6.15.2014

jesus' prayer, pt. 1

I have been learning so much in the past months about prayer. During my last weeks in China this spring, I realized that though I fully acknowledged the importance of prayer, I had not committed myself to it. I realized that though I said I believed "the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective," I wasn't acting on that belief. I realized that the goal and ultimate desire of my heart was to know God, and a relationship is built through communication. Through more focus on prayer, more books about prayer, a day of training for prayer, many conversations about prayer, and through prayer itself, I've started growing. Here are just a few tidbits I've learned or reconsidered about prayer that have made a difference for me:

- The early Christians in the first century did not have a New Testament to read; their faith was hugely influenced and strengthened by the moment-by-moment prayer relationship with the Father and Son through the Spirit. 
- Prayer is not just me talking to God. It's a conversation. Meaning, my prayer in the morning can start out with a "Good morning, Father. How are You?" And then listen. 
- Prayer does not have to be as formulaic as culture and time has made it to be. We don't have to fold hands, close eyes, start with "Dear Lord," or end with "Amen."
- We must focus on prayer. Yes, we want to continue in prayer throughout everything we do all day, but my experience thus far has shown me that any true growth in our relationship with God comes through focused, devoted time with Him that sets the foundation for the events of our lives. So for me, that means... get up early. 
- It's okay to be silent and just listen in prayer, even perhaps more beneficial. The Holy Spirit is powerful and active, and I believe He is just waiting to do crazy things in us, waiting for us to open ourselves to Him. 

Naturally, the more I've begun to pray, the more I've looked for words to pray. Over and over again, I've come back to the Lord's prayer, one of the most well-known passages in the Bible, wherein Jesus' disciples ask Him how to pray, and He tells them. There is so much to learn from His prayer. I want to just look at the first two verses of it and share the things that have popped out at me in the past weeks as I've prayed this prayer so many times.

"Pray then like this:
'Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.'"

 Our Father. How appropriate that I write this on Father's Day. On this day every year, I intentionally remember what an incredible earthly father God has given me. I'm blessed to have a dad who helps me understand my Father in heaven even more. My dad is patient, kind, humble, gentle, truth-seeking, creative, just, and loving. And my heavenly Father is all those qualities to perfection. I know my dad loves me just because I am his daughter, not because of the things I do. I know I can please him with what I do, but his love for me is not based upon my actions, it's based upon my unchangeable identity as his daughter. All that is even more true with my Heavenly Father, who sought me out by His own will and adopted me. To come to Him in prayer and begin by calling Him "Father" is the greatest reminder of who I am to Him. In prayer, He sees me as His child who He loves.

Hallowed be Your Name. Hallowed is defined as "being regarded as holy or sacred" by dictionary.com. So Jesus is declaring that He wants God's name to be seen for what it is: absolutely and perfectly holy. His holiness encapsulates all of His other perfections; His omnipresence, omnipotence, immutability, and all the rest of those apologetics topics. Beginning our prayers with a declaration of God's holiness is the best way to put everything in perspective. I've learned that so much of our life is put in place what we simply maintain the correct perspective of who we are and who God is. He is Holy.

Your Kingdom Come, Your Will be Done on earth as it is in heaven. I used to see these two phrases as very separate - just two great desires. But lately, through various teachings on the Kingdom of God, I've realized that the two requests are one in the same: God's Kingdom is anywhere where His will is done. When Jesus came to earth, He came proclaiming that "the Kingdom of God is at hand!" We know the Kingdom of God has come in part as His will is done through Christ. But yet we pray for the Kingdom to come more and more - for His will to be done more and more - until the day when Christ returns as King. On that day, His will will be done everywhere. He will come restore the earth to the perfection He created it to be - He will bring the New heaven and New earth. And when His will is done on that earth in the same way as in heaven, that will be the answer to our prayers for His kingdom to come.

That's just the first half of Jesus' prayer, and it's only little thoughts from a finite and growing mind. Jesus is brilliant with His words, and I can't wait to spend the rest of my life seeing how every word He spoke is packed with meaning, symbolism, and love. I can't wait to spend the rest of my life getting to know the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit through prayer.

Let's renew our love for time spent with God. Let's pray.

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