Prayer Changes

Everything

I can testify to this fact. It changes us individually as we come before a mighty God, and it changes our world as we intercede. Prayer actually works and makes a difference to situations; I have seen evidence of this in my own life. It is a critical foundation in our Christian faith.  

 

But why are we talking about prayer in a series of articles on worship?

 

Earlier this year, in the first article of the series, Louise reminded us that “He (Jesus) defines true worship as worshipping the Father in spirit and in truth. This establishes the only worship non-negotiables: it must be rightly directed to God, rightly engaged by God’s Spirit, and rightly formed by God’s Word.” We are not limited by place or time to worship God. In fact, those two things are irrelevant to what is needed to worship. 

 

In the next article, Britteny reminded us that “The Hebrew word for worship is shachah and depending on the context, it is translated into English as worship or bow down… Music itself isn’t worship. My spiritual posture is everything... This is what the word shachah tells us; God is in control, and we give ourselves as an offering to Him.” 

Britteny reminded us that worship is not limited to a particular format, but it is much more about the posture of our heart.  

 

If we are not limited by the time, the place, the format, or the shape in which worship can take place, if it is rather about a posture towards God and connecting to Him – then prayer can be a way of worshipping! For prayer is precisely that: connecting and conversing with God.

 

But how do we pray? Yes, prayer is simply a conversation between you and God, but let’s not leave it there. Let’s look at what Jesus had to say about the subject. Luckily for us, the Son of God himself answered this question directly: 

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“This, then, is how you should pray: 

 

‘Our Father in heaven, 

hallowed be your name, 

your kingdom come, 

your will be done, 

on earth as it is in heaven. 

Give us today 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 the evil one.’”

 

Matthew 6:9-13 (NIV)

I want to share a few observations about the prayer Jesus gave us. 

 

Firstly, this prayer glorifies Father God. It is not self-promoting but rather invites us to come humbly before God as we give Him all the focus. 

 Yes, the second half of the prayer features our requests before the Father, but even then, it merely highlights our dependence on God. We rely on God to give us our daily bread, we rely on God to forgive us our sins, we ask God to lead us away from temptation. This prayer glorifies the Father and asks us to rely on and trust Him.

 

Secondly, Tim Mackie (theologian and co-founder of the BibleProject) observes the structure of The Lord’s Prayer. It is broken down into an introduction and two sections: 

 

Intro:   

Our Father in heaven, 

hallowed be your name, 

 

Section 1:  

your kingdom come, 

your will be done, 

on earth as it is in heaven. 

 

Section 2:  

Give us today 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 the evil one. 

 

The intro reminds us of who we are praying to. Section 1 addresses the Father, and Section 2 brings out the petitions of the community of disciples. Mackie identifies how Jesus has given us a prayer that is “structured according to Jesus’ highest values”- the Great Command. “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’” 

Matthew 22:37-39 (NIV)

 

Mackie states that “Jesus has given us a prayer that reflects those two priorities… where we first orient ourselves to the Father. We express our loyalty and allegiance and love for the Father and His priorities in our world. And then we turn our attention to us.” 

 

What a beautiful structure Jesus has given us to use while praying. It is simple, easy to remember, poetic, and sums up his entire mission.

 

My next observation is the use of communal language. This may sound obvious, but have you ever paid attention to the fact that The Lord’s Prayer is written with communal language? 

“Our Father,” “Give us,” “Forgive us,” “Lead us.” Not once does it say my or me. 

For many years when I prayed, “Give us today our daily bread,” I really meant “Give me today my daily bread.” But once you let this fact sink in, it is a real game changer. The Lord’s Prayer is really a prayer of intercession! It is a prayer to pray with and on behalf of others. Yes, it is a beautiful prayer to pray over yourself, but I don’t think it is an accident that Jesus used communal language.  

 

Intercession is an important part of prayer (as we can see from the fact that Jesus included it when he taught us how to pray). It is also an important way to partner with God in His mission on earth. In his book, Red Moon Rising, Pete Greig states that “Christians are called to welcome Christ into every ‘square inch of the whole domain of our human existence.’” This means that whenever we see the tyranny of enemy occupation at work in our own lives, we pray for Christ’s Kingdom to come instead. Whenever we see oppression amongst the poor, in our educational systems, in government or even in the church, we use our free wills to say defiantly, “Not my will but Your will be done.”

He goes on to say, “Our prayers light up landing strips for the invading forces of Heaven.” What a fantastic perspective on intercession! Let’s welcome in and light the way for the forces of Heaven! 

 

So, let’s get practical. How can these revelations be reflected in our prayer life?  

1. The NKJV translates verse 9 as “In this manner, therefore, pray.” So, let’s use the structure of The Lord’s Prayer as a guide to pray. (The structure being: Focus on who are praying to, praying for an increase in God’s Kingdom and His will, and then bringing our earthly needs before Him.)

By reminding ourselves of who God is/what He has done and praying for His Kingdom first before praying for our own needs, I suspect our perception of our own needs will change. Instead of rushing into prayer with a list of our complaints, perhaps our earthly requests will have a new perspective in light of our incredible God. (Please hear me, it is important to bring our needs before God. He wants to hear them and ease our burden. But how often do we just pray because we need or want something? I know I am certainly guilty of that.)

2. Praying the words of scripture is a powerful tool. Let’s join with thousands of generations before us in praying the prayer Jesus gave us. If you feel God’s prompting, I challenge you to pray this prayer every day for a month. See what happens, see how it translates in the different contexts of your life, see what God reveals through it.  

3. And finally, pray this prayer with others and on behalf of others. It may be with a bible study, a life group or just a group of trusted brothers and sisters in Christ. It may be on behalf of your friends, your community, your church, your city, your country, the world.  

I suspect many of you reading this article will be involved in creative groups within your local church. I urge you to make prayer a key priority in your group. You may like to pray this prayer, or pray using this model with your group. However you decide to pray, it is crucial that we are committed to being a people of prayer. Powerful things happen when we press into God together. I also want to encourage you to pray using this model on behalf of your group. Intercede for them. Bring each member and the situations they face before the God of Heaven and earth. Because… prayer really does change everything.

 

Written by

Shushannah Spence

Worship Arts Coordinator NSW/ACT

Australia Territory

 

 

 

1.Mackie, T., 2018. The Lord’s Prayer- Gospel of Matthew Part 10. [podcast] Exploring My Strange Bible 

2.Greig, P. and Roberts, D., 2003. Red Moon Rising.