The Lord's Prayer, Part 1The Priority of Praise
Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss finds that when she prays, it’s easy to focus on herself.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: So I go to prayer and I often immediately find myself just grocery-listing God with all my burdens, all my concerns, all my problems, all my needs. “Lord, I need this, and please do this in my family, and please help me with this, and please solve this issue or show me what to do about this situation. We need wisdom.” It's great to ask God these things, but don’t start there.
Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, September 20.
So if prayer is more than a grocery list, how should you pray? Is it ever okay to ask for things? Nancy will address these topics continuing in a series she began last week called, The Lord’s Prayer.
Nancy: Martin Luther’s barber once asked Luther to teach him how to pray. Isn't that great? He saw something in Luther and said, "This man knows how to pray. This man knows how to connect with God." So his barber said, "Would you teach me how to pray?"
In response to his barber’s questions, Luther wrote a small book called, A Simple Way to Pray. In that book he shares a lot out of his own prayer life. It is a simple book. It’s a short book.
He talks about how he prayed through the Ten Commandments, through the Apostle’s Creed, and through the Lord’s Prayer. He would just take it a phrase at a time and show how he would meditate on it and how he would expand on it.
Luther had this to say about the Lord’s Prayer. He said,
To this day I suckle at the Lord’s Prayer like a child, and as an old man eat and drink from it and never get my fill. It is the very best prayer, even better than the Psalter, which is so very dear to me. It is surely evident that a real Master [capital M] composed and taught it.
He just loved this prayer. He took it apart, broke it apart and would meditate on it phrase by phrase, as I’m encouraging you to do as we get into this series. Begin to mediate on it. Chances are you already have it memorized, but to pray it as you’re driving, as you’re waking up, as you’re falling asleep, as you’re waiting in places. Just one phrase at a time. Maybe one word at a time. Meditate on it. Make it your prayer.
There was a pastor and theologian in the 19th century who was well known. He said,
I used to think the Lord’s Prayer was a short prayer; but, as I live longer, and see more of life, I believe there is no such thing as getting through it. If a man in praying that prayer were to be stopped by every word until he had thoroughly prayed it, it would take him a lifetime.
That’s how much there is in the Lord’s Prayer.
Now, we’ve said that the context of the Lord’s Prayer is the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew chapters 5, 6, and 7—this discourse on the kingdom of God, the family of God. Jesus is saying this is what life looks like in the kingdom of God. This is what God’s kingdom is like. This is what his subjects are like. This is how they think. This is how they act. This is how they live.
So when we come to the Lord’s Prayer, which is found right in the middle of that Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 6, we realize—and this has been a dawning realization on me as I have been studying this passage—this is not just about how we pray. It is that. It is a way to pray. It’s direction. It’s a guideline for our praying, but it’s more than that.
It’s more than just a way to pray. Jesus is teaching us the way to live. It’s a way to think. It’s intended to be the way we live our whole lives. We’re called to pray without ceasing. This way of thinking is to be uppermost, foremost on our hearts and minds all the time.
As I’ve been, for example, praying, “Thy kingdom come,” well that helps me in my praying. We’ll talk about each of these phrases over the next weeks. But it also helps me in my living, as I’m making choices, as I’m being tempted, as I’m saying yes or no to sin. I’m learning that I’m not just supposed to pray, “Thy kingdom come.” I’m supposed to live, “Thy kingdom come.”
What does that look like? What does that mean in this instance, this very ordinary moment of life? What does it look like to live as a subject of His kingdom?
So Jesus said in Matthew 6:9,
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.”
This is a way of life. We’ll see this about each of these phrases. A way of life of dependence upon God, looking to Him to meet our needs.
“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.]" (Matt. 6:9-13)
Now in today’s session I want to just give us an overview of the Lord’s Prayer. How does it outline? How does it break into pieces? What is the flow of the Lord’s Prayer. We’ll look at the big picture of it and then we’ll start in the next sessions breaking it down piece by piece.
It begins with, “Our Father in heaven.” Invocation. Worship. What this says to me, if Jesus is giving us a model for how we pray, praise precedes petition. This is the pattern of prayers all through the Scripture: Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, historical books. You look at prayers through the Scripture and you see that praise precedes petition. Worship before asking. Invocation comes first.
