Prayer as Worship By John MacArthur

“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.” Matthew 6:9–13 (NASB)

Study the exemplary prayers in Scripture and you cannot help noticing that all of them are brief and simple. Prayer that is heartfelt, urgent, and unfeigned must be of that style. Verbiage and windbaggery are badges of insincerity, especially in prayer. The prayer of the publican in Luke 18:13 is as short and to the point as possible: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” Then there’s the prayer of the thief on the cross: “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” (Luke 23:42). Those prayers are cut from the same cloth as Peter’s cry for help when he was walking on water—sometimes cited as the shortest prayer in the Bible: “Lord, save me” (Matthew 14:30).

Scripture records very few long prayers. Much of Psalm 119 is addressed to God in the language of prayer, and, of course, that is the Bible’s longest chapter. Other than that, Nehemiah 9:5–38 contains the longest prayer in all of Scripture, and it can be read aloud with expression in less than seven minutes. John 17 is the New Testament’s longest prayer. It’s also the longest of Jesus’ recorded prayers, just twenty-six verses long.

We know, of course, that Jesus prayed much longer prayers than that because Scripture records several instances where He prayed in solitude for extended periods of time (Matthew 14:23; Mark 6:46). When it suited Him, He would even spend the entire night in prayer (Luke 6:12). It was His habit thus to pray, both privately and with His disciples (John 18:2). And the pattern was clear: His long prayers were the ones He prayed in private. His public prayers were perfect examples of crisp, forthright plain-speaking.

Listening to Jesus pray and observing His constant dependence on private prayer gave the disciples an appetite for prayer. So they asked Him, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). He responded by repeating the very same model prayer He gave in the Sermon on the Mount. We call it “The Lord’s Prayer.” We ought rather to think of it as “The Disciples’ Prayer,” because its centerpiece is a petition for divine forgiveness, something Jesus would never need to pray for. Like all great praying, it is both succinct and unpretentious. There is not a wasted word, not a hint of vain repetition, and not a single note of ostentation or ceremony in the whole prayer:

And He said to them, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation’ ” (Luke 11:2–4).

That prayer was a pattern for the disciples to follow, not a mantra to be recited without engaging the mind or passions. The various elements of Jesus’ prayer are all reminders of what our praying ought to include: praise, petition, penitence, and a plea for grace in our sanctification. Those are not only the key elements of prayer, they are also some of the principal features of authentic worship. The parallelism between prayer and worship is no coincidence. Prayer is the distilled essence of worship.

That perspective is often lost  in this era of self-focused, subjective, felt-needs-oriented religion. Multitudes think of prayer as nothing more than a way to get whatever they want from God. Prayer is reduced to a superstitious means of gain—and some will tell you that God is obligated to deliver the goods. Religious television is full of charlatans who insist that God must grant whatever you ask  for if you can muster enough “faith” and refuse  to entertain any “doubt.” Faith in their lexicon is a kind of blind credulity, usually bolstered by some kind of “positive confession.” Doubt, as they might describe it, is any rational or biblical qualm about whether the thing you desire is in accord with the will of God. Those, of course, are not biblical definitions of faith and doubt. Nor can anyone’s prayer legitimately be called a “prayer offered in faith” (James 5:15) if it is contrary to the will of God.

Charismatics are not the only ones who see prayer as nothing more than a kind of utilitarian wish list. Plenty of mainstream evangelicals and old-style fundamentalists seem confused about the purpose of prayer, too. John R. Rice, an influential fundamentalist pastor, wrote a bestselling book in 1942 titled Prayer—Asking and Receiving. He wrote, “Prayer is not praise, adoration, meditation, humiliation nor confession, but asking. . . . Praise is not prayer, and prayer is not praise. Prayer is asking. . . . Adoration is not prayer, and prayer is not adoration. Prayer is always asking. It is not anything else but asking.”1

There are several problems with that perspective. First, Jesus’ model prayer is more than merely “asking.” It does include that; there are petitions for daily bread (the barest of material needs) and forgiveness (the most urgent of spiritual needs). But the model prayer Jesus gave His disciples also includes at least four of the five elements Dr. Rice wanted to eliminate from his definition of prayer: praise, adoration, humiliation, and confession.

Remove praise and penitence from the Lord’s Prayer and you have gutted it. Insist that proper prayer “is not anything else but asking,” and you overthrow one of the central lessons we learn from Jesus’ example, that prayer is first and foremost an act of worship. Even worse, such teaching sets up a kind of role reversal between the one praying and the God to whom he prays.

