The Foundation of Prayer
The Foundation of Prayer
“Our Father who is in heaven, hollowed be Your name.”
The Lord’s Prayer is, without question, the most popular prayer in the Bible. It is often used to close service and adorns the walls of many churches and homes. Yet when we look closer, we discover that what we call “the Lord’s prayer” is not a prayer but a lesson on prayer. In this prayer, Christ is not asking us to pray repetitively in the church. Instead, he is giving us a pattern for the content and focus of our prayer. Examine the bulk of our prayers today, and the focus is on our daily needs and God’s provision and protection. Indeed, Jesus encourages us to pray for our daily needs, as seen in verse 11. However, examining the prayer closely, we discover that almost half of the prayer does not focus on our needs but on our awareness of God and submission to him. In the first two verses, Christ reorients our prayer by drawing attention to the celebration and understanding of God’s character and our need to surrender to his plan and purpose for our life. Rather than the prayer focusing upon what we desire God to do for us, it reorients our perspective to seek what God wants us to do for him.
First, the prayer begins with a confession of the transcendent nature of God. He is a God who resides in heaven, distinct and untouched by creation. As the transcendent God, he is separate from creation and independent and uninfluenced by it. To approach God, we must recognize that we do not control him. We must never forget that he is the supreme ruler and creator of the universe and our lives. He is not a God we can manipulate and manage.
Nevertheless, even as the prayer begins with affirming his transcendence, it also affirms his immanence. He not only resides in heaven, but he invites us into a personal relationship with him. He is “Our Father.” God is not some abstract spirit who remains distant and uninterested in us. He is not just an indifferent observer. He is engaged and involved in our lives, just as a father is concerned with the lives of his children.
Second, the prayer reminds us of the holiness of God. In the Ancient Near East, the person's name was interwoven with the character and qualities of the individual. To speak a person’s name was not just to mention the distinguishing designation of the person; it served to encapsulate the total individual. To pray that God’s name be made holy is to pray that God’s name and character be held in proper reverence and respect. It is to pray that people will uphold his holiness and treat him as holy. It affirms God’s perfection and that he remains untouched by sin.
Last, in these words, we are reminded to submit to God in all things. Rather than promote our kingdom, agenda, and will, we are to surrender and desire to advance God’s will and purpose. It is to both submit to God and seek to bring all things under his control. We are reminded in this prayer that the purpose of our life is to promote and follow God’s kingdom agenda.
The starting point of our prayer is not upon what we desire but upon what God desires. Before we bring our requests, we need to remember who God is and surrender to him so that when we pray, it is a prayer of submission to his will rather than attempting to manipulate god to do what we want. In our prayer, we are first to align ourselves with his kingdom purposes to reflect our desire to live in conformity to him then our requests will be according to his will, not ours (Romans 8:26; James 4:3).