Let me give you an example of that in 2 Chronicles chapter 20. You might want to turn there in your Bible. You’ll see one of many examples of this in the Scripture. We get the context for this prayer beginning in verse 1.
After this the Moabites and Ammonites, and with them some of the Meunites, came against Jehoshaphat for battle.
Jehoshaphat was the king of the nation of Judah. All these foreign powers amassed their armies together. The allied forces came against Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah.
Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, "A great multitude is coming against you from Edom, from beyond the sea; and, behold, they are in Hazazon-tamar (that is, Engedi)"
This is a place that is nearby. That’s the point. They’ve come from afar. There’s a great multitude of them. There’s this huge host, this huge army. They’re just around the corner, and they’re coming toward us!
Okay, this is a desperate situation. Now you may not have faced an army, but in your home you may be facing an army of desperate, dire, negative, troubling circumstances. What do you do? Panic! You pray, but what do you pray?
Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.
He turned to the Lord. That’s the first thing we’re supposed to do in times of danger and distress. And he got others to pray with him.
Judah assembled to seek help from the LORD; from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the LORD.
They knew that the Lord was their only hope. He was their only hope. There was no possible way of surviving this onslaught if God didn’t supernaturally intervene, and they knew He could. So they turned to Him.
They didn’t have any resources of their own. That’s what prayer is. It’s realizing, "God, I can’t handle this." Which, by the way, is true of all of life whether we realize it or not. Even when things don’t seem desperate. It’s amazing when they are desperate, we do pray, but do we pray in the course of normal days? Prayer is acknowledging, “Lord, I need You. I can’t do this without You.” So they did that. Then verses 5 and 6,
Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the LORD, before the new court, and said [here’s the praise], "O LORD, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you.”
Now, think about this situation for a moment. Amassed armies of the Moabites and the Ammonites are just around the bend. They’re coming with their weapons and their great multitude. Do you think you would take time to pray verse 6? “O LORD, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you.”
Do you think you might be tempted to dispense with the praise part and just get to the "Help!" part? Jehoshaphat knew better because he knew God and he knew that praise precedes petition. So he takes time to worship, to exalt God. “Our Father in heaven.” Worship. Praise. Adoration. Exaltation of God.
“Lord, you are Lord. You’re the God of our fathers. You have a covenant with us. We are your people. You’re the God in heaven. Our Father in heaven. That means You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Thy kingdom come. In your hand are power and might so that none is able to withstand you. Thy will be done.”
Worship. Praise. Then and only then does he come in verse 10 to petition. And he gets there. Petition is important, but praise needs to precede the petition. So we see in verse 10,
And now behold, the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir. Behold, they reward us by coming to drive us out of your possession, which you have given us to inherit.
O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great hoard that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you. (2 Chron. 20:1-12)
That, by the way, is really prayer at its simplest—the essence of prayer. “God, we do not know what to do, but you are God and our eyes are on You.” It’s this prayer of helplessness. This prayer of need. This prayer of desperation.
Couldn’t that be said of every single area of our lives? “Lord, we don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to be a good wife. I don’t know how to be a good mom. I don’t know how to deal with this situation in my bickering adult children. I don’t know how to handle this situation in my workplace with this boss who is impossible to please.”
“I don’t know what to do about this diagnosis I just got that seems so desperate. I don’t know what to do about the fact that my husband just lost his job and we do not know how we’re going to feed our kids. Lord, you are God, our Father in heaven. We’re coming to You—first to praise You and to realize that you are still God even though this army is coming up against us. You are still good. You are still in control. You have not fallen off Your throne.”
Worship, praise, and then petition. “Lord, help. What do we do? We don’t know what to do. Our eyes are on You.” That’s the order.
So when we come to the Lord’s prayer, it starts with praise. “Our Father in heaven.” That’s just a short version. You can expand on it as Jehoshaphat did or sometimes you may just cry out the short version. “Father!” Praise. Acknowledge who He is. Stop. Think about who you’re talking to. Think about who He is. Lift up your eyes. Praise Him. And then come the petitions.
