“The Lord’s Prayer is a letter sent from earth to heaven.”[i]
I am not alone in the story I am about to tell. It is one often experienced around the Christmas season, usually by fathers, and the moral of the story is: “Discovering the wisdom in following directions.”
Several times when my sons were very young we would purchase them gifts requiring assembly. Typically I would wait until Christmas Eve when they were in bed to start the tedious process of laying numerous toy parts on the living room floor, placing the box in view with the picture of whatever toy came in the box, and begin what I always hoped would be a quick assembly. All too often the effort ended instead with disassembly and a restart which included close attention to the directions also packed in the box with the toy. The older I have gotten the more I have discovered the wisdom of following the directions, or even better not buying anything that has to be assembled.
For those who embrace following Christ, one of the most challenging areas of the faith seems to be the establishment and maintenance of a growing, meaningful prayer life.
We acknowledge the Bible’s clear exhortation to pray and understand prayer is vital for spiritual health, growth, and the accomplishment of God’s plans. We acknowledge it is God’s design for our communication with Him. We recognize the principle and privilege of mere humans to be granted access to the Creator of the heavens and earth through prayer. We identify prayer as the power source for the forward motion of His church. Likewise, we see prayer presented in multifaceted forms and for varying purposes throughout the Scriptures. We know it can be a simple heart felt conversation on the one hand, and a deep mystical power encounter on the other.
We understand the Bible instructs us to pray without ceasing, pray in the Spirit, fast and pray, watch and pray, pray in the evening, pray in the morning, and pray for the peace of Jerusalem. It reveals that prayer can take place in temples, on the street, in kneeling positions, on roofs, in boats, on beaches, and on mountainsides. We see throughout scripture, God requires prayer if we intend to have a wholesome, vigorous, fulfilling relationship with Him. So, why do you suppose then so many of Jesus’ followers find prayer challenging?
For some the answer could be as straightforward as it was for the first disciples of Jesus, maybe we need to just ask Him for help. When they did, He provided them (and any willing and sincere follower today) with an effective outline to follow. The entire discourse in Matthew 6:9–13 is a roadmap for prayer, an easily followed pattern to acquire all things necessary for the accomplishment of His will during our earthly lives. And after all, pursuing God’s will in this life is the destiny for us all. There is no greater, no higher more rewarding purpose for life.
Even the principle given in Matthew to ask, seek, and knock is ultimately for the purpose of His servants to fulfill God’s plans and desires not their own. What else could it mean since we know that all things exist for His purposes? “For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.” Col. 1:16 (NIV). Conflicted responses occur when we try to place the emphasis on us and our desires when it’s about God and what He desires. If we try to make it about us we develop our own set of expectations. If they don’t materialize then God often gets the blame for lack of provision when it was not His will in the first place. When our mission is his mission He promises provision when we pray.
We are not the central characters in Earth’s theater, Jesus is! The pinnacle of fulfillment and source for our deepest joy is designed to be experienced as we serve, honor, and fulfill His will from a heart of love, gratitude, and expectation to see Him glorified. John Piper writes, “Man is not the center of the universe, God is. And everything, as Paul says, is ‘from Him and through Him and to Him.’ Romans 11:36 (HCSB) ‘To Him’ means everything exists to call attention to Him and bring admiration to Him.”[ii]
One of the primary objectives of this prayer is to adjust our lives and desires and position our focus on the one who deserves our complete attention: the God of all creation, the Father of life!
[i] Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the New Testament.
[ii] John Piper, A Hunger for God (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1997), p.21