I am still struggling with how to pray. The disciples asked Jesus how to pray, and he gave them the model prayer we call the “Lord’s Prayer”: or the “Our Father.” The thing about that prayer is that it has become rote to us and has lost its impact. We used to go to a church that recited the Lord’s prayer as a congregation after the pastoral prayer. We had a guest pastor one Sunday, and he purposely didn’t lead us in the prayer but instead went right into his sermon on the Lord’s prayer. At the end of the sermon, he asked us if we said the prayer. No one could remember if we had or hadn’t, but we assumed we did because we always said it.
We become so used to saying and hearing things we stop giving it an actual place in our heart. We probably do that with God too, but that’s a different blog.
What are the implications when we pray, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done?” Jesus gave us this example for a reason, not just something we say without thought. At least in hearing this, my view is to remember Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. “Not my will, but thine.” (sorry, I memorized all this long ago when the only translation was the KJV)
I think there is a lot more to it than just a good prayer for Jesus and us at difficult times. If you remember my dilemma in praying: why does God answer some prayers so miraculously, and other times we feel like our prayers don’t even make it through the ceiling? Why so close at times and other times so distant? Is it because specific methods are better than others? Is it a sin in our heart that needs to be repented? Do I have a wrong attitude?
God is faithful, and when we ask for wisdom, He never holds back. He gives to us generously. (James 1:5) As my concern about the events needing prayer in my life started easing up, and I became less obsessed with my kingdom, I could hear God. In his devotional, New Morning Mercies ( Paul David Tripp, copyright, 2014, Crossway), Tripp wrote, “God didn’t give me grace for my kingdom to work, but to capture me for a better kingdom.”
I don’t know if my insight came from this statement alone, or it was the crowning insight from months of reading, praying, and wondering about the answer to my dilemma. But it finally occurred to me that my attitude last summer was much more centered on God. I had no choice. My son had covid, something about which I knew little. I couldn’t be with him, and I couldn’t hear what the doctor said when he did his rounds. (the doctor was good to call me each evening) I felt helpless, and I was. As I went for a walk to be alone with God and pray, I remember praying with tears, “I don’t know how to pray about this. I don’t have words, Father.” After walking a little further, the praise song came into my mind. “It’s Your breath in our lungs, and we pour out our praise….” Then “Breathe on him breath of God, fill him with life anew….” By the time I got to my destination, a camp that was deserted because of covid, I was singing “Waymaker, Miracle Worker, Promise keeper, Light in the darkness, my God, that is who you are!” It was a prayer of dependence, a prayer that looked totally to God. In fact, I also sang, “Keep your eyes upon Jesus/ Look full in His wonderful face/And the things of earth will grow strangely dim/ As I look on his glory and grace.” I was also demanding and bold, but I knew Who I was talking to and was reverent to Him. (Hallowed be Thy Name)
Later, as my son recovered, I prayed for my son to get a job; I remember the bold and bossy part of my former prayers and forgot the reverent part. My prayers were demanding and maybe a little over the top. As time passed, I softened a little, and I became less demanding and more curious. I started asking myself questions and seeking answers. I asked God to glorify Himself in this situation, but only because I thought that would get me my way. I wanted my way. In my kingdom, my son would have a job that he enjoyed, he would be happy, and he would draw close to God in his daily life. All good things, so why no answers, why so distant God?
“I must remember that God didn’t give me grace for my kingdom to work, but to capture me for a better kingdom.” God is always after our hearts and our transformation. More on this next time