|Observing the Text!|
The Kingdom and Prayer
Prayer is an important discipline for a community of faith and for individual Jesus followers. It is important to see prayer in the context of the kingdom of God. There are times to pray and there is a model of prayer that the Gospel writers provide for us. First, we will look at the model of when to pray and then the model of how we should pray.
|Interpreting the Text!|
A Model for When to Pray (Luke’s Gospel)
Jesus found prayer a necessity. It was a meaningful part of his life and ministry. Luke recorded ten occasions when Jesus prayed. Seven of these passages do not record the actual prayer, but the context says he prayed. In addition to these ten times, Luke recorded two parables that only appear in his Gospel, which are about prayer (Luke 11.5-10; 18.1-8). The prayers in the life of Jesus are all associated with important events in the ministry of Jesus.
Luke shows Jesus praying on the following ten occasions. We might find in this list sometimes to pray that we have not thought of before. They are:
- at his baptism (Luke 3.21-22);
- after a day of ministry (Luke 5.15-16);
- before choosing the disciples (Luke 6.12);
- before instructing (Luke 9.18-20);
- at the transfiguration (Luke 9.28-29);
- on the return of the seventy-two (Luke 10.21-22);
- before teaching the disciples how to pray (Luke 11.1);
- for Peter and the disciples (Luke 22.31-32);
- at the point of suffering (Luke 22.39-46);
- and on the cross (Luke 23.34, 46)
From the beginning to the close of the ministry of Jesus, from his baptism to the cross, prayer was a central part of the life of Jesus. I believe that it is true that each of us can improve our communication with God. We can learn to pray in the power of the kingdom just like Jesus prayed.
The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6.1-13)
Remember, the basic background of the teaching of Jesus is that of the conflict of God’s rule and the kingdom of Satan. This provides an adequate key to understanding what Jesus is teaching.
Jesus begins by teaching his disciples about acts of righteousness and the place they should be accomplished (Matthew 6.1-4). The place for doing acts of righteousness is in secret, not in public. The pattern for prayer is the same. Jesus said, “Do not be like the play actors when you pray…this is how you should pray…” (Matthew 6. 5-9). This address is not a put down of prayer, but a put down of the showboating style of prayer which would call attention to the one praying! In my growing up experience in a small Pentecostal church in the South, there were many folks who prayed in the public services with loud and boisterous, and with repetitive terms all in an effort to be seen by the congregants as being spiritual.
There are two sets of petitions in what is often called the Lord’s Prayer. Actually, it is a model for the disciples to use in their prayers. The first set, petitions one and two, are concerned with the establishment of God’s purpose on a cosmic scale. The second set, composed of the last three petitions, regards the personal needs of the disciples. All five petitions are imperatives. They are commands given to God. Yep, that’s correct: a command is given to God, but not a demand of God.
Let your name be hallowed
The first petition is the hallowing of God’s name, which means not only reverence and honor given to God, but also to glorify him by obeying his commands. We can speak to God about allowing us to act in such a manner that his reputation is not slandered.
Let your kingdom come, your will be done
The second petition is that God’s kingdom would come and be practiced on earth as it is in heaven. At some point in past time, Satan was cast out of heaven along with a host of beings. The war, which arose in heaven, had been cast down to earth. Jesus was teaching his disciples and us to ask the Father: “Just as you have expelled Satan from heaven, establishing your rule there that you continue to bring about that same rule on earth.” Everything was now all right in heaven. Satan was cast out—now he is to be pursued on earth. Pray for God’s rule in our life, work, children, family, recreation.
Give us today the bread of tomorrow
…Give us today the bread of tomorrow….
The third petition comes in verse 11. “Give us today our daily bread…” This translation is, unfortunately, an inadequate translation. It could better read, “…Give us today the bread of tomorrow…” Hunger is a work of Satan. Jesus took the work of Satan seriously. He requested the Father to bring to his people today some of the abundance of God’s rule from tomorrow. We can pray for the specifics that we need in our lives. We can pray for spiritual, emotional, physical, financial and social needs of our community of faith and our personal lives. Maybe we should try that order for prayers, i.e., first for the community of faith and only then for ourselves.
