I am still receiving emails from people who ask the question, “Who do we pray to?” They are confused as to whether they should pray to God or the Father, or the Son or even the Holy Spirit. This doesn’t even take into consideration those few I receive from individuals who still believe that it must be okay to pray to others who have died and gone to heaven.
We talk about prayer and praying all the time and I think those of us who are teachers take it for granted that everyone knows how to pray. After all, most of us learn to pray as a little child, many of us barely old enough to speak.
I think many of us as teachers have dropped the ball so to speak when it comes to teaching effective prayer.
First I want to discuss with you what prayer is. I’m not going to give you definitions from books or explanations from encyclopedias, but rather will discuss with you what the Bible shows us prayer is, not just in instruction but by example. Prayer has been around since the very beginning of man’s time. Adam was the first to “pray” to God.
In reality, prayer is just a “religious” description of communication or “talking” to God. Now understand that many people “pray” or talk to others besides God. But just to keep it simple, it is a form of communication between one person and their deity. Now, that is a very general description and as Christians or followers of Christ, prayer has much more meaning, or should have for us.
Jesus’ ministry began very quickly and the multitudes followed Him because of His teaching and His care for the sick and infirmed. The Bible tells us in Matthew Chapter 5 that Jesus went up a mountain and when He had seated himself, He drew His disciples close. This is considered the “Sermon on the Mount” and is beloved by many.
During this teaching He began to teach on prayer, you will find this in Matthew 6:5 ¶ “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.
6 “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.
7 “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.
8 “Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.
9 ¶ “In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.
10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.
13 And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
14 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
15 “But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Jesus started teaching by pointing out to those gathered around what I like to call a “negative” example. There are times when the Lord teaches us, even today, by showing us what NOT to do as well as what we SHOULD do. You can read these examples in verses 5-7 above. Jesus closes this example by stating to be not like them for this one reason: Your Heavenly Father already knows what you need even before you can ask Him!!! This statement alone should bring assurance and comfort to all who find themselves in need.
I will get into why we should still pray, since the Lord knows our needs but first I want to continue with the how-to of prayer. Notice how Jesus tells the disciples to pray, do it in this manner, or in other words, here is an example. He then goes on to give the example that is today known worldwide as “The Lord’s Prayer.” Please remember though, He didn’t tell the disciples to recite this prayer, but rather, He was very clear to state, “in this manner” pray. In other words, this was clearly an example of how to pray.
Notice the very first thing; Our Father, in heaven. Jesus made it very clear that when we pray we are praying to our Father, who is in Heaven! This is why I don’t always like to use the generic term, God. For truly, God IS our Father. Speaking to Him and acknowledging Him as Father, OUR Father is more personal, more intimate. Jesus is telling us that is what the Father wants. He wants to be acknowledged intimately and personally.
What loving earthly father doesn’t just love his children to crawl up on his lap and be called dad, or daddy, or even papa?! Whatever the endearment, it warms the father’s heart to be acknowledged that way. Jesus was telling us in very simple terms, when you “pray” or communicate with God, acknowledge Him as your Father! Our Father in Heaven; Heaven is His domain, His Kingdom, His Home. As His children we are pilgrims. We are foreigners here on earth for if He IS our Father, then Heaven is also our Home!! Jesus is telling us to recognize that and acknowledge it!
Can you also see that when you acknowledge Him as your personal Father, how much more meaningful it is to you? It brings about a sense of assurance, comfort and peace. There is nothing greater than to be in the presence of a Father who loves you so much more than you can comprehend. Here is the Majesty, the Wisdom, the Brilliance that created the Universe and all that is in it and the very laws that govern it!! Yet, this Majestic, Exalted Person, wants us “who were created a little lower than the angels,” to call Him Father, to acknowledge Him as Parent!!! How AWESOME is that???
Jesus goes on to tell us that we should be reminded that He is Holy. He IS our Father, but He IS Holy still. This is our act of worship to Him. We realize the Awesomeness of His being, how Great, Majestic, Exalted He is. Many people get stuck here on “hallowed be thy NAME.” They feel that it is the NAME of God that is to be worshipped. The name of God, IS Holy because God is ALL Holy! But it is the idea that we remember HIM personally as being Holy and worthy to be worshipped. We identify with a Person by their NAME. So it is with the Father in Heaven. We recognize Him as our Father intimately, but we also remember that when we speak Father, we are speaking to One who IS HOLY!
We are to pray for His Kingdom to come and His will to be done. What is His Kingdom? Is it the Spiritual Heavenly realm that He inhabits? Think of this though, if He is Omnipresent, which means everywhere, all at once, then He is in Heaven, on the earth, in our hearts, out there in the Universe. There is no place in all of Creation that is hidden from the Lord.