The Bible teaches that God is sovereign and that we are His slaves. “Name-it-and-claim-it” theology teaches that man is sovereign and God is his servant. The person praying thinks he is in the demand-and-command position, with God in the role of the servant who is obligated to cough up whatever we ask for. As I’ve pointed out elsewhere,2 that has more in common with pagan cargo cults than with biblical Christianity.

Prayer is much more than merely asking and receiving. It is indeed a great privilege to come boldly before the throne of grace and to let our requests be made known to God (Hebrews 4:16; Philippians 4:6). Scripture repeatedly promises that if we ask for anything in faith, God will answer—meaning if we ask in accord with God’s will as prompted by His Spirit, He will always graciously and generously respond (Matthew 7:7–11; 17:20; 21:22; Mark 11:24; James 1:6; 1 John 3:22). He often grants our requests “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20, KJV).

1. John R. Rice, Prayer—Asking and Receiving (Muphreesboro, TN: Sword of the Lord, 1942), 29.

2John MacArthur, Charismatic Chaos (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 264-90.

But the nature of a truly faithful prayer is clearly spelled out in 1 John 5:14: “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (emphasis added). In other words, the promise of answered prayer is not an unqualified blank check. The promise is made only to faithful, obedient, sober-minded, biblically-informed Christians whose prayers are in harmony with the will of God. It’s not a guarantee of cargo to every gullible or superstitious religious enthusiast who uses Jesus’ name as if it were an abracadabra. Jesus said, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7, emphasis added).

That’s because far from being merely a wish list, godly prayer is fundamentally an act of worship. It is an expression of our praise, our unworthiness, our desire to see God’s will fulfilled, and our utter dependence on Him for all our needs. Thus every aspect of prayer is an act of worship. That includes the petitions we make, because when we properly make our requests known to God—without anxiety, through prayer and supplication, and with thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6)—we are acknowledging His sovereignty, confessing our own total reliance on His grace and power, and looking to Him as Lord and Provider and Ruler of the universe—not as some kind of celestial Santa. Proper prayer is pure worship, even when we are making requests.

The God-ward focus of Jesus’ model prayer is impossible to miss. The prayer starts with praise of God’s name. It expresses a willingness for His Kingdom to come and His will to be done. Pure worship thus precedes and sets the context for sup-plication. Those opening lines establish the focal point of the prayer: the glory of God and His Kingdom. In other words, the supplicant is concerned first of all not for his personal wish list, but for the honor of God and the extension of His Kingdom. Everything else fits into that context, so that the whole agenda of the prayer is determined by the Kingdom and glory of God. That is perhaps the most important perspective to keep in mind in all our praying.

Jesus said, “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13). The purpose of all legitimate prayer is not to fulfill the felt-needs or material desires of the one praying, but to acknowledge the sovereignty of God and to magnify His glory. Prayer is not about getting what I want, but about the fulfillment of God’s will. The proper objective of prayer is not to enlarge my borders, build my empire, or expand my wallet but to further the Kingdom of God. The point is not to elevate my name but to hallow God’s name. Everything in prayer revolves around who God is, what God wants, and how God is to be glorified. That is the sum and substance of proper praying.

Any prayers that are self-consuming, self-indulgent, self- aggrandizing; any prayers that seek whatever I want no matter what God wants; any prayers that suggest God must deliver because I have demanded it—those are prayers that take His name in vain. Such praying is an egregious sin against the nature of God, against the will of God, and against the Word of God.

“Name  it,  claim  it”  prayers;  the  notion  that  God  wants  you  always  healthy,  wealthy, prosperous, and successful; and lists of selfish requests are all quite at odds with the spirit of Jesus’ model prayer. Such requests are expressly excluded from the many promises that God will hear and answer our prayers (James 4:3). The faulty belief that underlies all such praying is no small error. It is rooted in a serious misunderstanding about the nature of God.

Because prayer is an act of worship, to offer a prayer based on such a heinous perversion of God’s character is tantamount to worshiping a false god. To put it bluntly, when someone presents God with a wish list rooted in greed, materialism, or other expressions of pure self- interest, then demands that God deliver the goods as if He were a genie, that is no prayer at all. It is an act of blasphemy. It is as abominable as the crassest form of pagan worship.

