For SBC Philippi
4 Important Elements of Prayer
Primary Purpose: To consider what Jesus said are important elements in our prayer life.
This is perhaps one of the most familiar passages of Scripture to us, commonly known as the Lord’s Prayer. In many churches, it is repeated as a part of the worship service. Yet, it is more of a pattern for what our prayer lives should include. I am going to suggest to you that there are several important elements of prayer that we shouldn’t forget found in this prayer.
First, there is the Missing Element of Prayer- Praise. In vs.9 Jesus started his prayer by saying “hallowed be your name.” The word hallowed is the greek word hagiazo, which means to make holy, sanctify. In other words, it means that as we go into a time of prayer, we need to remember to lift up the Lord’s name, to praise Him, to exalt Him, to remember who He is and what He has done for us. I call it the missing element because it is easy to forget. We usually are praying because we need something. We go to God because of a special need or concern.
Recently there was a cartoon where an elderly woman is standing at the church door talking to the pastor. Her remark, as she hands a thick manila folder to him was, “My doctor copied my chart, complete with medicines and prognosis....just copy it into th eprayer list, please.” (Illustration given by Russell Brownworth).
But, God already knows what you need before you ask. There isn’t a need to rush into God’s presence like He needs to be informed. Rather than being informed, we need to be transformed. If your like me, your guilty sometimes of rushing into the prayer room and pouring out your heart to God in intercession, but you forget to stop and praise Him. Praising Him helps us to focus on who He is and how big He is. Don’t forget to praise God for answered prayer, for what He did on the cross, for providing for your needs, for who He is. Focus first on Him.
David Jeremiah has said in his book on Prayer, the Great Adventure, “When John F. Kennedy was President of the United States, Life magazine published photos of his children, John Jr. and Caroline, playing with their toys on the floor of the Oval Office. Those images captured the hearts of the American people like nothing before or since. Why? I think it’s because it bridged a gap between two thoughts: Kennedy was the President of the United States, but he was also a father. He held ultimate political power in the Free World, but playing at his feet were two little kids who called him Daddy. I don’t think your kids would have been allowed to do that. Nor mine. But his kids were. Why? He was their father. He was not only the President of the United States; he was also their dad.
In the same way, God is both our Father and the Lord of glory. We can approach His confidently in prayer because we are His dearly beloved children, but we must never forget that He is also the Sovereign of the universe.”
When we focus on him, there follows a true sense of humility. In Luke 18:14, Jesus tells us that the one who exalts himself will be humbled and the one who humbles himself will be exalted. I think it’s interesting that humility was always one of the key ingredients in revival and solemn assemblies in the Bible. The people would sometimes tear their clothing and put dust on their heads. They weren’t trying to manipulate God or change God’s mind about something. You cannot manipulate God into doing something He doesn’t want to do. They would bow as a sign of humility. In 2 Chronicles 7:14 this favorite statement of many starts out by saying “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven. . . .” Notice, that one of the first things the person is to do is to humble himself.
Second, the dangerous element of prayer vs.10 In this verse we are praying that the kingdom would come and His will would be done on earth as it is in heaven. It stands to reason then it would be hypocritical of us to pray that kind of prayer and then not to be wiling to be used of God for His purposes ourselves. The logical conclusion of this request of prayer is that we would have the attitude of Isaiah. In Isaiah 6:8 Isaiah hears the Lord say “Whom shall I send?” In response, Isaiah says, “Here am I. Send me!” This is a dangerous kind of prayer because God will use the person who says this in remarkable ways, in ways that will stretch your faith and challenge you. The truth is, that many believer say “Your kingdom come and will be done”. But, they don’t want to be a part of the answer to that prayer. God is sometimes waiting for us to say, "Here am I. Send me."
Third, the ignored element of prayer v.12,14-15. We are to forgive as we are forgiven. I say that because Christians everywhere hold grudges against others and seem to feel they have a perfect right to do so. But, says that if we don’t forgive others their sins then the Father won’t forgive you your sins. The word forgive here is the word aphiemi which means to send away, to remit, completely canceling. We see this picture being used in the parable of the merciful king and debtor servant in Matthew 18:22-35. The king calls his servants together and then he has one come before him with a great debt. The king in this parable is God. The king forgives or cancels the debt of the servant, just out of pity. The king has mercy on the man and lets him go. Then, the servant doesn’t learn from the experience and is brutal to another servant. This is the picture of a unmerciful believer. In this parable, the king grows anger with the servant because of his lack of forgiveness. The king asks the servant in v.32 “You wicked servant, I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” Then, Jesus warns in vs.35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” This is a important warning for us to dwell on. We do not have the right to hold grudges or bitterness within our heart. We must let it go. We must remember all that God has forgiven us.
I would add a important element also to this which is the Forgotten Element. Which is to listen to what he says to you. Sometimes with some of us God has a tough time getting a word in with all the talking we are doing. One time when I lived in my first apartment we were preparing to move out for the summer. Everything was out of the living room and it was dark. I was talking to myself and didn’t notice a friend of my roommates sitting on the floor in the living room because it was dark. As I walked toward the kitchen, I heard my name. It startled me because I thought I was alone. My first thought was to look up. I thought God was trying to get my attention like He did with Samuel. I figured He had to yell because I wouldn’t shut up long enough for Him to get a word in. I’m glad to say I realized after a second or two that someone else was in the room. You need to be quiet sometimes and listen to what the Holy Spirit is telling you. Is He bringing a scripture to mind? a thought? is there someone you need to forgive? is there something you need to bring to Him? I haven’t had God speak to me in a audible voice. But, I have had God bring to mind areas that I have neglected to pray about. God is interested in His kingdom, a worldwide kingdom. God is interested in seeing people saved, marriages restored, lives changed. Are you praying these kinds of big prayers? The Holy Spirit often speaks in a still small voice and sometimes we can drown him out with our own voice.