a perfect Father, remembering that you are in his throne room.

“Hallowed be your name” — tell God that you want your actions and words today to reflect his perfection.

“May your kingdom come” — ask God to show you ways in which his perfect will can permeate your life, and those around you.

“May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” — perhaps you can ask him what area of your life is not following his will but rather your own.

“Give us today our daily bread” — tell him all your earthly needs, food, clothing, shelter, thanking him in faith that he will supply.

“Forgive us our debts as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us” — tell him this is hard, and perhaps you don’t know who you haven’t forgiven. Ask him for clarity, and then the strength to forgive just as you yourself have been forgiven.

“Do not lead us into temptation but deliver us from evil” — thank God that he is a good God who doesn’t tempt, but that he does provide the protection from an enemy we are unable to defeat on our own.

“Our Father in heaven. May your name be hallowed. May your kingdom come. May 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. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. Amen.”

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