Food is only part of what we need. (See yesterday’s blog) “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” A full stomach with an empty heart is not the LIFE that God intends. We need God’s voice! So Jesus tells us to ask for forgiveness–to deal honestly with our sins so that we can recover our “ears” for His truth. Some Christians believe this prayer for forgiveness is unneccessary. The cross has taken our sin away. I believe that real righteousness deals daily and honestly with the sins that divide us from our fellowship with God. If “His mercies are new every morning”, doesn’t it make sense that we would experience them daily? Of course, a request for forgiveness obligates us to give the same grace to others. With forgiveness we also find freedom from resentment and pride. It is something we need every day.
If the Lord’s prayer begins with petitions for God’s GLORY, it moves eventually toward petitions for our GOOD. Observing this order (God first), will give us confidence when we ask for “daily bread” and all the other things we need for life. Asking for bread may seem strange to those of us who have food in our cupboards and money to buy more. This overlooks the role that God is playing in our blessings. He sends rain. He makes crops grow. He lavishly fills the earth with food and fish and fruit. He also provides jobs and strength. “The Lord your God . . .is giving you the power to make wealth.” (Deuteronomy 8:18) All these come from Him in answer to prayer. Without His steady management of the world, a trip to HEB would be useless. So, as an act of dependence and gratitude, we ask! Not just for ourselves. It is OUR bread that concerns us–bread for all of His children.
The third petition of the Lord’s prayer is the concluding request of the first three. “Thy will be done” is a logical consequence of the second, just as the second is of the first. Taken together these three give us the place to start our love conversation with the Father. Our innermost desire must be for His glory and honor. This passion must be greater in us than the desire for our own needs. It must concern us that so many in the world do not know the Lord nor worship Him nor trust Him. “O righteous Father, the world has not known Thee, but I have known Thee” said Jesus on the last night of His life. He was astounded (we should be) that people think incorrectly about God, or never at all! To begin prayer with this concern, a christian must be willing to “unself”. We must be willing to use prayer for God’s name, kingdom and will–not our own needs.
The second petition of the Lord’s prayer is “Thy Kingdom come”. It is a logical extention of the first. When we “hallow” God’s name (an inward attitude of fear, respect and love) we also obey Him. The prayerful Christian desires this right relationship with God for every person on the planet. So, daily we ask God to establish His rule and sweet order over all situations and people. “If I with the finger of God, cast out demons, no doubt the kingdom of God is upon you.” (Luke 11:20) We also ask God to establish His rule over the attitudes and actions in our own lives. “For the kingdom of God is . . .righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17) The kingdom is as deep as it is wide. It involves the continued transformation of those who are saved as well as the new birth of those not yet saved. Friend, today will you pray for both?
The first petition of the Lord’s prayer is “Hallowed be thy name”. It is a request that the people of the world (all of us) recognize and respect God. Listen to people speak about the Father and you will realize the need. Notice how glibly they speak of Him. Notice the absence of fear or reverence, if they acknowledge Him at all! Not so with Jesus. Having seen the glory of God, His one desire was for others to see it too. “I have glorified thee on earth. . .I have manifested thy name.” (John 17:4,6) Is this our burning ambition? Do we desire that the whole world bow before God in adoration, reverence, worship and praise? “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” To hallow the Lord’s name brings blessing and prosperity. Jesus teaches us to pray ourselves, our families, our friends, and our world into a right relationship with God. We will?
To teach us to pray, Jesus must teach us what to desire. “You want me to teach you to pray? pray for kingdom to come in this world!”, says the Lord. Ask that the order that exists is heaven, without sin, without anything contradictory to the will of God will set up on the earth. It is God’s promise. It is something that must come gradually and progressively into the life of every child of God. This morning in worship, we will think together about Peter who desired to serve God, but was a dismal failure so long as he trusted in himself. Christ’s mercy to Peter was to answer his desire by teaching him a new life. “Fear not, little flock, for it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32) Friend, do you desire the kingdom? If you do, then you can count on God’s help! Will you ask Christ to rescue and restore you as He did Peter?
“Ask and it shall be given to you.” (Matthew 7:7) Have you discovered the generosity of God? Have you settled by faith that God is infinitely able and graciously willing to GIVE you (to give YOU) all that is needed for life and service to Him? “Let him ask of God who gives to all men generously and without reproach and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5) The Lord’s Prayer is actually evidence of the giving heart of God. The words of Christ came as an answer to a request! The disciples said,”Lord, teach us to pray” and He did! It was immediate proof to them (and to us) that He will respond when we ask! Prayer, for Jesus, was a matter of TRUST. He knew the Father. He trusted the Father. He asked the Father for what He needed. Dear friend, will you let Him teach you to pray with deep trust in God’s faithful response?
Matthew, Mark and Luke all tell the same sweet, sad story. The night before Jesus died, He went to Gethsemane to pray. Though He hungered for human companionship, no one would face this hour with Him. Alone, He prayed, “Not my will but thine be done.” This truly is the Lord’s prayer! His heart-broken and courageous words are the very spirit of prayer. We know the Father heard Him. We know by the calm strength that filled His heart as He emerged from this tearful hour. By His example the Lord was teaching us how to prepare for our own suffering. All of us have crosses to carry, wreaths of thorns to wear. If we want the inflowing strength of God in the hard moments of life, we must find it where Jesus did. When we face loss, we must also go to Gethsemane. Lord teach us to pray!
Some Christians resist the use of the Lord’s Prayer as prayer. The reasons are too many to discuss here. One for which I have some sympathy is that the words of Christ may become “meaningless repetition.” It is not always so but the danger sign will be that we rush through the prayer without careful thought or reverence. We will “say the prayer”–not realizing that the Lord was not so much giving us words to say as subjects to discuss with our Father. There are 7 subjects, 7 requests that we make. His name, His kingdom, His will. Our need for food, forgiveness, guidance and deliverance. Today friend, will you consider what you are saying to God? Ask yourself! Which of these subjects is more a matter of words than heart for me? Since it is Saturday, perhaps the Lord will give you time to slow down for the privilege of prayer.
Part of prayer’s purpose is to give us God’s wisdom. Whenever Christ had decisions to make, He found time to be with the Father, and taught us, by example, to do the same. (Read James 1:5) The night before He called the Twelve, “He went out into a mountain to pray and continued all night.” (Luke 6:13) In this way, He teaches us how we, also, may get clear insight into the circumstances and choices that we face. We must bring our plans and our purposes to God’s throne. We must test our desires against His larger will. “Do nothing large or new–nothing small or old. . .until you have have asked in the silence of a secret place, ‘Lord what would you have me do?’ ” (Alexander Maclaren) Friend, when we pray “lead us not into temptation”, do we realize that we must also commit the time to hear the Lord’s voice when He answers our prayer for guidance?