If you didn’t get a chance to read THE PRAYER: An Introduction last week, check it out before reading this post.
“Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” (Matthew 6:9 ESV)
Actor Scott Caan once said, “Good things happen when you get your priorities straight.” This goes for each area of life, prayer not excluded. So if there are priorities when it comes to prayer, where should we begin? Should we treat prayer like triage, assessing what needs are the most urgent at this very moment? Perhaps there are occasions for this kind of prayer, but this should never become the MO of our prayer life. American educator, Stephen Covey famously puts it this way, “Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.” Let that soak in, and realize that this mindset of priorities when it comes to prayer is exactly what Jesus was teaching when He taught us how to pray.
Jesus begins His model prayer addressing not the most urgent issue of the day, but by addressing the most important person. Immediately Jesus is directing His attention and affections away from himself and his needs, and looking to God. Do we begin our prayers in this way? Or do our prayers simply consist of what we want from God? Jesus was instructing His followers that the most important element to prayer is WHO we are praying to.
Jesus also offers up His prayer, to His “Father,” teaching us we are not lofting request into the stratosphere to some unknowing and distant deity in hopes of it bending its ear to our cries, Jesus tells us that we are to pray to our Father, a God who formed us and knows us with intimate detail, a father who cares deeply about His children. Jesus wanted us to begin each prayer knowing we are known, knowing we are cared for, knowing that no matter who has abandoned us in life, that our Father is listening. He also begins His address to His father, by calling Him, “Our Father.” God is not just Jesus father, He is not just my father or your father, He isn’t just the Father of my country or my movement, He is OUR father, calling us to the table of His global body. We are not alone because God hears our prayer, and we are not alone in lifting our prayer because we are in it with one another.
Jesus continues by addressing where His Father is located. God is in Heaven. This is both a picture of God ruling and reigning over all creation, a reminder that God’s ways are higher than our ways, and we should continually be setting our affection on things that are above, instead of placing all of our hope here on earth. He concludes the first line of the prayer by offering up the kind of worship we should be inclined to begin each prayer with. The term “Hallowed be Your name,” means “Let Your name be kept holy, or “Let your name be treated with reverence.” Jesus is teaching us to begin our prayer with God in mind, and in His rightful place in our hearts.
When we begin our prayer with the proper priority that Jesus taught, our prayer becomes about something much greater than ourselves. It draws us towards God, seeking Him for who He really is, instead of only seeking what He can do for us. Of all of the Bible promises, this may be the most comforting:
“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” James 4:8 (ESV)
When we begin our prayers with worshiping God first, giving Him the praise He is worthy of, we will find that the rest falls into place quite naturally. When Jesus opened His prayer, perhaps He had the first of the Ten Commandments in mind, “You shall have no other gods before (above, other than) Me.” Let’s not let our requests become “other gods.” Let’s get the first things first, and let it transform the way we pray.
Read the next part here: The Prayer: Part 2 “Your Kingdom Come, Your will be done…”
Grace and Peace To You.