“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. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
(Matthew 6:9-13 ESV)
Today we delve into the first half of what is known as “The Lord’s Prayer”. This is a sample prayer given by Jesus in which He teaches His disciples (then and now) how to pray (not what to pray). The first half of this prayer deals with God and His holiness.
So often our prayers are nothing but laundry lists of our needs. We need to find a spouse. Or we need God to fix the spouse we have. Or we need a job. Or we need to be cured of some illness or disease. None of these things are bad things to pray for. But before we pray for them, we need to put God in His proper place.
The first step in prayer is to acknowledge who God is – and who we are in relation to Him. He is our father, and we are His children. Only those people who have been born again through faith in Jesus Christ are part of God’s family [John 1:12] and can call Him “father”. This is a very special privilege.
When we think of all the things a father should be we get a good understanding of who God is. Fathers should be a source of safety, and provision. They should be filled with wisdom and look out for our best interests. While earthly fathers understandably fall short in these areas, these attributes describe God perfectly.
Notice also that Jesus tells us to address our prayers to God. Not to Mary. Or a patron saint. Not even to Jesus or the Holy Spirit.
A good prayer should convey our concern for three things about God: His name, His kingdom, and His will.
We should have a passion for God’s name to be hallowed. A person’s name is more than an identifier. When we hear someone’s name we think of certain characteristics. The name Adolf Hitler conjures up very different thoughts compared to the name Mother Teresa.
God’s children should want God’s name to be revered and honored. God’s children should have a desire for God to have a unique place in this universe, commensurate with His holy character.
Secondly, we should express a desire to see God’s kingdom as opposed to our own. The world that God had planned for us is nothing like the world we live in. Before we pray for our own needs and desires, we need to desire to live in a world that functions as God planned. This puts our needs in the proper perspective and actually reveals some of them as being frivolous.
Finally, we should desire to see God’s will done on earth as it is in heaven. This is interesting. It tells us that God, despite being sovereign, is not a despot. He does not force His will on this earth. These words of Jesus are one of the strongest proofs of free will in the Bible.
Wanting to see God’s kingdom and will is admitting that His ways are better than our ways [Isaiah 55:9]. When we acknowledge God’s superiority, we are humbling ourselves. It is only when we humble ourselves that we can then properly ask for those things which we need.
We’ll study the second half of this prayer tomorrow.
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