READ : Luke 11:2
And he said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. . . .”
Luke 11:2 RSV
Did you ever think of this: that every human being in the world has a great life-prayer? I don’t mean that every person is consciously religious. In fact, many would deny that they have ever called on God at all. But everyone has some life-prayer.
WHAT IT IS
By that I mean there is something for all of us that we want supremely. We’re a craving, desiring people, all of us, quivering bundles of need. We all have some scale of values, don’t we? Something stands at the top of our list to which we give priority.
Here’s a man who wants more than anything else in the world to be fabulously rich. He fantasizes about that, plans for it, works toward it. All his energies are poured into the pursuit of weath. He may deny that he is religious. He may laugh at the idea that he would ever pray. But what is his whole life but one fervent heart-cry for riches? That’s the silent appeal that goes up from the depths of his being all the time. That’s what he’s seeking for. That is the prayer of his heart.
For someone else, it may be power. He or she will kill to get it. The desire to dominate, to control others, to exert influence, is a passion for such persons. They scheme endlessly of how to topple rivals, how to gain an advantage, how to make it to the top. Are they religious? Certainly not in the ordinary sense of that word. But on the other hand, they have a supreme good to which they aspire wholeheartedly. A vast energy of desire emanates from them all the time. That’s what I mean by a life-prayer.
Maybe for you, it’s to get a certain job, to win the affections of a special someone, to be popular – or to get even with someone who has wronged you. One purpose, one desire, one yearning predominates above all others. That is our life-prayer, whatever it is. We’re praying with all the powers of our being to whatever deities we recognize and acknowledge: “Give me my heart’s desire! At any cost let me have this!”
What about you? What do you want in life more than anything else? When all the disguises and pretenses are laid aside, when no one’s looking and you’re free to pursue what means most to you, what are you after? That passion is your life-prayer. And the object of it, whatever name you may give it, is your god. In that sense, everyone has a religion. Everyone bows down at some shrine. Everyone, in the depths of life, prays.
HOW IT CHANGES
So when you become a Christian, if you do, you don’t suddenly get religious. You were a worshiping being all along. There was always something you loved most. When you began to pray as a Christian, that’s not the first time a great longing went up from your life. You’ve had cravings for as long as you can remember. No, what happened when you were converted was that your life-prayer began to change. You began to have new aims. You started worshiping the real God and He gave you a new life-prayer.
Remember when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray? We’ve been noticing that in Luke, chapter 11. The first thing He taught them, as we’ve seen, is to call God Father, “Abba,” because what we believe most deeply about God is the most important factor in how we pray. You can almost state it as a principle. You can write it down, as we say, “As we believe, so we pray.”
Then Jesus went on to what we are to pray about. The disciples had wanted to know how to pray as His followers. How should we pray as Christians, as those who through faith in Christ have become children of God? Listen to what Jesus taught them. We call it the Lord’s Prayer, but it’s really the prayer He gave to us. “Father, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread; and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.” That’s from Luke 11, verses 2 through 4. These are the things, according to Jesus, that Christians are to be asking God for. They’re to ask with perfect freedom for things as mundane as their daily bread. They’re to ask also, day by day, for what all of us need even more than bread, and that’s to be forgiven. And they’re to ask also for the strength to resist temptation, and for God to deliver them from every evil work. So for every need of body, mind and spirit, Jesus invites us, even commands us, to pray.
But those are not the petitions that come first. Those are not, important as they are, the highest priorities for our praying. Here are the primary ones: “Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come.” Now isn’t that remarkable? According to Jesus, the first things to be concerned about in life, the highest priority prayers, are to be for God’s name to be honored and for His kingdom to come. That is to be the Christian’s new life-prayer.
That’s the way Jesus Himself prayed, isn’t it? Listen to these words from the Gospel according to John, chapter 12: “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? `Father, save me from this hour’? No, for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify thy name” (v. 27). Jesus seems to be saying, “Whatever else happens, Father, let Your name be glorified.” Again, in His high priestly prayer in John, chapter 17, “When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven and said, `Father, the hour has come; glorify thy Son that the Son may glorify thee’” (v. 1). He told His disciples again and again that that was to be their chief concern as well. Listen to these words from the Sermon on the Mount, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). That makes sense, doesn’t it? Whenever we love someone, we are concerned that he or she be well thought of by others. We grieve at whatever would tend to give them a bad name. We rejoice when they are honored.
