By Carole J. Keller
“Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.” (Matthew 6:9-13).
God responds to heartfelt and honest communication. Though He knows the proud far off, He actually “respects” the lowly (Psalm 138:6) and is near to the humble and contrite heart (Isaiah 57:15). These principles and disciplines of prayer, incorporating the Lord’s Prayer taught by Jesus (Matthew 6:9-13), methods of spiritual warfare taught by scripture, and other forms of prayer disciplines will change your life. God wants to reveal Himself, but wants us to see and feel after Him so we will find Him “though he be not far from every one of us: for in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:27-28).
1. Hallowed be Thy Name
Jesus taught His followers how to pray by giving them what we all know as the “Lord’s Prayer.” Praise appears both in the introduction and conclusion to the Lord’s Prayer. So we begin by exalting God, acknowledging who He is, praising Him for His acts of power, for His surpassing greatness (Psalm 150:2), and for His faithfulness.
Worship should always precede our requests because God requires an offering. Tucked inside an unrelated thought, God reveals something of Himself “No one may appear before me without an offering” (Exodus 34:20, NLT). In worship, we offer ourselves; it is an act of surrender and love. In worship, God teaches us how to love. To love someone deeply, we surrender our self to him or her out of trust, and we learn that God can be trusted as we remain true to His covenant with us. When we really love someone, we are not afraid to give, not only of ourselves but also of our time and possessions. Thus, in worship, we learn the first step of loving God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength.
When King Hezekiah was being threatened and intimidated by King Sennacherib of Assyria, he went to God in prayer. Before he presented his petition, he acknowledged the power of God over the Assyrian gods of wood and stone, by praying “O Lord God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Give ear, O Lord, and hear; open your eyes, O Lord, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to insult the living God…” (2 Kings 19:15-16 N1V). Remember, those who come to God must believe that He exists and is able to perform that which we commit unto Him. King Hezekiah did.
2. Thy Kingdom Come
The word “kingdom” means dominion, rule, authority, exercise of power. Jesus told the Pharisees that the kingdom of God was in the midst of them (Luke 17:21); the kingdom of God exists wherever people acknowledge God’s rule and submit to His authority. This is the desire of the King and perhaps what Jesus meant when He said the Father seeks those who worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:23). An example of this is found in Acts 4:19-20: “But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” The Apostle Peter submitted to the moral authority of Jesus Christ above the kingdoms of the world.
We do not have to see the heavens open up before we see the kingdom of God at work here. The Kingdom exists where His rule is acknowledged: in us and in the Church. Jesus said we are the salt and light of the world; for this reason, we must not hide our light.
The Bible states the LORD God IS the kingdom. Everything that is in the heaven and earth belong to Him. He is the head over all. Jesus said He has all power in heaven and earth. Therefore, He is that LORD. In His hands is power and might. The hand signifies strength, so the hand of God speaks of His operation and ability. Since He has this indisputable claim to power in heaven and earth, nothing passes by without His consent. Therefore, it is advantageous for us to acknowledge it and appropriate it in everything that affects our lives, in the Name of the Lord.
As we freely submit to the rule of God, we bring His kingdom to earth. So when we pray “thy kingdom come,” we must be willing to surrender our will, passion, desires, and we will see God’s power released in us.
The Founding Fathers of America wisely realized this and structured a separation of powers based on a Bible verse: the Lord is King (executive branch), the Lord is Judge (judiciary branch), and the Lord is the Lawgiver (legislative branch) (Isaiah 33:22). They believed that God is the Creator, and the rights of all men as dependent beings are derived from God. Because of their wisdom and respect for the sovereignty of God, we have been granted inalienable rights not from the government, but from God. These rights have become the bulwark of our system of justice, which has given us many freedoms.
We pray for government leaders because as God’s ministers, they will do what God wants: “…be afraid for he beareth not the sword in vain; for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil” (Romans 1:4). Even when the leaders are not godly, if the people pray and follow God’s moral principles in their lives, God will bless the people and turn the heart of the leader. God executes righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed (Psalm 103:6). This is why we pray for leaders. We pray that God will direct government officials to carry out His will in the earth. Righteousness and judgment are the habitation of His throne (Psalm 97:2). What should be our prayer?