Psalm 139:12 Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, But the night shines as the day; The darkness and the light are both alike to You.
13 For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them.
Jeremiah 23:23 “Am I a God near at hand,” says the LORD, “And not a God afar off?
24 Can anyone hide himself in secret places, So I shall not see him?” says the LORD; “Do I not fill heaven and earth?” says the LORD.
So then, with this in mind, where is His Kingdom that we should pray or ask it to come? What is the Kingdom that we should ask to come on earth and His will be done? Here’s what the Scriptures say:
Psalms 45:6 ¶ “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.
7 You love righteousness and hate wickedness;”
Matthew 5:20 “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 6:33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
Romans 14:17 “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
Hebrews 1:8 “But to the Son He says: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your Kingdom.
9 You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness;”
Do you see the pattern in Scripture? The Father’s Kingdom is righteousness. Righteousness is His will for each of His creation. This is the Kingdom of the Father we are to be asking (praying) for; His righteousness on earth; this is the Father’s will; that we all “be righteous for He is righteous.”(I John 3:7)
We don’t pray or ask for the Kingdom of Heaven to come to earth, for the earth has to also be reborn because of the taint of sin. This is why we will eventually have a new earth. But the Kingdom we are to seek the Lord for now, according to His will, is His Kingdom of righteousness. This should be the continual prayer of each of us.
Notice that we are to ask for His will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven. This shows us also that it isn’t the Kingdom of Heaven we are trying to bring to earth, but rather His Kingdom of righteousness for this is His will and this is what Heaven is. Heaven is a Kingdom of righteousness for there will be no one there that isn’t righteous or holy!
Now, notice what Jesus says we should pray or ask for next; “give us this day our daily bread.” Not, Lord help my savings account to grow; not, Father give me that better job next month; not, Father ensure me perfect health this next year. Rather, we are to ask for what we need this day. Today, the present. To ask anything more is to be presumptuous. Remember what Jesus said just before sharing this example of how to pray? “Don’t be like the heathen and hypocrites who pray for show. Your Father already knows your needs before you ask!” To carry on with YOUR needs any more than this is to doubt what Jesus says is true, “that your Father KNOWS your needs even before you ask.”
I want to share something else with you. Do you notice anything here where Jesus tells us to go to the Father with our “wants?” We are to ask for our present day needs. If you look at the verses in Matthew 7 that take up after this example of prayer, specifically verses 19-34, you will see a theme that Jesus is reiterating. You aren’t to worry about tomorrow; not food, not clothing, nothing of necessity, for our Father will take care of those things. To follow this is to have total confidence not only in the Father’s ability to care for you, but in the Truth of His Words to us.
This teaching that has gone on for many, many years that the Lord will give me anything I ask for and especially if two or three stand in agreement with me is a falsehood from the devil. It is twisting the Scriptures just as the Pharisees used to do to justify getting more than your needs! Psalm 37:4 is the Scripture most used to justify having your wants but it is so taken out of context. “Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.” When you put it in the context of the other verses, you will see the true meaning, “3 Trust in the LORD, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.
4 Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass.
6 He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, And your justice as the noonday.”–Psalm 37
This is speaking of the righteousness of the Lord and committing your way or submitting your will to His. He does give you the desires of your heart! He places those desires to be righteous and to follow after Him in your heart! He puts them there!
Jesus tells His disciples of the sower and likens it to those that sow the seed of the Word. One of the things that cause the Word to be unfruitful in those that hear it can be found in Mark 4:19, “and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.” (bold emphasis mine)
So, when you put this back in the light of Jesus’ teaching, we are to ask for our daily or present needs, but with the understanding that the Father already knows those needs and will meet those needs. Anything beyond that is not proper prayer but rather a willfulness that is not submitting to the Lord.
Jesus goes on to tell us that when we pray, or talk with the Father, we are to ask Him to forgive us our debts, transgressions, sin; those things that have caused us to be indebted to others through our actions or inactions but, we ask with this qualifying statement, “as we forgive those who are indebted to us.” Remember, we aren’t talking about finances, but rather those things that we do against others and they do to offend us. We are to ask the Father to apply forgiveness to us as we apply it to others, the same measure for measure. We cannot expect to receive more forgiveness than what we are willing to impart ourselves. This is very clear in Jesus statement on how to ask for it.
“And Father, don’t lead us or direct us into temptation.” First we are must understand that we are never tempted by the Lord. What we are to pray here is in conjunction with the next sentence. “Deliver us from the evil one.” A better way of understanding this would be, “Father keep us out of temptations path and thereby protect us from falling prey to the devil.”
