Our Prayer Life – A Christian Discipline
Our prayer life – Most of us probably memorized the “Lord’s Prayer” growing up. However, this version in Luke may be different from what you remembered. The only other place you will find this account of this is in the beginning of Matthew.6. It is also referred to sometimes as the “Our Father” prayer. And that longer version in Matthew is the more typical one we most knowingly recite today. As we look at these verses, we want to know what Jesus was teaching the disciples and us as well. And what He expects us to do with His teaching on prayer.
Luke 11:1-4 (NKJV)
11 Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.”
2 So He said to them, “When you pray, say:
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
3 Give us day by day our daily bread.
4 And forgive us our sins,
For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.”
First let us consider when the disciples make their request on how to pray it is no different than any other student coming to their teacher for further instruction on mastering a particular discipline of their trade. The disciples knew from observing Jesus and from their own upbringing as a Jew, how critical praying was in their relationship with God.
Prayer is a means where God opens up a dialog with believers. It’s not just a one way conversation with us speaking to God or even worse,just a conversation with ourselves in our own head. And as a new believer, it might seem you are just talking to yourself in your head. But it is expected to feel that way at the beginning and as you grow as a Christian your relationship with God will grow and change as well. It is real and it is a time when we submit ourselves to God as we speak to Him and a time when we can hear Him speak to us also. When we submit ourselves in our petitions to God, we know it is not an audible response we get from God. The reason we have stories like Moses and the burning bush and other men like him who heard from God in an audible way or at least seemed that it came in an audible way; the reason we have these stories is it is because they are notable.They are the exception. These are special moments God chose to bring Himself to a man in a new and different way. But primarily, men did not hear God and we do not hear His voice today. That is not the way He desires to speak to us. We can hear Him speak though, as we devote ourselves to prayer. It comes down to two things. It comes down to our attitude and our approach.
We could also say it is our effort and our expectation.
What is our attitude and approach when praying? Jesus clearly made praying to the Father a constant companion to His ministry. He appears to look for every opportunity to converse with the Father. And now we see at some point the disciples desired to know how to do the same thing. Sometimes, I find myself amazed how Jesus stopped and prayed. I had always believed as the Son of God He had constant communication with the Father. They are one and the same as scripture describes them. How could they ever not hear each other? It is because the fact that He took the form of man and as a man He voluntarily cut off that particular communication He had previously known with the Father He now is relying on the same thing you and I currently rely on and that is the Holy Spirit becoming the means for dialog with God through praying. And he made praying to the Father a constant part of His earthly ministry.
In verse 2 Jesus answers them.He says when you pray… we shouldn’t ignore the significance of what Jesus says here. WHEN you pray, not if you decide, should decide, or if you find time to pray. But, when you pray meaning Jesus is presuming that we already know that praying is an important part of our spiritual development. So the first point is to be mindful in our EFFORT to pray. We need to be looking for opportunities as Christians to engaged in an active and healthy prayer life. If we were fortunate enough to grow up in a Christian home, we probably thought praying took place at threes times and places. Before meals, at bedtime, and at Church. They were more of convenient reminders to pray. But not necessarily the reason to pray. We need to be careful not to associate the occasion for praying with the purpose for why we are praying. Jesus says WHEN you pray because it is should be an ever-present, ongoing part of our daily lives.
Philippians 4:6 (NKJV)
6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;
Why do we pray? Because God calls us to pray. We don’t pray when something happens or when certain circumstances gives us cause to pray. All circumstances are in need of prayer. And we will always have needs is why we pray. By grace, the Father has revealed Himself to us and we want a closer relationship to know God fully. Plus we want to know His will for us.
Jesus has given the disciples a specific example how to pray. He starts with “Father, hallow be your name.” Our intended direction for our prayer is always the Father in Heaven as scripture tells us. And with Jesus’s sacrifice we have received the opportunity to approach God boldly in our petitions. Jesus is our intercessor. Using our Father is an endearing term for God — seeing Him as we see a loving earthly father, someone who desires to care for his children and enjoys hearing our needs and desires to respond.
Then we are to state that God’s name is to be hallowed. This is a word we see little use of today. Hallowed in Greek hagiazo, which means holy, consecrated. The phrase “hallowed be your name” is simply an expression of praise for the Father and for His holiness and His matchless name. God’s name is important in scripture and in eastern cultures, because a name was seen to be the summation of a person’s attributes, effectively your reputation among people. So when we pray we should pray to see God’s holy name revered as it should be for His glory. So when we say Father, hallowed be your name we are beginning a petition. We are saying Father let your name be hallowed. In other words our request is let God’s name fill the earth. As we look forward to a future day when His creation will be fulfilled.
