A Prayer Model
The Lord's Prayer is a model for us. It's not the only prayer that we ever pray, and Jesus is not telling his disciples (or telling us), You just have to say this one prayer with these words. It's a very short prayer, but it really is a model. And it helps us to pray every other kind of prayer.
There are going to be long prayers and short prayers. Our prayers are sometimes boiled down to Help or Thank you or I’m sorry. In a nutshell, we’re praying, God help me. I'm sorry for my sins. And thank you for the good things you're doing.
The Lord's Prayer orients us with all of those other prayers to remind us, most importantly, of the vertical dimension of our prayers. That's why we start by saying, “Our Father.”
The Lord's Prayer reminds us we're not just giving a spiritual monologue. I know I can feel like sometimes I'm just doing a little soliloquy. Maybe other people are hearing, or maybe I'm doing it to myself just as a spiritual monologue. But, when I pray the Lord’s Prayer, now I'm really praying to someone, to the God of the universe. And not just to the God of the universe, he's my heavenly Father. So, the Lord's prayer starts by reminding us to whom we are praying.
And the first petition is that God would hallow his name, that he would make his name precious to the people of the earth, that people would see the glory and the majesty of his name. So, that reminds us above all else of why we are praying.
I'm speaking to God, my heavenly Father, and I want his name to be made great in all the earth.
Of course, we cast all our cares on him and Jesus commands us to ask for our daily bread. So, it's a fully Christian thing to do to bring our needs to God. But we remember that above all of that is this desire that God's name would be praised, that his kingdom would come, that his will would be done.
There's a reason that those first set of petitions come before the second set of petitions. They help to anchor and help to establish what it is we're doing when we pray. And that's the case for every other prayer, whether we say those exact words or not. Yet the attitude of our hearts ought to be, I'm speaking to God, my heavenly Father, and I want his name to be made great in all the earth.
Kevin DeYoung is the author of The Lord’s Prayer: Learning from Jesus on What, Why, and How to Pray.
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