Jesus said that our heart will follow our treasure. In other words, our bank statements will show our priorities. In a similar way, our prayers follow our priorities. What do you pray for? Do you find yourself praying a lot about health, wealth and prosperity? Those are obviously the things you consider the most important.
What should we praying for? Often we struggle in our prayer time because we are not really sure about what we ought to be praying. Sometimes our church prayer meeting can be the most depressing meetings because we pray for the wrong things, or at least we don’t pray for the best things.
A helpful practise is praying the prayers found in the Bible. In Matthew 6:9-15 we have Jesus’ own example of prayer that should serve as our guideline. Jesus said we should pray like this (v9):
1. God’s name
v9 Hallowed be your name
To hallow means to set apart, magnify or honour. Therefore as we come to God in prayer, we acknowledge his infinite worthiness. We also pray for God’s name to be hallowed, worshipped and magnified throughout the world. We remember that many people in our workplace and world don’t hallow God’s name because they don’t know him. We ask God to enhance his own reputation.
2. God’s kingdom
v10 Your kingdom come
“Your kingdom come” refers to our desire or longing to see God’s kingly rule to be seen more and more. We know that Jesus is the King of God’s Kingdom, but many people do not acknowledge this truth. Here we pray for his God’s New Era to break into our world more and more as more and more people turn away from their sins and submit to Christ as king. We pray that God’s Kingdom will grow in the nations of the world so more people can hallow God’s name. This is a prayer for evangelism and missions.
3. God’s will
v10 your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Earth and heaven are contrasted here. In heaven all the inhabitants joyfully obey God and in turn their own joy is increased. On earth we see sin, disobedience, pain, sorrow and murder. So we pray that God’s will may be done on earth as it is in heaven. It is a prayer for more people to know God and for God’s people to live obedient lives, according to God’s will. It is a prayer that we as Christians live holy and set apart lives and be involved in evangelism and missions. The purpose of this request is to see that God’s name is hallowed more in our lives and throughout the earth.
4. God’s Provision
v11 Give us this day our daily bread
Bread is the symbol of all that is necessary for the preservation of life: food, shelter and clothing. Jesus said that we should ask our Father in heaven to supply what we need for living. At the time of Jesus labourers received their wages daily. Wages were extremely low and most times just covered the food for that day. Jesus said we should ask God for our daily bread. In other words, God is reliable enough to be daily dependent on him.
However, God’s provision is not just so that we can live comfortable lives, but so that we can be involved in making sure that the first half of the prayer is accomplished – that God’s name is hallowed more, that his (not our) Kingdom comes and that his (not our) will is done. God’s provision is for us to be able to be involved in his purposes.
5. God’s Pardon
v12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors
Jesus here calls sins debts and as you know debts need to be paid. African Bank has just lost millions because people are not paying their debts. The Bible says that the debt we owe God is death because sin deserves death. We all, each one, have infinitely offended an infinitely perfect God and that debt needs to be paid. Jesus says here though that we can pray, “Forgive us our debts”! The only reason we can pray this is because the Jesus Christ went to a cross and died the death we should have. In dying, Christ bore God’s judgement for our sin in our place. God accepted Jesus’ death as the final and full payment of the debt of all God’s people.
If we put our trust in Christ that forgiveness is ours. Through trust in Christ we are guaranteed no more bills in the post demanding more re-payments for sin!
But then Jesus said, “as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
There is no forgiveness for those who do not forgive. Your forgiving spirit demonstrates and gives evidence of the fact that you have turned to Christ and have experienced God’s forgiveness.
The principle is reiterated in v14-15:
v14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
If you’ve experienced God’s underserved, scandalous forgiveness yourself, you can extend that forgiveness to others – even those who don’t deserve it. We can’t expect to belong to the kingdom of forgiveness if we don’t believe in forgiveness. One writer puts it this way: Forgiveness is to set a captive free and then to realize you were the captive. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you condone the sin against you and certainly doesn’t mean the sin against you was not serious. Forgiveness does mean that you release that person of the debt you think they owe you and leave them to give an account to God.
6. God’s Protection
v13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
Jesus said that we should ask God not to allow us to be led into temptation or the time of testing, but if we are tempted or do go through the time of testing, that God would deliver us from the evil one. The Bible tells us that we are involved in a spiritual war and that the Devil is a strong adversary, thus weed God’s help to stand firm and endure.
I really like the old hymn Onward Christian soldiers because there is good theology in there. The fifth verse goes:
Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane,
But the church of Jesus constant will remain.
Gates of hell can never gainst that church prevail;
We have Christ’s own promise, and that cannot fail.
We are Christian soldiers. God is our Commander-in-Chief. We are involved in a war against the evil one. Prayer is our war-time walkie-talkie that gives us a direct line to our commander to call for extra supplies or helicopter cover. This is what we should be praying for our children and friends and missionaries and church.
Praying the Lord’s Prayer
Do you pray? How do you pray? What kind of things do you pray for, for your children and yourself?
Will you join me in praying for God’s name to be hallowed, God’s kingdom to come in all the nations of the world, God’s will to be done as we are obedient to his word, God’s provision for our needs because the job is not yet done, God’s pardon to be enjoyed and extended to others, and for God’s protection in the time of testing that will surely come.
photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/fireflieswaltz/14199107887/”>Lulumière</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>