The prayers of godly people in Scripture were nothing like that. Consider the prayers of three prophets who were in truly dire situations. Jeremiah, for example, was in prison. He had preached to a nation of people who would not hear. They just wanted to shut his mouth. They were not interested in anything he or his God had to say. Ultimately they threw him in a pit. He had seen no measurable “success” in his ministry (as the world counts success). Jeremiah 32:16–23 records his prayer:

I prayed to the LORD, saying, “Ah Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You, who shows lovingkindness to thousands, but repays the iniquity of fathers into the bosom of their children after them, O great and mighty God. The LORD of hosts is His name; great in counsel and mighty in deed, whose eyes are open to all the ways of the sons of men, giving to everyone according to his ways and according to the fruit of his deeds; who has set signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, and even to this day both in Israel and among mankind; and You have made a name for Yourself, as at this day.

“You brought Your people Israel out of the land of Egypt with signs and with wonders, and with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm and with great terror; and gave them this land, which You swore to their forefathers to give them, a land flowing with milk and honey.

“They came in and took possession of it, but they did not obey Your voice or walk in Your law; they have done nothing of all that You commanded them to do; therefore You have made all this calamity come upon them.”

Here is a man in great distress, torn with feelings of loneliness and grief, despairing of hope for his people, rejected by the entire nation. But the preoccupation of his heart was to extol the glory, the majesty, the name, the honor, and the works of God. He was not preoccupied with his own pain. He was not obsessed with being liberated from his circumstances. Out of his suffering came worship.

All our prayers should be of that flavor.

Daniel, caught in the transition between two great world empires, was interceding on behalf of a dispossessed people in a foreign land. But notice the spirit with which he brought his requests. He tells us, “I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes” (Daniel 9:3). And notice how his prayer begins: “Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and loving-kindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly and rebelled, even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances” (vv. 4–5).

The starting point is praise. That gives way to penitence. And as the prayer continues in

Daniel 9, there are twelve more verses of self-abasing confession as Daniel rehearses the sins of Israel. It’s filled with phrases like “Open shame belongs to us, O Lord” (v. 8); “we have rebelled against Him; nor have we obeyed the voice of the LORD our God” (vv. 9–10); and “we have sinned, we have been wicked” (v. 15). Those expressions are mingled with more praise: “Righteousness belongs to You, O Lord, but to us open shame” (v. 7); “the LORD our God is righteous with respect to all His deeds which He has done” (v. 14); and “[You] have brought Your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand and have made a name for Yourself” (v. 15).

Finally, in the very last sentence of his prayer, Daniel makes one request, and it is a plea for mercy. All Daniel’s praise (focusing on God’s righteousness and His mercy) and all his penitence (outlining the history of Israel’s disobedience) culminates in a prayer for forgiveness and restoration: “O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action! For Your own sake, O my God, do not delay, because Your city and Your people are called by Your name” (v. 19).

And that one request was preceded with this summary argument: Daniel gathered up all his praise and all his confession, condensed them all in one more affirmation of God’s transcendent greatness and Israel’s complete lack of merit, and then cited those very things as the grounds on which he was making his plea: “We are not presenting our supplications before You on account of any merits of our own, but on account of Your great compassion” (v. 18).

Again, notice that Daniel’s prayer began with an affirmation of the nature and the glory and the greatness and the majesty of God. It is an expression of worship, and the request at the end thus flows from a worshipful, penitent heart. That is always the godly perspective.

Jonah prayed from the belly of a fish. If you can picture the wet, suffocating darkness and discomfort of such a place, you might begin to have an idea of how desperate Jonah’s situation was at that moment. The whole second chapter of Jonah is devoted to the record of Jonah’s prayer, and the entire prayer is a profound expression of worship. It reads like a psalm. In fact, it’s full of references and allusions to the psalms—almost as if Jonah were singing His worship in phrases borrowed from Israel’s psalter while he languished inside that living tomb.

The prayer is as passionate as you might expect from someone trapped inside a fish under the surface of the Mediterranean. Jonah begins: “I called out of my distress to the LORD, and He answered me” (v. 2)—not a plea to God for help, but an expression of praise and deliverance, mentioning God in the third person and speaking of deliverance as if it were an accomplished fact.

