“This, then, is how you should pray:
“ ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today 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 the evil one.’ – Matthew 6:9-13
It is not a small task that we embark on together. We embark to grow in our faith together though our faiths are at different stages our knowledge at differing levels, are experiences being so particular to our person that the word different is not imaginative enough to articulate our status’s.
So, please, bear with me as we address one of the most pivotal, rudimentary, and most uncomfortable topics in church life.
Pivotal because as we know from God’s Word our God is one who acknowledges us and has enabled us to reach out to Him. He being God did not need to do this but chose to. He chose to teach us to speak to He who is the creator of the universe like this. Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer. – Psalm 4:1
As rudimentary, fundamental, and basic as the concept of prayer is it is also something many feel uncomfortable doing. It is something many are hesitant to do in a group of believers. This can be due to something that has harmed praying in public over the years. It is inappropriately used a spiritual litmus test or barometer. Whether we pray in private or publicly the depth of humility that we should have can never be understated. He is God.
Prayer is often underappreciated, misused, and overlooked. Our first thought in both good and bad situations should be to turn to the Lord. God is not a genie though He is the good father. Yet, we often pray expecting to be disappointed.
Yet, what do we pray for most? Do we pray that the world would know God? Do we pray that we would be fearless in making Him known and be granted the opportunity, even to suffer as He did, to make Him known? (Ephesians 6:20) Do we pray as the psalmist did, Help us, God our Savior, for the glory of your name; deliver us and forgive our sins for your name’s sake. (Psalm 79:9)
Yes, it all comes back to that great truth. God is intended to be known. You are intended as His image bearer to make him known and you are intended to be known by Him. Prayer is a way for both to be made possible. He offers us His Word so that we can know about Him, but He is intimately known through our time with Him in prayer. Our hurts, our wants, our tears of joy and sadness are brought before the God King through prayer.
So, let us rally together to know God, be known by God, and make God known. Like the prophets of old, the judges in their weakness, and through the power of the mighty Spirit of God that currently dwells in those who believe let us reach out to the Lord. Let us ask for miracles to be done for His name’s sake. Let us consider how we can effectually stir ourselves and others to worship our great and mighty King in and through our prayers!
He is the Focus of Prayer.
“This, then, is how you should pray:
“ ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread.
As you begin the Lord’s prayer, remember something important. Jesus does not say this is what you should pray, rather how or in what way. Not that this prayer is not fantastic! But, this is not the prayer. In fact Jesus states right before this verse two things one prayer is meant to be between you and God, it is not a show, because it is about you and God. Two, repeating the same thing over and over again, even in different ways is not what the Lord desires.
As we know, but often overlook, prayers are not mystical enchantments meant to sway or manipulate the all-knowing infinite God. Instead prayers are like a father listening to His children attentively, with the game off, and ready to hear about what He just saw them do.
We open our time coming before the throne of God’s greatness and grace recognizing who He is. As a child comes to their parent pleasantly saying dad or mom, rather than annoyed and rudely deciding for their parent what should, should not and how the parent should respond and act. We come before God like the writer of Ecclesiastes wisely shares.
Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong.
Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.
A dream comes when there are many cares, and many words mark the speech of a fool. – Ecclesiastes 5:1-3
We who have been greatly blessed to be His image bearers. We who have been loved with such incredible veracity through Jesus, who is God and who humbly entered His creation by being born into His creation in a barn (no offence to barns) and welcomed on that night by shepherds.
This is the God whom we come before with our prayers. There is this great balance between the understanding of the greatness of God and the kindness and nearness of God. The moment we realize we cannot stand in the presence of God yet He offers His ear to the point where He says, Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. – Philippians 4:6
The God who so vastly controls and rules over everything in all creation from before creation of time itself as we see depicted in the book of Job. And yet, we see the God who numbers the hair on your head. The God who knows the specified information necessary in your DNA to make you, you, knows and takes specific interest in you even to His own miserable death on a torturous cross and resurrection from the dead.
We balance the God that we must serve with fear and trembling because of His greatness with the God who through fear and trembling to the point of sweating blood died to love you.
Our father in Heaven, greater and higher than us. Our God who is hallowed, holy, who is separate from us, distinct in His grandeur.
We simply ask God to make our broken world like that of heaven where He dwells in splendor. Let us all live according to His will, His ways are true.
This starts in a very peculiar way. It does not simply start with our perfection. We’ve already missed that. It does not start with others perfection. No, it starts with us duplicating something so much more difficult. It starts with our imitation of His greatest deed in all creation. Yes the greatest act in all creation.
Forgiveness of Others is Mandatory to Come Before the Throne of Grace.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’
Yes, Christ’s act of being born to suffer and die for our sake is His greatest act in creation. He not only created everything. He not only made man in His own image. He so passionately and without restraint dove into the very creation He made, not to be worshipped, not to gain anything He did not already have. Jesus came into His creation to give to them. To forgive them for their sins. To pay the price for their wickedness. He came to take what His creation meant for evil and use it for good.
This is what we are commanded to do as we come to the throne of grace ourselves. To ask ourselves the great and demanding question, “Have I desperately and at the cost even of my own suffering sought to forgive those in my life who have wronged me.”