James 1:13 ¶ “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.
14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.”
We can see that the Lord does not tempt us. So our prayer is one of help and protection that we don’t succumb to the temptations of the enemy.
I Peter 5:8 ¶ “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.”
In the Scriptures in James and Peter you can see the need to pray the way Jesus shows us. “Father, help us avoid the traps and snares of the evil one and keep us out of his grasp. Father, lead us AWAY from temptation.”
Now, why do we ask this?? Because the Father’s is the true Kingdom, Power and Glory! When we pray this way, when we go before the Father and talk with Him, communicate with Him, keeping the Spirit of these principles in mind, we are doing so all for the goal that “His Kingdom (of righteousness) comes and His will be done! This is the completion of the circle of prayer. It starts out acknowledging Him as a personal, intimate Father, recognizing His Kingdom of righteousness and all the things we pray for and do (as in forgiving) is to bring that righteousness about because, His is the true Kingdom, the power and the glory, always!
Jesus then explains the importance of forgiving others. This is the only point that Jesus took time to further explain and because He did, it holds a great weight of importance. Forgiveness is the key to bringing the Lord’s Kingdom of righteousness to us. We all make mistakes. We all are tempted and at times sadly fall under the spell of that temptation. Because others do as well, we need to have a heart of forgiveness so that we might also be forgiven.
Because of the time Jesus spent clarifying the importance of that forgiveness, we can assume that this portion of our prayer time or communion with the Father should be of utmost importance. We do know that being able to forgive and choosing to forgive others is the greatest demonstration of our love for others. It takes action; it is an act of the will and a demonstrable choice to forgive others. It is also one of the greatest things we can do to show the Father how much we love and appreciate Him. Forgiveness of those who have transgressed against us or those we love is not the natural thing to do. It is a “super-natural” act.
So, I know we spent quite some time analyzing this pattern that Jesus gave us for prayer, but in this very example is the answer to the question of who we pray to and why. Jesus didn’t tell us to pray to Him, even though He told those close to Him that He is the Son of God. Jesus constantly taught that He and the Father were One. But, He also taught extensively that His job or His mission was to come to man to point the way “to the Father;” the way that had been cut off by Adam’s sinful action.
Jesus didn’t instruct us to pray to the Holy Spirit, or the Comforter that He would be sending. Rather, He told us that the Holy Spirit would lead us into all truth. The Holy Spirit is the One who gives us the power needed to circumvent the natural tendency to not forgive. He is the One that gives us the “super-natural” power to forgive others.
Jesus also didn’t instruct us to pray to men or women who have died and have gone on, no matter how great they may have been while on earth. What He did tell us is that those who were obedient to righteousness, would be rewarded in the Father’s Kingdom.
Jesus instructed us to pray or talk, to communicate with the Father! It was the Father that Adam and Eve walked and talked with in the Garden of Eden. It was the Father that we couldn’t communicate with intimately any more once sin entered into our lives because of Adam’s choice. It was always the Father, that the Holy Spirit in Old Covenant times, pointed the children of Israel too, and the coming of the Messiah, the Son of God who would reopen the path to the Father.
When we pray, we seek the Father’s will. We seek His righteousness and ask for it to be a part of this world. We ask for our daily needs so that we won’t be distracted with need when we do fellowship with Him. He wants us to be intimate with Him, to spend time communing on a personal basis. Communion with the Father is always talking and this is where the real concept of prayer goes deeper. When we become one with Him in communion, by being in His presence, by putting ourselves aside so that we might KNOW Him better, words aren’t always necessary.
Remember, our Heavenly Father is Spirit. We must worship, be intimate and personal with Him, our spirit to His Spirit! We can sit in His presence just as Mary, the Sister of Lazarus did at the feet of Jesus, just listening. There is an intimacy, a closeness that can’t be accurately described when our spirits are in the presence of our Heavenly Father. All the cares of the world disappear and all that matters is Him. This is true worship, this is true communion with Him. It isn’t some mystical thing, it is a spiritual condition. This is the relationship that He desires with all those He loves.
It is this relationship, this closeness, this intimacy that refreshes us to continue to do those things that He desires us to accomplish so that others can also experience the same intimacy. This is true prayer. You can find other examples of prayer in the Scriptures, such as Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, but even there, you will see the principle He gave, in practice!
I hope this helps you to understand the importance of prayer and where our prayers, our thoughts, our meditations should be directed. We can have this relationship with the Father because of the work that Jesus did on the Cross and the work He continues to do at the right hand of the Father!
God bless you ALL in your continued intimacy (prayer) with the Father!!