If Christians spent as much time praying as they do grumbling, they would soon have nothing to grumble about.
J. Edgar Hoover (former FBI Director) once said, “The spectacle of a nation praying is more awe-inspiring than the explosion of an atomic bomb. The force of prayer is greater than any possible combination of man-controlled powers, because prayer is man’s greatest means of trapping the infinite resources of God.”
Jesus saw fault in the Pharisees’ prayers because they were hypocritical (Matthew 6:5) and in the pagan’s prayer because it was mechanical (Matthew 6:7). So, He shows us how to pray right in Matthew 6:9-15. We call it the ‘Lord’s Prayer.’ But it is actually the ‘Disciple’s Prayer.’
What should we pray about?
1. God’s Glory
In prayer, God’s concerns are first priority, and our own needs are second and committed to Him.
- His Name
Because of Jesus, we can call God “Father.” Though all are God’s creation (Malachi 2:10), not all are His children (John 1:12). Only salvation makes us a child of God. To“hallow” His name is to make it set apart, separate, and special.
- His Kingdom
Jesus’ kingdom will come at His second coming (Matt. 24:27). But His kingdom comes personally to people by conversion (Matt. 18:1-4) by Christians living by His commands.
- His Will
It is foolish to resist it, wisdom to discern it, and wise to do it. Though God is sovereign, it is clear that He also commands us to exercise his our will in certain areas. Pray believing prayer makes a difference. Pray that God’s will becomes our own will. Pray that His will prevails on earth as it does in Heaven.
When our life (and prayers) are self-centered, we are concerned with: 1- Our own name – embossed on letterhead, headlines in news, defend it when it is attacked. 2- Our own empire (kingdoms) – bossy, influence and manipulating to boost our ego. 3- Our own will – always wanting our own way and getting upset when it is finished. But we should be concerned with God’s name, God’s kingdom, and God’s will.
2. People’s Needs
Putting God first will not eliminate our needs. To not pray about them at all is as great an error as to allow them to dominate our prayers.
- Daily Bread
‘Daily Bread’ is symbolic of our physical needs. It is not only a petition but an affirmation that God has takes care of us. We are to rely on the Lord one day at a time. God responds to our needs day by day.
Our failures put us in God’s ‘debt’ since we own Him complete obedience. Sin is a moral and spiritual debt to God that must be paid. Because sin is our greatest problem, our greatest need is forgiveness. This forgiveness is from a ‘Father’ not a ‘Judge.’
We are to forgive because it is the character of righteousness, it reflects God’s own gracious forgiveness, it frees our conscience of guilt, it benefits the whole family of believers, it delivers us from God’s discipline, it brings God’s forgiveness. The emphasis is that those who have received forgiveness will forgive others. This is not forgiveness for salvation, but forgiveness for fellowship.
- Protection from Temptation
‘Deliverance’ and ‘Lead me not’ is the negative and positive of the same request – to be free of evil. God will deliver us if we call on Him.
Martin Luther said, “We cannot help being exposed to the assaults, but we can pray that we may not fall and perish under them…You cannot keep birds from flying over your head but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.”
I heard a story that reminds me of the importance of prayer. Shortly after Dallas Theological Seminary was founded in 1924 came to the point of bankruptcy. All creditors were going to foreclose at noon. In a payer meeting with Dr. Chafer, Harry Ironside prayed, “You own a cattle on a thousand hills. could you sell some and sent the money?” While praying a tall Texan in cowboy boots went into the business office. “I just sold two carloads of cattle in Fort Worth. I’ve been trying to make a business deal but it fell through. If eel compelled to give it to the seminary.” The secretary took it to the office. Dr. Chafer took the check. Exactly the amount of the debt. He turned to Ironside and said, “Harry, God sold the cattle!”
You can read my other Sermon on the Mount articles: Life Redefined: Sermons from The Sermon on the Mount.