When I read the model prayer that Jesus gave, one observation that sticks out to me is how much of the prayer is focused on God. Take a look, and notice how many times God is mentioned:
Matthew 6:9-13 Therefore, you should pray like this:
Our Father in heaven, Your name be honored as holy.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.
Jesus instructs us to pray that God’s name and reputation be honored, that his kingdom would come to earth, and that God would rule the earth just like he does in heaven. The prayer ends with us telling God that he has the highest position, above all people and things, for all eternity.
That’s a lot of information about God in a prayer that is to God.
Why should I pray God’s attributes and qualities back to him? It’s not like God doesn’t know these things about himself, nor do I expect that Jesus would be instructing us to say these things just to stroke God’s ego. However, we cannot escape Jesus’ direction to spend roughly half of our prayer time focusing on who God is and what he is like.
Jesus is instructing us to remember exactly who it is we’re speaking with when we pray…the God who imagined and created the universe. God designed subatomic particles and then stitched them together to form everything from plants, to people, to planets. He imagined weather patterns and constellations. God is the author of everything we can see, taste, hear, touch, or smell. His authority and power are unlimited. God is responsible for all these things and more…and he is the person we are instructed to bring our prayers to.
This kind of praying – a deliberate focus on who God is and what he is like – is an antidote for the modern insistence that “prayer works”…as if the fact that “I’m praying” or that “many of us are praying” will provide someone healing or financial rescue. It’s not the number of people praying or performing the act of prayer that creates a change to our circumstances…it’s the one we are praying to that enacts the change!
Our prayers are only as effective as the one we are praying to! We tend to focus on the act of prayer as being effective, rather that remembering Who it is that we are praying to. Remembering that we are talking with the God of the Universe makes us feel small…but that’s because…we are small.
But if I’m small, then how do I know that God will actually listen to anything I have to say?
We can be assured that God hears us, for two reasons. First, Jesus is telling us to pray to God, and Jesus only gives true instructions. Secondly, look at the first two words of the model prayer – Our Father. Even though we are significantly small, we are invited to speak to the great God of Everything, and address him as father.
With our perspective set for who we are, and more importantly who God is, we can then approach God with our requests and needs. It’s a whole lot easier to trust God with the outcome of our requests and situations when we have a clear picture of the person we’re praying to.