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Discipleship (10) – Teach Us to Pray


Become As a Little Child

Become As a Little Child

Is there any disciple who believes he knows all he needs to know about how to pray? While the untutored prayers of children often thrill our hearts and stir our souls, yet in our own prayers we feel inadequate and sometimes are tongue-tied. Even Paul of Tarsus once said, “We do not know what we ought to pray for” (Romans 8:26).

Why?

Callers to radio talk shows are often nervous and have trouble saying what they want to say. Why shouldn’t we be nervous when talking to the Creator of Heaven and Earth, the Eternal One?

The Twelve once asked Jesus to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1). Jesus’ prayer life prompted this request. His easy familiarity with God, the earnestness and intensity of his prayer, the humility with which he approached the Father: we do not know exactly what caused them to ask. It may have been any of these or something else entirely. Yet, we do know they asked for a lesson in prayer. Since John the Baptist had also taught his disciples to pray, we may infer that this lesson is one all disciples need to learn.

In response, Jesus gave them what is often called The Lord’s Prayer. In a few dozen words he gave almost inexhaustible teaching concerning our prayer life. We will study these from the account in Matthew 6:9ff.

Exaltation of God

Jesus taught us to address our prayer to Our Father in Heaven. When we approach God, relationship is important. We do not pray to the Almighty Creator of  Heaven and Earth. We pray to Our Father in Heaven who happens to be the Almighty Creator of Heaven and Earth. He is our Father because as sons of God through faith in Christ (Galatians 3:26) we have been born again (1 Peter 1:3). We are able to come with confidence to God’s throne because of the relationship we have to him in Christ (Hebrews 4:16). This is the significance of praying in Jesus’ name (John 16:23f).

In coming to God as our Father, we do not take a casual attitude. We recognize his name is hallowed. That is, his name is to be revered because it is holy and sanctified. The Psalmist said, Holy and awesome is his name (Psalm 111:9). This is similar to what Peter had in mind when he charged us, “in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord” (1 Peter 3:15). Give him the special place in your heart his name merits.

In praying for his kingdom to come, we lift our sights above our mundane, personal, parochial interest to the universal kingdom and purposes of God. While God has our personal interests in his eye, our hearts must also realize his purposes go far beyond our horizons. It is in this connection that Jesus adds, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. This is, perhaps, one of the most difficult portions of this prayer – for it subjugates our will to his will. But this is always the true prayer of the disciple. Just as Jesus in Gethsem­ane prayed for the Father’s will to be done, we are to pray for God’s will to be done in all things.

Supplication for Our Needs

With our focus firmly fixed on God – his name, his kingdom, his will – Jesus now turns to petition for our personal needs. Give us today our daily bread. In the wilderness, Israel was instructed to gather enough manna for the day and not to hoard it for tomorrow (Exodus 16:14ff). Each day they were to trust God would supply their need. This is how we are to live each day. In this prayer, our daily bread is inclusive of all our physical needs: food, clothing, shelter, health, etc. In all these, we are to trustingly depend on our Father who knows what we need before we ask. He who feeds the birds and clothes the lilies has promised to provide all our needs as well. This prayer shows daily trust in him to do what he has promised.

But our needs are more than physical. We also have spiritual needs. The prayer addresses two of these: our need for forgiveness and our need for deliverance. Put into theological terms, these address our need for justification and for sanctification. Either of these without the other is inadequate. To be forgiven without being delivered from the power of sin to dominate our lives leaves us enslaved; to be delivered from the practice of sin without having been delivered from its guilt leaves us condemned. In the beautiful hymn, we sing, “Be of sin the double cure. Cleanse me from its guilt and power.”[1] The thought of this song has its root in the Lord’s Prayer.

Note that these requests suggest prayer can and will change us. To pray for forgiveness as we forgive and to pray do not lead us into temptation but deliver us from evil both imply a change in our conduct and attitudes. God is to have an impact and influence in our lives. In this, the prayers of the disciples promote discipleship!

A Final Doxology of Praise

This prayer begins and ends with God: for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever! More than half the words of this prayer are in praise of God or in recognition of his place in our lives and in the universe. It is this recognition of God’s place that causes us to follow his Son as disciples. Compare this prayer with the prayer of David in 1 Chronicles 29:10-13.

Praise be to you, O LORD, God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting.

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,

For everything in heaven and earth is yours.

Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.

Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things.

In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all.

Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.

Jesus said more in fewer words than did David – but the concepts are much the same. In prayer, we should put God first, our wants and needs second. But he promises that when we put him first, our wants and needs will be supplied.

In prayer, as well as in other parts of life, we are to seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness. If we do, all these things will be provided you (Matthew 6:33). Yet, how many of our prayers are lists of what we want God to do for us? We need such lists – but we also need to focus our hearts on the LORD in our prayers. When we exalt him as LORD and praise him for all his wonderful works, our needs – whether physical or spiritual – will be provided.

If the LORD’s Prayer teaches us nothing other than to look to God as God, we will have learned its most important lesson.


Next
– (11) Examples Of Disciples Praying


Previous
– (9) A Disciple Studies The Bible
[1]Augustus M. Toplady, “Rock of Ages” in Praise for the Lord, John P. Wiegand, Editor (Nashville: Praise Press, 6th printing, ã 1992 by Song Supplements, Inc.), #557, v. 1.

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