In Luke 11:1 we read, “Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’” Use your creative imagination to picture this scene: maybe the disciples are ready to eat breakfast, but Jesus hasn’t shown up yet. He’s still praying. He’s been praying all night! The disciples had ambition of praying all night too, but they fell asleep less than an hour after dark. They just weren’t good at praying. Well, like the disciples, we could use some help to get our prayers off the ground.
I find it encouraging to know that prayer wasn’t natural for the disciples. They needed training and guidance on how to pray. Thankfully, Jesus taught them how and had it recorded so we too can learn directly from the Master. Here is how Jesus teaches us to pray:
Matthew 6:9–15 (ESV)
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.
“Our Father in heaven”
Understanding our relationship to God is the foundation of prayer. We are speaking to the one who made us, the eternal God in heaven. We dare not approach him in a flippant, desultory manner. Yet we are invited to come to him because he is “Our Father.” What good dad is not overjoyed to see and embrace his kids? God is a good dad. He wants us to come to him as little children sharing whatever is on our minds.
Our confidence in calling God, “Father,” is rooted in the gospel. Jesus, God’s perfect Son, lived the life of perfect obedience we failed to live and died the death we deserve to die so that we could have the relationship with God he created us for. When we trust in Jesus, God accepts us as his own children. We don’t need a priest or a saint or a resumé of good deeds to give us access to God. He is our Dad!
Yet with great privilege also comes great responsibility. To call God, “Father,” is to take ownership of being like Jesus—Jesus who was committed to doing his Father’s business, Jesus who was sent from the Father to see the Kingdom established on earth, Jesus who remained faithful to the Father’s plan in spite of suffering and death. When we pray, “Our Father,” we are stepping into our older brother’s shoes and committing to follow in his steps.
Saying ‘our father’ isn’t just the boldness, the sheer cheek, of walking into the presence of the living and almighty God and saying ‘Hi, Dad.’ It is the boldness, the sheer total risk, of saying quietly, ‘Please may I, too, be considered an apprentice son.’ It means signing on for the Kingdom of God.[i]
Our position and responsibility as children of God clarifies the rest of the Lord’s Prayer. As children of God, our desire above all else is for God’s name to be honored (hallowed). The ambition of all our prayers is that God would receive glory and honor and the recognition his greatness deserves. Jesus wanted others to know the Father truly through his life. And we want Jesus to be known and worshipped by all peoples throughout all creation. We know this is God’s will, and we want it to be done. We want the whole world to be freed from sin and death and injustice. We want God’s kingdom here on earth. We are ready to rely on God, trusting him to provide our needs, to be a just judge, and to keep us faithful to the end.
Like most of Jesus’ teachings, he flips our priorities on their head. What usually prompts our prayers are the messes we find ourselves in, and we ask for God’s rescue and deliverance. We’ll also ask God to supply our needs so that we avoid a future crisis. And from time to time the troubles in the world around us make headlines, and so we ask God to invade those affairs as well. Jesus invites us to make all of these requests. But he shows us that what should drive us to prayer is astonishment over God’s majesty and our relationship as his children.
For a resource to help you pray according to God’s global priority, visit mercyhillchurch.com/globalprayer.
-Bryan Miller (Connections & Missions Pastor)
[i] N.T. Wright, The Lord and His Prayer, (Eerdmans, 1996), 8.