If your prayer life became your Sunday school’s prayer list, what would people find? Would most of the content focus upon uncle Jimmy’s cancer, Aunt Susie’s arthritis, or cousin Sally’s job hunt? Would your classmates find pleas for Bobby’s salvation or for Lashanda to love her enemies at the office? What would comprise that list?
Our answer to this question proves insightful. As Dr. Albert Mohler, the President of Southern Seminary, noted, “If we really want to know what a person believes, we should listen to them pray.” In other words, our faith is only as deep as the prayers we pray.
At this point, we should not all become self-conscience and begin praying in slow mumbles so that no one can hear us. According to Jesus, God hears in secret. Even if others do not hear us God does. He takes no delight in the mindless, repetitive prayers of unbelief. To pray well, we must pray as God would have us pray.
Our need for prayer help should not surprise us. According to the Scriptures, we do not naturally drift towards goodness. Jesus declared our hearts to be garbage dumps that produce among other things, “evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” We come to faith because God mercifully reveals himself to us in his Word through his spirit. He accomplishes our spiritual growth and sanctification in the same manner. We grow in our ability to love God and others through the study of his word. We should not be surprised by our need for help in the spiritual disciplines.
What Do We Say?
When Jesus teaches us to pray, he does not begin with Aunt Judy’s broken leg. He begins with his glory. Jesus said, “Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven (Matt 6:7-10).” It is good an appropriate to ask God to provide us with our daily needs. But we must not do so to the exclusion of God’s glory. Our prayers should be filled with a concern for the glory of God.
Hallowed Be Your Name
To accomplish this goal, our prayers should focus on the Hallowing of God’s name. To hallow God is to honor him. The apostle Peter tosses out the term when he wrote, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy (1 Peter 3:15).” To honor the name of God, we must know his name. In other words, we must hollow God as he reveals himself to us in the Scripture. Our salvation depends upon our ability to recognize the name of God. The apostle Peter reminds us, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven among men by which we must be saved.” The soul that prays to the great She God or to Mohamed does not know Jesus. To honor God, we must pray to the Father, Son, and Spirit as God commands. We cannot pray to the God of our imagination.
Practical prayers for honor should concern our hearts and the hearts of those around us. We should pray that God would teach us to revere and worship him with greater sincerity. We should pray that our quiet times and family devotions will make much of God. We should pray that our churches would hallow God’s name when they meet to pray, preach, give, and fellowship as the collected body of Christ.
Lastly, we should pray that God’s name will be glorified among the nations. When we enter this world, we arrive with no intention of honoring God. According to Psalm 53:1, we do not even acknowledge his existence. “The fool says in his heart, ‘“There is no God.”’ When we pray for God’s name to be glorified, we are praying that those at war with God would come to love him. As the retired pastor John Piper noted, “[Worship] is the goal and fuel of mission.” To pray for God’s honor is to pray for missions.
Your Kingdom Come
Next, Jesus instructs us to pray for the coming of his kingdom. As Saint Augustine noted long ago, two kingdoms exist: the kingdom of man whose dominate ethic is selfishness and the kingdom of God whose dominate ethic is love as defined in the beatitudes. When Christians pray for Jesus’s kingdom to come, they pray for Jesus to overthrow the kingdom of darkness with the kingdom of light.
This occurs in two ways. First, we pray for Jesus’s kingdom ethic to take root in our world. We pray for our hearts to become more meek, merciful, and sensitive to sin. We pray for our rules to be just and ask for help to pursue righteousness. And then we beseech Jesus to come back on his white horse. With this phrase, we affirm our desire to see Jesus overthrow the world of death and to fully establish his kingdom which will ensure that every fiber of abuse, sickness, and hatred is vanquished forever to the pits of hell. Our longings for eternity should find expressions in our prayers.
Such prayers of hope also reveal that we correctly understand that Jesus alone can establish perfect justice and mercy. When we pray for Jesus’s kingdom, we affirm that neither human charity nor human political parties can heal this broken world. Our hope is not the next benefit ball nor the next election. It is the coming kingdom of Jesus. For this we should pray.
Your Will Be Done
Lastly, we pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. In heaven, God’s moral will is accomplished perfectly. Heaven is glorious because there neither angel nor saint questions the goodness of God. They know him, love him, and obey him. When we pray, we should pray for such perfect obedience to be found on this earth. When we struggle with pornography, greed, cursing, a biting tongue, or vengeful heart, we should ask God to bring our will into agreement with his. Our prayers should be filled with petitions that seek to unshackle our hearts from the pains of sin.
Similarly, we should pray that the same would be true of our spouses, kids, coworkers, and fellow church members. Instead of attempting to force them to change through the withholding of intimacy for example, we should pray that they will do God’s will do God’s will on earth as it is done in heaven. We should take our concerns about our husband, our wife, and that annoying guy on the third floor to Jesus, imploring him to do what we cannot. We should long for God’s will to be done in our life and the life of everyone on earth as it is done in heaven.
So You Struggle to Pray
A few weeks ago, I did an informal social media poll on prayer. The number one challenged faced by the respondents concerned a lack of focus. As they begin to pray, their minds begin to wonder. Jesus gave us the Lord’s prayer in-part for this very reason. He provided us not with the ultimate prayer to pray but with a framework by which we can focus our prayers. The next time, we find our minds struggling to pray, we should begin with the glory of God. We should pray for his name to be hallowed, for his kingdom to come, and for his will to be done. We should pray as Jesus taught us.
And now we have gotten back to those prayers lists. Does the prayer list of your life resemble the Lord’s prayer? If not, let’s begin today to pray for God’s glory today.
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Die to respect and cultivate indivisible human dignity is the duty of all of us.