Now, in the Lord’s prayer, we find six petitions. They’re broken into two sets of three. The first half are three petitions about God and His glory. Thy name be hallowed. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done. It’s all about God—His name, His kingdom, His will. There are no personal pronouns in the first half of the Lord’s Prayer.
Then you come to the second half, and you have three more petitions. This time they’re about the family needs. First we talk about our Father—His glory, His kingdom, His name, His will. Then we talk about our needs, the needs of the children. We take every concern to the Lord. Give us. Forgive us. Lead us not into temptation.
These three petitions about our needs cover every possible situation. They cover our present circumstances. “Give us this day our daily bread.” They cover our past circumstances. “Forgive us our debts.” That is the sins we have committed against You. That’s past tense. Lord, deal with the shame, with the guilt, the failure of our past. These petitions cover the future. “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”
So we pray for provision—our daily bread. We pray for pardon—forgive us of our debts. And we pray for God’s protection—don’t lead us into temptation. Protect us. Deliver us from the evil one. They cover it all: provision, pardon, protection; past, present, and future.
Notice the order of these petitions. The first half—all about God, His glory, His name, His kingdom, His will. When we come to prayer, it’s important that we never start with our own needs, that our petitions begin with petitions for God’s glory. Sometimes we have needs that are desperate. We’re feeling it. The army is coming on. You may have a loved one who’s dying.
I have a friend who has a mother-in-law who is now in her late 80s or early 90s hard set against the Lord. My friend is just so burdened for her mother-in-law’s salvation. She prays for it. You may be praying for the restoration of a hopelessly messed up marriage. You may be praying for a situation of sickness or a crisis you’re facing in your family or in your workplace or in your church.
We pray at Revive Our Hearts for specific needs related to our ministry. We lift these petitions up to the Lord, and it’s right to do that. But we need to have them in the right order. Before we pray for our own needs and our own concerns, we need to pray for God’s concerns, for what is of paramount importance to Him.
See our approach to prayer, at least speaking for myself, tends to be self-centered. So I go to prayer and I often immediately find myself just grocery-listing God with all my burdens, all my concerns, all my problems, all my needs.
“Lord, I need this, and please do this in my family, and please help me with this, and please help us with this and this ministry. Please send us this staff member. Please provide this financial need. Please solve this issue or show me what to do about this situation. We need wisdom.”
It's great to ask God these things, but don’t start there. We start where the Lord’s Prayer starts with concern for God’s kingdom, for His name, for His will to be done.
As I’ve been working on this series and studying, I’ve had several urgent prayer requests come my way. In fact, a few of them came within just hours of each other a couple weeks ago. I was on a conference call and one of the people on the call told us that that morning his wife they thought had miscarried a baby she was carrying. He was asking for prayer for his wife.
So we went to prayer on that phone call. While I was on that call, I got an email about a friend whose three-year-old had been found in a pond in their backyard—blue, not breathing. This emergency SOS prayer request went out.
I think it was that same day I got an email or right around then about a friend whose grown daughter had taken her own life. That family was in crisis. I have another friend who has been really heavy-hearted about a court date where they expect their foster child will be taken away and placed back in the home of the birth mother which they know to be a dangerous, negative, harmful situation. This family has cared for this foster child for over a year. They were hoping to adopt the child. Then they got word that it looked like the child was going to be taken away from them. They've been praying; they've been asking others to pray. I’ve mentioned the wife on our staff who’s facing a diagnosis for what appears to be a serious neurological disease.
These requests come our way. We have other people—people in your church, people in your family, friends and friends of friends. Now with email we’re getting requests all the time for desperate circumstances and situations.
These are things we ought to make a matter of prayer. They’re things our Father cares about. They’re things He wants us to bring before Him. But the question is: How do we pray about these things? Our instinct is to start with the urgent petition: Lord, my friend just went through this! Lord, we're going through this! Lord, please help in this situation. But according to the way Jesus taught us to pray, there’s a better starting place. No matter how urgent or desperate our petition, the starting place is, our Father. Our Father.