The remainder of the prayer is addressed directly to God in the second person—and the whole thing is an extended expression of more praise. Jonah rehearses what has happened to him (“You had cast me into the deep,” v. 3; “Weeds were wrapped around my head,” v. 5). Notice, Jonah is still inside the fish while he is praying this prayer (cf. v. 10), yet he consistently speaks of his deliverance in the past tense. And here’s the amazing thing about this prayer: Though Jonah must have been as desperate as anyone who ever prayed for rescue from the Lord, his prayer contains not one single request. It is a pure, resounding expression of worship and faith in God, who alone could deliver Jonah. The key sentence is verse 7: “While I was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, and my prayer came to You, into Your holy temple.”

The focus of Jonah’s prayer—like all great prayers—was the glory of God. Although no one, perhaps, has ever been in a situation where it would be more appropriate to plead and beg God to answer, there was none of that in Jonah’s prayer. And the past-tense references to Jonah’s deliverance were the furthest thing you can imagine from the contemporary prosperity- preachers’ notion of “positive confession.” Jonah wasn’t under any illusion that his words could alter the reality of his plight. He was simply extolling the character of God. And that is precisely what our Lord was teaching when He gave the disciples that model prayer in Luke 11.

So it ought to be clear that when Jesus taught His disciples to regard prayer as worship, that wasn’t anything novel. The great prayers we read in the Old Testament were likewise expressions of worship—including those that were prayed in the most desperate situations.

With that in mind, look a little more closely now at Jesus’ model prayer. The first verse of this prayer alone includes three truths that remind us our prayers are supposed to be expressions of worship.

God’s Paternity

The prayer starts with a reference to God’s paternity. The first word—the address—is a reminder that God is our heavenly Father. We go to Him not only because He is a sovereign Monarch, a righteous Judge, and our Creator—but because He is a loving Father. That beautiful expression reminds us of the grace that gives us unlimited access to His throne (Hebrews 4:16)—and it encourages us to come boldly, just as a son or a daughter would come to a loving dad.

That, by the way, is the basis for our boldness in prayer. The point is not that our words have any kind of magical power, not that God is somehow obliged to give us whatever we ask for, and certainly not that our faith merits material rewards—but that God in His sovereignty invites us to come to Him as a gracious and loving Father. The intimacy of the Father-child relationship does not diminish the reverence we owe Him as our sovereign God. Far less does it give us any reason to exalt ourselves. Instead, it is a reminder that we should be childlike in our dependence on God’s goodness and love. Ultimately, because He is our sovereign Lord, Creator, Judge, and Father, He is the only One on whom we can rely to supply all our needs and satisfy our deepest longings. If our prayers are truly worshipful, they will be permeated with recognition of that truth.

Take, for example, the prayer of Isaiah 64:8: “But now, O LORD, You are our Father, we are the clay, and You our potter; and all of us are the work of Your hand.” That is the proper spirit of prayer: Lord, You made us. You gave us life. You alone can supply the resources we need. We are united with Your beloved Son by faith, and therefore we are Your children in every sense— totally dependent on Your will, Your power, and Your blessings.

That is very different from the prayer of a pagan who comes to a vengeful, violent, jealous, unjust, man-made deity, believing some merit or sacrifice must be brought to the altar to appease that hostile deity. The biblical perspective we bring to prayer is that God Himself offered the ultimate sacrifice and supplies all the merit we need in the Person of His Son. All who by faith lay hold of Christ as Lord and Savior are “sons of God” (Galatians 3:26; cf. John 1:12–13; 2 Corinthians 6:8). “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are” (1 John 3:1).

In other words, the sacrifice of Christ was offered on our behalf, so we have already received the very best God has to give. And “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).

As if that weren’t enough, in Matthew 7:7–11, Jesus makes this promise: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!”

So when we pray, we are going to a God who is our loving heavenly Father. We can go with a sense of intimacy. We can go with confidence, in the same tender, trusting way a little child would go to an earthly father. We can go boldly. We are approaching a loving deity who does not need to be appeased, but who embraces us as His own. In fact, because we are His true children, “God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ ” (Galatians 4:6). “Abba” is a term of deep affection, a common term for “father” derived from the Chaldean dialect. Because it is easy to pronounce, it was how little children in New Testament times commonly addressed their fathers, like “Daddy,” or “Papa” in today’s English.

