Summary: Message explores importance of relationship, persisence, and expectation in our prayer lives.
Nurturing a Healthy Prayer Life
The frustration of unanswered prayer—have you ever experienced it? Have you ever felt like your prayers were getting no where? Have you ever felt like crying out to God the way David did in Psalm 89:46, “How long, O LORD? Will you hide yourself forever?” Why would a great hero of faith like David be half-accusing God with those two words, “how long”? In Ps 13 he even wrote a song about it. It goes something like this, “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?” I don’t know what the title of that song was but the theme is obvious, “how long”. David wasn’t the only one that felt that way.
Habakkuk opens his book with a prayer asking God, “How long, O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen?” (Hab 1:2)
I feel a lot better just knowing I’m not the only one that’s felt that way. There may still be hope for me, yet. God must surely chuckle at our ups and downs in prayer—I mean the way a loving parent chucks watching his or her toddler learn to walk. He takes a couple of steps and it is great. What a joy to see those first two successful steps. Then he waddles through a couple more and hits the floor. No wonder the disciples asked Jesus in our text, “Lord, teach us to pray...”
I find, in Jesus response to their request, three essential truths for nurturing a healthy prayer life.
1st Relationship (vs 1-4)
"When you pray, say: "’Father...” That gets prayer started off on the right foot. That reminds me of why I can come boldly to the Throne of Grace. It is because God is my Heavenly Father. I am not approaching some cold, distant despot who is unconcerned about what I am going through. I am approaching One who is joined to me with cords of love. It should build my faith just to breathe that word, “Father.” That word is filled with reminders of what God has already done for me. Luke 10:20 “...do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." I come as a member of the family of God—heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ.
I come with confidence in His integrity and in His plan for my life. “Hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.” The requests I am about to make I make within these parameters: First, I want nothing that would bring dishonor to my heavenly Father. I want His name hallowed—set apart as far and above all others. I come with a holy reverence for Who He is and I am absolutely committed to His honor. My highest purpose is to bring glory to Him. This is something I can not skip. I must not rush past this foundation with my petitions. I must not ask amiss or I will receive not.
The words are a reminder for me and a declaration to myself and all of heaven and earth that I only want what falls within this context: “Hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.” That is part of the definition of my relationship with God. He is my Father. He is my glory and the lifter of my head. He is the one I live for. What I want above all else is His glory and honor. That keeps me from praying amiss. “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” I make sure that’s the orientation of my life.
My upfront petition is Your kingdom come Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
It is a call for the kingdom rule of God to be in full effect. It is the desire that God’s will prevail over and above my will in everything. It is the understanding that His wisdom does not need to be corrected by my petition. But my petition needs to be subject to His plan for me within the larger scheme of things. I am not passively reconciling myself to some unknown fate set in the stars. I am actively submitting my will, my desires, to the Lordship of my Heavenly Father.
There are two sides of this relationship with God that I must not forget. One side has to do with the honor that is always due Him. He created me. He created all things. Without Him I am absolutely nothing. He is above all the kings of the earth. The dignity and majesty of our God is beyond description. I never lose that holy awe for Who He is—hallowed by your name. I never forget His sovereignty—His right to rule my life and everything else. He sits upon the circle of the earth and does whatever He pleases.