Luke 11:3-4: The Lord’s Prayer: What we Really Need in Prayer
We are all bad at prayer and Jesus is the master teacher when it comes to prayer. No human being has ever prayed more perfectly than Christ. He is sinless; He is divine and He has been in eternal fellowship with the Father. He as God has both received prayer, but also as man prayed. He has both answered prayer and had His prayers answered. So when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, they could ask no better person. We have looked at the first half of the Lord’s Prayer, a prayer outlined for us to help us know how to pray. The prayer opens with a gospel door, by us addressing the holy and infinite God as our Father. Jesus starts us by getting us to behold the infinite majesty of God as it is presented to us in the gospel. He is not only holy but also loving not only transcendent but immanent. Then we were taught to have the right priorities in seeking God’s glory above all other things. Our sinful hearts seek to deny God, we are taught in prayer to acknowledge God and give Him His due, seeking that all might glorify Him. This followed on to God’s reign being realized and prayed for as we acknowledged that the world is fallen and broken and that we should want God’s kingdom to come.
We come now to the second part of the Lord’s Prayer, the part where most people begin praying, with our needs. Luke 11:3-4, ‘Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.” We are to want his glory, his kingdom and will before we come to ourselves. But that does not mean that we are not allowed to pray for ourselves. God loves us, and Jesus teaches us that we can bring our needs and requests before God. But as with needing to be taught to want the right things first, we are also taught the right things to want for ourselves. What should we bring as prayer requests to God? The Lord’s Prayer teaches us to ask for provision, pardon and protection. This covers all the basic needs that we have in body, mind and spirit. We have prayed regarding our relationship to God now we pray regarding our relationship to the world, others, and the devil. These three requests direct us to the struggles that we have in a fallen world and our need for God as sin disrupts our relationship to work and providing, our relationship to others in forgiveness and our relationship to the spiritual war we are in as we battle temptation in all its forms.
Before we dig in let us continue to stress the benefit of prayer to ourselves. Today even psychologists recognise that we have a need to be grateful to someone, that we need times of quiet contemplation, that we need to express the pains and trials that we are experiencing, that we need to confess sins and receive forgiveness, that we need the hope of knowing that there is a loving and all powerful Father who is directing our steps and is in sympathy with our pains. Prayer truly is good therapy, but not because we ape religion, not because we go through the motions and pretend that God is real but because we know that the God of the Bible is now accessible to us in Christ. Now some struggle with the thought of praying when God already knows what you are going to ask for, and he already knows what you need. Prayer almost seems pointless if God already knows. But of course there is more to prayer than simply asking. Prayer helps us in so many ways. Firstly, the act of getting on our knees in a posture of humility, is a very helpful reminder that we are approaching someone who is worthy of respect and worship. This is helpful for our sinful hearts are constantly putting self at the centre, but prayer is an act of humbly approaching the great God of the universe. Secondly, prayer is the means by which we have a relationship with God. God does not simply want us to be askers, but children. Prayer is not merely so that we can get stuff that benefits God. God delights in us and we are to seek His face, prayer is a means of fellowship. Prayer is something that benefits us too. Prayer is our quality time with our father that we can build up our relationship with him. Thirdly, prayer is the time when we quiet our hearts, when we are honest before God, and the Holy Spirit can convict us of sin, comfort us, teach us, guide us, etc. So although we have emphasized the importance of God in prayer we need to acknowledge the value and benefit we receive otherwise we will miss the blessings that God intends for us to get from prayer. Prayer is not only a duty but a delight, not only a service but a benefit and gift, not only a responsibility but a joy and privilege. We are commanded to pray, but this is not something that we do which we cannot enjoy and benefit from, it is something that benefits us immensely.