– That God’s laws are preserved, the rights of the people are protected, and that leaders make wise decisions.
– That the wisdom of God be upon our leaders in discernment, intellect, insight.
– We pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory may give unto our leaders the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him and that their eyes of understanding might be enlightened (Ephesians 1:17-18).
– That our leaders will shun devilish wisdom (James 3:15) and have a heart for God’s wisdom to guide and lead them over the affairs of the people; that they would not fall for foolish counsel.
– That God will rule in the midst of our enemies: “The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of our enemies” (Psalm 110:2).
– We pray that all judgment would turn to righteousness and that all the upright in heart will follow it (Psalm 94:15). This is to preserve our foundation, because when the foundations are destroyed, what will the righteous do (Psalm 11:3)?
God wants us to be moved by the injustice around us, and to pray that God’s will be done to relieve that injustice. Speaking through the prophet Jeremiah, God said of the man who seeks his own glory: “I will build me a wide house and large chambers, and cutteth him out windows; and it is celled with cedar, and painted with vermilion. Shalt thou reign, because thou closest thyself in cedar? did not thy father eat and drink, and do judgment and justice, and then it was well with him? He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well with him: was not this to know me?” (Jeremiah 22:14-16).
So while God desires us to prosper, He is teaching us to consider when we pray that, His will for others, our nation, and our community, should also be fulfilled. He is teaching us to have regard for others, to seek justice, and not to build our own kingdoms while excluding others around us who are suffering. It is right to build houses, buy food and clothing for our families, but equally important is our responsibility to defend and provide for the poor and needy who may not have a family or financial resources to help them. (See Jeremiah 22:14-16.)
We should fight for our brothers and sisters in distress. When Peter was imprisoned, the church prayed without ceasing for him. While praying for their brother, God heard their plea and sent an angel to deliver Peter from prison (Acts 12:5-18).
Moreover, from the Apostle Paul’s writings, we can perceive a deep affection in his heart for the brethren. Paul expresses his love for Timothy and commitment to pray on his behalf. In his second letter to Timothy, he writes, “…without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day; Greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears, that I may be filled with joy; When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother, Eunice…” (2 Timothy 1:3-5). Paul was saying that he cared even for Timothy’s tears.
Likewise, Paul expresses his love and appreciation to Philemon for his faith in Jesus and kindness toward all the saints. In his private letters to Philemon during his first imprisonment, Paul writes, “I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers. Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints; That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. For we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother” (Philemon 1:4-7). He took the time to communicate his love for his brother and to encourage him, and he did this while he was in prison. (See also 1 Thessalonians 1-2-3.)
3. Thy Will be Done – Prayer of Surrender to God’s Sovereignty
This principle is a prayer of surrender both from the standpoint of not always knowing what God’s will is and knowing what it is but lacking the strength to do it. When we pray for God’s perfect will, we willingly surrender the outcome to Him; and although His will often takes us down long, unforeseen roads, we trust that He will do what is best for us, in keeping with His covenantal promises. “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).)
Sometimes we know what to ask, but realize that the answer is out of our hands; for example, bringing restoration to bruised and battered family members, or reviving the old paths that we as a nation can walk in. Therefore, we have confidence in the mercy and love of God because we know our asking totally conforms to His perfect will. We are relying upon the truthfulness of His own testimony: “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him” (1 John 5:14-15). So respect for the covenant (His Word) is the basis for answered prayer, and God’s will is that we obey Him.
Then there are times we do know what God’s will is, but are hesitant to perform it. So we ask for grace. Many of our needs are contingent upon our responses to God’s Word. Take healing as an example. Oftentimes healing can be related to the willingness to confess sin (James 5:16). God cannot answer our prayer requests if we are holding grudges, deliberately disobeying Him, or refusing to forgive others so peace can be restored. This is so because the granting of our prayer requests may not be in harmony with God’s will in the first place and, in the second place, it would neglect the greater purpose: that of forming His character in us.
