Soaking in the Secret Place #3: How to Pray:
“Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray.” (Luke 11:1).
If you want to learn how to pray, go to Jesus. He was one of the greatest prayer warriors of all time – He knew how to pray powerful prayers. When He spoke, mountains were moved, storms were calmed, blind eyes were opened, demon possessed people were set free, people were raised from the dead, and lives were changed.
The disciples recognized something about Jesus and His power in prayer. They said, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Do you want to know how Jesus responded to their request? He gave them something we call the Lord’s Prayer. This prayer isn’t just a prayer for us to repeat over and over; rather it is a guideline for how to pray. Let’s examine this prayer more closely, and learn how to pray.
The Lord’s Prayer is divided up into two different parts. The first part is for God’s Glory, and the second part is for Our Good. Take a look at how many times you see the words Your and our / us.
- God’s Glory:
- Hallowed be Your name,
- Your kingdom come,
- Your will be done.
- Our Good:
- Our Father in Heaven,
- Give us this day our daily bread.
- Forgive us our trespasses.
- Lead us not into temptation.
- Deliver us from evil.
The first part of the prayer is about things that are important to God – that His name would be hallowed, that His kingdom would come, and His will would be done. Here we are praying about things that concern God’s Glory. Then in the next part of the prayer, we pray for things that pertain to Our Good – for our provision, our pardon (forgiveness), and our protection.
Christians get out of balance when they overemphasize one of these two elements of the Lord’s Prayer. Sometimes they will pray, “Lord, we just want your will to be done. I won’t ask for anything for myself, I’m an insignificant nobody, and I don’t want to trouble the Master with the things that concern me.” They pray, “Lord, whatever you want to do, you do it. If you want to make my life miserable, go ahead, because it’s all about you!” This is not God’s desire for us as we pray. Jesus told us that we could pray about things that are important to us. We can pray that God would provide for us, forgive us, and protect us. Some people will overemphasize this aspect of their prayers and say, “Lord, gimme, gimme, gimme, ‘cause my name’s Jimmy!” Those people only care about their own good, and not about God’s glory. There must be a balance in our praying.
1. Paternal Relationship: Our Father in Heaven:
“In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9).
The first thing Jesus teaches us about prayer, in the simple words, “Our Father in Heaven,” is that prayer is a love relationship with our heavenly Father. Some people treat God as a cosmic vending machine, the great big Santa Claus in the sky, and whenever they want something they pray, “Lord Jesus, do this right now!” and they start giving God orders. They treat God like a magic genie – just rub the lamp and get your three wishes. That’s not what prayer is.
Prayer is a love relationship with God. He is our Father in Heaven. One of the reasons many Christians have a hard time with prayer is because of those two simple words: “Our Father.” We’re living in a fatherless society where many young people are growing up without a dad. That was my story. My parents were divorced before I was five years old. My biological dad was an alcoholic promise-breaker who was never there for us. My mom remarried when I was ten years old, and my step-dad was a strict parent. When I became a Christian, hearing that God was my heavenly Father didn’t bring the best images to my mind. I had to strip away my imperfect, human ideas of what a father was, and realize how much better and perfect my heavenly Father was. If people haven’t had a good earthly dad, they will have a hard time relating to God as their heavenly Father.
I used to host an annual youth conference in Surrey, BC, called The Filling Station. I got up to speak in one of the afternoon sessions, and I stood on the stage in front of this crowd of hundreds of young people from acrossCanada. As I stared out at this sea of youth, I started weeping uncontrollably. I thought, “Here is a generation of young people who don’t know the love of the Father, because they don’t have earthly dads who are modeling the Father’s love for them.” As I stood there weeping, I started praying, “O God, reveal your Father’s heart of love to these young people. Help them to know that you’re a good God. Help them to know that you’re there for them, and that you’re not a promise-breaker. Help them to know that you’ll never leave them, you’ll never give up on them, and that you’ll never stop loving them.” I invited Pastor Steve Witmer to come and pray the Father’s blessing over these young people. This was one of the most powerful times of ministry I had ever experienced in my life, as God revealed His Father’s heart of love to this fatherless generation.
