LESSON FOUR THE PATTERN FOR PRAYER – THE LORD’S PRAYER PART ONE
Jesus taught His disciples this pattern prayer not to be recited, but rather that the principles in it would be a guide for all prayer interaction with the Father. It forms part of the glimpse He gives us of life in the kingdom of God - Matthew 5-7.
THE LORD’S PRAYER - Why it is a pattern?
We have looked carefully, first of all, at what prayer is not. Now we need to examine what prayer is.
As we are discovering, prayer is more about awareness than about asking. What we are asking comes into line with a greater awareness of God, who He is and what His focus, His heart and concerns are rather than ours. Because it is natural for us to be inward-looking and need-orientated, it is absolutely necessary for us to have a pattern that shows us how God envisions prayer rather than what we think it is or should be.
There are six facets to this prayer and each leads into the next. Having explained that prayer is not about performance, words or needs - Matthew 6:5-8.Jesus proceeds to explain what prayer is:
1. OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN
Firstly, prayer is about changing our awareness from self-awareness to God-awareness. We are approaching a perfect Father who knows our needs better than we do and who has accepted full responsibility for His children.
God is our Life-Source (our Father)
Prayer is not unique to the Christian faith. There is an inborn need in every human being, no matter what god people believe in, to worship and serve someone or something greater than ourselves. Our first priority, therefore, is to identify who we are becoming aware of.
It is vitally important to know who we are becoming aware of, not some visible but dead idol or vague unknown being out there somewhere but:
1. He is our Father, our life-source, our Creator, the one who breathed His own life into us and to whom our spirits are fused by faith, through the Holy Spirit, so that we are ECHAD (one) with Him.
2. He is the one on whom we are dependant for life and everything that our life involves “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” 2 Peter 1: 3ff (NIV).
3. He is the only true God, the one who is described as “gracious, compassionate, slow to anger and full of love and faithfulness, forgiving sin...” He is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and not to be confused with any other god.
4. “Those who come to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him..” Hebrews 11:6 (NIV)
Secondly, prayer is about recognising that God is closer to us than our breath. We centre down into an awareness that He is here and that He is here in all the fulness of His deity. He is all-knowing and all powerful in His omnipresence. We do not call Him in to meet with us. We acknowledge and become aware that we are always with Him.
Whatever our situation or problem, He is already here, or there as we intercede for others.
God is as near to us as the breath we breathe
The God we address in prayer is unseen. He is Spirit and we cannot and must not try to create Him in our imagination.
“God is spirit, and His worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth.” John 4:24
He has no physical form. We can know Him by what He does and where He has been.
The concept of heaven is confusing if we view heaven as some geographical place the whereabouts of which we do not know. How do we pray to a God who lives in some place far away to which we have not access?
Just as we need to change our awareness from ourselves to God, we also need to change our awareness from God somewhere far away and inaccessible to a God who is as near to us as our breath.
“For in Him we live and move and have our being.” Acts 17:28.
Genesis 2:7 - God breathed into man the breath of life (His own ruach - breath, spirit) and man became a living being. Man has in his lungs the very breath of God.
Prayer is therefore, first of all, becoming aware that I live in the environment of God. He is spirit, He fills the entire universe and I am, therefore, immersed in His Presence like a fish in water.
Question: What can we do to develop an awareness of God?
We develop a God-awareness by putting Him in the centre of our lives and by changing our perspective on the things that happen. Jesus referred everything to God - e.g. Lazarus’ sickness and death
2. HALLOWED BE YOUR NAME
I hallow, acknowledge and become aware of Your Name
In Hebrew thought, a name was a prophetic utterance of character. Without going into detail, everything that God is, is encapsulated in His name.
Therefore the God of whose presence I become aware, is not some vague, characterless being, but a God whose nature, character, values, standards, desires, intentions, plans and purposes are all summed up in His name.
God’s name was revealed progressively to His people.
To Abraham He was El Shaddai - God Almighty;
To Moses and the people of Israel He was JHWH - the I AM - the intimate covenant name of God.
The understanding of individuals was enhanced and expanded through their personal experiences of God who was to them what they needed at that moment. eg, Jehovah Jireh, Jehovah Nissi, Jehovah Rapha, Jehovah Rohe, Jehovah Shalom, Jehovah Tsidkenu, Jehovah Shammah, etc.
Jesus - the name above all names
The clearest picture and demonstration of the name of God is to be found in Jesus. To see Him is to see the Father.
“I have revealed your name to those you gave me out of the world.” John 17:6 (NIV).
To acknowledge and become aware of God’s name is to become aware of the character of Jesus as He went about doing good and healing all those who were oppressed by the devil (Acts 10:28), revealing and putting God’s name on display.
Question: How best can we hallow God’s name?
We hallow His name, not so much by what we say as how we live because as children of God, we wear His name.
3. YOUR KINGDOM COME, YOUR WILL BE DONE ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN
Let me place your kingdom over the kingdoms of the world so that the world will know who you are
This is not a vague hope for the future as much as it is the expression of a desire to be part of the future. In the unseen realm of the spirit, the government of God is implemented to perfection. God’s will, which is the expression of who He is, is perfectly done, which means that there is nothing broken, or imperfect where He rules. Only in the realm where sin has disrupted the perfection of God’s rule, is there need for restoration and renewal.
It is God’s design for us who are now representatives of His kingdom, to put God’s rule in place wherever we are as a foretaste of how His kingdom will ultimately replace all the corrupted kingdoms of this world.
Jesus is God’s appointed King - “I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill...” Psalm 2:6 (NIV).
In Matthew 5, Jesus has already explained how He kingdom rule works in the ungodly world system. As kingdom people we are not to conduct our lives the way the people in the world do. We are to live generously towards other people, treating them with love and mercy, not reacting but responding as our heavenly Father would respond. To be able to do this, we need God’s grace.
This is another piece in the puzzle about prayer. Prayer is not about us as much as it is about our part in the bigger picture of God’s kingdom - Matthew 6:33 - "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness..."
As we put the pieces together, we are starting to see what prayer is all about. God is busy reestablishing His rule on earth, but He has chosen to do it through man. He does not act independently of man, His vice regent, but through him but, in turn, man must not rule independently of God.
He does this by revealing the pattern of His will to us through His word so that we can ask Him to do what He has already purposed. God does nothing on earth without us.
It is through prayer that we become aware of who God is and what He plans are for our world which is a small part of the whole world. As we put His reign in place in our world in cooperation with Him and through His power and grace, His kingdom comes and His will is done increasingly on the earth as it is done in heaven. When Jesus returns, He will perfect what He has begun through us now.
God desires that we be partners with Him in bringing heaven to earth through our prayers and our lives as His sons and daughters.
Question: How does this teaching help you to understand your role in prayer? Encourage discussion.
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