The Disciples Prayer – Part 1
On a number of occasions the disciples observed Jesus in payer. What must have struck them was the manor in which Jesus prayed. It was not the typical religious observance, a formality conducted out of a sense of duty; it was an intimate conversation between a Father and Son. It was not an arduous labour but a delightful exchange; it was not merely His mouth that spoke but His heart.
Shortly after the 70 had returned from their mission (Luke 10:1-24), one of them had the courage to ask the Master what, no doubt, the others had been thinking: “How is it that You pray as You do? Can you please teach us?” The relationship that existed between Jesus and His Father was one of complete trust. It was evident to all who knew Jesus that the incredible peace that characterised His life was as a result of this unflinching devotional submission and obedience to His Father. The disciples craved this kind of relationship. We should crave this kind of relationship – and Jesus came to show us that we can have it!
When Jesus had been up in the Galilee He had given a similar teaching on prayer at the end of His ‘Sermon on the Mount’ (Matt 6:9-13); but many of the 70 may not have been with Him at that time. Now, as they were approaching Jerusalem for the final time the question is asked: “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples”.
The first thing to note is that those with an understanding of what prayer really is, also have a living relationship with the Holy Spirit. Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:1), John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:41-44), Elijah was filled with the Holy Spirit (2 Kings 2:9/James 5:17). As good as the multitude of books and teaching on prayer are, a relationship with the Holy Spirit is the only way to experience a real and meaningful prayer life.
The second thing to observe is that when Jesus went to pray, He resorted to a ‘certain place’ (Luke 11:1). It is good to find a place free from distractions. Jesus said: “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret” (Matt 6:6).
“And he said unto them, When ye pray, say”:
The Jews ‘understood’ prayer, but had never called God Father; Jesus always called God ‘Father’ – except on the cross when He cried out ‘My God, My God…’ (Matt 27:46). Jesus introduces us to this new relationship that we can have with God because of the atonement. By beginning prayer this way there is the acknowledgment that God is a good Father; everything He does is good, and that sets the tone of everything else we pray.
There is also the acknowledgment that we are part of a family (‘Our Father’). We are not alone, we are brothers and sisters united in Christ. We have been adopted into God’s family and are now His beloved children. “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father”. (Romans 8:15).
“But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons“. (Galatians 4:4-5)
“Having predestinated us unto the adoption of sons by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved”. (Ephesians 1:5-6)
[Note: As the NIV translates this verse, “He predestined us for adoption to sonship“, we have all (male or female) been given the position of the firstborn son, the one who had the right to inherit the double portion. We are all equal in Christ, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus”. (Galatians 3:28). “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God“ (1 John 3:1). Don’t be robbed by the ‘gender netural’ proponants that rob us of this great truth! You have not been made a ‘child of God’, but a ‘son of God’ – given the honour and blessing of the firstborn son, regardless of your gender!
With these opening two words we are brought face to face with the relationship that God wants to have with each one of us; not one of a master and slave, or of a king and their subject, but one of a loving, doting, besotted Father and a precious son! Yes, our Father is the Master of all and King of the universe, but we are to approach Him as ‘Daddy’!
Which are in Heaven
Why are we to remind ourselves, when we pray, that God is in Heaven? Because it takes our focus off time and this Earth and onto God who is outside of time. God sees the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:9-10) and we need to look at (and pray for things) from God’s vantage point, not ours. So many of our troubles evaporate when we understand that we will never think of something that God has forgotten!
To think of Heaven is to be reminded that this earth is temporary. In the words of C.S. Lewis, this is just a ‘shadow land’. Paul said: “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God”. (Romans 8:18-19)
It is also a reminder that our treasure is laid up in Heaven… awaiting us! (Matt 6:19-22) …not in the things of this world, which is passing. (1 John 2:15-17). We are no longer citizens of Earth, but Heaven (Philippians 3:20), so we should be setting our minds on the things above (Colossians 3:2).
If you went away on business, and stayed in a hotel that was in need of repair, you would not spend your time there trying to fix it up! You would focus on completing your assignment and look forward, even more, to returning home!
It’s funny how our perception changes when our perspective changes! “Unto thee lift I up mine eyes, O thou that dwellest in the heavens. Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God, until that he have mercy upon us.” (Psalm 123:1-2).
Hallowed be Thy Name
Is this a prayer that God’s name would be honoured and respected by the world around us? Unlikely!
