Friday, May 3, 2013

Prayer – Jesus Provides A “How To”

What’s In?
Our own words

What’s Out?
Pompous showiness
Prepared Repetitive prayers and chants

Someone I know mentioned how comforting they found prayer. Someone else I know mentioned they only pray when they are having difficult times. Indeed, what we say to our heavenly Father, our Creator should be heart-felt (as in trialsome times) but there is so much to be gained by praying every day. In fact, the apostle Paul, one of the most prolific writers in the Greek scriptures (aka “New Testament”), encouraged all to pray without letup!

But when times are good, what do we pray about? Some are at a loss for words. Some think that prayer is always “asking” for something. But prayer can be so much more—such as saying “thank you” to God, or prayers about other people. Reviewing your day with “our heavenly Father” helps to open up our hearts to him. Jesus, at Matthew 6:9-15 provided what some have called “the model prayer.” A close examination of that helps us to make sure that we keep our priorities straight when talking to God.

God’s Interests: First, Christ said we should pray that God’s name be kept holy, sanctified, “hallowed.” Essentially, we are asking God that nothing we do or say detracts from who he is. Especially, just as a child would not want to do anything that would dirty the family name, we do not want to say or act in a way that brings discredit to our God. But Jesus was not only talking about reputation when he used the word “name” here. He was talking about the actual name. Again, when a family name gets sullied, it is directly tied to the actual name. “Did you hear what that Smith boy did?!” That family’s actual name gets spread around the community to the embarrassment of the whole family. Likewise, in order to esteem the “name” of God, we have to know it, acknowledge it, and use it. Since Jesus is the one that taught us to pray to the Father, he obviously was not referring to himself. And what is the name of the Father? You will find it the Hebrew writing about 7,000 times. You will find it on buildings that can still be seen in Europe. That name, in its Anglicized form is “Jehovah.”

Besides esteeming the name of God, the next thing on the list that Jesus provided also had to do with an interest of God—God’s Kingdom especially as it relates to it directly controlling and permeating the earth “just as it is in heaven.” We need to both pray for and work toward that cause. On a personal level, by learning what God wants from us and acting accordingly. On a grander level, following the assignment provided to all those claiming to follow Christ. (As a side note, ask yourself: “If Jesus told me to pray that God’s Kingdom would be completely active here on earth ‘just as’ it is in heaven, can I imagine how beautiful the earth will be at that time?”)

Our Physical Needs: Now that we’ve considered the most two most important things on God’s mind, now we can pray about our needs. And so, in verses 11-13, Jesus addresses those. First he says, “give us our bread for this day.” Note that he didn’t say we should pray for the food we need tomorrow, this week, or this month. He said, “today.” In fact, later in that same discourse, Jesus enlarged on this particular point. He advised us not to worry even about “tomorrow” and said that each current day is plenty for us to be concerned over. In fact, he concludes this “sermon on the mount” by once again urging us to keep the Kingdom foremost in our minds, hearts, prayers, and activity.

Forgiveness: So now that we can be confident about receiving on daily needs, the next thing Jesus mentions is for us to humbly acknowledge that we need forgiveness. But he tells us that forgiveness comes with a requirement—that we forgive others. In fact, the actual phrase used was to forgive us “just as” we forgive others. If we don’t forgive others, we shouldn’t expect forgiveness from God. See also Matthew 18:23-35.

Temptation: The final thing mentioned in the model prayer provided by Jesus was that we pray for protection and deliverance from “the wicked one,” Satan the devil. (New Living Translation of 2 Corinthians 4:4, Good News Version) In view of the quote from 2 Corinthians 4:4, it is evident that Satan’s attack is more than physical. It is mental and psychological. He blinds potential believers through deceptive tricks. Satan also exploits our own selfish desires. No wonder we need to pray for protection and then work earnestly to ensure our words and actions do not give Satan an open door to our minds and hearts.

With that, Jesus concludes this short but instructive sample prayer. So definitely pour out your hearts but keep in mind Jesus’ outline. There is much more that is said on the subject in the Bible—perhaps something to consider in another post.

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