Therefore, this principle of praying that God’s will be done speaks to our obedience and doing the things we know are in line with His perfect will. “And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight” (1 John 3:22). What are some of the things we can do to be in right standing with God?
– Acknowledge wrong attitudes toward others or the manner and spirit in which we carry out our obligations, as well as evil thoughts and negative words we have spoken in His ears. In Jeremiah, God states, “Only acknowledge thy iniquity…” (Jeremiah 3:13), because God’s hands are tied when we do not want to change. The sin against God is unabated.
– Confess known sin in our lives and ask for God’s forgiveness (1 John 1:9).
– Confess faults to those we have offended or sinned against. This is the area in which most people fail because they are confronted by their own fear of exposure; exposure makes us accountable to change. “For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God” (John 3:20-21). As a result, people suffer oppression, turmoil, and division in families
– Perform works of repentance. Restoration is an important principle of prayer that is overlooked. Sometimes, we just confess something, but do not make amends, rectify a wrong done, or take steps to restore someone who is suffering for having sinned against us. “Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:7).
In Leviticus 6:2-5, we learn the importance of the principle of restoration: when someone lied to his neighbor or stole from him, the trespasser was required to restore what he took away. Similarly, Zacchaeus, in seeking to justify his sincere desire to turn around, offered to restore even more than the law required. This is turning around. There must be works associated with our repentance. “And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not” (Jonah 3:10). Still another work of repentance is taking steps after reconciling to change offensive or abusive behaviors.
4. Give us this Day our Daily Bread,
Here we entreat the Lord to grant our prayer requests for ourselves and families. One thing that often stymies the peace that can be ours is to hold on to our fears and anxieties. We are commanded to let them go: “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6). Think on these things; the Lord shall provide whatever we need according to His riches in glory, from a miracle of healing to the perfect job that will develop our potential, sustain us, and keep us dependent upon His resources and grace. “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
The “bread” represents the Word. We live by every word which proceeds from the mouth of God (Deuteronomy 8:3). God wants to supply our needs and wants us to come to Him first. We need food to nourish our bodies and we need daily ingestion of the Word of God to feed our spirits and souls. Job said, “I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food!” (Job 23:12). In this principle, we pray for our daily needs, such as:
– Success in school and job for ourselves, family and friends
– Good doctor report and healing
– Good health
– Adequate finances to support ourselves and family and contribute to the financial needs of others
– Good friends and Godly influences
– Courage to walk the narrow road and not be deterred by the broad path
– Direction and goal setting to reach potential
– Guidance and wisdom in decision-making (James 1:5-6)
These are the blessings that come upon people who are faithful to their covenant with God, as it is written, “For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee” (Psalm 84:11-12).
5. Forgive us our Trespasses as we Forgive
The most vital principle for answered prayer is to forgive those who are indebted to us through offenses. “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses” (Mark 11:26). Unforgiveness is the greatest impediment in the spiritual life and the reason why many are oppressed by the devil. But when we forgive and start to reform, God can bless our lives: “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered” (Psalm 32:1).
It is in this very difficult realm of forgiveness that our relationship with God is made or broken because it was for this very reason that God sent His Son: to forgive sins and make atonement for them. It also is in this realm of forgiving our enemies that we receive the greatest amount of grace and compassion. “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God, lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled” (Hebrews 12:15).
God knows the opposition we will face when we extend the Divine favor of forgiveness to those who hate us. However, when we do not forgive, we give dominion back to the devil. Thus the hatred never stops and is passed on to others. Somewhere we must give up our demand for payment of the debt owed to us by some great wrong and start to love those who despise and persecute us by good deeds, kind words, and prayerful intercession.
