When you pray, do you truly know that you are in the presence of your Father in heaven? Do you know that your Father is present with you, and that He has called you to come to Him as His very own children? Knowing that God’s covenant is sure, that He has kept His promise that He would be our God and we would be His people, we can positively answer the call of the Psalmist: “Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving …For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand” (Psa. 95:2, 7).
Prayer is more than uttering a few words with the hope that our Father in heaven will hear us. Prayer is communication with God our Father, in the name of our Advocate, Christ Jesus, His Son. Prayer also includes the Holy Spirit, who directs our prayers according to His Word. Thus we can say, “Prayer is only true when it is within the compass of God’s Word; it is blasphemy, or at best vain babbling, when the petition is unrelated to the Book. …The Spirit by the Word must direct, in the manner, as well as in the matter of prayer” (John Bunyan, Prayer).
Prayer is a two-way communication between God and His children. We speak to Him as taught by His Word; and He speaks to us through His Word. The word that He will give us as an answer to our prayers will come as we study or meditate upon His Word, as we worship, as we partake of the Lord’s Supper, and other communications of His marvelous grace and tender mercies. Thomas Thornwell (Collected Writings) writes of this language of prayer and the communication of God: “We speak to Him in the language of prayer, penitence, faith, thanksgiving and praise; He speaks to us by those sensible communications of His grace which makes us feel at once that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. This free circulation of the affections and interchange of offices of love is the very essence of spiritual religion.”
Our lesson concerns the prayer that Christ Jesus gave to His disciples, which we call The Lord’s Prayer. We begin with the atmosphere of prayer, that relationship between us and our heavenly Father as we pray. We will then concentrate on the Lord’s Prayer itself, using the Westminster Shorter Catechism as our guide to understanding the various petitions. Read through the Lord’s Prayer before looking at its parts. For further study, go through the Lord’s Prayer, discussing that petitions, praise, etc., that would honor that petition that Christ has taught us to pray.
Our Lord Jesus admonishes us not to pray as hypocrites: “for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men.” Their prayers do not reveal their true motivation or heart. Its outward appearance lies about their inward disposition. Their only prize is their false pride: “Verily I say to you, They have their reward.” Accordingly, we must know the true meaning and essence of prayer, which rests upon our relationship with our heavenly Father.
Christ continued teaching His disciples, who came to Him at the mountain, as prayer to our Father is in secret: “When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou shut the door, pray to the Father who is in secret; and the Father who seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” There are times when we will be by ourselves as we lift up our petitions to the Lord. However, there must always be that spirit of prayer, to pray to our Father in secret, whether it is in the home or church fellowship. Our eyes of faith, and our heart of love, should always be directed toward our Father, in Christ. All other concerns and noises are to be placed in the background so that, as we pray, our full attention is on our Father in heaven. We must “pray from the heart to no other than the one true God, who has revealed himself in his Word, asking for everything he has commanded us to ask for” (The Heidelberg Catechism # 117).
How we ask is as important as what we ask for in our prayers. When we pray, we are not to use “vain repetitions, as the heathen do; for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.” How many times have we prayed that we might be heard by those around us, rather than concentrating on Him who listens and answers prayer? We are not to be like those who speak words, count beads, twirl wheels, etc.; for we speak to our Creator, our Redeemer, Our Father, who knows what need before we ask. As a good shepherd knows the needs of his sheep, so our Father in heaven knows the needs of His children. He not only anticipates our needs, but knows exactly what it is that we need for life, daily and eternally.
Our Lord’s disciples hungered to learn how to pray. As they heard their Master pray, their thoughts went to John, and one of the disciples asked Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1). Prayer is to be taught. We are to be, by the grace of our Lord, teachable. Prayer does not come naturally, or by osmosis, or any other means, but by the teaching of the Holy Spirit through His Word. He teaches us the things of Christ. We are always learners, disciples who sit at the feet of our Savior. We must ask, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Christ answers His disciples, saying, “After this manner therefore pray ye.”
Our prayers must begin, “Our Father who art in heaven”; whereby we are taught “to draw near to God with all holy reverence, as children to a father, able and willing to help us” (Shorter Catechism, # 100). Isaiah’s eyes were opened to see God as the Father of his people. Isaiah was taught to pray, as we are taught, “But now, O Lord, You are our Father; We are the clay, and You our potter; And all we are the work of Your hand” (Isa. 64:8).
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