"Pray then like this: 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.'" (Matthew 6:9-10 ESV)
Most of us recall the name Todd Beamer. He was the man who led the passengers against the hijackers of Flight 93, which crashed over Shanksville, PA on September 11, 2001. Shortly before his tremendous act of bravery, which would save many lives, he called his wife. They prayed the Lord’s Prayer together and he concluded, “Jesus, help me. Let’s roll.”
Do you want that kind of confidence in prayer? I know I do. But like every man I know, almost without exception, I struggle with prayer: making time for it, feeling like it is meaningful, or even just how to pray! The Lord’s Prayer is Jesus’s prayer outline for his disciples. He intended it as a guide to help our prayer lives. This morning, I want to take the first two verses of the Lord’s Prayer as an encouragement for us as we fight for joy through prayer.
First, Jesus teaches us to address God as “our father.” This is astonishing. Rarely was God referred to as “Father” in the Old Testament. But Jesus tells us here that all who trust in him are now God’s sons and so can call him Father. Think about that for a moment: the God who made everything, who is outside of time, who upholds all things wants you to think of him as the perfect dad. It’s too much to take in; it overwhelms us instantly. According to Jesus, if we want to grow in our prayer lives, begin with the relationship that is yours by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone: you are a son.
This is such an encouragement to us when we feel like total failures in our prayer lives. Since God is our Father, he’s pleased with us. He accepts us. So, no matter how often you forget to pray, fail to pray, or get distracted by the million other things vying for your attention when you pray, remember that your Father loves you. His arms are never folded when you approach him in prayer; his hands are always open, ready to receive you.
Second, Jesus tells us to pray for the kingdom to come. So often in my own prayer life, my prayer time gets reduced to confessing a few sins and then telling God the laundry list of what I think I need. To be clear, we should spend time confessing our sins before God. And we should pour out our hearts, with all of our needs, before him (Ps 62:8). But prayer becomes stale if we never get beyond our needs. Jesus teaches us to think big in our prayers.
When we pray for the kingdom to come, we pray that God’s rule in Jesus by the Spirit will finally be realized. We pray for the advance of the gospel all around the world, in lands where it is welcomed and in places where the name of Jesus gets you killed. We pray that Jesus, the rightful king, would be recognized as such by every tribe, nation, and tongue. Jesus tells us here to pray with holy, passionate ambition.
Nothing kills an organization like small ambition. It’s the same with prayer. If we want a more God-honoring, Christ-exalting, vibrant, satisfying prayer life, we need to pray ambitiously. We need to pray for the kingdom to come. When we do, we begin to get outside of ourselves. We see that prayer is God’s ordained means to see the kingdom more and more realized in our lives and in this world.
Finally, think about this: the only reason we get to call God our Father and approach him knowing he will hear us is because Jesus was cursed in our place. God cursed his Son for our sins, so that we might become blessed sons in the cursed Son who took our place. Grace changes everything, starting with our prayer lives! So whatever you're facing today, whether it’s the busyness of daily life, a major struggle at work, a complicated family life, or debilitating tragedy, turn to your Father in prayer, with the full assurance that you will be heard because he never turns a deaf ear to his sons! “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”