If you are the offender, know this: If you come to God only to relieve your conscience and remain at odds with your victim, failing to reconcile, God is not obligated to heal or forgive you, even if forgiven by the victim. While it is true the victim must forgive to be in right standing with God (Mark 11:25), the victim’s forgiveness does not automatically release the offender until he acknowledges the debt: “Take heed to yourselves: if thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him” (Luke 17:3).
This is very important. Even though an offender may see his offense, if he does not acknowledge it and seek forgiveness from the victim, he will suffer from the consequences of his behavior. The offender’s sufferings come about through condemnation and guilt associated with unresolved offenses. Though the victim may seek to re-establish ties and reach out to love, the good will is not reciprocated and often rejected. Jacob and Esau never really reconciled either, though Jacob tried to win his brother’s heart with gifts. Esau and Jacob never acknowledged their iniquities against each other, and Esau continued to hate his brother. (See Obadiah 1:10-12.)
Moreover, without acknowledgment of the offense, the person is likely to continue in offensive behaviors, heaping more condemnation upon himself, and separating himself further from God because his transgressions are not forgiven. And God cannot bless the work of his hands until he has begun to repair the relationship.
6. And Lead us not Into Temptation
Now we entreat God to impart His wisdom so that we can overcome sinful habits. The power to overcome is obtained through the Holy Spirit, as it is written, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord” (Zechariah 4:6). No matter how hard we try through good works, we need God’s Spirit to overcome our fleshly, carnal nature. That is why it is imperative that we pray in the Spirit every day. If we live according to the flesh, we shall die; but if we, through the Spirit of God interceding in us, do mortify our fleshly appetites, we will live (Romans 8:13). We do not know how or when this transpires in our lives, but God’s Spirit makes intercession for our infirmities since we do not know what or how we should pray.
There is always a struggle between our flesh and the Spirit, as they are contrary to one another. “But if you bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another for the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other; so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (Galatians 5:15, 17).
The hope is that the fruit of self-control imparted through the Holy Ghost will in time restrain the impulses of the flesh. The scriptures state that, if we “walk in the Spirit,” we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh (Galatians 5:16). What does it mean to “walk” in the Spirit? Walking, in this verse, refers to the standard according to which one governs his life. With God in control and interceding for us, the fruit of His Spirit is reproduced in us: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. But this requires us to surrender our will. When the fleshly nature is in control, hatred, envying, wrath, and strife erupt whenever the right buttons are pushed.
There is no other way to overcome hatred and temptations of our carnal nature but through the intervention of the Holy Spirit. Jesus recognized the weakness of the flesh, and for this reason, He urged the apostles to pray for one hour with Him so they would not fall in the hour of temptation. He said the spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak (Matthew 26:41). Peter demonstrated humanity’s weakness in the absence of prayer. He could not pray and later he succumbed to the temptation of denying Jesus. But when we pray in the Holy Ghost, God will strengthen us with power in the inner man (Ephesians 3:16).
If we develop a consistency in praying in the Spirit, along with applying the scriptures, we will have the power to overcome our weaknesses through faith (1 John 5:4, Ephesians 6:13). Our faith comes from the Word of God (Romans 10:17), and we build up our faith by praying in the Holy Ghost (Jude 20). “Hold fast the form of SOUND WORDS which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed unto thee KEEP BY THE HOLY GHOST which dwells in us” (2 Timothy 1:13-14).
If we neglect our prayer life, the devil can influence our thought life. As we listen to his lies, we may even start to believe there is no hope or future for our lives, that we are hopeless failures, never to see the light of day. This complaining spirit, or hardening of our hearts through unbelief, will weaken our walk with God (1 Corinthians 10:10). That is why we are warned by the Apostle Paul, “Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day IF YE WILL HEAR HIS VOICE, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.) Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief; in departing from the living God” (Hebrews 3:7-12, emphasis added). If we are faithful to pray in the Spirit, we will hear God’s voice and find direction by the wisdom He imparts to our spirit.
This article “The Lord’s Prayer” by Carole J. Keller was excerpted from the book Free At Last! March 2011. It may be used for study & research purposes only.