The Father’s love is the most important lesson that we can learn in the school of prayer. If we can’t relate to God as Father, we will have a hard time having confidence in prayer. As a father, I try to model a generous, approachable nature with my children. I want my kids to know they can ask their dad for anything, and that I would do anything within my power to provide for all of their needs. Humanly speaking, I am limited by natural resources, by time, and different things, but our Heavenly Father isn’t limited by anything. He is always available to His children. The first thing that Jesus teaches us about prayer is that it is a love relationship with God as Father.
“The knowledge of God’s Father-love is the first and simplest, but also the last and highest lesson in the school of prayer. Prayer begins in a personal relationship with the living God as well as a personal, conscious fellowship of love with Him.”[i] (Andrew Murray). This is the starting place to learning how to pray.
2. Praise and Worship:
“Hallowed be Your name.” (Matthew 6:9).
Having established that prayer is primarily a love relationship with God as Father, we move onto the second part of prayer: worship. What does it mean when we say hallowed be your name? To hallow means to declare that God’s name is holy. When we pray, we must remember that it is God we are praying to, and we bow down before Him in worship. It is helpful to put on a worship CD, or start singing your own songs of praise and worship to the Lord. Worship the Lord, tell Him how much you love Him, and tell Him how wonderful He is. When we worship Him, we come into His presence, and we now have an audience with Him.
3. Presence – God’s Glory:
“Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10).
The next part of the Lord’s Prayer is about God’s presence – praying that His Kingdom would be established, and that His will would be done on the Earth. This also speaks to us of obedience. When we pray, “Lord, let your kingdom come, and let your will be done,”we need to make sure that our words are matching our lives. It doesn’t make sense to pray, “let your will be done” if we’re not willing to be obedient and go out and do the will of God in our lives. We need to make sure that we love each other, be kind to each other, and forgive each other. Prayer is not something we can separate from the rest of our lives – it is a part of who we are. That’s why sometimes when we’re not walking in obedience to God’s Word we don’t feel like praying, because we feel guilty. When we discover that we are walking in disobedience to God, be quick to confess that sin to Him, and repent, and then we can pray again with a confidence, knowing that the Father is listening.
4. Provision – Our Needs Being Met:
“Give us this day our daily bread.” (Matthew 6:11).
The second part of the Lord’s Prayer is for Our Good. Here the Lord made it possible for us to ask Him for the things that we need. Jesus said we can pray for God to give us our daily bread, to meet our needs day by day. He has promised to meet all of our needs!
Consider this true story of God’s provision. Things looked bad for the children of George Muller’s orphanage at Ashley Downs inEngland. It was time for breakfast, and there was no food. A small girl whose father was a close friend of Muller was visiting the home. Muller took her hand and said, “Come and see what our Father will do.” In the dining room, long tables were set with empty plates and empty mugs. Not only was there no food in the kitchen, but there was no money in the bank account. Muller prayed, “Dear Father, we thank You for what You are going to give us to eat.” Immediately, they heard a knock at the door. When they opened it, the local baker stood there. He said, “Mr. Muller, I couldn’t sleep last night. Somehow I felt you had no bread for breakfast, so I got up at 2 o’clock and baked fresh bread. Here it is.” Muller thanked him and gave praise to God. Soon, a second knock was heard. It was the milkman. His cart had broken down in front of the orphanage. He said he would like to give the children the milk so he could empty the cart and repair it. This was just one of the many ways that God provided for them as they walked by faith and trusted God.
