For a couple of weeks, I have been thinking about this sample prayer. I thought I might incorporate it into the service last Tuesday, but it wasn’t the Lord’s will. However it was the Lord’s will that I spend some time meditating on it. As an example and guideline for prayer, it must be important. Just because the majority of Christianity abuse these words, that is no reason for us to avoid them.
I don’t know how many times, I heard these or similar words, uttered in the Protestant church of my youth. And I have to admit that I am tempted to quote them in prayer from time to time. I don’t think the Lord would be upset with me if I did, because it would not be the vain repetition. But they weren’t meant to be memorized and recited. They were meant to be used instructionally – they are at the very least a framework for prayer. And for that reason, I’ve sought a word or two which could summarize each of the pieces of this model. We are probably better off memorizing and implementing the framework than we are the precise words.
The Lord started with a call for FOCUS.
“After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven…” There are a couple of things to keep in mind at this point. First, to think of God as the Heavenly Father was an utterly new concept. Did Abraham or David, Daniel or Elisha ever call upon Jehovah as their Father? Not to my recollection. Why? Was it a matter of their neglect or ignorance? I don’t think so. Was it because the saints of the Old Testament had a higher perception of God than we do? Under the Davidic or Abrahamic covenants, did they have a different relationship to Jehovah? Perhaps they did. Were those men not children of the same Adam whom the Lord created out of the dust of the ground and breathed the breath of life? That is not the point. Our Saviour is the mediator of a new covenant, by which God’s elect are higher than angels, servants and subjects – we are “children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.”
And so Christ enjoins us to focus on “Our Father which art in heaven…” We have all kinds of fathers in this world – beginning with our parents and grandparents. And even though we must and ought to submit ourselves to them, humbly asking them for things from time to time, this is not the time or place. We are in prayer. Many people look at the federal government as the source of their day-to-day supply, but Christ tells us to lay that thought aside. Focus, focus – “Our Father which art in heaven…”
Jehovah is the only potential source of everything we need. Our parents have limited resources, and limited abilities. And while they take care of one child another might still be in need. But our “Our Father which art in heaven…” does not have such limitations. Focus on Him who is eternal, omnipotent and filled with the perfection of fatherly love. And it goes without saying that we must not direct our prayers to our heavenly mother, mother earth, or the mother of Christ.
When you pray, go into your closet – your secret place. Go into that place where you are cut off from the world; where you are alone with your “Father which art in heaven…” and there pour out your requests unto him. Don’t let the world distract you. Don’t let your own heart distract you. Focus. Focus.
Then, even in prayer, or perhaps especially because we are in pray, we must FACE REALITY.
“Hallowed be thy name” – “Our Father which art in heaven” is absolutely holy. It is very easy to become confused about “thy name,” thinking there is something special or magical in the name by which we address our heavenly Father. But the Lord Jesus is not talking about His name or “Jehovah,” “Christ,” “Yahweh” or any other heavenly appellation. But what if He was? Why are there hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people, who recite these model words every week in their church, who are guilty of misusing the name of God throughout the week? How can they say that God’s name is holy and then use it blasphemously an hour later? The name, or names of God, are holy whether someone is praying to Him or cursing at the neighbor’s dog. In Ezekiel the Lord says, “I will sanctify (I will hallow) my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, saith the Lord GOD, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes.”
But I hope you know that the Lord is not merely referring to how He is called, but what He is. Throughout the Bible, the name of God speaks of who He is and the nature He possesses. There are dozens of names by which the Lord is to be addressed, and by which He speaks of Himself. And all of them present something special about Him – “Father,” “Lord,” “the great I am,” “Jehovah.” All of them should be uttered and considered in the utmost humility because of their utmost sanctity.
And the point which the Lord is making in regard to prayer is this – We have no business calling upon the Name of the Lord, if He is has not been hallowed in our hearts. If we have the slightest anger towards Him for what we think is His slow response to our last demands…. If we are displeased that He seemed to ignored an earlier request, and our will was not fulfilled…. If we are harboring something in our heart more closely than we are Jehovah…. Then we have no business being in prayer. Face the reality “our Father which art in heaven…” is absolutely holy, and we are fatally wicked. Humble yourself before the Lord before you open your mouth or open your heart.
“Thy kingdom come” suggests that we yearn for the Lord to FINISH what He has started.
As you know God’s kingdom is multifaceted – God rules over all things and always has. But there is a sense in which there is much yet to come. There will be a day when wickedness is put down and when Christ shall rule from David’s throne. There will be a day when the lion and lamb shall sleep together, and the child and the scorpion likewise shall play. Soon, the saints of the Lord shall rule and reign with the King of Kings. “Even so, come Lord Jesus” – “Thy kingdom come.”
Christians sometimes think about what the world will be like during the Millennium. There will be no more war or threats of war. What if the money spent on the war machine was used for good or not taken from citizens at all? In the Millennium there will be no threats of hurricanes, tornados and volcanos – there will likely be a much more mild climate – more like Eden. North Korea will be no more, neither will Syria and Iraq – our enemies will no longer exist as such. Christians may try to visualize the Millennium or eternity from their personal perspective. But what if the Lord considers the United States as more an enemy than He does Korea? How different will OUR own day-to-day life be when the Lord’s Kingdom comes? Your work will probably be entirely different, and so may be your leisure hours, if there is any leisure at all. How many hours do you spend in worship and worship services? By how much will that be multiplied? And in what ways will prayer be changed. You say that you want the Lord to be your king, but how much personal authority do you retain right now? Are we READY for the Lord’s kingdom? We may say that we are, but is it really true? “Lord finish your eternal plan – may thy kingdom come right now.”
