Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
The Lord’s prayer is part of Jesus’ extended teaching on prayer to His disciples. They are not to be like the hypocrites who pray to be seen by others but should pray in quiet (6:5-6). He urges His disciples to pray with intention. They should not heap up empty phrases or use many words (6:7-8)
In verse 9 Jesus teaches His disciples what the content of their prayers should be. Where Jesus begins with His disciples might surprise us. The content of our prayers must be God-centered.
Our Father. This in and of itself would have been radical for the disciples. No one called God Father then as we do now. But Jesus wants His disciples to address His Father as their Father. In Christ, we have God as our Father, and we should address Him as such in our prayers. We have a close, intimate relationship with the Father and He wants to hear from us.
In Heaven. We pray to our Father who reigns. He is in heaven, and all is well. Heaven is the place of God’s throne. He is in complete control. He reigns over everything we see. If God is not sovereign, then there is no reason to pray. There is no use bringing our needs, troubles, and requests to God if He can do nothing about it or if He could do something, but His purpose could be stunted. Our Father reigns and is sovereign. Our God is in the heavens, and He does as He pleases (Psalm 115:3).
Hallowed be Your Name. We come to our Father to honor our Father. Hallowed is an old word which means to consecrate or make holy. We know there is nothing we can do to make God more holy. He is holy, and as His creation there is nothing, we can do to add to it. When we come to God in prayer, we recognize and understand that we are in the presence of holiness. Our prayers should honor God as holy, and the content of our prayers should be driven by this recognition.
These three points teach us one main thing, our prayer should begin with God and should be centered on God.
If we are honest, we know we don’t live up to this standard. And many of find prayer boring precisely because we do not focus on God. What Donald Whitney wrote in his book on prayer is true for many as we often pray the same old thing about the same old things. Prayer is boring when we are not centered on God.
The question is how do we make God the focus of our prayers? And a second question, is it is wrong to make requests from God if we should focus on him?
Here are three practical ways to make God the focus of your prayers.
- Pray the Bible. This might seem awkward if you have never done it before, but it will change your prayer life. There are a few ways you can do this. One is to pray the passage back to God from your daily reading. Whatever that content was turn it into a prayer. Another option is to pray a Psalm every day. Psalm 23 is a good example. The Lord is my shepherd. An example, “Father I admit that you are my shepherd, I need you as a shepherd. You are the true shepherd, and there is no other. Father, my child, does not have a shepherd, work in their lives to show them their need of you.” This is a short example, but you can see how it would work. If you have never done this before, start small. Praying the Bible will make your prayers focused on God because the Bible is all about God.
- Use a Good Prayer Book. If you have never prayed the Bible then using a prewritten prayer by someone else will seem pretty strange. A good prayer book will have God-centered prayers. One you could look into is The Valley of Vision which is a collection of Puritan prayers. If you pray three of these a day, you can get through the whole book in three months.
- Listen to Your Pastor Pray. Most churches have an extended pastoral prayer either before the sermon or at the beginning of the service. If your pastor’s sermons are saturated with God’s truth, I am willing to bet his prayers will be as well. Listen to how he prays and what he says. Don’t discount the grace of God in giving you a godly pastor.
If our prayers should be focused on God, does that mean we should refrain from making requests? Jesus will cover this in the coming verses, and the answer is no. Most of us, myself included, are probably not in danger of our prayers being too focused on God (if that could ever really be a problem). We tend to lean toward our prayers being request heavy.
The fruit of prayers that are Godward focused will be requests that desire to see God’s will done in our lives and the lives of others. Prayers for a sick non-Christian for physical healing will include requests that they might know Christ. It would be right to ask God to open the eyes of their heart through this sickness. Praying for our church family will lead us to pray for their sanctification.
Our prayer life will be richer when we are centered on God, who He is and what He has done for us, rather than being request heavy. The firsts principle our Lord gives in His teaching is that our prayers are addressed to God our Father and focused on Him. God is not boring therefore when prayer is done in this way, we will never have a boring prayer life.
A final note to strike here is one of thankfulness. We come into the presence of our holy God not because of anything we have done but because of Christ. Through His character, work, and authority we can humbly come to a holy God. Praise Christ for the precious gift of prayer.