Friday, August 29, 2003

Jesus on Prayer 4

After comments about prayer, Jesus then gives us an instructional template.

Directing the Heart

How are we to pray? During His sermon, Jesus began a model prayer for us with these words:

So pray this way: Our Father in heaven, may your name be honored, may your kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:9-10)

Jesus tells us to pray to "Our Father in heaven." This should set our mental attitude as we come to a time of prayer. From the Old Testament and much of the new, we understand that we are praying to God, and that He is our Lord and King. We owe Him our lives and our service. But Jesus tells us that we can come to Him and call Him, "Father." This connotes a more significant relationship than we would imagine. But Jesus is very serious about just this aspect. The entire sermon has many references to God as our Father. This relationship is our primary motivation for the lives that we should live.

God as Father is a two-way relationship. As Father, He loves us and we honor Him. He protects and we abide. He provides and we give thanks. He instructs and we emulate, He disciplines and we mature. He touches and we respond. He commands and we obey. So much of the time we focus on command/obedience and we forget all the other wonderful aspects of our walk with our Father. When we approach Him in prayer, he is all these things for us and we need to be all these things to Him.

Jesus tells us to pray in first person plural, "Our Father..." Prayer, even in private, is to have a community focus. We can pray for our own needs, of course, but it must not stop there. We are to be intercessors. We pray, "Give us..." and we are asking for the Father's provision for family, friend, and foe. We pray, "Forgive us..." and we seek reconciliation with the Father and among ourselves. We pray, "Lead us..." and "Deliver us..." because we all need proper guidance and protection.

We are to pray that the Father's name "be honored." This is both a request and an attitude. As a request, we are asking for the knowledge of the Father to fill the earth and for the earth to respond in honor. It is our chance to grieve over those things, in our lives and the lives of others, that bring dishonor to the name: hypocrisy, judgment that triumphs over mercy, mercy that triumphs over instruction and discipleship, those who hate God, etc. It is a time to recognize and put away our hypocrisy. As an attitude, we can begin our prayers with worship, praise, and thanksgiving. We worship who He is. We praise Him for His works, and we thank Him for His care and provision.

We ask for the Father's kingdom to come. Along these lines, we pray for the spread of the gospel and the establishment of the rule and reign of the Father in the hearts of men and women. We pray for the welfare of the distressed and oppressed. We pray for physical healing, deliverance, change of hearts, broken relationships, and such things as would change with an acceptance of the Father and His ways. We also look forward to Jesus' return to live and rule among us.

So we begin our prayers by focusing on the one to whom we pray. He is Father and King. Turning our hearts to Him helps us to become like Him.

Monday: Sustaining the Heart

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>


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