Forgive us our sins
The fourth petition is “…forgive us our debts as we have forgiven our debtors.” This is a prayer for the forgiveness of sins. This petition has a condition attached to it. Matthew 6.14-15 makes this petition clear. These verses do not mean that our forgiveness of others earns us the right to be forgiven. They mean that God forgives only the penitent and one of the chief evidence of penitence is a forgiving spirit. This is the arena to pray for forgiveness of our sins and the sins of our community of faith.
Do not let us succumb to the attack of the evil one.
The fifth petition is “…And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Here again a better translation could be: “Do not let us succumb to the attack of the evil one, but deliver us from the evil one and his attacks.” Jesus was giving instruction to his disciples on how to pray when Satan comes to attack. Satan was surely going to attack them in their own community of faith and their personal ministry. Stand against the attack of the evil one.
The entire prayer of Jesus is based on his conviction that this present world is under the control of the evil one. The praying of the disciples in this fashion was one more tool in their arsenal.The Lord's Prayer is based on his conviction that this present world is under the control of the evil one. Click To Tweet
Praying in the Spirit
One more piece of armament that believers have is another kind of prayer. A part of one’s prayer life can be praying in the Spirit or praying in tongues. To pray in tongues is foreign to many people. Speaking in tongues has received a lot of bad press and much abuse. However, throwing out the baby with the bath wash is never a suitable alternative to abuse. I believe that every believer has the right to speak in tongues as part of her/his Christian experience. There are may fillings in the Spirit, one of them may have the manifestation of tongues. Those who have been taught that this is no longer available today and use passages like “Do all speak in tongues?” as a way of saying that even if it was for today, not all could do it, have missed the meaning of the passage quoted from 1 Corinthians. This passage (1 Corinthians 12.27-31,) is in the middle of a longer contextual passage about “when the Church comes together.” The answer to the question: “Do all speak in tongues?” is “No! All do not speak in tongues.” The context, however, provides us the answer where this No! applies. It applies when the church comes together. When the church comes together, if everyone spoke in tongues it would be mass confusion. So Paul says that when the church does come together that all do not speak in tongues. He is not speaking to the issue that all are qualified to speak in tongues by virtue of being a believer, only that all should not speak in tongues when the Church comes together.
Think About It!
If you are a non-charismatic Jesus follower, reflect on the information above. Ask God to cut through all the abusive things that you may have been taught about tongues. Risk asking him for the language of his choice to come through you. Remember, if you ask him for something good, he will not give you something evil.
If you are a Charismatic believer who has spoken in tongues, reflect on the perception that you may feel somewhat superior because of this operation of the Spirit in your life. Pray and ask God to help you put tongues in its rightful theological place. It is not “the” end-all gift.Do all speak in tongues? Click To Tweet
During our stay between the already and yet-to-come kingdom of God, there will be occasions that God calls us to attack the lines of the enemy. When we do, we can be assured that there will be some counterattacks. On both occasions, God has given us armament to guard ourselves and advance his rule.
If you would like to read more about the operation of the Spirit, read my book Gracelets.
|Living into the Text!|
It is always important to apply what you have learned. Pause at this point and ask for the help of the Holy Spirit to meditate on and put into practice some or all of the following.
- Spend a few minutes with God and do not ask for anything. Give him verbal honor and reverence.
- Make a list of items in your day-to-day life where you and your community of faith need the rule of God to invade, so that in those areas his will is done just like it is in heaven.
- Ask God to give your community of faith and you some of his future blessings now.
- Ask God to forgive your community of faith and you of all the specific sins you can think of.
- Pray that God will help your community of faith and you with his kingdom rule to stand strong against the attacks of the enemy.
The articles below come from various Bible Dictionaries and other sources. The posting of these brief articles are to introduce some readers to the vast amount of information that is provided to enhance your reading of the text of the Bible with a hope that it will lead to a better understanding of the text and will lead the reader to an improved praxis in his or her community of faith and personal life. You might read the articles offline in a number of different Bible Dictionaries. If you do not own a Bible Dictionary, I would recommend New Bible Dictionary 3rd Edition. If you like lots of color pictures, try Revell Bible Dictionary. Revell Bible Dictionary is no longer in print but is available from Amazon. One of these should suit your personal needs.
- Read more about Prayer in an article by N. T. Wright, entitled: “The Lord’s Prayer as a Paradigm of Christian Prayer”