While this message will not give all the answers of how or what we should pray, it will present some important concepts that will be helpful. There are too many variables to lay down a set of hard, fast rules concerning prayer for all Christians. For example, your ministry of prayer will depend upon your calling and function in the Body of Christ. At the same time there are some basic principles that the Lord has established to guide us in prayer.
I Samuel 12:23 Moreover as for me, God forbid that I shall sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and right way.
Samuel understood the necessity of praying for Israel. He knew that he would be sinning against God if he failed to pray for His people. And it is just as necessary for us to pray for the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, as it was for Samuel to pray for Israel. If we do not pray for the Church, then we are sinning against the Lord. God has established a law concerning prayer. He has determined that the spoken Word will be the channel through which He functions in the earth. If we do not pray, then we limit God. He has chosen prayer as His access into the lives of mankind.
Martin Luther understood the importance of prayer, too. He said that if he failed to pray one day, he could feel it; if he failed to pray two days, his family could feel it; and if he failed to pray three days, all of Germany could feel it.
Just how determined is God to only move through prayer and intercession? Listen to what He says in Ezekiel 22:30-31. And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before Me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none. Therefore have I poured out Mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath: their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the Lord God.
God wanted to have mercy, but there was no prayer to give His mercy access to the people. He could not find someone to intercede, so He sent judgment.
Jesus gives some excellent teaching on prayer in the Gospel of Luke. Chapters eleven and eighteen are classics. Let’s take a look at chapter eleven. It begins in verse one with one of the disciples asking Jesus to teach them to pray. Jesus begins His response in verse two.
Luke 11:2 And He said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.
This prayer is usually called “The Lord’s Prayer.” But since He gave it to His disciples, it could be called “The Disciple’s Prayer.” John 17, where Jesus prays to the Father, would be more accurately called “The Lord’s Prayer.”
At any rate, this is a model prayer for disciples. So it is important for us to understand what it means. Many people pray this prayer by rote, never really understanding it. Consequently, it is usually ineffective. It is not absolutely necessary to pray this prayer word for word. But it is necessary to understand the spiritual concepts Jesus is teaching, and to pray with an anointing. This prayer can be just the mouthing of words, or it can be the Spirit of Christ praying through you. Now, let’s take a look at some of the spiritual concepts in this prayer.
Our Father – There are various relationships that one can have with the Lord. All Christians have a saved-Savior relationship with Him. To many, though, that is the extent of their relationship with Him. Some Christians have a relationship with Him that goes beyond that. Their relationship has developed into a servant-Lord relationship. One’s relationship with the Lord can be enhanced by knowing Him as Deliverer, or Healer, or Sanctifier, or Baptizer, and the list could go on and on. But a Father-son relationship goes beyond the others.
A natural son not only receives an inheritance from among the possessions of his father, but he also receives mannerisms, characteristics, and attributes from him. Many things of the nature of the father come down to the son through birth. So it is spiritually. A Father-son relationship with the Lord means that the son is of the same nature as his Father.
If we feel that the birth process is complete when we accept Jesus Christ as Savior, then we are limiting what we can become in God. Natural birth doesn’t take place in a matter of seconds and neither does spiritual birth. Even when a child is born, it is just a babe and can do nothing for itself. Scripturally, a son is one who has come into maturity. The Jews had a special ceremony when a male child became thirty years old, and, at that time, he was proclaimed a son and could receive his inheritance and use his father’s name. Before that time he did not carry the title of son. Now I say, that the heir, as long as he is a child, differs nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; but is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. Galatians 4:1-2. So it is spiritually. Though we are children of God, we are not considered sons until we are spiritually mature. It is after we receive Jesus as our Savior that we are given the right to become sons of God. But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name. John 1:12.
When Paul speaks of “the adoption,” he is speaking of that time when we are “proclaimed sons.” The Greek word is huiothesia, which means the “placing of a son” (huios, “son” - thesis, “a placing”). Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children (huios, “sons”) by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will. Ephesians 1:5. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. Romans 8:15. God sent forth His Son…to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Galatians 4:4-6. Notice that both Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:6 says that we cry, “Abba, Father,” after we become sons. We must know who we are in God, if we are going to pray effectively.
So when we begin the Lord’s prayer with “Our Father,” we are not just speaking a name. We are proclaiming a relationship. Even if we are not yet sons, we are saying, “Father, we are on our way. We are becoming like You, we are calling those things that be not as though they were” (Romans 4:7). We determine how God sees us. When we accept a lesser relationship and are satisfied with it, He not only sees us as incomplete, but He sees us as those who have rejected what He wants us to become. If we set our hearts to continue growing spiritually, to become sons of God, then He sees us as a finished product. He relates to us according to what we set our hearts to be. If you don’t want much of God, then He won’t disappoint you. If you want to become all you can be, He won’t disappoint you in that either.
Which art in heaven – Many Christians see heaven as the sky and beyond. They picture God sitting on a throne somewhere many light-years away. While there are some places in the Scriptures where the word “heaven” refers to the literal heavens, most often “heaven” is used to designate the realm of spirit. God is Spirit (John 4:24). When we visualize God as being up in the great expanse of the heavens, then we are separating ourselves from Him. Being Spirit He dwells in the realm of spirit. He is omnipresent, meaning He is everywhere. However, in a very unique way, He is very close to us (Acts 17:27-28). We are spirit, too (spirit, soul, and body – I Thessalonians 5:23), and that gives us the potential to become one with Him. God’s ultimate interest is creating His people as His unique dwelling place (Revelation 21:3). At the same time He becomes our dwelling place. So when we say, “Our Father which art in heaven,” we are recognizing our relationship with Him and our oneness with Him.
