Pray Without Ceasing
The following are a few thoughts from the lesson that I’m preparing to teach in Junior High Sunday School this weekend.
We’re gonna talk through the Lord’s Prayer. The over-arching theme is this: Jesus didn’t give us the Lord’s prayer to teach us a formula for the outward action of prayer. He was trying to teach us how are hearts will look when they’re truly submitted to Christ. Let’s take a brief look at these verses from Matthew 6.9-13, and see if that assertion is true to the text. I think it’ll become clearer as we move through it. Think also about the contextual thrust of the Sermon on the Mount; namely, that Jesus is always after our heart change before our outward change.
Our Father in Heaven…
We can’t talk to God if we don’t understand who God is. Prayer is first and foremost an acknowledgement of the sovereignty, power, greatness, and grace of God to His children. Knowing God as our Father changes everything about how we will relate to Him.
hallowed be Your name…
The overarching cry of the our hearts as believers must be that the name of God would be exalted, no matter the cost to us. Those of us who love Jesus should be so concerned about God’s glory that we will forego their own desires if it means that God will be honored.
Your kingdom come…
Those of us who are in Christ ought to want Him to come back. Our minds ought to be set on the day when Jesus will establish His reign on this earth and conquer all of His enemies.
Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…
This is one of the hardest things that I know to pray. Why? Because if I am praying for God’s will to be done, then I am praying that some of my deepest desires will not be fulfilled, if they don’t conform to God’s will. I’m saying, “Father, I don’t know what You want to do with me, but do it. Whatever ‘it’ is. Bring me the people, circumstances, successes, and failures that You want to bring me, for Your glory.” That’s crazy hard to say to God. We can’t pray that unless we’re obsessed with the hallowing of YHWH’s name.
Give us this day our daily bread…
We have to acknowledge our place in the world; namely, that we are absolutely dependent on the provision of our Father. We can’t pay Him back for anything. All we can do is ask Him to provide for us. That honors Him, because it shows that we see Him as higher than we are. And it also honors the magnitude of his sacrifice
David showed us that he understood this, when he said, “What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord (Psalm 116.12-13).”
and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors…
This is a call for us to understand ourselves. We are sinners, saved by grace. We don’t deserve God’s favor. We have to submit ourselves to His grace, not presume upon it. Our Father is full of grace, and He will pour it upon us. But He is honored when we acknowledge Him as the grace-giver.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Again, this phrase acknowledges our human frailty. We’re so susceptible to sin. It’s only by the grace of God that we will be protected from and not succumb to the traps of sin and Satan.
I think that’s why Paul tells us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5.16-18). He’s not talking about the physical act of closing your eyes, folding your hands, and saying specific phrases. Yes, you have to have set times of more formal prayer. But if it’s true that the Lord’s prayer is a heart model, not an action model, then believers ought to have a heart of prayer even when they are not “praying” in the outward sense.
That’s what Jesus and Paul were talking about. And that’s practical. I used to think that these verses were calling us to constantly be doing something outwardly. That doesn’t square with the rest of Scripture, and that doesn’t square with real life. He’s called us to more than formal prayer; He’s after our hearts, because “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Matthew 12.34).”
But our hearts are sinful. Speaking for myself, my heart is often in the wrong place when I pray. Often, I care a whole lot more about my will and my glory than God’s. So what’s our hope? What’s my hope?
Hebrews 10.19: “…we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus.”
So Jesus is the mediator between us and God.
Who is Jesus?
1 John 2.1-2: “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”
Jesus is our righteous advocate. Why does He advocate for us? Because we have trusted Him. We’ve been covered in His righteousness. So we can come to our Father, failures and all, and rest in His love and grace. He hears us, and He’s gonna answer us with our best in mind (Romans 8.28).
That’s why we pray.