Why Earnestly Praying The Lord’s Prayer Will Change Your Life
The most natural tendency in the world when we pray is to turn to God for our wants and wishes—putting forth our requests without any regard for the Father Himself or what may be His agenda.
Another way of putting it: the Lord’s Prayer is given to teach us primarily to seek God’s face, not His hand. Seeking His hand is to ask Him to “do this” or “do that” for us. Seeking His face is to honor His person-hood, His character, His heart, and His own agenda. Most of us think of our own agenda when we pray; it usually does not occur to us that God has an agenda too.
However, Jesus knows this. He has given us that greatest prayer ever conceived, and it protects the throne of grace from abuse by our using prayer as a way of getting only what we want. Jesus knows that His Father has plans for Himself and a purpose for each of us. Our Lord Jesus therefore has worded this prayer in a manner that focuses on God before we get to our personal wants. It is a God-centered prayer.
Perhaps the best way to understand the Lord’s Prayer is to divide it into two halves: God’s prayer list and our prayer list. God sets the agenda in both. Does God really have a prayer list? Yes. And the first thing He does is to put His prayer list first. He has three requests: that we pray for (1) His name to be hallowed, (2) His kingdom to come, and (3) His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.
In a word, the Lord’s Prayer gives an immediate invitation to pause and worship before we get to anything else. God wants only what is best for us, and it is best that we learn to focus on God Himself before we focus on our personal needs.
However, keep in mind that Jesus is giving us a pattern for ideal praying. As I have said previously, there will be moments when you won’t think to recall the pattern of the Lord’s Prayer but instead will cry out for help. David apparently did this when he was in exile and felt so helpless with a bleak future. He was low and desperate. He simply prayed, “Lord, turn Ahithophel’s counsel into foolishness” (2 Sam. 15:31). And God answered (2 Sam. 17:14). Stephen was being stoned and in great pain just before he died. He simply cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60). God understands this. Our heavenly Father is not imposing the Lord’s Prayer on us as an inflexible standard to get His attention. It is a guide, a pattern, a skeleton to help us pray and to know Him.
If saying “Our Father in heaven” is given to put us in our place, saying “Hallowed be your name,” if we pray it from our hearts, demonstrates we are truly in our place when we approach God. It means we are in a good place, a very good place indeed. Keep in mind that this prayer is perfectly worded, that the order of the petitions sets a pattern for all praying.
Consider Hebrews 4:16, one of the great verses in the Bible to motivate us to pray: “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” This verse is also carefully worded and designed to keep us from rushing into God’s presence and enumerating our needs before we recognize who He is. It tells us that the first thing we do is receive mercy when we approach God.
Does this surprise you? This verse is addressing Christians, not the lost. And yet every Christian, when he or she prays, according to Hebrews 4:16, is to seek God for mercy before we do anything else. Mercy is what the lost sinner requests in order to be accepted by God. The person who is justified before God is the one who prays, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13). And yet Christians are equally told to ask God for mercy when we approach the throne of grace. Why? We never outgrow the need for mercy. Hebrews 4:16 therefore makes us focus on God and His character before anything else. And that is the purpose of this first petition, “Hallowed be your name.”
The first petition of the Lord’s Prayer therefore is a call to worship—to worship God for being just as He is.