“Lord, we’re coming to You as Your children. Someone in the family has a need and we want to tell You about that need, but we want You to know as we bring that need before You that our supreme desire is that You would be glorified, that Your name would be reverenced as a result of how this situation turns out. We want in this situation for Your reign and Your rule to be experienced. We want Your will to be done in this situation.”
I had some friends over for lunch a few weeks ago, and we were sitting around the lunch table when the husband of this married couple got a call on his cell phone. He went to take the call and his wife realized immediately it was a call he had been expecting that was a kind of crisis situation that her husband was helping to deal with.
Immediately, she reached across the table. We took each others’ hands, and we began to pray. This wife—I hadn’t told her I was teaching on the Lord’s Prayer, but she began to pray through the Lord’s Prayer as she prayed for her husband as he was handling this call in the living room on his cell phone.
“Our Father in heaven.” She began to pray that God’s name would be hallowed in this situation, that He would be reverenced, that His glory would be seen, that His kingdom would come, that His will would be done. I thought as I listened to her pray, this is what Jesus was talking about.
When you face this crisis situation, the armies comng against you, pray in this way, in this order. Remember the priority of your petitions. First, God’s glory, and then our need. So praise before petition and Him before us. That’s what we learn as we look at the overarching view of the Lord’s Prayer.
Haddon Robinson is a name that will be familiar to some of you. He’s a great preacher and Bible teacher. He talks about when his children were little he would play a game with them. He put some coins in his fist and then tightened up his fist, and he put his kids on his lap. Then they would work to open his fingers to get the coins that were in that clenched fist.
Dr. Robinson says,
According to the international rules of finger opening, once the finger was open, it couldn’t be closed again. So they would work at it until they got the pennies in my hand. Then they would jump down and run away filled with glee and delight. Just kids. Just a game.
Sometimes when we come to God, we come for the pennies in His hand. "Lord, I need a passing grade. Help me to study. Lord, I need a job. Lord, my mother is ill." We reach for the pennies, and then when God grants the request, we push the hand away. We run away to play. More important than the pennies in God’s hand is the hand of God Himself.
That’s what prayer is about.
So as we look at the Lord’s Prayer, we see the priority. The priority of His name, His kingdom, His will. And we realize that my personal happiness, my needs, my wellbeing or that of those I love—they’re all secondary to the far greater concerns. “Thy name be hallowed. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done.”
In our prayer life, the way we pray reveals what really matters most to us. So what does your prayer life say about your priorities? As you pray, are you remembering that praise precedes petition and that it’s Him before us? God’s hand, not just the pennies in the hand. You know what, when you get the hand of God, you get the pennies in the hand and you get everything else that He has to offer.
Oh Lord, we want to seek Your will and Your glory and Your name and Your kingdom and Your will. We start, even in the moment, by saying, "Lord, You are worthy of praise. You are our Father in heaven. You name is hallowed, it is sacred, and it is holy. We lift You up. We exalt You. We pray for Your concerns and Your agenda, and the things that are uppermost on Your heart to be uppermost on our hearts.
"Teach us to pray, Lord, and how to offer our petitions before You in the correct order. Teach us praise before petition and You before us. May it be Your kingdom, not ours; Your will, not ours; Your name, not ours, that we seek above all else. Help us to seek Your hand, to seek Your heart, to seek You with all our hearts." We pray in Jesus' name, amen.
Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been showing us why prayer is more than listing requests.
At Revive Our Hearts, we know that we desperately need prayer. Here’s one example. A group of men have gathered in Indianapolis in one of the side rooms at the True Woman conference, which begins tonight. These men are going to be praying during all the sessions over the next three days.
Would you pray for the conference as well? We’re asking the Lord to help women to discover, embrace, and delight in Him and experience personal revival over the next three days.
And would you join us for True Woman12 over the live stream? You can join us online, worship with Keith and Kristyn Getty, and watch all the speakers–including Nancy Leigh DeMoss tonight. To join the live stream, visit ReviveOurHearts.com.
“Our Father.” It’s the familiar opening to the Lord’s Prayer, but it’s packed with meaning. Far more important than the salutation on a letter. Find out why when we continue our series on the Lord’s Prayer tomorrow.
Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.Offers available only during the broadcast of the radio series.
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