God designed us for relationship with Him. The basic element of this relationship is the practice of prayer. He who formed and made us alive by His breath also wants us to be in communion with Him. We are made to carry the fire of the Lord within us. The fuel for this fire comes to us through our fellowship with Him.
This message is one I am aiming directly at myself. Because, simply, I am not so good at praying. Yes, I am a pastor. And, I have been a believer for almost 40 years. But this is an area in which I have found it particularly difficult to maintain consistency.
Like the psalmist, I can say that my soul cleaves to the dust (see Psalm 119:25). There’s something so natural about us that wants to go low. Our soul becomes disquieted, and we fall on our faces.
Gravity drags us down; it’s an undeniable force of nature, the aspect of Creation that keeps us from floating off into space. I believe forces at work in our unseen atmosphere compound gravity. These strong forces work to put us in the dirt.
The book of Genesis, in Chapter 4, identified Cain as a tiller of the ground. That statement was not meant to be a slam at those who work the soil. Without farmers, what would we put on our tables? But Cain’s unhealthy relationship with the earth revealed itself in how he worshipped the Lord, and this affected the envy he felt toward Abel, his shepherd brother.
Fury built in Cain’s heart. This resulted in his murder of Abel and in Cain going out from the presence of the Lord.
What a tragic story this is. Let us not think that we’re above becoming like Cain. Our lack of communion with the Lord leaves our souls open to cosmic and corrupt influences.
Order to the Pattern
For this reason, Jesus prescribed a pattern for praying. He taught His disciples a form for addressing God, a framework for communication.
This series of sentences, found in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, became known as the Lord’s Prayer. So many people have learned these words and recite them often. Some treat these sentences as a chant or incantation. In doing this, this prayer becomes a religious exercise rather than a powerful, personal guide to connect with the Lord.
Jesus gave these words in a specific order. This order, when followed with the leading of the Holy Spirit, lifts our faces from the dust and into the beauty of holiness. We are the anointed ones of God who are privileged to face His Throne of Grace.We are the anointed ones of God who are privileged to face His Throne of Grace. Click To Tweet
Consider the first words Jesus gave to the disciples: “Our Father.” The high ideal of prayer as relationship with God is set before us at once. With the offering of His perfect self, Jesus joined us to Him and to the Father. We are hid with Christ in God. Nothing can separate us from the love of God (see Romans 8:28-38).
We speak to the Father in the Name of Christ from our pain, our troubles, our failures, our victories, and our thanksgivings. We direct our words to the Person of God. Idols made by human hands are dead things possessing no power.
Our God is alive. Our God calls us into His presence. Our God calls us His children.
The God Above All
The Person we speak to also occupies His Place – Heaven. He sits above our world. From there, He watches over our moments and our days.
This Person of God also carries a great Name, a hallowed Name, one that is above all names. God introduced Himself to Moses in a burning bush. Once, Moses came near, God revealed His Name – Yahweh, I Am That I Am, the One who is.
Our Father, this One who is and who sits in Heaven, rules and reigns in every way. His Kingdom and His will govern all things.
These first phrases that Jesus taught in the Lord’s Prayer serve to define the relationship between creature and Creator. With a couple of sentences, we are instructed to first focus on the reality of our sonship in Him, the glory of His highness, the character of His Name, and the breadth of His sovereignty.
Our God hears. He knows. He sees. He moves. He reigns.
Jesus told His disciples – and us – to begin our prayers with this simple, yet powerful review of the truth about God. Once, we’ve recollected these things about Him, we are ready to bring our stuff to Him.
Bread, Forgiveness, Leading and Protection
Because we know who He is, we can ask Him for our daily bread. This word “bread” refers to our material needs and our spiritual ones. We ask the Father who is in Heaven to provide – one of His titles in Scripture is Yahweh-jireh, or God, our Provider.
What follows this petition for provision is a plea for forgiveness and the power to forgive others. Those first phrases about who God is and where He sits really come into force here. Our God is the Father of all mercies. We sin against Him and Him alone, as David wrote in Psalm 51. All forgiveness flows from the Mercy Seat that is above, the place where the Blood of Christ speaks in atonement for all sins.
Christ’s prayer pattern concludes this way: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
Jesus sent His Spirit to guide into all truth. He made this promise to the disciples in John’s gospel. With this guidance from above, we will steer away from the traps and snares of the wicked one. We will gain discernment and make holy decisions, according to the direction of the Lord.
Still, we are strangers on the earth and strangers to the majority of its inhabitants. Knowing this, we should expect troubles — those seasons and moments when will experience evil as a present reality. We stand now as enemies of the prince and the power of the systems at work in this fallen world.
All who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution – this promise is found in 2 Timothy 3:12. This means we will need deliverance from time to time. As we follow the Lord’s pattern of prayer, we can keep these words of Jesus in mind:
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:25).