Monday, April 24, 2017

God-Centered Prayer

Part 4 of Talking to God

Text: Matthew 6:9-10




Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, you will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:9-10). 


Prayer Is Not All About Us

There are many inspirational statements about prayer. For example:

“More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.”

“The prayer of a righteous person has great power” (James 5:16).

“Prayer works.”

“Prayer changes things.”

These statements motivate us to take our requests to God in prayer. But prayer is more than just asking God to do things for us. The Lord’s Prayer—the model for how we should pray—begins by focusing on God. Have you ever had a conversation with someone in which the person only wanted to talk about himself or herself? Our prayers should not be self-absorbed. Prayer is not all about us.


"Your" Before "Our"

There are three different pronouns in the Lord’s Prayer: “your,” “our,” and “us.” There are six requests in the prayer, with each request containing a pronoun. The first three requests use the pronoun “your”: (1) “hallowed be your name,” (2) “Your kingdom come,” and (3) “your will be done.” The last three requests use the pronouns “our” and “us”: (1) “Give us this day our daily bread,” (2) “forgive us our debts,” and (3) “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” The first three requests are about God’s glory; the last three requests are about our good.

Prayer is not about coming to God with our personal agendas; it’s seeking his agenda for our lives. God is not our errand boy!


God's Name, Kingdom, and Will

While the focus of the first three requests of the Lord’s Prayer is on God, focusing on God is actually beneficial for us.

1. May your name be hallowed. 

God’s “name” refers to who God is. To “hallow” God is to honour him as holy. God is holy in the sense that there is no one like him. He says, “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like me” (Isa. 46:9).

God’s word continually tells us to praise God? For example, Psalm 113:3 says, “From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the LORD is to be praised!” Does God have an ego problem? No, the Westminster Shorter Catechism says that the chief end of man (i.e., our number one purpose) is “to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” C. S. Lewis writes that “the delight is incomplete until it is expressed.” [1] God knows that we can’t fully enjoy him unless we praise him (like we don’t fully enjoy a great movie unless we praise it). Of course, we can honour God not only with our lives but also with our lives.

2. May your kingdom come. 

In one sense the kingdom of God has already come. When Jesus’ became his earthly ministry, he announced, “The kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15). Jesus reigns as King over his people (i.e., the church). When we pray, “Your kingdom come,” we can pray that God’s kingdom would grow (i.e., more people would make Jesus their King).

But the kingdom in its fullest sense is still future. It will come to earth when Jesus returns. Jesus declared that the sooner all the nations hear the gospel, the sooner he would return: “This gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matt. 24:14). The apostle Peter writes that we can hasten the return of Jesus by how we live (“waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God,” 1 Peter 3:12).

3. May your will be done. 

“Our ‘prayer doesn’t work’ often means ‘you didn’t do my will, in my way, in my time.’” [2] And remember, sometimes we need to put feet to our prayers. Jesus prayed, “Not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). The death of Jesus on the cross was the will of God. Jesus was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23). The apostle Paul describes God’s will as “good” (Rom. 12:2). Obviously, the death of Jesus on the cross was good for us. But was it good for Jesus? In the short-term, no. But in the long-term, yes. Not only did it allow Jesus to provide salvation for us, but he also was exalted as King of kings and Lord of lords. It is always best to do the will of God, though doing it might sometimes be very difficult.


Prayer Changes Me

We say, “Prayer changes things.” But if we begin our prayers by focusing on God, prayer changes us. And our prayers will also be changed. We’ll think, “How does this request bring honour to God? How will it grow God’s kingdom? How will it accomplish God’s will?”

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[1] C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms, 95.
[2] Paul Miller, A Praying Life, Kindle location ?.