"And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:"Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.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 lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. - Matthew 6: 7-13 (ESV)
In 2011 the newest Christian book rage hit the shelves in The Circle Maker. Written by Assemblies of God pastor, Mark Batterson we saw the entire Assemblies get behind it as they had with the Purpose Driven Life years before. The Circle Maker was just as heretical however. Using an example from Jewish folklore, Mark Batterson recreated how prayer was supposed to be done. Suddenly, God was no longer interested in the mundane boring prayers of our often mundane existences. Now prayers were supposed to be bold in nature. Batterson proclaimed that God was actually "playing chicken" with our prayers waiting to see who would blink. This blasphemous slop was eaten up across this country. Never mind the overt similarities to witchcraft practices. Never mind the arrogant and petulant style of prayer it taught. Never mind that Jesus Himself had already taught us how to pray.
The key verses today continue our examination of the teachings of Christ from the Sermon on the Mount. In it, Jesus specifically addresses how we ought to pray as believers. It seems sometimes in modern Churchianity that prayer is the big mystical elephant in the room no one really wants to discuss. The vast majority of Christians do not know how to pray, do not understand the power of prayer, and do not pray according to these guidelines provided by our Lord and Savior. Prayers become self-centered whine lists all too often as opposed to a conduit through which our faith and relationship with Christ is strengthened. We do not pray because we have to. We pray because we have access to the Father. We pray to get closer to our God. To be comforted by our God. To better understand our God. To hear from our God.
Jesus starts with what not to do. Knowing our sinful nature and our desire to be seen, Jesus addresses this first. Before getting into the outline for prayer He teaches us to not pray as the Gentiles do. Heaping up empty phrases to be heard by others. Another translation says to not make vain repetitions. Saying the same thing over and over again. We see this play out when Elijah challenges the 450 prophets of Baal:
And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, "O Baal, answer us!" But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made. - 1Kings 18: 26 (ESV)
We are starting to see this Baal spirit invade the church again in these last days as we see prayer and worship experiences that repeat the same mantra over and over again under the guise of spirituality or "going deeper" in Jesus. These verses prove it is not Jesus that they are going deeper in. It is to induce an emotional experience they can pass off as being "spiritual."
Likewise, I am sure we all know the super-spiritual prayer warriors. A simple prayer for traveling mercies takes longer than the trip! A prayer for grace results in a cold meal. Shouting prayer after prayer in an attempt to be seen and heard by man, not God. Beloved, God is not hard of hearing. He hears the most silent prayers we can muster during our lowest times. Many are intimidated to pray in church because of the spectacle that many turn it into. It ought not be when Jesus gives us an outline to follow:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Prayer should always start with humble worship beloved. We recognize in prayer who God is in relation to us. He is in heaven and we are on earth. He is the Creator and we are the created. I know this flies in the face of the new age Friend of God theologies but it is crucial for us to start prayer by remembering who it is that we serve! Why? Because our natural situations can be addressed by our supernatural God! This also reinforces that God is our Father. He loves us. He wants what is best for us. In the course of worshipping Him to start our prayer time we ought to remind ourselves that He is holy. His name is to be revered. It is reverent. It is not be taken casually. I know we often use this reference to saying Jesus or God in an irreverent manner and sure that would apply but that's the small picture. The bigger picture is using the name of God to promote activities or gospels that are not actually of Him. To claim direct revelation from Him when you know full well you received no such thing. To pretend God put irreverent and unbiblical messages on your heart. God has been used throughout the ages to excuse the most reprehensible behaviors man has ever imagined. Today there are thousands of charlatans leading millions of people to hell. THAT is not hallowing the name of the Lord. Father forgive us.
Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. After revering who God is it is time to seek His will! We hear all the time in the church about seeking the will of God. Christians always seem to get this backwards. They have a decision to make and are convinced that one of the options is the true will of God and the other is just a tunnel painted on the side of a mountain by the Road Runner. Now it is true that major decisions can alter what path we end up down but here is today's deep theology - God can be found in every path we undertake. The truth is that the decretive will of God is often hidden and remains as such. Thankfully however He has not left us without instruction:
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. - 2Timothy 3: 16-17 (ESV)
Beloved, the Bible is the perfect revealed will of God. Every single letter is breathed out by God Himself. It is profitable to us - that means we will gain from it in every area of our life. It can teach us if we are teachable. It can show us where we are wrong if we are willing to look at ourselves through its lens. It can correct us before small problems become big. It can train us in righteousness, so that we might be complete for the work of the Lord. Wow. Do we ever stop to consider the treasure we hold in our hands when we hold our Bible? The creator of the entire universe has given is a slice of His own eternal mindset. Those ways and thoughts that are so far above us? We get a glimpse of that in His revealed will, through the holy Scriptures.
The other reality here from this portion of the Lord's Prayer is that we need to be pursuing His will; not our own. Far too often we approach God not for direction but for approval. We seek His consent for our will to be done. Too many churches today preach one side of Scripture and give people an incomplete understanding. Can you do all things through Christ? Not if you are not in His will. Does God give me the desires of my heart? Not if they are not aligned with His will. Where two or three are gathered as not some magic potion. There can be a hundred gathered, heck, 450 gathered but if it is outside of His will it does not matter! We need to get into His revealed will to move closer to His decretive will. This should be a focus in our prayer time as well. We pray to hear from the Lord. We pray for His will to be done in our lives. In our families lives. In our churches. Seek Him and His righteousness and everything else will be added unto you.
Give us this day our daily bread. There are some who act so pious they refuse to ask their Father for anything. That is not Scriptural. It is perfectly fine to ask God for what we need or even what we want. He is a loving Father. He wants to give to us. He knows better than we do though. When a Christian asks me why God doesn't let them hit the lottery my answer is always - "Because He knows what will happen if you do." Why didn't I get that promotion at work? Maybe it would have taken you away from Him. The truth is we do not have to know the why. We just have to trust the God we serve.
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. - Philippians 4: 19-20 (ESV)
Now, we may have a disagreement about what our needs are. Let me assure you that God knows better. The problem with the rich young ruler was not that he was rich but rather that he worshiped his money over his God. The Lord will demand that we cast off whatever we try to put ahead of Him for we cannot serve two masters. We will end up loving one and despising the other. Realize in this section of prayer we ought to also be interceding for the needs of others. We ought to be praying for the salvation of our lost family members and friends. We ought to be praying for our brothers and sisters in the church. We ought to be praying for our pastors and leaders. Our daily bread is not just physical sustenance but spiritual as well.