Growing in Prayer Part 2: Learning to Pray to Your Father - page 4

 


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From the Spring 2017 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

Growing in Prayer
Part 2: Learning to Pray to Your Father

by Bill Kynes, Ph.D.
C.S. Lewis Institute Senior Fellow, Senior Pastor,
Cornerstone Evangelicial Free Church

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  Don’t you know—”your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (v. 8). Again—”your Father.” As John Stott reminds us, “He is neither ignorant, that we should instruct him, nor hesitant that we should persuade him.”3 Our Father invites us to come; He welcomes our prayer. He knows what is in our hearts even before we speak. Our Western logic might conclude that, therefore, we should say nothing. Jesus thinks differently. In His mind, it means we can say anything.4 Because He already knows our needs, prayer is not about conveying information. His primary interest is in the relationship that prayer offers. He delights when we acknowledge our needs to Him and show our dependence on His provision as our Father. John Calvin notes,

Believers do not pray with the view of informing God about things unknown to him, or of exciting him to do his duty, or of urging him as though he were reluctant. On the contrary, they pray in order that they may arouse themselves to seek him, that they may exercise their faith in meditating on his promises, that they may relieve themselves from their anxieties by pouring them into his bosom; in a word, that they may declare that from him alone they hope and expect, both for themselves and for others, all good things.5

  The hypocrite comes to prayer and thinks only of self. The pagan comes to prayer and doesn’t think at all. Other gods may enjoy mindless and mechanical incantations. But our God—the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the sovereign Creator and Ruler of heaven and earth who is also our heavenly Father—our God wants to enter into a relationship with us as we communicate with Him and He with us in thoughtful prayer. What a magnificent thought!

Pray for the Right Things

  We are to engage our minds in prayer, and Jesus continues His instruction by giving us a model prayer, outlining the categories that we ought to think about when we pray. He tells us the right things to pray for.

This, then, is how you should pray:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today 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 the evil one.
(Matt. 6:9–13)

  One is immediately struck by the fact that this prayer consists of two halves, marked by the possessive pronoun. The first three petitions use the second person—hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done. The second three use the first person—give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts; lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. So we are to pray, first, for God’s glory, and then, second, for our good.

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