Prayer Sets Your Sights on Who God Is
“Our Father in Heaven”
Jesus begins His model prayer (Matthew 6:9–13) with the phrase, “Our Father in Heaven.” This was a revolutionary thought to the Jewish mind. The Jews feared God and attached such sacredness to God’s name that they wouldn’t even utter it. When Jesus referred to God as “His Father,” the religious leaders of that day accused Him of blasphemy! But now, because of Jesus’ death on the cross, we can also call God our Father.
Jesus told Mary Magdalene after His resurrection, “I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God” (John 20:17).
Paul wrote, “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:15–17).
In an earlier study, “Who Is God?” we learned that God is all-powerful (omnipotent), all-knowing (omniscient), and ever-present (omnipresent). That means that He is ignorant of nothing, unlimited in power, and not bound by time and space.
We also learned that God is just, good, righteous, holy, and loving. That means that His decisions and purposes are always right and proper, yet they are motivated by a pure goodness and a deep and abiding love for you.
It is vital to remember that this awesome and holy God is also our loving Heavenly Father who has our best interests at heart! The fact that we even have the privilege of approaching a God like this is staggering.
“Hallowed Be Your Name”
In our initial approach to the throne of God, we should not immediately come with wants—or even needs. We should first contemplate whom we are speaking to. There must be a reverence for the Holy God in our approach. Isaiah, seeing the glory of the Lord, immediately acknowledged his own weakness, saying, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5).
Job, after speaking foolishly to the Lord and then listening to God’s response, said, “Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer You? I lay my hand over my mouth” (Job 40:4).
The word hallowed means we attribute to God the holiness that already is—and always has been—supremely and uniquely His. To hallow God’s name and recognize Him as Lord of all takes more than a mere reference to His holiness. It takes a willingness to put Christ first in your life and to be a reflection of that holiness.
To hallow God’s name is to revere, honor, glorify, and obey Him as uniquely perfect. In other words, we need to recognize that, above everything else, He is Lord over all.
If God’s name is hallowed in your life, you can never really say, “Me first, Lord” or “No, Lord.” If He is really the Lord of your life, the only proper response is “Yes, Lord!”
Can you write “hallowed be Your name” over your personal interests, ambitions, and pursuits? Can you write “hallowed be Your name” over your career choice, your business decisions, and your friendships? If you cannot, then it is questionable that you should be engaged in that activity and you are not truly hallowing God’s name.
“How is God’s name hallowed among us? When both our doctrine and living are truly Christian.” —Martin Luther
“Your kingdom come”
This is a multi-leveled request with different shades of meaning.
This is a request for the return of Jesus to this earth.
The word that Jesus uses here for kingdom does not primarily refer to a geographical territory, but to sovereignty and dominion. Therefore, when we pray, “Your kingdom come,” we are praying for God’s rule on earth, which essentially begins when Christ assumes His rightful place as ruler of the earth.
The word come indicates a sudden, instantaneous coming. It’s the same word John uses when he prays, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20). It speaks of that day when Jesus rules and reigns on this earth as King of kings. It will be a righteous rule. There will be no scandals, violence, or war—just peace—for 1,000 years.
This is a personal request.
I am asking for the kingdom of God to come in my own life. Jesus said to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36).
On another occasion, Jesus, said, “The kingdom of God is within (among, or in the midst of) you” (Luke 17:21). He was referring to His own presence on that particular day. Simply put, the kingdom of God speaks of the rule and reign of Jesus Christ in our lives. When we allow Christ to rule and to reign in our lives, we relinquish our control and put Him in charge. In essence, we give Him the master key to every room of our lives.
You cannot pray “Your kingdom come” until you pray “my kingdom go.” When Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33), He was saying, “Principally, in everything you say and do, before anything else, seek first and foremost the rule and reign of God in your life.
This is an evangelistic request.
As God’s kingdom is ruling and reigning in our own lives, we can play a part in bringing it to others, as well. Another way God’s kingdom is brought to this earth is when a new soul is brought to Jesus. Thus, this becomes an evangelistic prayer, as we pray for the rule and reign of Jesus in the lives of many others.
No one is beyond the reach of prayer or the need of salvation!
There is no doubt that it is God’s will that people come to believe in Jesus Christ (see Isaiah 53:12; 2 Peter 3:9). A striking illustration of prayer for a nonbeliever is shown in the case of Stephen, who was being stoned for his bold, uncompromising stand for Jesus. As he was being stoned, Stephen prayed, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60). We know that a young man named Saul of Tarsus oversaw this execution that day. Could Stephen, inspired by the Holy Spirit, have been praying for Saul specifically? So unexpected was the answer to this prayer, that when Saul was converted, most did not believe it.
Paul himself spoke of the burden he had for the Jews to come to Jesus: “Brothers, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved” (Romans 10:1). While it is not biblical to claim someone to be saved, it is very biblical to pray for that person to come to Christ.
The apostle Paul’s model for evangelistic prayer
“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1–4).
Paul makes some subtle differences in the words he uses for prayer in this model for evangelistic prayer. The word intercessions comes from a root word meaning “to fall in with someone.” It speaks of identifying with someone, sensing their need, and showing empathy and compassion. Why is this important? I am not going to share the gospel with someone—much less pray for them—if I do not care about their plight and situation.
“Winners of souls must first be weepers of souls.” —C.H. Spurgeon
“Give me souls or take away my soul!” —George Whitfield
This passage says that we are to pray “for all men, for kings and all who are in authority.” When Paul gave these words, Caesar Nero was on the throne. He was one of the worst persecutors of Christians in church history. From a purely human point of view, it would seem appropriate for Paul to have us praying for the removal of evil rulers from power. Yet, Paul tells Christians to pray for such people, and to pray for their salvation.
Likewise, we need to pray that our leaders would come to Christ, and that they would rule with wisdom. We should pray that God would raise up godly people to influence them. And if they are sinning against God, we should pray that they would be convicted by the Holy Spirit and repent. If the church really took this to heart, what a profound impact it could have on our nation!
- Is God’s name hallowed in your life today?
- Is He ruling over your family, your business, and your friendships?
- Is His kingdom securely established in your life?
- Are you praying for those who do not know the Lord?
Let us not just be hearers of the Word, but doers of the Word (see James 1:22).