But when we call God “Father,” or “Abba,” it is not a casual nod of crass, presumptuous, or easygoing familiarity. Used properly, “Abba”—“Father” is an expression of profound worship, filled with childlike trust: “God, I recognize that I’m Your child. I know You love me and have given me intimate access to You. I recognize that You have absolutely unlimited resources, and that You will do what is best for me. I recognize that I need to obey You. And I recognize that whatever You do, You know best.” All of that is implied in the truth that God is our Father, and that’s how Jesus taught us to begin our prayers.

Don’t miss the point. When we pray to God as our heavenly Father, we are not only acknowledging our responsibility to obey Him, we are also confessing that He has a right to give us what He knows is best. Above all, we are offering Him praise and thanks for His loving grace, while confessing our own complete trust and dependence. In short, we are coming to Him as worshiping children—and all of that is implicit in the very first word of Jesus’ model prayer.

God’s  Priority

The entire opening sentence of the prayer is a straight-forward exclamation of worship: “Father, hallowed be Your name” (Luke 11:2). That is expressed as a petition, but it is by no means a personal request; it is an expression of praise, and it reflects God’s own priority: “I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another” (Isaiah 42:8).

Jesus established the truth that prayer is worship by beginning His model prayer that way. To worship God is to “Sing the glory of His name” (Psalm 66:2). “Ascribe to the LORD the glory due His name” (1 Chronicles 16:29; Psalms 29:2; 96:8). “Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to Your name give glory” (Psalm 115:1). Such expressions capture the true spirit of a worshiping heart.

Moreover, that first sentence qualifies every other petition in the prayer. It rules out asking for things “with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3). It eliminates every petition that is not in accord with the perfect will of God.

In the words of Arthur Pink:

How clearly, then, is the fundamental duty in prayer here set forth: self and all its needs must be given a secondary place and the Lord freely accorded the preeminence in our thoughts, desires and supplications. This petition must take the precedence, for the glory of God’s great name is the ultimate end of all things; every other request must not only be subordinated to this one, but be in harmony with and in pursuance of it. We cannot pray aright unless the honor of God be dominant in our hearts. If we cherish a desire for the honoring of God’s name we must not ask for anything which it would be against the Divine holiness to bestow.

What does that expression mean: “Hallowed be Your name”? In biblical terms, God’s “name” includes everything God is—His character, His attributes, His reputation, His honor—His very Person. God’s name signifies everything that is true about God.

We still use the expression “my name” in that sense at times. If we say someone has ruined his good name, we mean he has disgraced himself and spoiled his reputation. He has diminished others’ perception of who he is. And if I give you power of attorney, I have authorized you to act “in my name.” You thereby become my legal proxy, and any legal covenants you enter into are as binding on me as if I signed them myself.

That is precisely what Jesus meant when He taught us to pray in His name: “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:13–14). He was delegating His authority to us to be used in prayer—authorizing us to act as if we were His emissaries when we let our requests be made known to God.

But by teaching us to begin by asking that the name of God be hallowed, Christ put this built-in safeguard against the misuse of His name for our own self-aggrandizing purposes. If we truly want God’s name to be hallowed, we would never sully the name of His Son or abuse the proxy He has given us by using His name to request that which He himself would never sanction. To do that would be to take His name in vain, and that is a violation of the third commandment. Furthermore, immediately after Jesus delegated the authority of His name to His disciples, He said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (v. 15). He then restated the principle with all the necessary qualifications just one chapter later in John 16:7: “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (emphasis added).

It should be clear, then, that the expression “Your name” signifies far more than just a proper noun. God’s name represents everything He is, everything He approves, and everything He is known for. So when we pray, “Father, hallowed be Your name,” we are expressing a desire for God’s character, His glory, His reputation in the world, and His very being to be set apart and lifted up.

The word hallowed(Greek hagiazo) means “consecrated,” “sanctified,” or “set apart as holy.” It includes the idea of being separated from all that is profane. Putting it as simply as possible, this phrase is a prayer that God Himself would be blessed and glorified. Jesus Himself prayed for that very thing in John 12:28: “Father, glorify Your name.” It is a petition God delights to answer.

By starting His model prayer that way, Jesus was reminding us of the ultimate purpose of every prayer we ever offer. The proper aim is for God to be glorified, exalted, honored, and known, in every conceivable way.

That, by the way, is a further reminder not to call God “Father” in a cheaply sentimental or overly familiar way. He is our loving Father, but we are not to forget that His name is Holy. The fatherhood of God in no way diminishes His glory, and if we find ourselves thinking that way here is the corrective: “Father, hallowed be Your name.”