Then Jesus says, “your kingdom come.” Again we see a petition, a request of a future fulfillment. The arrival of God’s kingdom on Earth. Anytime when we see a reference in scripture of God’s future kingdom it is referring to the millennial kingdom. And we should include a petition for God’s kingdom to come. As we are told in Matthew:
Matthew 6:33 (NKJV)
33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
Let’s stop for a moment and ask ourselves a question. Why should we pray for these things? To revere God’s name and for the kingdom to come? Aren’t they destined to happen anyway? Isn’t God determined to have His name revered throughout His creation? Paul says in Philippines –
Philippians 2:10 (NKJV)
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth,
And isn’t His kingdom destined to arrive on the day God has appointed. The entire scripture teaches that God’s kingdom on Earth will arrive one day. Ezekiel describes it in detail while Revelation 20:6 announces it. So why pray for these things. If we don’t, does that mean that they will some how fail to happen?
Let’s examine the second point concerning prayer. Our EXPECTATIONS when we pray. These first two request are things that God has already willed to happen. However, Jesus tells us we are to include these petitions as we pray. Here we see something deeper and critically important about praying. Take note, that our prayers are not about persuading God to do something. This may be a bit of a challenge for some. We are told to pray. However it is not about persuading God to do or not do something. For God’s mind is not subject to be changed. He determines to do what He determines to do. It is His will that will be done, not ours.
1 Samuel 15:29 (NIV)
29 He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.
Then Jesus tells the disciples in this prayer to pray that “your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.“ (God’s will) That is we should be asking that our will be in alignment to God’s will and not the other way around. True, we bring our petitions to Him before we know His will, but along our path in our prayer life, we should be continuously be praying for His will and His plan for creation, therefore allowing the Holy Spirit to align our will to His. And as we mature in our spiritual walk, we are going to discover more and more that our will is His will. Thus we will praying for His plan and not ours.
So Jesus begins by saying pray for God’s name to be revered, pray for His kingdom to come, and pray that His will be done. Now Jesus lists specific earthly needs. Give us day by day our daily bread. We are to pray for our daily bread. This simply means to pray for our daily provisions. The phrase “day by day” in Greek suggest that we have enough for each day and no more.
Proverbs 30:8-9 (NIV)
8 Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
9 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God.
What this is saying is we should be content with what we have.Not content that we have a million dollars, but content that we have just enough. Is that our will when we go to prayer? Many of us don’t sit down when we are praying to say to God I have more than I need right now and only give me just what I need. Which means for many, it is to say please take away some of what I have. But we don’t usually do that, do we. Often we say I want a little more. Whatever it is that we like, no matter if it is food, money, clothing, car, etc. Just a little more God, it would be nice. Which brings us back to the question, are we praying for His will or are we praying for ours? Isn’t God again here asking us to pray for His will? And not what we would normally want.
Next we see Jesus add, “And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.” Jesus reminds we are to forgive others of their sins just as the Father has forgiven us of ours.
Is this any more in doubt that what Jesus said we should pray for at the beginning? Isn’t God going to provide us with our basic needs in some form?
Matthew 6:31-33 (NKJV)
31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
What about forgiveness of sins? Haven’t our sins already been forgiven by our faith? Hebrews says this –
Hebrews 7:26-27 (NKJV)
26 For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; 27 who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.
Hebrews 10:10 (NKJV)
10 By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
All the sacrifice necessary to forgive you all your sins today, tomorrow and until the day you die has already been made available for you to be forgiven. Of course, that does not give us a license to sin. It does not bring any doubt whether you sin or if you do sin that you are forgiven. That is settled.
Now let’s process this. I’m praying for His name to be holy. That is conclusive. I am to pray for His kingdom to come. That is going to happen. I Pray for the fact of my need for daily substances. He told me He will do that. Now I am praying for the forgiveness of sins. And I am already forgiven. This can be hard to understand. Jesus is telling me to say these things, this is how I am to pray and in fact all I am doing is declaring the truth of what You said You are going to do. The Father has already determined our needs.
Matthew 6:8 (NKJV)
8 “Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.
We have already been forgiven, but just the same we are to ask for forgiveness. And still we are told by Jesus to pray in this way nonetheless. And here we need to understand we are praying for our benefit, not God’s. We do not Pray for God’s benefit, but ours. We learn things through praying and we pray to understand new things through prayer.
