We live in a culture where conversations take a back seat to social media and text messaging. We try our hardest to say everything we want to say using the least amount of words possible. We have become enslaved to abbreviations and emojis in our dialogue. That is, if we even talk with one another at all. My wife and I ate at Ihop one morning before a doctors appointment. While we were sitting at our table waiting on our food I watched as a couple sitting across from us stared blankly scrolling through their Facebook feed. I do not think they spoke one word to each other the entire time we were there.
We have forgotten how to talk to one another and I think a consequence of that is that we have forgotten how to talk with God. Prayer is the source by which we meet with God. It’s not only the time in our day that we speak with him but it is also the time in the day we hear from him. E.M. Bounds once wrote, “the most important lesson in life we can learn is how to pray.” Prayer is a lesson and we must learn it. We are taught in scripture about how to pray. This was a matter of concern for Jesus’ disciples. In Luke 11:1 this disciples ask the profound question that we should all be asking, “Lord will you teach us to pray?”
Praying to our father
I think it is significant that Jesus chose to use the word “father” to describe God in the context of prayer. This has strong implications for how we approach God when we pray. Our posture should be that of a child approaching his father. Praying to God as our father means we are coming to God with the expectation that he is going to be there.We come to God because he is a father who listens and is quick to forgive (Luke 15:20). He knows what we need and when we need it (Matthew 6:8). He made us and breathed the breath of life into us. Therefore, we pray to him knowing that he cares for us and will not with hold good things from us when we ask. (Luke 11:13) Finally, without delay he is available to us as a good father is to his children. Tim Keller tweeted last year, “The only person who dares wake up a king at 3:00 AM for a glass of water is a child. We have that kind of access.” Indeed he is our father and has adopted as his children. (Romans 8:17) Therefore, praying to God as father does not mean we are coming to him based on the performance of our prayers but on our status as children.
Praying for the Glory of God
“The first, and all-pervasive, all-influencing, all-controlling concern in prayer is to plead with God that God would make his name supremely valuable in the minds and hearts of people.” – John Piper
Many people think prayer is a time when we go to God, tell him what we want, and leave hopeful that he will answer that prayer. However, what would prayer look like if the things we were asking for we asked in hopes that God would glorify himself in it. What would prayer look like if our aim was to make the name of God honored and glorified among the nations? That was David’s prayer in Pslam 67:4. He pled with God, “Let the nations be glad and sing with Joy!” David’s heart was aimed towards God name being glorified in the nations. When you leave this article and enter into your time of prayer ask yourself, “how can God be glorified in the hearts of everyone by what I am pleading with him for?” A prayer for Gods name to be glorified is birthed from a humble and contrite heart. (Pslam 51:10)
Praying for the Kingdom of God
Suffering and tragedy is no foreign concept for us. We are surrounded by events that leave us utterly breathless. Nearly everyday we can turn on the news and see the affects of sin in our world. The heart of a believer comes to prayer with anticipation of restoration. Paul says in Romans 8:22, “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now..”Jesus is inserting prayer into an eschatological frame. N.T Wright said, ” To pray “your kingdom come” at Jesus’ bidding, therefore, meant to align oneself with his kingdom movement and to seek God’s power in furthering its ultimate fulfillment. It meant adding one’s own prayer to the total performance of Jesus’ agenda. It meant celebrating in the presence of God the fact that the kingdom was already breaking in, and looking eagerly for its consummation.” As we saw earlier that a believers prayer is one that seeks to glorify God, we now see that it is one that seeks his kingdom as well and anticipates its fulfillment.
Praying for the Will of God
We have now observed praying to God as our father, for his glory to be known and for his kingdom to come. Thus, as the progression goes on we inevitably come to praying for the will of God to take place. We often feel like we know what is best for us and the world around us. However, if the glory of God and the kingdom of God is the desire of our heart then we must direct our prayers to the will of God. It is of great significance that we are instructed to pray for the “will of God” before we pray for “our daily bread.” He is shifting our priorities from ourselves to his glory. His will must come first in our lives. Praying for the will of God is acknowledging God’s control over the world and our dependance on him for it. It points us back to him being a good father who is working and acting for our good. (Romans 8:28). Prayer is the assumption of God’s sovereignty and praying for the will of God is our expression of such trust.
Prayer is the most tangible expression of trust in God. – Jerry Bridges