Lord, Teach Us to Pray
- Monday, July 23, 2012
Of this blessed passage, Matthew 6:9, Bishop J. C. Ryle wrote,
No part of Scripture is so full, and so simple at the same time as this …. It contains the germ of everything which the most advanced saint can desire: here is its fullness. The more we ponder every word it contains the more we shall feel "this prayer is of God."[ii]
Such a response is fitting for the prayer given is of God because it is about God.
Jesus understood the darkness of man's heart. He recognized the tendency of the human heart to bring God down to our level rather than to raise ourselves up to His. Thus, when He taught His disciples how to pray, He taught them to pray with God as the central focus of their prayers. This, He intimated, was to be the norm, not the exception. "Pray, then, in this way" (Matthew 6:9). The remainder of the so-called "Lord's Prayer" provides a guide, a model to be followed for true God-centered, God-saturated prayer. After all, this is not some cosmic Santa Claus with Whom we converse but the great I AM.
Bearing these great spiritual truths in mind, our prayer becomes a matter of worship rather than an opportunity to update God on our needs. It lifts God up. It acknowledges His rightful claim on the throne of our lives. If we were to keep this fundamental truth in mind, perhaps more of us would be faithful in keeping prayer a central part of our Christian walk.
Matthew Henry began his seminal text on prayer with these words of admonition.
Our spirits being composed into a very reverent serious frame, our thoughts gathered in, and all that is within us, charged in the Name of the great God, carefully to attend the solemn and awful service that lies before us, and to keep close to it, we must with a fixed attention and application of mind, and an active lively faith, set the Lord before us, see his eye upon us, and set ourselves in his special presence, presenting ourselves to him as living sacrifices, which we desire may be holy and acceptable, and a reasonable service, and then bind these sacrifices with cords to the horns of the alter, … .[iii]
The God of the "Lord's Prayer" is not the man upstairs. He is not to be trifled with. His grace is not to be presumed upon. He is to be approached with confidence because of the work of Christ (Hebrews 10:19). But, He is to be approached "reverence and awe" (Hebrews 12:28).
All prayer, true prayer, Jesus teaches us even today, is to be God-centered, ever admitting that prayer does not change God. It should change us. The prayer that does not is not prayer at all.
The next time you pray, thank God that Jesus taught us how to pray. Amen.
Peter Beck is Assistant Professor of Religion and Director of the Honors Program at Charleston Southern University in Charleston, South Carolina. He is the author of the voice of faith: jonathan edwards's theology of prayer. Follow him on Twitter @drpeterbeck.
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