Wednesday, March 08, 2006
More About How to Pray
We left off the model for prayer provided by Jesus Himself with "Our Father." You know what's next: "which art in heaven." This isn't to differentiate Him from any earthly Father or to detail His location. This implies His nature, power, height, and domain. He sees everything, can do anything, and knows all things. The words show respect to Him, not approaching Him flippantly. "Dear Heavenly Father" works the same as long as we aren't saying the words mindlessly.
Next: "Hallowed be thy name." Remember that we are asking God for things. Here was ask Him to be praised. We hallow His name by separating Him unto His most basic character. He is hallowed in contrast with profaned. Hallowing separates Him to His rightful place of majesty---sovereignty, power, honor, holiness, greatness, and more. His name associates with His nature or essential character. We praise God in His attributes, both transient and intransient. The transient are those which we can possess---love, mercy, longsuffering, gentleness, etc. The intransient do not transfer to men---omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, immutability, etc. Praise differs from thanks in that praise focuses on God's nature rather than things He has done for us. If you don't know what to say in praise to Him, then look at the psalms. They are full of great praise phrases to direct towards the Father in Heaven.
Nowhere in the model does it tell us to give thanks. This is the point in the prayer where I do that. I like to place it at the front, right after praise, mainly because of Psalm 100:4: "Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. " We thank Him by counting our blessings, naming them one by one. When you do that, it becomes difficult to see God as anything but a good God. I have long thought that the Lord does more things for us at any one time that we cannot keep up with thanks. That gives us plenty to thank Him for. I usually divide my thanks into two categories: spiritual and physical. Spiritual: Jesus' substitutionary death and sacrificially shed blood, the Holy Spirit, the Bible, the church, our own salvation, discernment, and more. Physical: air, food, water, our house, our family. Just visualize His creation and thank Him for the sun, heat, light, grass, oceans, rivers, and just keep on naming them. Again I ask, and it sounds something like this: "I ask that You would receive thanks for the great blessings You have provided, for....."
When we open the prayer with this praise and thanks, it gives us the right perspective for prayer, focusing on Him rather than what we want. We are more likely to pray in His will when we consider everything in the light of Who He is and what He has done for us. Our faith is also strengthened to believe in some answers by means of the concentration on how Great He really is.