Here we have reached our third point in when we pray – our APPROACH,. Have you, when you pray ever approached it with the expectation that unless you get what you want from the experience then it was a failure? When I prayed God did not answer. Some say God always answers, but sometimes the answer is no. That is trivializing God and prayer.
God always answers when we pray and the answers are deep and complex and life-long. They are never simply yes or no. ‘Heal my daughter,” becomes a life learning about God. Our praying causes us to reconsider our desires and whether they are a part of God’s will. Rather than want fame and riches, we pray for His fame and our daily needs. Rather than pray for revenge on our enemies, we remember our own sins and how we are called to forgive others,. Rather than seek our plan on earth, we seek His kingdom come. And as we come to know God and see His will being manifested in our lives, He receives glory through our prayers.
Lastly, Jesus ends the prayer with the request that God lead us not into temptation. This is a Greek figure of speech which is why it reads a little out-of-order. It really means in simple terms God help us remain faithful to you in the face of temptation. God never leads us into temptation. Scripture tells us God does not tempt us.
The prayer ends with a petition for God to strengthen us against ourselves. To strengthen us to endure and pass the tests presented in temptations. And this should be our constant cry of our heart in prayer. We all have our temptations, especially the things we are most prone to fall to. Therefore, we depend on His strength to withstand those temptations. God knows how to rescue the godly from temptations. We pray to acknowledge that God is doing that in our lives. However, we often refuse to allow ourselves that protection. Instead some people prefer to dive headlong into the teeth of the lion and suffer the consequences of their disobedience.
2 Peter 2:9 (NKJV)
9 then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations…
So we are too, in this third point is how do we understand our approach to prayer? Are we to set aside other prayers and adopt these words that Jesus tells us here and in Matthew’s gospel how we should pray. Should this be our memorized, recited prayer? Was this the point with Jesus to the disciples? Learn these specific words, memorize them and repeat them over and over every time you wish to have a dialogue with the Father?
Let’s step back for a moment and ask what was the purpose in the disciples’ question to Jesus? They wanted Him to teach them to pray. Not teach them a prayer, but how to pray. And since they were His students, they wanted to learn something they felt was important to their chosen walk in life. Just like any trade, as students we want to learn all they can from the master/teacher. Such as the inside secrets of being successful. Just as the teacher’s point is to teach through a model as in framing/building a house or a chef demonstrating how to make a cake, he does not expect them to memorize the specific example the teacher showed them. Well, this is the same point with prayer. Consider it’s purpose. It is a dialogue with the Father. It is important to learn from Him and to ask Him to respond to our needs. If we always bring exactly the same words to that experience, what are we going to learn? What kind of dialogue would that be? Therefore, logic dictates that this teaching was not intended for us to memorize and mindlessly recite these same words over and over again.
Then we have scripture that tells us also how we should approach praying. When Matthew teaches the Lord’s prayer, he records Jesus introducing the teaching saying…
Matthew 6:7-8 (NKJV)
7 And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen (referring to the Gentiles) do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.
8 “Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.
It is kind of ironic that just before the Lord’s prayer in Matthews gospel, Jesus tell us in no uncertain terms not to pray in repetitious ways. What has many churches done in many places? Turn this prayer into just so many words. It’s become like a mantra or chant. And when prayer becomes a chant, it changes from a dialogue to a monologue. From a faithful petition before God to a superstitious work of our flesh.
This brings us to the final point in closing. Our ATTITUDE in prayer. How do we approach the Father in prayer? Do we see prayer as an attempt to justify ourselves through our good works rather than a sincere effort to know God’s will and be committed to it? Are we repeating meaningless words hoping to get God’s or man’s attention? Perhaps this is why Jesus give us this instruction in Matthew,..
Matthew 6:5-6 (NKJV)
5 “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.
You may on occasion seen Christians recite memorized prayers or seek to draw attention to themselves in public prayer simply out of poor teaching or a misunderstanding of the purpose of prayer. But scripture leaves no misunderstanding. Jesus is teaching us to seek the Father, to seek His will, to seek His goodness, and do so with an open heart to receive His word. To engage in a dialogue to strengthen our relationship with Him. To seek Him in a humble heart and with a focus obtaining an audience with God and not men.
And when He works His will, we can give Him glory for answering our prayers that were prayed in His will.
“The author’s biblical interpretations and conclusions presented in this document rely on original teaching used by permission of Verse By Verse Ministry International (VBVMI). The author’s views may not represent the views of VBVMI, it’s Directors or staff. Original VBVMI teaching may be found at http://www.vbvmi.org.”
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