There are a wide range of prayerful traditions, and a great deal of value in everything including liturgy, psalms, intercession, and so much more. Having seen God at work in many difference prayerful contexts, I find it hard to say the there is a “best” way to pray.
Yet Jesus’ disciples asked how to pray, and He did in fact give an example. Obviously this is not the only prayer we are to use, as we should also follow His example of having an active prayer life, and interactive communication with God. But I do see a wealth of significance in His prayer “prototype.”
Starting at the Threshold of Eternity
Jesus began (Matthew 6:9):
“Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.”
To say “Our Father,” not only shows Jesus’ perception of a direct relationship with His Father (which was revolutionary at the time!), it welcomes us into that relationship, inviting us, the adopted children, to use the very same relational title.
In the very same sentence, Jesus honors God’s name as being holy. It is almost a juxtaposition: the pure and sinless God connecting as a Father to us, the tainted and sinful. Despite the reality that He is in the perfection of heaven, He is willing to embrace us as a loving father even before we are sanctified.
Indeed, the sacrifice of Jesus has thrown the gates of heaven wide open, and He invites us to join Him on the threshold of eternity. We gain a new perspective: seeing both the promise of God’s love and the pain of the sinful earth.
When turning to Him we can see more of His glory; when distracted by earthly desires we lose focus, and more easily slip into sin. But He is always calling us back to His Presence, back to His love.
Starting our prayer time with acknowledgment of both His holiness and His role as a Father can put us in the right mindset of both awe and appreciation.
Participating in the Kingdom
Jesus continues (vs. 10):
“Your Kingdom come,
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.”
This is already a second reference to heaven in a short prayer. Despite having not seen heaven, we do know it is a God-centered place. He reigns supremely and loves supremely. His glory consumes all. To think of that from earth, while facing a constant barrage of distractions, can be hard to imagine.
Yet each of us can invite His love and His will to rule our lives, as He invites us into His glorious presence. Both as individuals and as a church Body, followers of Jesus should be living a God-centered life, yet we easily slip back into our self-centered patterns, looking for our wills to be done.
How often do we center our lives on God, making Him our highest priority and keeping Him at the forefront of our thoughts?
I know I habitually fail to do that, distracted by my “to-do” lists and lacking in discipline.
God promises that when we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us. That is how His kingdom comes to earth. We need to remember that His kingdom here includes us, and He can use us to accomplish His Sovereign, perfect will. Participating in His purposes bring us joy and peace. As we continue to learn how to trust His plan, we can also expectantly look forward to watching His kingdom unfold around us daily.
Regardless of the style or content of our prayers, Jesus’ example illustrates how we must begin by being centered on God and putting His will above our own.
What does your prayer life look life? How do times of focusing on Jesus differ from focusing on our own needs and wants?