by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.
The Lord’s Prayer opens with this concept of reverence: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name” (Matthew 6:9). Addressing God as our Father identifies us as His children. How do we become one of His children?
But as many as received Him [Jesus], to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name (John 1:12).
Besides having the privilege to address God as our Father, we are to hallow God’s name when we pray. This means we should approach God with reverence and respect. In ancient times a name expressed the individual’s essential being. Thus, by approaching God with reverence for His name, we are in reality expressing a respect for His very being. As David proclaims, “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8:9).
Seeking His Will
The essence of Jesus’ life reflects His willingness to humble Himself and submit to the will of His Father (see Philippians 2:5-11). Jesus taught this in the Lord’s Prayer, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). The apostle John reiterates that we should pray according to God’s will.
This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us (1 John 5:14).
He could not have stated it more clearly, if we want God to hear our prayers, then we must seek God’s will and not our own.
In my youth, I wanted to be a professional soccer player. Certainly, there was nothing wrong in aspiring to such a lofty goal. The problem was, I allowed my desire to play soccer to be more important than my desire to serve and honor God. Soccer had become my identity and I based my self-value upon it. Essentially, I was living a self-centered life, rather than a Christ-centered life and my prayers reflected it. The pursuit of my own dreams nearly destroyed me; it took three injuries, which required surgery on my left ankle and both knees, to bring me to the point in my life where I began to seek God’s will and not my own. After my third operation, I wrote the following in my prayer journal,
“God, I give my life and desires to you. Take this and build within me a desire to serve You; stronger than my desire to play soccer.”
As it says in Proverbs, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (19:21).
Our prayer lives will be ineffective if we approach God on our own terms and in accordance to our own will. It will not be until we are willing to humble ourselves, and submit to His will for our lives, that we will see our prayer lives becoming powerful and effective.
Jesus Is Our Example
Jesus’ life was defined by prayer. At the start of His ministry, as He was baptized, He prayed (Luke 3:21). Before He chose His disciples He spent time in prayer (Luke 6:12-16). Before He was betrayed, arrested, and condemned to death, He was on His knees in prayer (Matthew 26:36; Mark 14:32; Luke 22:41; John 17). This consistent pattern of prayer obviously left an impression on Jesus’ disciples. As one of my former students, Mike J. Sarkissian, asserts in his excellent book: Before God: The Biblical Doctrine of Prayer:
The disciples had been used to going to the synagogues and the temple and hearing the cold, impersonal, repetitious prayers of the Pharisees. But once they began following Jesus, they must have immediately noticed that His prayer life was different. It was passionate and powerful. It was much different than what they were used to. When Jesus prayed things happened. Jesus’ prayer life commanded the disciples’ attention enough for them to ask Him for instruction on how to pray.
Spending Time in Prayer
Jesus separated Himself from others to spend time in prayer with His Father (Matthew 14:23; Mark 1:35; Luke 5:16). Challenges we all face include distractions and busy schedules. I understand this! I have six children, work full time in the ministry, travel for speaking engagements, author books, coach high school soccer, and teach as part-time professor at an area university.
None of us is busier than Jesus was, and if He could make time to separate Himself to pray, we can do the same. While we may not have a mountain or wilderness available for solitude, we can still find places and make ways to spend time alone with God.