God’s faithful servants have always felt this way about Him. Remember Moses when God was about to bring judgment upon Israel because of their idolatry? He prayed, “O LORD, why does thy wrath burn hot against thy people, whom thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, `With evil intent did he bring them forth, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from thy fierce wrath” (Exod. 32:11-12). In other words, Moses is saying, “O God, don’t let Your great name be maligned in this world.” That was Joshua’s concern when the armies of Israel were about to be defeated in the promised land. He saw that prospect as a disaster for God’s cause, “for the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it and will surround us and cut off our name from the earth and what wilt thou do for thy great name?”
Have you noticed how God is concerned about His own name? Through His prophet Ezekiel He says to rebellious Israel, “I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them; and the nations will know that I am the LORD, says the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes” (Ezek. 36:23). What is this concern in God, this purpose to clear His name? It’s not, as it might seem on the surface, some colossal self-concern. God wants His name to be rightly known and fitly praised, for only so can He give Himself in His grace to us.
How will it be fulfilled in this world, this petition Jesus recommended, “Hallowed be thy name”? It will happen as His people praise and thank Him, as we do that day by day. We’re praying that all of us who name the name of Jesus may be a truly worshiping people. We’re praying also that His whole church in the world will be purified and revived so that the glory of the Lord will shine through. We’re asking for spiritual awakening, aren’t we? And more than that, we’re praying that God’s name will everywhere be known. How else will people praise Him? We’re asking that the gospel will be spread, that the good news of Christ crucified and risen for us will be proclaimed to every person on earth, that the knowledge of the Lord’s glory will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.
And, since prayers are really vows as well, we’re committing our lives to see that these things happen. No prayer has integrity without that. We can’t ask for anything in genuineness without making ourselves available to God to be in some way the answer to our own prayers.
How will God’s kingdom come? His kingdom means His active rule in this world. His kingdom will only come as people submit themselves to His rule. So when we pray, “Thy kingdom come,” we’re asking that people all over the world will repent, will believe the gospel of Jesus Christ and will submit themselves to His lordship. And we’re praying that all of us who believe will seek the Lord’s kingdom first, will make that our greatest goal in all of life. Did you realize that that’s what you are asking for every time you pray the Lord’s Prayer?
I’ve reflected many times on why it was that the Lord gave us this prayer. It was certainly to teach us the things we ought to pray for. It was surely to instruct us about what claims priority. It was to give us some structure and content for our praying. But I’m persuaded that He had much more than that in mind. He wanted us through praying this prayer day by day throughout our lives to become more and more God-centered people.
WHY THIS PRAYER?
Have you ever thought of this principle? Not only is it true that “as we believe, so we pray.” It’s also true that “as we pray, so we live.” We’ve been thinking today about how all of us have a life-prayer: what we most desire, long for, and seek. That is what chiefly shapes our plans and efforts, what inspires our joys and sacrifices. Because, you see, we all live out our lives in the light of what we want most. The more powerful the desire becomes, the more completely it takes over the life.
So what will happen when we begin to pray with full earnestness, “O God, let Your name be honored, may You be honored and glorified here on earth as You are in heaven”? Won’t we begin to think more and more about how that’s going to happen? Won’t we become more and more occupied with the things that promote God’s glory, that lift up His name? Of course we will. Because as we pray, so we live.
What if we pray every day with growing intensity that God’s kingdom will come, that people everywhere will submit themselves to His loving rule. Why, we will start by becoming more committed and obedient ourselves. We’ll try to be instrumental in leading others to serve the Lord. We’ll pour our lives and energies into seeing His kingdom purposes realized in history. We’ll seek to spread the gospel. We’ll labor for justice and for peace. Because, you see, as we pray, so we live.
That’s what the Lord wants. He’s out to transform us within, to make everything new, to conform us to the image of His Son. That’s what He had in mind when He gave us this marvelous prayer. He wanted us to throw ourselves into praying it so that we would more and more be drawn into living that way. He wanted it to become the passion of our hearts so that it could become also the purpose of our lives. It always happens that way. Whatever you pray for most ardently, you live for most actively. As we pray, so we live.
I’m inviting you today, friend, to be converted. If your life-prayer has been anything other than that of exalting God’s name and serving His kingdom, I invite you to change it today. Not because I say so, but because God so loved you that He gave His Son for you. He is inviting you through Christ to become one of His beloved children, to learn to call Him Father, “Abba,” and then for the rest of your life to honor His name and serve His kingdom. Will you do that today? Will you make that commitment to Jesus Christ? God bless you as you do!
Prayer: Lord, may everyone sharing this program be able to cry from the heart, “Lord, change my life-prayer. Let it be for Your name and Your kingdom as long as I live. In the name of Jesus. Amen.