A Bible Study by Jack Kelley
A few weeks ago a guest speaker came to our church with an interesting insight on the Lord’s Prayer. Taking line by line, he showed us how to turn it from something we know by heart and can recite without thinking into an impassioned personal discussion with the Lord that can last as long as we want. You do it like this.
Our Father In Heaven, Hallowed be Your Name
Only believers can call God “our Father”. John 1:12 says that those who believe in Jesus have the authority to become children of God. Unbelievers don’t have this authority. We can’t choose our earthly fathers but through Jesus we can choose our Eternal Father, and His name is Holy, worthy of reverence and veneration. He is our Creator, and our Redeemer, our Lord and our Savior. He’s the author of all our victories, the giver of every good and perfect gift. Are we spending enough of our prayer time acknowledging God’s majesty, His holiness?
Your Kingdom Come, Your Will Be Done, On Earth As It Is In Heaven
Here we pray for our Lord’s soon return and for all the world to be once again united behind His will, from our leaders to our congregations to our families to ourselves. We pray especially that His will would be the directional force in our lives, leading us in ways that draw us nearer to Him, and are pleasing to Him and acceptable in His sight. We lay before Him all our hopes and dreams and ask Him to mold them into His, to increase our desire for the things He desires for us, and decrease our desire for the things that He doesn’t. We ask Him for more of an eternal perspective and less of an earthly one.
Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread
This acknowledges Him as Jehovah Jireh, God our Provider. As He fed the Israelites in the desert, as He fed the multitudes in Galilee, so He will feed us, and more than that, provide for all our needs. We may think that it’s by our own strength and skill that we make our way, but who do we think gave us our abilities? (Deut. 8:17-18) And if He knows and meets the needs of the flowers and the birds, how much more will He do the same for us? (Matt. 6:33) Give Him thanks for His bountiful provision.
And Forgive Us Our Debts, As We Forgive Our Debtors
1 John 1:8-10 says that if we think we’re without sin we deceive ourselves, but if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. In seeking forgiveness we must also extend it. Whether justified or not, harboring anger or resentment against a brother is a sin and puts us out of fellowship with God. We can’t ask to be restored to Him until we’ve forgiven each other. We ask Him to forgive those who’ve wronged us and forgive us for our anger.
And Lead Us Not Into Temptation But Deliver Us From The Evil One
James 1:13 says that God cannot be tempted, nor does He tempt anyone, but each one is tempted when by his own evil desires he is dragged away and enticed. The intent of this verse is to ask for God’s protection against the temptations we conjure up out of the evil of our own minds as well as those brought to us by Satan who knows just how to entice us.
Ask, Seek, And Knock
Each one of these sentences can be expanded from a personal request to an intercessory prayer for family members and other loved ones, business associates, church members, leaders, etc. The list is almost endless, limited for the most part by time and inclination. But that’s by no means all the Bible says about prayer. Matt. 7:7-11 says that whoever asks receives, all who seek will find and to whomever knocks the door will be opened. If we who are evil know how to give good gifts to our children how much more will our Father in Heaven give good gifts to those who ask? In the Parable of the persistent widow, the Lord showed that even unbelieving and uncaring people will reward persistence, so we should keep praying and never give up. (Luke 18:1-8) 1 Thessalonians 5:17 puts it simply but powerfully. Pray without ceasing.
O Ye Of Little Faith
But when we pray we must have faith that the Lord hears and answers our prayers. In Matt. 21:22 the Lord made this astonishing promise. “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” This is not as simple as it sounds. Look at James 1:6-8. “But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.”
And James also told us to consider our motives when asking. “You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (James 4:2-3)
God is not some genie in a bottle who’s come into our lives to make our every childish wish His command. He did come that we might have life and have it abundantly, but that doesn’t mean the same as acting on our every whim. With such privilege as He’s given us comes the need to act responsibly.
The Great Makeover
He told us to be made new in the attitudes of our minds (Ephes. 4:23) and to be transformed so that we no longer conform to the ways of the world. (Romans 12:2) Want to be free of the stress and anxiety, pulled out from under that mountain of debt and relieved of the uncertainties of your life? You can be happier, healthier, richer and freer if you just put these two verses into action. Believe me I know. I’ve looked at life from both sides of the equation, and there’s no doubt in my mind as to which is better, and not just in the eternal sense. I’m talking about the here and now.
So how should we pray? And where do we get the faith the Lord was talking about? For the answers to both questions look at Philippians 4:4-7.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Paul used the same word in Phil 4:4 as he did in 1 Thes. 5:17. Here it’s translated always but it means continuously, without ceasing. Rejoice without ceasing. We take so many of our blessings for granted and never think to thank the Lord for His generosity. The first step to more effective prayer is learning to give thanks for everything. It makes us feel better about our situation, it pleases the Lord, and it reminds us of how often our prayers are answered. The key to building mountain moving faith is to acknowledge Him every time we ask and receive. We begin by asking for little things and as we receive them we give thanks and are emboldened to ask for bigger things. And sure enough, we receive those too. And on it goes. Thanking Him for each answered prayer builds our faith into an unshakable fortress.
My favorite paraphrase of this passage reminds me to “worry about nothing, pray about everything and be thankful for anything.” Following this advice makes us gentler because we don’t let uncertainties fluster or frustrate us. The peace of God that transcends our situation keeps our hearts and minds at rest because we know He’s answering our prayers. As someone wrote to me once, we “stop telling God how big our storm is and start telling the storm how big our God is.”
What Does The Lord Want For Us?
No study on prayer would be complete with out a reference to my favorite verse in all the Bible. “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4) To me it’s the secret to getting what you need and what you want.
Jesus told us that if we concentrate on seeking His Kingdom and His righteousness, God would provide for all of our needs. (Matt. 6:33) We do this by becoming born again. There’s no other way into the Kingdom and there’s no other way to gain His righteousness. In fact Paul told us that the reason Jesus died is so that we could have the righteousness of God. (2 Cor. 5:21) It’s imputed to us by faith.
In Psalm 37:4 we’re told to delight ourselves in the Lord. The Hebrew word translated delight means to be soft or delicate, pampered. If we’ll let Him, the Lord will pamper us, He really will. The theme of the Psalm is trusting in Him instead of worrying about what happens to others. It tells us to commit our ways to Him and wait patiently for Him to fulfill our desires.
To me, giving us the desires of our hearts means two things. First it means that if we let Him, He’ll fill our hearts with a longing for the things He wants for us, and second it means that He’ll provide them.
I know you’ve probably been taught that the Lord tests us and disciplines us and purifies us, but if you add it all up, the overwhelming message to us is that He wants to bless us. He wants us to have an abundant life.(John 10:10) He wants us to be rich in every way so we can be generous on every occasion. (2 Cor. 9:11) He wants us to have a permanent peace about us that’s impossible for the natural mind to understand. (Phil 4:7) He wants us to be absolutely certain of our eternal destiny. (2 Cor. 1:21-22) He wants to take all the worry out of our lives, and to turn all of our problems over to Him. (Matt. 6:33) He wants to heal us of our diseases. (Isaiah 53:4) The list goes on and on, containing over 7000 blessings.
And what does He ask in return? Let His death pay for our sins. In full. All of them. Trust Him to provide for us. Rejoice all the time. Love one another. Live in peace. Pray without ceasing. It seems like a fair exchange.