It is a prayer that God’s great Name would be hallowed and honoured in our lives; it is a prayer of submission! It an acknowledgment that He is God, and we are not! –“We can only see a part of the picture He is painting!” – Steven Curtis Chapman
Psalm 119:55 states: “I have remembered thy name, O Lord, in the night, and have kept thy law”. To remember His name is to call to mind His reputation, to stop for a moment and think upon who He is and what He’s done. To be reminded that He is the God of Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Samuel, David, Jeremiah, Daniel, Nehemiah, Paul, Peter, John…
He is also the God of Whitfield, Wesley, Spurgeon, Tozer, Husdon Taylor, Finney, Oswald Chambers, Billy Graham, Chuck Smith… He never changes.
He’s dependable, faithful, loving, the “I AM that I AM”, The voice of the burning bush, He is enduringly strong, He is entirely sincere, He is eternally steadfast, He is immortally graceful, He is imperially powerful, He is impartially merciful.
The Heavens declare His glory and the firmament shows His handiwork, He who is, who was and who will always be. He is available to the tempted and the tried; He blesses the young; He cleanses the lepers; He defends the feeble; He delivers the captives; He discharges the debtors; He forgives the sinners; He franchises the meek; He guards the besieged; He heals the sick; He provides strength to the weak; He regards the aged; He rewards the diligent; He serves the unfortunate; He sympathises and He saves!
His offices are manifold; His reign is righteous; His promises are sure; His goodness is limitless; His light is matchless; His grace is sufficient; His love never changes; His mercy is everlasting; His Word is enough; He’s indescribable; He’s incomprehensible; He’s irresistible; He’s invincible!
The Heaven of Heavens cannot contain Him; man cannot explain Him; He has always been and always will be; He had no predecessor and will have no successor; You can’t vote Him out and He isn’t going to resign! His is the Kingdom, the power and the glory… Hallowed be His Name!
There are seven names of God revealed in scripture, each tell us of His character and nature:
- JEHOVAH-JIREH –”The Lord our Provider” (Genesis 22:14).
- JEHOVAH-NISSI –”The Lord our Banner” (Exodus 17:15).
- JEHOVAH-RAPHA –”The Lord our Healer” (Exodus 15:26)
- JEHOVAH-SHALOM – The Lord our Peace (Judges 6:24)
- JEHOVAH-RAAH –“The Lord our Shepherd” (Psalm 23 )
- JEHOVAH-TSID-KENU –”The Lord is our Righteousness” (Jeremiah 33:16).
- JEHOVAH-SHAMMAH –“The Lord is Ever-present” (Isaiah 60:19)
- JEHOVAH-SHUA (JESHUA) –“The Lord is our Salvation” (Luke 1:31)
How can we ever doubt or fail to trust such a wonderful God, who demonstrated His enduring love for us in that, while we were yet sinners, He sent His Son to die for us. (Romans 5:8)
Now, think about your current problem, crisis or niggling doubt, and ask yourself, is there anything bigger than our God? Is there anything He cannot do? “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear” (Isaiah 59:1).
This is the God who states His reputation – His name – on His promises: “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God” (Isaiah 43:2-3).
Our prayer so far…
We have been reminded as we pray, of:
- Our relationship with our loving Father
- Our real home and place of comfort, not this temporary dilapidated accommodation
- How great our God really is by thinking about His faithfulness and reputation – that He never changes!
Most of what we intended to bring before Him has by now evaporated!
But before we get onto our requests / needs, God would have us reminded of something of immense importance… J U S T I C E !
We have all at times been unjustly treated, especially by this sin-sick world. That is why we are to pray:
Thy Kingdom come
In Psalm 119 the psalmist cries out to God, pleading that God will right the wrongs:
“How many are the days of thy servant? when wilt thou execute judgment on them that persecute me? The proud have digged pits for me, which are not after thy law. All thy commandments are faithful: they persecute me wrongfully; help thou me. They had almost consumed me upon earth; but I forsook not thy precepts” (Psalm 119:84-87).
…and in Psalm 73, we see the impassioned prayer of a heart at breaking point as he looks at all the injustice around him: “Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches. Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency. For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning. If I say, I will speak thus; behold, I should offend against the generation of thy children. When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me; Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end. Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction. How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors. As a dream when one awaketh; so, O Lord, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image.” (Psalm 73:12-20)
When we pray ‘Thy Kingdom come’ we are praying in confidence and hope that:
- God is going to right every wrong! (Ps 119:137)
- Every injustice will be brought to light and exposed (1 Cor 4:5)
- God’s wrath will fall on the ‘workers of iniquity’
- The wicked who have laid snares (Ps 119:110)
- dug pits to trip us up (Ps 119:85)
- and waited for us to destroy us (Ps 199:95)
- will themselves be cast down (Ps 119:119).