God has promised to meet all of our needs. Some of you might say, “There are times in my life where God hasn’t met my needs.” Did you ask God to meet those needs for you? Many times we don’t receive from the Lord because we don’t ask. If we ask, we will receive. Sometimes we spend lots of time praying, but we’re not really asking for anything. We tell God how bad the situation is, and say, “Oh God, I’m so sad, depressed and miserable! Life couldn’t be any worse, and we don’t have any food in the cupboard, and everyone in the family’s sick.” Everything that you’re saying may be true, but it’s not good enough to tell God the problem. James 4:2 says, “You do not have because you do not ask.” Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”(Matthew 7:7). Once we tell God what we need, and ask for it in Jesus’ name, God’s power is made available to change our circumstances. So we need to pray, “Lord, meet our needs today, in Jesus’ name.”
5. Pardon – Forgiveness of Our Sins:
“And forgive us our sins, As we forgive those who sin against us.” (Matthew 6:12).
The next thing we can ask God for when we pray is forgiveness. I’m so thankful that the Lord included this in the Lord’s Prayer! Christians aren’t perfect. We still struggle with sin. When we sin, if we confess it to the Lord, we receive forgiveness for our sins. This part of the Lord’s Prayer is conditional. God says, “If you want me to forgive you for your sins, then you need to forgive others who sin against you.” If we don’t forgive other people, God won’t forgive us. It is important for us to forgive other people. Let’s walk in forgiveness towards others.
6. Protection – Our Deliverance from Danger:
“And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:13a).
The next blessing God has made available to us in the Lord’s Prayer is protection. There’s a wonderful prayer for protection in the Old Testament that says, “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.”… Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place, No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling.” (Psalm 91:1-2,9-10).
Let me share with you this true story of God’s supernatural protection. Many years ago, my wife Liza and our good friend Jen were driving down the highway from Surrey toRichmondone evening. The rain was pouring down hard as it often does inBritish Columbia. They were travelling along highway #99, and there was a lot of traffic going both ways. All of a sudden they started hydroplaning. They had completely lost control of the vehicle, and as they were driving, they turned sideways, and smashed into the concrete barricade in the middle of the highway. The car skidded alongside of this barrier, and as soon as they got control of the vehicle back, they pulled over to the side of the road.
When this accident happened, there were no other vehicles around – that in itself as a major miracle. When they got out of the car, they were very shaken up. They went to check the front of the car to see how much damage was done. There wasn’t a single scratch on the car, and they were completely unharmed! Thank God for His promise of protection that says, “He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.” I’m so thankful that their angels were working overtime that night to protect them and keep them safe.
Parents, this is a great prayer to pray for your children: “Lord, lead them not into temptation, but deliver them from evil.” Pray that God would keep them strong in their faith, so they won’t give in to the peer pressures around them, and pray that God would deliver them from all of the attacks of the enemy. Pray for God’s protection.
At the end of this prayer, Jesus tells us to pray: “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” (Matthew 6:13b). We start off our prayer time with worship, hallowing the name of the Lord, and we finish off our prayer time with praise and worship. When you talk to the Lord, it’s always good to close off your prayers with thanksgiving. I often say, “Thanks Lord for all the things I prayed about today. I believe to receive all of these things, and I praise you in advance for what I know you’re going to do.” That’s the Lord’s Prayer.
The Call of Jesus to Intimacy:
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20).
The Lord is calling His people to the secret place today. Sometimes, pastors quote the above Scripture when they are giving an altar call for salvation. They say, “Oh sinner, Jesus is knocking on the door of your heart. Let Him come in, and become a Christian.” But if you look at the context, Jesus wasn’t speaking to sinners. Jesus gave this challenge to a church. In another one of the letters that Jesus wrote to the churches in Revelation, He said, “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” (Revelation 2:4).
What are the priorities in your life? Have you left your first love? Have you forgotten the importance of spending time at the feet of Jesus? When we soak in the secret place, we will see the fruit of the Spirit in our lives – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Let’s draw near to God in prayer.
“So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God – all because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done for us in making us friends of God.” (Romans 5:11).
Pastor Chris Jordan
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[i] Andrew Murray, With Christ in the School of Prayer. (Whitaker House, October 1985).