Summary: Most people, Christians included, use prayer like a fire extinguisher. They only use it when there's a fire. Truth is we have an need for God every moment of our lives.
When do you need God? Most people (Christians included) only reserve God for the “this-is-so-tough-I-can’t-do-this-without-you-God” moments of life such as when life-threatening sickness comes, death visits us, or financial anxieties take control of our lives, or when career issues threaten our stability, or marriage problems break our hearts, and the list could go on and on. It’s true, in those times we need God, we need Him in a real way, because let’s be honest we can’t do it without Him. However, what about the others times of life, those mundane moments of life when we feel pretty secure in our abilities to make it through on our own, such as, driving to work or to school or to the grocery store? Do we need God then? What about when we get a sniffle, do we need God then? What about something as thoughtless as breathing do we need God to enable us the breath? You see where I’m going with this don’t you? We have an everyday need for God in our lives.
"So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you." Luke 11:9
Paul warned us not to think too highly of ourselves in Romans 12:3. Rather, we need to be sober-minded and realize we are where we are because of God’s grace.
It’s all too easy for us to suffer from the dreaded Charlie Anderson Syndrome of thinking too highly of ourselves and our accomplishments. Movie buffs will remember Jimmy Stewart’s portrayal of the tough, independent minded Charlie Anderson from the 1965 film Shenandoah. In the movie, Charlie Anderson prays to God on several occasions saying:
"Lord, we cleared this land. We plowed it, sowed it and harvested it. We cooked the harvest, it wouldn’t be here, we wouldn’t be eatin’ it, if we hadn’t done it all ourselves. We worked dog-boned hard for every crumb and morsel, but we thank you just the same anyway, Lord, for this food we’re about to eat. Amen."
After all, just like Charlie Anderson, we can fall into the trap of thinking we did the work that earned the money that put the food on the table, the roof over our heads and the clothes on our backs. How easy it is to think we are independent from God.
However, that is not the case. We depend on God everyday for everything (and I mean everything!) and our prayer lives must show our dependence upon Him for all the things we need.
When the disciples came to Jesus and ask Him to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1-13) He taught them to be dependent on God for everything through prayer. He did this by teaching them What to Say (11:2-4) which is the expression of our dependence on God through words; What to Do(11:5-8) which is the expression of our dependence on God through persistence; and, What to Expect (11:9-13) which is the expression of our dependence on God through an expectation of good gifts from Him.
What To Say -
When Jesus began His teaching on prayer, He started with what to say. In teaching His disciples, and us, on what to say He was teaching that the words we pray are an expression of our dependence on God for our everyday needs. Keep this in mind as we examine what The Model Prayer:
“Our Father…” The Father is the one who nourishes and strengthens; who supports and maintains. We depend on him for all our everyday needs.
“In Heaven,” We are on earth, God is in heaven. He is not limited by what limits us, we depend on him for all our everyday needs (Isaiah 55:8-9).
“Hallowed be Your name.” He is to be honored, hallowed and set apart in our hearts and minds because we depend on Him for all our everyday needs.
“Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus wants us to pray that God’s reign will spread through the hearts of men on earth, so that men will seek first the kingdom of God because all men need to see that they depend on God for all of their everyday needs.
“Give us this day our daily bread.” This petition is more than a passing request for our physical needs to be met. In these words, we acknowledge God can only fulfill our physical needs because we depend on Him for all our everyday needs. Yet, it goes deeper than that. As we depend on Him for all our everyday needs, we are saying all we want is what God feels is all we need.
“Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.” Petitioning God for forgiveness acknowledges our dependence on God for mercy, grace and forgiveness everyday of our lives. Furthermore, when God forgives us as He promised (1 John 1:9), we cannot withhold forgiveness from others.