The Heart of Prayer—Part 3

In two prior devotions, I have made the case that the heart of prayer is learning to pray as Jesus taught us to pray, through the words of what we call “the Lord’s prayer.”  As Hebrews 4:16 reminds us, we may “approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”  As newly adopted sons and daughters of God, through the Holy Spirit, we may call the One seated on the throne of grace “Our Father in heaven.”  

Following this address to God, Jesus invites us to pray six specific petitions.  These six requests manage to cover every single aspect of human life in a way that is designed to bring our lives into alignment with the will of our Father in heaven.  I think of these six petitions as a sort of a funnel, beginning broadly with concern for God’s reputation, and concluding at the spout-shaped end with a prayer for God to work in our innermost beings.  

During Lent, I encourage you to pray these petitions (in a slightly updated translation), pausing after each request to reflect on ways in which it touches your life.  

  1. The first layer, or the broad opening of the funnel is this petition: Our Father in heaven, may your holy name be honored.  The first prayer that we pray asks for God’s name and reputation to be held highly in all things.  This includes every aspect of our world and our personal lives.  I love this petition because it lifts our eyes first to God.  When we see God clearly and honor him fully, everything else tends to fall into place.
  2. The second petition: May your kingdom come.
  3. The third petition: May your will be done everywhere on earth (including in and through us) as it is in heaven.  Petitions 2 and 3 really go together.  They are prayers first that God’s rule and reign would happen in our world, that we would be citizens first of God’s kingdom, displaying God’s values and not the distorted ones of our native cultures and nations.  As Christians, we long for God’s will to be done everywhere in all things.  Most of us could stop praying after petitions 2 and 3 as we wrestle with whether or not we really want to give up control of things, as this prayer asks!  But the prayer funnel keeps closing in on us.
  4. The fourth petition narrows the focus to what is going on in my life, especially in my material concerns: Give us today the food (and other stuff) that we truly need.  Isn’t it encouraging to know that God cares about our many physical needs?
  5. The fifth petition bores down deeper into the quality of our relationships and asks us whether or not we are practicing the character of God in terms of forgiveness and love.  It also requests pardon for ongoing sins.  God is determined to get into our business: Forgive us the wrongs we have done toward you and others, as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us.  
  6. And finally, at the tip of the funnel, the sixth petition drives down into the core of our very soul, where we wrestle with thoughts, desires, fears, and attitudes, and where Satan is most likely to cause us to stray: Do not bring us to hard testing, but keep us safe from the Evil One.

By the time we are finished praying this prayer, we have been shaped by God’s agenda in every aspect of our being.  This is the heart of prayer—this prayer that has potential to transform us into the people God wants us, and created us, to be!  So let us pray!

Opening Prayer (slowly, pausing as you need along the way):

O Lord, let my soul rise up to meet you as the day rises to meet the sun.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever.  Amen. 
Come, let us bow down and bend the knee: let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.

Psalm and Gospel for the Day: (slowly read the Psalm, maybe 2 or 3 times, pausing if there is a word or phrase that stands out to you; then take that word or phrase and turn it into a prayer.  Then read the Gospel lesson.)

Mar. 19 | Psalm 118:1-9| John 9:1-12

Mar. 20 | Psalm 121:1-8 | John 9:13-34

Mar. 21 | Psalm 130:1-8 | John 9:35—10:6

Mar. 22 | Psalm 131:1-3 | John 10:7-21

Mar. 23 | Psalm 22:1-11 | John 10:22-42

Mar. 24 | Psalm 144:1-10 | John 11:1-16

Personal Prayers (If you have felt God speaking from his word, respond in prayer; ask him to work in your life in specific ways.)

This week I encourage you to spend some time with a journal, reflecting on the following questions: What things am I feeling angry about? What things am I feeling sad about?  What things am I feeling anxious about?  What things am I feeling glad about?  Then go through these lists and pray about the things that you have written.

Prayers for Others (especially pray for one person you would like to influence for Christ)

The Lord’s Prayer (pray it slowly and thoughtfully, thinking about ways each phrase may apply to your life today.)

Closing Prayer

Come, Holy Spirit.  We pray that your fruit would be in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Dear Jesus, help us to spread your fragrance everywhere we go.