- Those who have been overlooked by man will be exalted by God (Luke 16)
- We will then know and understand (1 Cor 13:12)
The ‘kingdom’ we are to ‘hasten’ (2 Peter 3:12) by our payers is the Millennial kingdom of Jesus Christ upon this Earth (Rev 20:1-6). Jesus will sit on the Throne of David (Luke 1:32) and rule the whole world from Jerusalem. Our prayer is literally: “to put an end to the works of the Devil that oppress and destroy so many lives here and now!”
Our prayer is for all of the pain and suffering to be over! It is such and intense prayer that we are joined in it by the Holy Spirit: “The Spirit and the Bride say come!” (Rev 22:17)
But until that time, until the kingdom comes, we are to wait… “I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord”. (Psalm 27:13-14).
…and during this season of waiting, we are to pray…
Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.
In a word (actually two words!) this is about Submission and Sanctification!
In this waiting time (before the kingom comes) we are to lay down the right to our own lives and seek for God’s will to be done on Earth – in our lives here and now – just as it is in Heaven by the myriad of angelic beings around the throne. Praying for God’s will to be done on Earth is praying that we will submit to His rulership in our lives and circumstances. Though we may not understand ‘the mind of the Lord’ we are to ‘walk by faith, not by sight’ (2 Cor 5:7). We have to humbly acknowledge that “as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are [God’s] ways higher than [our] ways,and [God’s] thoughts than [our] thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). We are to ‘trust in the Lord and lean not on our own understanding’ (Proverbs 3:5-6).
It is in this present age the Church is being trained for eternity; the events of our lives are not random or haphazard, they are ordained of God. He leads us by still waters, and through the valley of the shadow of death… But either way we are being taught to ‘fear no evil’. “Thy will be done” is our submission to His work in us.
What is God’s will? It is a question that we may often ask in any given situation or circumstance. It may come as a surprise that the Bible actually gives us the answer, for every situation, trial, problem, disappointment, injustice, hurt… for absolutely everything we have faced, are currently facing, and will face unto the day of His return. The answer is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:3:
“For this is the will of God, even your sanctification”.
That is it! It’s as simple as that! God allows all that happens in your life for one purpose; that you might be sanctified, set apart for Him. Separated from the things of this world (the weak and begerly elements of this world) and be embraced by the heart of a Father who loves you and wants to bless you with His presence, power and purpose.
Oswald Chambers comments: “It is arduous work to keep the master ambition in front. It means holding one’s self to the high ideal year in and year out, not being ambitious to win souls or to establish churches or to have revivals, but being ambitious only to be “accepted of Him.” It is not lack of spiritual experience that leads to failure, but lack of labouring to keep the ideal right. Once a week at least take stock before God, and see whether you are keeping your life up to the standard He wishes. Paul is like a musician who does not heed the approval of the audience if he can catch the look of approval from his Master. Any ambition which is in the tiniest degree away from this central one of being “approved unto God” may end in our being castaways. Learn to discern where the ambition leads, and you will see why it is so necessary to live facing the Lord Jesus Christ. I have to learn to relate everything to the master ambition, and to maintain it without any cessation. My worth to God in public is what I am in private. Is my master ambition to please Him and be acceptable to Him, or is it something less, no matter how noble?”
We are now half-way through this model prayer that Jesus gave us, and we have not yet prayed one word in regard to our own needs, our present problems and difficulties and that which consumes so much of our time and attention! But having spent even just a small amount of time considering 1) our Father, 2) our home and future in Heaven, 3) God’s reputation and faithfulness, 4) the fact that He has promised to right every wrong and judge all injustice when His kingdom comes upon this Earth, 5) that while we are awaiting that, everything He allows in our lives is for the purpose of setting us apart for Himself, that He might truely be our God and we as His adopted and much loved sons… once we consider that, so much of what we were going to prayer about now evaporates! As Oswald Chambers once said: “Suppose God is the God you know Him to be when you are nearest to Him — what an impertinence worry is!”
God already knows the things we have need of before we even ask Him, and He can do exceedingly abundantly above all we ask or think!
If we spend more time focussing upon Him, we’ll have far less concern about ourselves!
To be continued…