When considering prayer, we should remember God is for us (Romans 8:31). God has already given us his son, which caused Paul to state, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32) This gives us great confidence to pray. And even when, perhaps especially when, we do not receive the answer we desire and may be prone to doubt or struggle to understand, we can still be sure God is for us! So, when we struggle with answers to prayer that disappoint us, as hard as it might be we need to remember the big picture, that God is for us. Our faith assures us, nothing can, and nothing will separate us from God or from his love. Prayer is an expression of this faith, and in this faith, we stand firm knowing God is for us!
In the Lord’s prayer the intimacy of calling God Father is balanced by the phrase, Hallowed be your name. This echoes the third commandment, “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.” (Exodus 20:7) God is holy and we should treat his name with reverence and respect. If we pray Hallowed be thy name, shouldn’t we also live our lives in ways that hallow God’s name? Can we be so foolish as to think we can live in ways that dishonour God’s name, yet think he will honour our prayers? However, rather than hallowing the name of God, our society tends to “hollow” God’s name, emptying it of meaning, robbing God of due honour, mocking God, or denigrating the name of God. We must show due respect to the one who is God Almighty, Creator of all things. We cannot expect an answer to a prayer which does not honour God’s name. Perhaps as we pray we should ask ourselves, does this prayer honour God, am I praying for God honouring reasons, in a God honouring way?
Jesus then taught his disciples to pray, … your kingdom come. A kingdom is a place under the rule of a King. At some level, every prayer God answers affirmatively ushers in his kingdom among us and is an expression of God’s will. Understanding the priority of God’s Kingdom, and God’s will, can help shape our prayers into Kingdom prayers. Such prayers invite the coming of God’s kingdom in our lives and shape how we live. The theme of the Kingdom of God was central to Jesus’ life and ministry. He proclaimed the kingdom of heaven is near, (Matthew 4:17) commanded people to seek God’s kingdom (Matthew 6:33) and sent his followers to preach, The kingdom of heaven is near.’” (Matthew 10:7). (Note Kingdom of God and Kingdom of heaven are equivalent. As a Jew Matthew would not mention the name of God, but more obliquely referred to the Kingdom of Heaven). The scholar Michael Wilkins points out the coming of Jesus has inaugurated the Kingdom of heaven, and his disciples live with the anticipation of its completion. Every time we pray the Lord’s prayer we are inviting God to advance the cause and completion of his kingdom. Praying for the kingdom to come is a way we align with Jesus’ priorities.
Jesus also taught his disciples to pray, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. As we pray this prayer we are asking that here on earth God’s will be done, completely, fully, joyfully, with vigour and with passion. To pray that God’s will be done, is to submit our will to his will, and our plans, to his plans. The supreme example of this is the account of Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane where he was struggling, even sweating drops of blood as he contemplated what was about to happen. There in trusting submission Jesus prayed, Yet not as I will, but as you will.”” (Matthew 26:39) The Lord’s prayer directs us to be immersed, included, and participating in God’s will. As God’s will is done on earth it reveals the nature and presence of God. We see God is revealed in Jesus “He is the image of the invisible God ...” (Colossians 1:15). RC Sproul points out that Jesus made the invisible kingdom visible. In as much as Jesus lives in us, and we follow him faithfully, the reality of the invisible God is revealed in how we live and what we say. You and I become walking, talking representatives of God. The Apostle Paul wrote, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” (2 Corinthians 5:20) As ambassadors of heaven, we are to do the will of God, and to make his will known to others. When God’s will is done on earth as in heaven, the kingdom of God becomes visible in real, tangible ways as a witness to his loving kindness.
- Has your experience and/or understanding of prayer changed over your lifetime? Can you remember what your early prayers were like and how they might differ from prayers you pray today?
- What do you think Paul meant when he wrote God is for us?
- How might this influence our attitude to prayer?
- How would you explain the phrase “Hallowed be your name” to a new Christian? Why is this important (Exodus 20:7)?
- How might the phrase “Hallowed be your name” balance or compliment the use of the word Father in the Lord’s prayer?
- What evidence do we have that the Kingdom of God was important to Jesus? Considering this what priority should we give to the Kingdom of God?
- What do we know about the priority Jesus gave to doing God’s will? (Matthew 26:39 & Hebrews 10.7&9)
Rev John Malcolm