As the Scriptures guide us in our calling to call upon God, we consider perhaps the two most famous prayers in the New Testament: the Lord’s Prayer and the High Priestly Prayer. Both of these prayers, from Jesus Himself, act as models of prayer for us and —perhaps more importantly—give the assurance that God hears our prayers.
The Lord’s Prayer
First, we us consider the context from Matthew 6 in which Jesus instructs His disciples to call upon God.
“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:5-8, ESV)
The first thing to notice in Jesus’ instructions is how not to call upon God. The gift of calling upon our Heavenly Father for our needs and for the needs of others is not to be abused for show. Public prayer is good; corporate prayer is good; but if they are done with the intent of drawing attention to yourself— you have received your reward. When you call upon God, do not babble on as if prayer is some magical incantation. Prayers can be lengthy and wordy, but the intent of calling upon God is not to try and win favor with Him or use Him as a lucky charm through words. No, He is your Heavenly Father – you already have His favor on account of Christ; He already knows what you need before you ask Him – and what He will give is best for you.
That background makes Jesus’ example of prayer all the more compelling. He says:
Pray then like this:Matthew 6:9-13, ESV
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.
Consider each line (each request) of what we are to pray for from the Lord’s Prayer:
Hallowed be Your Name
The first thing asked for is that God’s Name — not ours, not anyone else’s — God’s name would be kept holy – kept sacred – kept set apart. The best things for us as Christians is that we are kept in God’s Holy Name – kept as members of His Holy Family, subjects of His Royal Kingdom. That is done by His Name and when His name is treated with both reverence and comfort. For if you belong to God in Christ, through His name — then nothing in all of creation can separate you from God’s love.
Your Kingdom come
Continuing from that first request, we are to call upon God’s name that His kingdom —His kingly activity of ruling and reigning — comes to us. God’s Kingdom comes through the proclamation of His Word — that we would hear, believe, and live according to His Word: That we would confess our sins and believe what He has done about our sins in Jesus Christ; That we would live from that forgiveness in Christ freed to love and serve our neighbor; that our neighbors would come to repentance and faith in Christ, and so become members of that Kingdom
Your Will be done
As with God’s kingdom, we call upon Him that His Will be done. This request is not some fatalistic idea that consigns us over to despair; it is quite the opposite. This request is that our wills would become conformed to His good and gracious will – that we would know God is with us, He is for us, He will not leave us, and He will bring us to everlasting life with Him. God’s Will is that all people come to the knowledge of the truth – to trusting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. That will means also that God would break and hinder every attack of the world, the devil, and the sinful nature that still resides in us that would seek to destroy our trust in Jesus.
Give us this day our daily bread
Calling upon God is not simply for the eternal needs that we have. We call upon Him also to supply what we need for our daily lives: food, shelter, clothing, water, etc. This “daily bread” can also be extended to the things in daily life that make life go well – go according to God’s will. Those things include good government, good weather, good neighbors, etc. While God supplies that as He wills to all sorts of people, this request teaches us to receive all those gifts with thanksgiving.
Forgives our debtors and we also have forgiven our debtors
This request is the first one that deals explicitly with our neighbors. As Christians, we have been reconciled to God in Christ; He is our Heavenly Father; He does not hold our sin against us any more – He has released us from our debts because Christ has atoned for them all. Thus, we have the confidence that as God has forgiven us, we are to forgive others. For the sake of His Kingdom coming, His Will being done, we pray that God would strengthen us to forgive our neighbors.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil
The final two requests in the Lord’s Prayer are really two sides of the same coin. We are to call upon God to preserve us from times of temptation; that He would guard and defend us from the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh. On our own, avoiding and not giving in to these would be impossible. God alone, through the Holy Spirit, must protect us. That might also mean the Holy Spirit convicts our hearts of our giving in to temptation that He might bring us to repentance. Ultimately, this repentance and trust in Christ will deliver us from evil.
These requests that our Lord instructs us to pray point us to the reality that prayer does not so much change God as it changes us. Calling upon God, as mentioned in a previous post, requires humility first. To call upon God that He grant all these things for His glory and for our benefit means we must be humble before Him. Yet, these requests also build confidence in our God’s steadfast love and mercy – His faithfulness to His promises – for God’s Name will be holy; God’s Will will be done; His Kingdom will come; He will provide for all our needs of body and soul; He has the victory now over sin, death, the devil, and hell. We can call upon Him with that confidence trusting that He will provide what is best for us —even when we can’t understand it. That leads to our second example from the New Testament, the High Priestly Prayer.
The High Priestly Prayer
John 17, the entire chapter, is a prayer from Jesus. He calls upon His Father that:
- His Father would be glorified in what He is about to accomplish on the cross (vv 1-4)
- His disciples would remain faithful to His Words (vv 6-19)
- Those who would believe in Him because of the word the disciples proclaim (vv 20-26)
Jesus own words here again both guide what we can call upon God for and provide assurance that God hears our prayers.
The first part of the prayer is not something we can one-for-one pray: there is only One Savior; only One who died for the sins of the world; only One who could atone for that sin. Yet, what we can learn from this prayer is that our lives are to be that of love and sacrifice for our neighbor. That is the work God has called us to do right here and now. That is how God’s glory can be manifested to others – as Jesus Himself says, “so let your light shine before others, that they might see your good words and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
The second part of this prayer is something we can most certainly call upon God for: that we remain steadfast in God’s Word. Jesus has declared what He has done “given them your word; kept them in Your name.” He calls upon His Father to “Sanctify -make them holy – in the truth; Your Word is truth.” So we also can call upon God that He continue to make us holy by His Word; that He bring us deeper into the knowledge of the truth; and that God would do that for the sake of our neighbors. That is the third part of the prayer.
Jesus concludes calling upon His Father here with the desire that others would come to believe in Him through the disciples words. This request is most certainly needed among us and in the world today. The world does not know God and hates His truth. Yet, Christians, who have been given the truth in Jesus Christ – who know the words of Christ – are to call upon God that more would repent of their false understandings and come to trust in the truth of Jesus Christ. We are to call upon God that this would happen. Yet, what is most amazing about this prayer from Jesus is that even today, He calls upon God for this to continue happening.
The Lord Jesus Christ, the crucified, risen, ascended, and glorified Lord, still prays this on our behalf today. He prays for our sakes – that we would glorify Him in our lives; that we would remain steadfast in His Word; that others would come to believe through our proclamation of Him. That means right now, Jesus is praying for you — interceding as High Priest — for you. That should give you immense confidence that your prayers through Jesus are heard; and that God will —in His time, according to His Will — answer your prayers. It may not be how we want them to be answered, but God will for the sake of Christ continue to work things out for good (Romans 8:28).
To call upon God with our needs and the needs of our neighbor conforms us to God’s Will. The assurance that God hears our prayers through His Son gives us confidence that He is our Heavenly Father and that He will never leave or forsake us. We cannot underuse this gift of calling upon God. The promise is that He will answer our prayers according to His good and gracious will. Let us then call upon Him as He has instructed us to do.