Greetings to you in the name of Christ Jesus our Lord who gave Himself for our sins that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father, to whom be glory forever and ever!
If you are like me at all, you have considered this month how it is that we already wrapped up the first 12th of the New Year and are nearing the end of the first 6th. It seems only yesterday we were celebrating Christmas and New Years with our family and friends. If you grew up south of Atlanta, you may have wondered at Christmas if winter would ever end; if you grew up north of Atlanta, you may have wondered if winter would ever begin. Now, spring is next month and weed killer soon needs to be applied.
So many constant changes in the life of a Christian, it is often difficult for us to focus on our spiritual needs and, primarily, communion with the Triune God. The disciples were very concerned with their fellowship with God, specifically their communication with Him in prayer, so they asked Jesus Christ to teach them how to pray. And Jesus, of course, answers them by giving what we commonly call today the Lord’s Prayer.
From personal experience, it can be very easy to neglect the means of grace and communion with God we have been given in prayer. As we go through the months of this year, the focus of these pastoral letters will revolve around prayer; how to pray; how not to pray; how to apply the Lord’s Prayer in our daily prayer life. The goal is that we would grow in our knowledge, love, devotion, and fellowship with our Savior Jesus Christ who tells us in Colossians 4:2, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful,” and in I Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing.”
Sometimes Christians do not feel like praying. Sometimes Christians do not know what to pray or how to pray. Sometimes Christians are afraid their prayers will not be good enough. Sometimes Christians just don’t know what the purpose of prayer is and have heard all manner of poor explanations for prayer.
Just the other day on the radio, a minister from a church in California was telling a large church that the way we know that God is true is when He does miraculous things after we pray. This man gave the example of a minister who as a young boy asked the Lord to show His power to him and went over to his little sister with a broken arm, touched her, and his little sister’s arm was healed. This is how God works through prayer, the preacher explained, and this is how you know that God is who He says He is. In the charismatic movement around the world, this is common teaching on prayer.
But in the Word of God, the only infallible rule for faith and life, we find God teaching us something different about prayer. We find that prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God (Phil 4:6) for things agreeable to His revealed will (I John 5:14) in the name of Jesus Christ (John 14:13) with confession of our sins (Psalm 51) and thankful acknowledgment of God’s mercies (Hebrews 4:16, Psalm 136).
This description of prayer, taken from our shorter catechism, describes the primary components of a Christian’s prayer. Christians are to praise God in our prayers; repent to God; adore God; and
yearn for things agreeable to God’s will. My father always taught me the acronym PRAY as a young child: Praise, Repent, Adore, and Yearn.
Sometimes, as we pray privately during our time of personal devotion, we are able to cover all of these areas of prayer. Perhaps we are able to do so also during our times of family worship as we make a concerted effort to praise and adore God, repent of our sins, and make petitions, requests, and supplications of Him. In I Kings 8:22-‐61 Solomon offers such a prayer.He praises the name of the Lord, “There is no God like thee…(vs. 23)”; he proclaims and adores the power of the Lord, “thou spakest also with thy mouth, and hast fulfilled it with thine hand…”(vs. 24). He confesses sins of the present and of the future in verses 28, 30, 34, 36, 39, 50. He makes supplication throughout the prayer. Much of his supplication is for safety and Solomon yearns for the Lord to hear the cry and repentance of the people.
Sometimes as we pray, we do not have this full structure before us. The prayer is less planned and thought through, but we have a need and bring it before the Lord. Such was the case in Hezekiah’s day as the Assyrians threatened the destruction of Jerusalem in 2 Kings 19:15-‐19. Yet, in this desperation, Hezekiah calls out to the Lord God of Israel and praises His holy name, “You are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth” (vs. 15). Hezekiah makes supplication, he yearns for the Lord’s deliverance of Israel from the hands of the Assyrians and he does so for the cause that God alone may be glorified. “Save us…that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O LORD, are God alone” (vs. 19).
Sometimes, we cry out to the Lord in faith for deliverance in a moment of trial. Peter did so as he began to sink while walking on the water in Mark 14:30: “Lord, save me!” Sometimes we focus on the praise of God, such as in the invocation of the worship service. Sometimes we focus on the requests, the supplications. Other times we adore and give thanks to God for who He is and what He has done. And yet other times, we focus on repentance, even as we prepare for the Lord’s Supper.
God has told us much about prayer in His Word, He has ordained much for us to pray, He has taught us how to pray, and He prays and intercedes for us. With these broad categories in mind, in the months ahead, if God is willing, we shall examine how God teaches us to praise His name, repent, adore Him, and make supplication even in the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer which cover in some manner the whole of our prayer lives.
May God see fit to strengthen and encourage us in prayer, to increase our faith in Him, to build us up in love for Him and His church, to take encouragement in prayer from God only, to ascribe all kingdom, power, and glory to Him, and in testimony of our desire and assurance to be heard, to heartily confess, Amen!
Ben Stahl, Elder