Summary: Talk to God like your Best Friend and the Best Father there ever was, putting His interests above your own.
Bob was trying to teach his daughter, Jenny, how to pray before meals. After a few weeks of coaching, Bob decided Jenny was ready to pray all by herself.
Jenny started out fine, thanking God for her mommy and daddy and brother and sister and for the rolls and the salad. Then she ended with a big, “THANK YOU, GOD, FOR THE SPAGHETTI!” and lifted her head.
Now, Bob had taught Jenny to end each prayer with, “In Jesus' name, Amen.” So he prompted her, “In…”
At first, Jenny seemed confused. Then she proudly exclaimed, “IN TOMATO SAUCE. AMEN.” (Barbara J. Doll, Upper Saddle River, N.J. “Kids of the Kingdom,” Christian Reader)
Sometimes we don’t know how to pray, and as children, that’s okay, even humorous sometimes. But as adults, we face bigger problems and more responsibilities, and prayer becomes much more important.
John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrim’s Progress, once said, “Real prayer is a serious concern, for we are speaking to the sovereign Lord of all the universe, who is willing to move heaven and earth in answer to sincere and reasonable prayer.” (John Bunyan, Pilgrim's Prayer Book, edited by Louis Gifford Parkhurst, Jr. Christianity Today, Vol. 30, no.10)
The question is: How do we pray to such a Lord? How do we pray to our Sovereign God in such a way that He WILL move heaven and earth to come to our aid? Well, if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Luke 11, Luke 11, where Jesus’ disciples had a similar question.
Luke 11:1 Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” (ESV)
Imagine what it must have been like to hear Jesus praying. While I was a student at the Moody Bible Institute, I was on one of my Practical Christian Work assignments with another student, visiting the home of an elderly gentleman. When we got ready to leave, the old man asked if he could pray for us, and we said, “Sure.”
He bowed his head and began his prayer with one word, “Papa.” I tell you, a holy hush fell on that dinky little apartment in downtown Chicago. It was like we were transported to the very throne room of heaven itself, and as that elderly gentleman conversed with his Heavenly Father, I knew God was right there listening to every word. I was a young man at the time, 19 or 20 years of age, but it created in my heart a life-long yearning to be able to pray like that.
I’m sure the disciples had a similar feeling as they heard Jesus talking to His Papa in Heaven. “Lord, teach us to pray,” they asked.
Luke 11:2-4 And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. 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.” (ESV)
Jesus here gives his disciples a pattern for prayer. He gives them some specific things to pray for, and notice who’s interests come first – God’s. Do you see it? GOD’S name and GOD’S kingdom are the first concerns in prayer, for if we want God to pay attention to us, then we must first pay attention to Him. We must…
PUT GOD FIRST.
We must put His interests before our own. We must make His reputation and his rule our primary concerns.
That’s what Jesus meant when he said, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed by your name.” Father, holy be Your reputation. Father, may people come to know and revere You.
An Australian Christian author and speaker, John Dickson, talks about how he came to Christ. He says the Australian public schools used to offer a Scripture class taught by a volunteer from the local church, and Glenda became his teacher. She was an ordinary, middle-aged mother, but she loved young people. Glenda ended up inviting the whole class to her house on Friday afternoons for lunch and honest conversation about Jesus.
Dickson says they went back the next Friday and the next and the next, where slowly the “Jesus stuff” became as important as the food, so they came with more and more friends. Now, “some of those 15-year-olds were the worst sinners in the school,” Dickson says. “But Glenda just opened her heart every Friday afternoon and treated us all like we were family.”
Then there was a night when Dickson’s friend, Daniel, was quite intoxicated. His friends knew they couldn't take him to his house. His dad was an army man and would be livid. But they didn't want to leave him on the street, so they all said, “Let's take him to Glenda's house. She'll have him. She'll clean him up.”