We must not humanize God. The Scriptures speak of “the hand of God,” “the arm of God,” “the throne of God,” etc. Consequently, Christians often tend to humanize Him. And great restrictions are put on God by doing that. We must remember that He is Spirit (John 4:24) and not limit Him. While man is placing the throne of God light-years away in the heavens, God is trying to establish His throne in our hearts. That is where He wants to rule and reign. The phrase “which art in heaven” should not separate us from God, but make us aware that we are in His presence.
Hallowed be Thy name – The word “hallowed” means holy or sacred. But why are we to give such reverence to His name? Each time the Lord revealed Himself in a certain way in the Scriptures, He gave Himself a name according to that revelation. For example, when God revealed Himself to Abraham as the Great Provider, He named Himself Jehovah-jireh, “it shall be provided” (Genesis 22:14). He has many names and each one proclaims what He has determined to be to us. So when we say, “Hallowed be Thy name,” we are saying, “Holy and sacred is the revelation of Yourself to our hearts.”
Give us day by day our daily bread – Just as our spiritual life is of greater importance than our natural life, so spiritual bread is more necessary for us than the natural. And Jesus is our spiritual bread. I am the living Bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this Bread, he shall live for ever… John 6:51. He also tells us how we should feel about our natural needs, such as food, drink, and clothing. Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all thee things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knows that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Matthew 6:31-33. So we should not be anxious concerning our temporal needs, but trust the Lord to supply as we seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. That is the spiritual bread that sustains us. Our attitude toward our spiritual sustenance should be quite different from that concerning our natural needs. We should have an insatiable hunger for the Lord, and pray earnestly for our spiritual bread.
The Greek reads, Give us our bread for the coming day. In the days ahead we will need to be constantly filled with the Spirit of Christ. So pray for God to prepare you and nourish you in Him for the coming day. The Day of the Lord is at hand; we must be at full strength in Him. In verses 5-10, Jesus tells us how we should pray for spiritual bread.
Luke 11:5-6 And He said unto them, Which of you shall have a
friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me
6 For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him?
Notice that the bread needed here is not for one’s own consumption. The man is asking for bread to give to another. In other words, this has to do with spiritual bread for ministry to someone else. Notice also that it is the midnight hour, which is the time just before the breaking of a new day. The new day is the Day of the Lord. It is the day when God’s people are being gathered together under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming (parousia: presence) of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto Him. II Thessalonians 2:1. So the man is appropriating spiritual bread for his friend for the coming day. Also notice that he wants three loaves. The three loaves represent God in three aspects - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – which means that the man is wanting to minister the fullness of God to his friend.
Luke 11:7-8 And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me
not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise
and give thee.
8 I say unto you, though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needs.
God will sometimes test your dedication, your desire, and your intensity by seeming to ignore or reject your request. Now many Christians would take that as a "No,” and quit praying. This prayer, though, has nothing to do with personal desires. It involves ministry. The man needs more of God that he might minister to his friend and prepare him for the coming Day of the Lord. And it is the will of God for him to have it. So why does the Lord seem reluctant? His seeming reluctance is designed to pull the individual into a deeper intensity and dedication to the will of God. His will and the Kingdom must be more important than our own comforts. We’re facing the Day of the Lord, and passivity and lukewarmness are luxuries we can’t afford.
The Lord is not teaching us by this prayer to wait patiently for the bread of life. Some would say, “Well, in the timing of the Lord. When He gets ready, He’ll do it.” Nonsense! The Lord is teaching persistence, to grab hold of His promises and not turn them loose until they are working in our lives. Too many Christians are weak spiritually because they do not “contend earnestly for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). The Lord promised “to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20), and we should hold Him to it. God will promise a downpour, and then send a trickle to see if you will accept it. And if you do, that is all you will get. Don’t accept half of a blessing. We’re contending for His fullness! We will not be silent, and we will give Him no rest until He makes the Church a praise in the earth (Isaiah 62:6,7). Persistence works when relationship doesn’t seem to. Listen to what the Lord says, “I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needs.”
Luke 11:9-10 And I say unto you, ask, and it shall be given you;
seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
10 For every one that asks receives; and he that seeks finds; and to him that knocks it shall be opened.
The tense of the verbs ask, seek, and knock in the Greek denote continuous action. Therefore, it is “ask, and keep on asking: seek, and keep on seeking; knock, and keep on knocking.” Do you hear what the Lord is saying? He is telling us to be persistent and intense. If you really believe, you won’t quit until you receive what He has promised. Just how much do you want to be filled with the Spirit? Just how much do you want to be a man or woman of God? Are you willing to wrestle with God like Jacob did (Genesis 32:24-28).
We need that same tenacious quality of Jacob. The Word says that he wrestled with the Angel of the Lord, until the breaking of the day. The Angel said, “Let Me go, for the day breaks,” And Jacob said, “I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me” (Genesis 32:24,26).
We’re approaching the breaking of a new day, too. So this is the time to wrestle with the Lord for the bread for the coming day. Don’t turn Him loose! Get three loaves! Receive of His fullness.
Luke 11:11-13 If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a
father, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give
him a serpent?
12 Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?
13 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?
Have you ever said, “Well, I know that God is able, but I don’t know if He will”? It’s easy to believe in God’s ability. It’s not so easy to believe in His willingness. But God wants us to know that He is able and willing. Are we, as parents, willing to give our children good gifts? Of course, we are. So God is saying that He is even more willing to give to those who ask. It is important for us to believe in God’s willingness. What seems to be reluctance is not unwillingness. He wants us to understand that He is very willing to give us bread for the coming day. And He says that it comes by way of the Holy Spirit.
The Lord has given us some excellent principles on the good and right way to pray. Let’s put them into practice. Remember, prayer is God’s access into the lives of mankind.
Copyright © 1995 by Henry DuBose