Following this example of how to pray Jesus says,
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. – Matthew 6:14-15
One thing we often overlook as believers is that our relationship to God is not soli dependent on how we interact with Him. Actually, how we relate to those around us determines to a great deal if we truly love God. Sometimes both the extremes are taken. Often times moralism can be perceived as godliness.
Jesus spoke about forgiveness many times. One time in particular found in Luke 7:36-50 Jesus spoke to a group of people about singular person. He asked them about gratefulness. He said if there were two people that owed a debt which would be more grateful the one who owed more or less if the debt was forgiven. The point of the story was not simply about His power to forgive sins, the questioned that must linger in our minds as we look at others is, what is our measure of gratitude for what we have been forgiven.
In another parable Jesus expresses the discontentment of another two men. One forgiven a great deal attacked a man who owed him seemingly nothing. The God of the universe has forgiven you a greater amount than could ever be repaid, understood, or proportionately shown any semblance of gratitude. Instead, remember how Jesus calls us to love those who would oppose us.
Remember how Jesus came into a world that hated Him, and died for you, we, who cared little for Him. He loved us who according to scripture were and are hostile in mind, enemies of God (Colossians 1:21-22). Remembering to approach the throne of Grace having shown that same grace to others.
How have you shown forgiveness? Who is it in your life that there is temptation to be bitter against. What are you willing to sacrifice, to forgive them, to show kindness to them? To not just forget or let go but to restore relationship with. Yes, restore relationship with. That was the goal of Jesus on the cross.
This is a serious part of prayer. Both having reached out to those you have wronged and forgiving those who have wronged you are essential to prayer.
That’s difficult, but altruistic. It can even be like throwing heaps of coals on others. So, remember to leave your offering to the Lord and reconcile with those we have wronged. Before you go to the throne of grace think of how you have wronged others and seek forgiveness and reconciliation. Yes, it is not just about how you forgive it is also about recognizing who you have wronged and making it right.
Now, is this the purpose of a discussion of prayer.
The reason that this second point is essential is because of our last point. We who believe in Christ and have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of us. We who have the hope of eternity with the King of Kings. We who have the opportunity to come before the throne of Grace the God of the universe and can call Him Father We are one body in Christ.
Pray in Unity as the Body of Christ.
We have a unity that is significantly greater than any other bond you have in all the world. You who are the church are united in the blood of Christ. The blood of the God born a man is what unifies you through your sins washed clean by His sacrifice. The messy, the disruptive, the all encompassing, and the demanding King of kings has unified you through His sacrifice.
We have a call to not only to seek and bring the lost to the truth of Christ. We have a greater call to love one another. We have a greater call to be united as one body, to pray together.
There are two important premises from this idea. One, don’t be a person who prays in a group to be seen as the person who prays. Thinking that prayer either public or private is a litmus test for spiritual maturity forgets that the litmus test for a believer is not spiritual disciplines like prayer and reading, it is the fruit of the Spirit displayed in your life.
Also, don’t be the person unwilling to pray because you are afraid you are not spiritual or eloquent enough. Jesus spoke of two men coming before the throne in prayer, one broken and one confident. The one who was broken before the Lord left whole the other not so much (Luke 18:9-14). More than that if you fear your prayers are to basic or not eloquent enough listen to the Lord.
And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. – Matthew 6:7-8
That said, the really early church, Paul, Peter, and John all state something really serious. They state that as we pray for all matter of things we can pray with our great purpose in mind, to make God known. But, to pray for fearlessness to do so.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. – Ephesians 6:18-20
After Peter and John had been arrested and threatened the church prayed with them: Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. – Acts 4:29-31
While Peter was assumedly in prison, though he had just been freed by an angel, the church gathered to pray. When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. – Acts 12:12
Dearest brothers and sisters join together in prayer. Pray that your Lord would be known and seen through you, through the body that is the church. Who knows who could come to the Lord through your steadfast love of God and others while continually praising how great your God is!
Yes, prayer is powerful it can move mountains. Prayer is powerful it can produce rain when there has been nothing drought. Prayer can transform the landscape of a community. Prayer can and does change lives.
Do not neglect the great understanding of who it is we pray to. Keep a close watch on your hurts and bitterness that forgiveness will be known. Keep sight on your love of others! Keep your gaze on the God who gave up His life to show you Himself and bring you to a place where you can know Him in an extraordinarily unprecedented way for eternity.
Come together. Pray for God to make you fearless!
This December and January the church will be open on Sunday nights for a prayer, worship, and time in God’s Word. This Spring we hope to take a Sunday and go out as a church and pray down every single street, both north to south and east to west. Our town is roughly twelve by ten blocks.
Take it upon yourself to invite others you know to pray together tomorrow, tonight, spend time before the throne of grace with the body of Christ. Why, to make Him known. Let us pray…
Questions to Consider
- What is prayer for?
- If you pray, what must you also do? (Mark 11:25-26; Matthew 6:14-15)
- How can prayer be abused? (Luke 18:9-14)
- Why do we pray with others? Why not? (Ephesians 6:18-20; Acts 4:29-31)
- Does the length and eloquence of your prayer determine its effectiveness? (Matthew 6:7-8; Ecclesiastes 5:1-3; Romans 8:26-27)