Praying for God’s Honor
After focusing on whom we’re praying to—”Our Father in heaven”—our first concern in prayer ought to be God’s honor—”Hallowed be your name.” God’s name is His person, His character, His reputation. This is to be revered and honored and considered holy. Our first concern ought to be that God gets the respect that He deserves. It ought to grieve us when He doesn’t.
Then we are to pray that His kingdom will come. That is, that His rule would be acknowledged, that He would be obeyed. We are to pray that His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. What could possibly be better than this? Whatever else we ask of Him, this takes priority. And it must be a priority in our own hearts and lives. I think of the oft-quoted words of E. Stanley Jones:
Prayer is surrender—surrender to the will of God and cooperation with that will. If I throw out a boathook from the boat and catch hold of the shore and pull, do I pull the shore to me, or do I pull myself to the shore? Prayer is not pulling God to my will, but the aligning of my will to the will of God.6
This is the kind of prayer that God honors–for it is the kind of prayer that honors God.
And this is the way Jesus prayed. This was the consuming passion of His life—”Father, glorify your name!” (John 12:28). His one desire was that all humanity might come to know that glory. And in the garden, He prays, “Not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42 KJV).
This is a revolutionary way to pray, for it turns the concerns of our selfish secular society on their head.
Praying for Our Good
We begin with God’s honor, and only then do we think about ourselves, as we commit our needs to Him. First we bring our material needs. That is, we pray for God’s provision, recognizing our ultimate dependence on God to provide our daily bread. Notice, Jesus doesn’t say next year’s bread, but today’s bread. I don’t think Jesus means that we shouldn’t save for retirement, but simply that we ought to depend on Him daily.
Second, we are to pray for our spiritual needs; that is, for God’s purification in our lives, recognizing our spiritual bankruptcy before Him, the debt that we owe Him—that debt that deserves to be punished. He’s referring to our trespasses, our sins, and our need of His forgiving grace to purify our hearts and to wash us clean.
And our repentance, our turning from sin in seeking God’s mercy, must be real enough to affect our attitude toward others. If I can’t forgive others, then I’m in no position to receive God’s forgiveness.
And third, we pray for our moral needs; that is, we pray for God’s protection as we recognize our moral weakness. We need His power to deliver us from the evil that is all around and within us. Reading the New Testament prayers of Paul, we can see that this is what he most prays for when he thinks of his fellow believers scattered across Asia Minor. I think, for example, of his prayer for the Philippians:
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. (Phil. 1:9–11)
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