After leading a seminar on prayer at the recent Bristol Women's Conference Hannah has written a short summary for all of us (men and women) to read...
I have to admit, when I first agreed to lead a seminar on the topic of the Lord’s Prayer, I felt very unprepared and unqualified. My prayers often feel so short and shallow. However, as I started to do some reading, I started to see how beneficial this would be for me. I had learned about the Lord’s Prayer previously. But this time, one thing stood out for me. I came to the realisation that prayer is not about me, it’s all about God. This is not ground breaking, in fact this lesson could be applied to any area of our Christian life. But for some reason, I had not assimilated this into my prayer life. As I payed attention to my own prayers, I realised how selfish they were. My prayers had become a way for me to try and take control, wanting God to do things my way.
But Jesus’ prayer stands in stark contrast. His prayer is all about God and he wants our prayers to match. The first half of the prayer is completely focused on him. We are reminded of what a great God we are talking to and we are called to prioritise his holy name. This is what this world is actually all about and that’s what our prayers should be about. Only after this, does the prayer turn to our needs. But by this point, our attitude has changed. Andy Stanley words it like this in his sermon
series called Permission to Speak Freely: 'Jesus says: you want to pray, I’ll tell you how to pray, I want you to spend a few minutes recognising who it is you’re praying to, I want you to declare the greatness of your heavenly Father and then I want you to do the next logical thing, that is to say that, Great and Awesome God, you are so great and awesome, your kingdom takes precedence over mine, your will over mine, as scary as it is, as threatening as it is, I am surrendering … to you. I want
your will more than I want my will for me.' Before we come to God with our many requests, Jesus calls us to surrender our will to God, allowing him to take control. We are to come to God as a humble child asking for care from a loving Father.
John Piper takes this a step further. He explains that the first request, being the primary focus of the prayer is the reason all the subsequent requests are made. In his series called Look at the Book, he says: 'The ultimate purpose for God in the coming of his kingdom, the ultimate purpose of God in everyone doing his will on the earth, the ultimate purpose of God in sustaining us with physical life and giving us an abundance of physical things, the ultimate purpose of God in forgiving our sins and in not leading us into temptation but delivering us from evil, the ultimate purpose of God in all these is that our hearts would be engaged fully in esteeming and revering and valuing and treasuring and loving his holiness, his transcendently pure and precious and infinite value.” This completely transforms our motives. We are no longer selfishly focusing on ourselves. Instead, we come to our loving Father with our needs, knowing that without our basic needs being met, we simply cannot serve him. Coming to God with this perspective transforms our prayers. We may not always have the time to go through each line of the Lord’s Prayer in depth. But if we focus on the hallowing of God’s name whenever we come to our Father, it will transform our prayers. Prayer is so much more meaningful when it’s all about God.