Key to Answered Prayer
There are some precious secret words of inspiration to encourage us to stand firm and strong in the Lord Jesus Christ, which we want to share. (Mat 6:7-15). The few words of the Lord’s prayer span the spectrum of God’s purpose and concern for humanity. They sweep from the majesty of God in heaven to the earthly details of daily need. Upholding the highest ideals while recognizing the realistic obstacles of human temptation and failure, the Lord’s prayer searches us, inspires us and empowers us.
Jesus gave us the Lord’s prayer not only as a specific text to be recited, but as a model for our own prayers. God is not manipulated by rote exercises or mechanical prayers, and the Lord’s prayer gives us a basic pattern that will deepen and enrich all of our prayers.
“Our Father in heaven” (Mat 6:9). Prayer begins with our adoption and acceptance as God’s children. The Creator loves us and desires to answer the requests of His children.
“Hallowed be your Name” The third commandment speaks against misusing God’s Name (Exodus 20:7); it refers to more than just using His Name as an expletive. It includes associating God’s Name with anything that demeans, devalues or dishonours Him. We sometimes do this not only with our lips but with our lives.
“Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (verse 10). This is our highest goal, that for which we should pray and strive. God’s agenda must set our agenda.
“Give us our daily bread” (verse 11). Jesus assures us that if God’s Kingdom is our primary concern, He will provide for our needs from day to day: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Mat 6:33).
“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors (verse 12). The grace of God shown to us must show through us to others. If we hold grudges, our hands and hearts are not free to receive God’s mercy.
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (verse 13). God is the great guardian of our lives. He is more powerful than anything that can come against us. He will not allow us to experience anything beyond our ability to bear: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able: but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Cor 10:13). These few words of the Lord’s prayer provide us with a comprehensive pattern for prayer that can help us thoughtfully bring our requests before God.
“And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret, and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask him” (Mat 6:5-8).
Public prayer has been distorted and abused. Some individuals use majestic, religious jargon that often impresses people, but doesn’t impress God. Others think that the key to receiving an answer to prayer is repetition, using the same words and phrases over and over. Such an attitude reduces prayer to the level of a chant or mantra, which assumes that prayer has more to do with technique than with the heart. True heart to heart communication with God, whether private or public, is rewarded and will have a profound effect on our spiritual growth.
In Mat 6:9-13 Jesus gave his disciples a model prayer to follow. This prayer, however, is more than just a model for our lives. We must acknowledge and praise God’s supremacy and desire that His Kingdom enter our world. Looking to God for our daily provision, we must ask for forgiveness of our sins while forgiving those who have wronged us. God also wants us to ask for protection from the evil temptations that we face each day. Let us seek to serve God by both praying these things and living them out in our daily lives.
True forgiveness is an essential part of our obedience to God (Mat 6:12-14). We often experience difficulty in releasing our inward anger and bitterness toward those who have mistreated us. Yet asking God to forgive our shortcomings and sins is hypocritical unless we are willing to forgive others: “forbearing one another, if any man have a quarrel against any; even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye” (Col 3:13). We forfeit forgiveness from God by denying forgiveness to others. Such an attitude is selfish and self-destructive.
Jesus made it clear that living for personal gain only leads to great anxiety (Mat 6:19-34). Materialism and anxiety are two enemies to spiritual growth, working together to lead us away from a balanced life. We need to realize that the essence of life is not found in the possession of things, nor worrying about the future. We must trust God to take care of us. God promises to provide for our needs, for He loves us and gives His children good gifts (Luke 11:13). “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:13).
Putting it into practice What limits have you put on God that weaken your faith and hinder your prayer? How does your way of life honour God’s Name? What situations are currently dishonouring it? In what ways is God working through you now? Choose one activity that dominates your time and interest, and pray instead, for a period of time. Ask God to make your prayer a time of spiritual renewal. May good health and God’s blessing rest firmly upon us all as we wait patiently for the coming of our Lord and Master Jesus Christ. May we all be found in the Kingdom.
Bro Joseph Oppong (Shama, Ghana)