One morning, about two weeks ago, I was praying. This particular morning, I was praying through the morning prayer guide of the Book of Common Prayer. In this prayer guide, as in most, it has you pray the Lord’s Prayer. While praying the Lord’s Prayer this particular morning, I saw something in the text that I had not notice before. It has altered the way I see this prayer. I, also, believe it should have a tremendous effect on our prayer life in general. I would love to share it with you.
Our Father in heaven,
Your name be honored as holy.
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 do not bring us into temptation
But deliver us from the evil one. – Matthew 6:9-13 CSB
I am sure that you have heard, seen, and even prayed this prayer many times before. It is called the Lord’s Prayer or the model prayer. Jesus teaches it to his disciples after his description of how not to pray in Matthew 6:5-8. It is short and sweet. Yet, like all biblical poetry, it can be compared to orange juice concentrate. It is very strong content concentrated into a very small package. Therefore, let’s pour some water into this prayer and see how it can shape our prayer life.
Jesus opens this prayer by addressing God as the Father in heaven. There is so much to be expounded upon in this one phrase, but for the purpose of this post, know this: while God is our origin, he is absolutely different from us! This truth is seen so well in Isaiah 55:8-9, “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways.’ This is the Lord’s declaration. ‘For as heaven is higher than earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.’” As a human being, I am made in the image of God. This makes me like God in some way, but this statement is not true in reverse. God is not like me. He is like me in no way. Therefore, I cannot assume that my desires and wants are similar to God’s desires. Actually, unless I have been carefully shaped by the scriptures, I should assume the opposite.
Why do I make this point?
Let’s continue reading through the prayer.
After Jesus addresses God, our Father in heaven, he prays three sentences that have shaped my prayer life for weeks:
Your name be honored as holy.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven
I would like to highlight a few observations from these verses.
First, notice the two words that begin each line: Your name, Your kingdom, Your will. In Jesus’ model prayer, after the address, he begins by recalibrating his compass. He is teaching his disciples what their focus should be. It should be God’s name, God’s kingdom, and God’s will. God is the focus of prayer according to Jesus. Yet, when I look at my prayer life, I see a strong tendency to pray for my name, my kingdom, and my will. I desire for people to think well of me. I want people to listen to me. I want my desires to be accomplished. My prayer life can often be Tommy focused and not God focused. I’m sure that many of us can relate.
Second, notice how we should view these three requests in light of the prayer’s address. We have already established that God’s thoughts, God’s ways, and God’s will differ from ours as heaven is higher than earth. Yet, it is so easy to confuse the two. It is so easy to think about things that we have a tremendous desire for and assume that God must want them as well. However, it appears that the Scriptures warn us against that. Naturally, our thoughts, ways, and desires are opposite from God’s, and we are called to conform our desires to His will.
How do we do this? Romans 12:2 teaches us to renew our minds in order to understand the will of God. Therefore, it is vital for Christians to read, study, meditate on, and memorize the Scriptures. This will fill our minds with God’s desires, and slowly our thoughts will gain the shape of God’s will. This is so important, because the assumption of Scripture is not that humans know God’s will. It is that humans do not know God’s will and their minds need to be renewed in order to do so. Therefore, as we pray, let us surrender our desires to God’s name, God’s kingdom, and God’s will as we begin to understand God’s thoughts through a careful intake of God’s word.
Lastly, notice how God focused prayer shapes the following request. After Jesus recalibrates our minds to God’s name, God’s kingdom, and God’s will, he teaches us to ask for God’s provision. He states it as so: “Give us this day our daily bread.” Is this simply a request for food? Not entirely. Jesus is requesting from God those things he will need to live for God’s name, God’s kingdom, and God’s will. This is not the section of the prayer in which we now get the freedom to ask for our personal desires. This is Jesus modeling for us a request for God to provide what we will need to live a God focused life. Remember, prayer is about God. All the provision we have received from God is meant to be utilized for His name, His kingdom, and His will. This is the end to which our requests in prayer should be aimed.
Therefore, church, I pray that God opens your heart to receive this truth. Until the next time, remember that this life is not about our name, our kingdom, and our will. No. This life is about God’s name, God’s kingdom, and God’s will.