3 Arthur Pink, The Sermon on the Mount (Lafayette, IN: Sovereign Grace Publishers, 2001 reprint), 162.

The spirit of that plea is contrary to the main thrust of the so-called “prosperity gospel.” I once heard a televangelist teaching the “positive confession” doctrine, and he told his audience that if they tacked the phrase “Not my will but thine” onto any of their prayers, they were not praying in faith. That is a lie from the pit of hell. Jesus Himself prayed, “not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42). By teaching us to begin all our prayers with a concern that the name of God to be hallowed, He was teaching us to pray for God’s will over and above our own.

The kind of God who is at everyone’s beck and call and who must knuckle under to someone else’s desires is not the God of the Bible. Those who portray prayer in such a fashion are not hallowing God’s name; they are dragging His name through the mud. Their false teaching is a denial of the very nature of God. It isn’t just bad theology, it is gross irreverence. It is blasphemy. They are taking God’s name in vain, and that is directly antithetical to the spirit of this plea.

Luther’s  catechism  (section  39)  asks  and  answers  this  question:  “How  is  God’s  name hallowed among us? Answer, as plainly as it can be said: When both our doctrine and life are godly and Christian. For since in this prayer we call God our Father, it is our duty always to deport and demean ourselves as godly children, that He may not receive shame, but honor and praise from us.”

So when we pray “Father, hallowed be Your name,” we are asking God to glorify Himself—to put His power, His grace, and all His perfections on display. One way He does that is by answering our prayers—assuming our prayers are expressions of submission to His will rather than merely flippant requests that arise from our own selfish desires.

We were not created to enjoy prosperity in a fallen world. We were created to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. We ought to be more concerned for the glory of God than we are for our own prosperity, our own comfort, our own agenda, or any other self-centered desire. That’s why Jesus taught us to think of prayer as an act of worship rather than merely a way to ask God for things we want.

God’s Program

The closing phrase of Luke 2 is “Your kingdom come.” It is a prayer for the advancement of God’s Kingdom. Like every phrase of the prayer we have looked at, this is antithetical to the prayers typically prayed by those who are concerned mainly about the advancement of their own program, the building of their own empire, or the padding of their own pockets. This is a prayer that God’s program be advanced, and that His will be done. In fact, in some Greek manuscripts, the text includes the phrase, “Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth” (KJV). Jesus Himself included that phrase in the model prayer when he gave it in His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:10).

Every request we make in our prayers should first be run through this filter: Is it in harmony with the goals and principles of God’s kingdom? Is it consistent with the expansion of the Kingdom? Does it truly advance the Kingdom, or does it merely fulfill some selfish want?

“Name-it-and-claim-it” theology is myopic, self-indulgent, and small-minded. All it cares about is self-interest  and  selfish  desires, with no  thought for the greater cause of Christ’s kingdom. The spirit of Christ says, “Lord, advance Your Kingdom if that means I lose everything.” That’s what the phrase “Your kingdom come” implies.

The kingdom, of course, is the sphere where Christ rules—the realm where He is Lord. To pray “Your kingdom come” with sincerity is to submit one’s desires and to yield one’s heart without reservation to the Lordship of Christ. To affirm the program of Christ’s kingdom is to set aside one’s own fleshly, materialistic, or selfish prayer requests because, after all, “the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).

There is truly nothing wrong with praying to God for things we desire—as long as the desires of our heart are holy. Indeed, we are encouraged—repeatedly—to ask, and to trust, and to align our desires with the will of God. And we are promised answers to such prayers. “Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).

Remember, Jesus said, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7). “If you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you” (John 16:23). “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (1 John 5:14). Pay close attention to the qualifiers: “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you [then] . . . whatever you wish.” “Anything in My name.” “Anything according to His will.” Jesus’ model prayer has those same qualifiers built into it because of the way He taught us to recognize God’s paternity, yield to God’s priority, and get on board with God’s program before we ever make one petition for ourselves.

Any prayer that follows a different pattern is not an act of true worship, and therefore it is not a legitimate prayer.

Conversely, all true prayer is worship. We go to a loving Father, accepting that He knows best. Our prayers, then, reflect an obedient heart, a passion for His glory, and a desire to see the extension of His Kingdom—that God might be honored.[1]

[1] Dave Jordan, M. E. Pulpit Magazine October 2012 Vol. 01. No. 1.

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