And in that same regard, FULFILL thy will – “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”
Where do you currently live? I know that is a silly question, but I need you to follow the logic. You say, “I live in Spokane Valley,” “Post Falls.” Or you say, “the State of Washington” – “Idaho.” Both those are states in the union of states called “The United States.” And where is (are) the United States? It is one of several countries in the world which we call “earth.” “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”
As a resident of EARTH, are you desirous for the Lord’s will to be done in you? How much room for improvement is there in your life? How much of the Lord’s will is not being done in you, because you are resistant to it? Eating habits, reading habits, leisure habits, work habits. How much time do you spend in prayer, in praise, in seeking to be a blessing to people? How often do you praise God’s name and Christ the Saviour, before the ears of the wicked?
If the Lord was to fully implement His perfect will in your life, how radical would be the change? I hope you don’t say, “Well, there wouldn’t be too much difference.” If that is your answer and attitude then you need to fall on your face before God. If we were the people we ought to be there would likely be miraculous answers to prayer in our lives. If the Lord’s will was full in us, the people around us would be throwing themselves down before God. In Heaven, the angels of the Lord are covering their faces and feet, shouting “holy, holy, holy,” but are we living like that? I am not sure that we are fully praying a single point in Jesus’ model.
Are we praying for the Lord’s FAVOR? “Give us this day our daily bread.”
Oh, now we are nearing the way that most of us pray. “Lord, I have this need and that need. Here is a list of things which I could use today or this week.” Most of our prayer time is spent in needs – our needs and, hopefully, in the needs of others. But consider more deeply Christ’s suggestion – “Give us this day our daily bread.” What is bread? Should we confine our thoughts to the most simple of foods?
I am not sure any of us really pray like this, and of course, I’m including myself in every point this evening. Daily bread, daily water, pure air to breathe – are these things for which we ask the Lord? We may thank the Lord for each meal, but do we beseech the Lord for the next meal? Do we recognize that without the Lord’s gracious favor, we’d not have another meal, drink, or lung full of oxygen? Do we look at ourselves as so small and dependent upon God that we’d not live another second without Him? We are more fragile than we consider the new born baby to be, but do we pray that way?
And not only do we need these physical things, we also need the less tangible and intangible. If it was not for the Lord’s comfort, could we live another moment under the condemnation for our sins? And where would we be without His strength? What about His daily guidance? “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” When we see our loved ones slowly losing their minds, their memories and their motor skills, we should be struck with our total dependence on the Lord for these things ourselves. We should make it a matter of prayer, Lord “give us this day our daily bread.”
And forgive us – “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”
I was raised to say every week, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Those words come from the Anglican “Book of Common Prayer.” There is a difference between debts and trespasses, and it is important to consider what exactly the Lord said. Why do we need daily bread? Isn’t it because the food of yesterday has been spent, and we are once again in need? Isn’t it because there is a need; there is a physical hole in our lives – a debt of sorts? And why must we be forgiven? Because with every passing day we have created spiritual debts.
We are sinners, despite having been born again. And we have sinned against just about everyone around us – strangers, lovers, and especially, God. We have uttered that bitting word toward the inconsiderate store clerk – and toward our closest friend. We have denied the impulse which the Lord put in our heart, and we have been angry that He would even do so.
“Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Now, what if the Lord made His forgiveness dependent on our forgiveness? What if you could never be forgiven until you forgave me for the debt I created against you by my sin? Of course, this is not what the Lord is saying, but what if it was? Where would any of us be?
“Please Lord, be forgiving toward us.” Is the Lord not forgiving? Did He require something of us before He forgave and saved us? Yes, the Lord is forgiving. But that doesn’t mean we can go through life expecting unlimited and unrequested forgiveness. He wants us to be humble and aware of our personal wickedness. He wants us to acknowledge our dependence upon Him, acknowledging it is His right NOT to forgive us.
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil…” Please, Lord FORTIFY us.
Of course, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.” God has never told any man to sin, and He has never tempted any man to sin. But this world is filled with temptations and situations where sin layeth at the door. And there is nothing wrong with asking the Lord for His direction in taking us away from those tempting situations. Then again, without actually tempting us, it may be the Lord’s will that temptation be in our neighborhood. When by God’s grace the world, the flesh or the devil tempts and fails to bring us down, then the Lord is glorified. But there is nothing wrong with acknowledging our weakness and pleading with the Lord to direct our steps away from the temptress and tempter.
But then there will be those occasions when we do fall into the clutches of evil. Christ is showing us how to be like David – “Deliver me from the workers of iniquity, and save me from bloody men.” “Deliver me, Lord. O keep my soul, and deliver me: let me not be ashamed; for I put my trust in thee.” “Bow down thine ear to me; deliver me speedily: be thou my strong rock, for an house of defence to save me.”
FOREVER, Lord, thou art my God and my King.
“For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.”