Worship Through Prayer
The Lord’s PrayerOur Lord deemed it valuable to teach his followers how to pray. In Matthew 6 Jesus, in the midst of a larger discourse, instructed his disciples to restrain from praying like the hypocritical religious leaders or the unbelieving Gentiles. Immediately after telling them how not to pray he said to them:
“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. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
From this passage we gain a sense for what our Lord found to be most pressing or essential for the disciples to pray. He begins this model prayer seeking to draw the disciples upward, to behold the beauty and majesty of our God. This first petition is of utmost importance for it reaches to the depths of the desires of the disciples. What is it that you want more than anything? What are you supremely passionate about? What is it that you hunger and thirst to obtain? For the disciples of Christ Jesus, the answer if found in opening words of this prayer. We yearn for our heavenly Father to be hallowed.
Hallowed be your name Preeminent in the Christian’s heart and mind is that God’s name, his character and his nature, be hallowed. The disciple craves attention for God. His single passion is to see God revered as holy, esteemed above all people, treasured above all things, and the delight of the nations. This is only possible for those who have tasted and seen that the Lord is good, who have been adopted into God’s family, and who by the Spirit cry out to their Abba Father.
Prayer is Worship This first of six requests establishes prayer as an act of worship. Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines worship as “To adore; to pay divine honors to; to reverence with supreme respect and veneration.” This is precisely what is meant by our Lord when he says “hallowed by your name.” Disciples of Jesus find God to be adorable and their communication with him seeks to express this unending affection for him. Their love for God compels them to faith-fueled, frequent and fervent interaction with him. True disciples have believed and are believing God’s purposes and promises are for their good and God’s glory. Just like all lovers, disciples of Jesus, long to frequently spend time with the one they treasure. Their time together could be characterized as passionate and filled with praise.
Worship is the Foundation and Goal Jesus, having built the model prayer on the foundation of an insatiable desire for God to be hallowed, continues to construct everything that follows upon this first petition. The following five requests: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, give us daily bread, forgive us and lead us not into temptation all are built on the overarching desire for God’s name to be hallowed. Not only do they flow from this desire they find their purpose or fulfillment in God’s name being hallowed. Your kingdom come, so that you would rightly be honored as King of Kings, Lord of lords and God of gods. Your will be done here on earth as it is done in heaven, so that people will experience the fullness of joy and complete satisfaction which come from you alone. Give us this day our daily bread, so that we and others would know you are the Lord our Provider and as a good Father, you delight to give good gifts to your children. Forgive us as we forgive others, so that you would be known as the one true and living God who laid down life on the cross, for the debt of sinners and that all who would repent of sin and trust you, also can enjoy complete forgiveness from God. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, so that we would wholly trust you, our good Shepherd. You lead us and guide us, you protect us and defend us and as you do so, we praise you Emanuel for being with us and through your power delivering us.
Prayer the Means of Worship We can only approach God because of grace. We are weak, broken and sinful rebels, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus…” Through Christ we have access and are called to boldly approach his throne which is characterized by grace.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones said “Prayer is beyond any question the highest activity of the human soul. Man is at his greatest and highest when, upon his knees, he comes face to face with God” Prayer is our highest activity because prayer is the means of worship. We are at are greatest and highest in prayer, because this is when we rightly recognize and confess our lowliness and God’s exalted position. Oswald Chambers noted that “Worship and intercession must go together, the one is impossible without the other.” We agree with John the Baptist “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
Prayer the Barometer of the Soul How might we gage our relationship with God? Phil Newton rightly argued that "prayer provides more of a barometer of the soul than the most feverish activity. For in prayer we are encountering the living God, bearing our souls before Him, contemplating Him, and seeing Him alone as our Father and Lord."
Pastor, how are you doing? [quote]Pastor, how are you doing?[/quote] What is the subject of your prayers? What amount of time do you spend on your knees before God in prayer? Is prayer more of a dread than a delight? I don’t ask these questions to produce guilt, although I know this is true of me personally, what I desire, is for us to understand that a life lived when prayer is not central, falls short of the abundance that God died and rose to provide for us.
Reality Check Early in the ministry I would have never considered that prayerlessness could be a genuine struggle for a pastor. I would have never conceived of a time when a pastor didn’t want to pray. I would have laughed at the possibility of becoming someone who “faked it” while praying. Little did I know of the struggle against evil, both from within my own depraved heart as well as from the Devil and his armies. I know some probably have never struggled like this and may be in unbelief. I know others if they were honest they would break down in tears over this same struggle. The good news is our position before God is not based on our performance, but rather God’s provision through Christ Jesus. The good news is our heavenly Father is still calling for the weary and heavy-laden to find rest in Him. He yearns for his children to spend quality time with him. He wants to help you, yes even to pray. So go to him you child of God. Go to him you shepherd of God’s flock. Go to him you image-bearer. Go to him and be honest. Be honest about your struggle, be honest about sin, be honest about your weaknesses and be honest confessing his goodness, his faithfulness, his strength, his holiness, his love, his patience, his forgiveness, etc. Confess him as Lord, Savior, God, King, Father and Friend. Lose sight of yourself in the light of His glory and grace. Through prayer worship the one who is worthy of all honor and praise.
Power Through Prayer “Little prayer—little power, Much prayer—much power.” I’m not sure where I originally heard this, but I have found it to be true experientially. In Ephesians the Apostle Paul prayed asking the Father to grant the church to be strengthened with power, not to do great things, but rather to comprehend the depths of who God is and his love for them in order that they would be filled with all the fullness of God. Through prayer comes the strength to fully grasp the greatness of God. [quote]Through prayer comes the strength to fully grasp the greatness of God.[/quote] Through prayer we are conformed to the likeness of Christ. Through prayer God is hallowed in the church and in Christ throughout all generations. Paul is more concerned about the church being strengthened to know God as we are fully known than he is us being strengthened to do any task. His prayers focus more on our relationship with God than with our work for God. As we are empowered to know God more fully, be conformed into the image of his Son and be strengthened by his Spirit, his power will be evident in all we do. We will discover his glorious might at work in and through us and to the end that he would be hallowed in all the earth.
Path to Greater Praise The Scriptures provide us with knowledge of God. In them he has revealed himself to mankind and through the Spirit of God we can understand and turn that knowledge to praise. Recently I have benefited from the Psalms. Take a Psalm or any passage and approach it in light of the praiseworthiness of God. What in the passage could you celebrate? What attribute of God is highlighted? Make a list or underline them as you read and then pray these back to God. Spend time hallowing God for who he is, what he has done, he great and precious promises and for the privilege to express worship through prayer.