The Lord’s Prayer, The Parable of the Friend at Midnight, The Parable of the Father and Son
Are there times in your walk with Christ when you have grown so weary in prayer that you have nothing left to say, no sense of God’s listening ear? Do you feel like your prayers have become “empty phrases” and the “many words” of the Gentiles?
In desperation we cry out, “Lord teach us to pray.” When we first ask, we have in mind the specific issue that dominates our prayer—for the new job, or the personal relationship gone bad; someone who is ill; fear about tomorrow; longing to be set free from personal sins that harass and bring regret and guilt.
At first glance, the Lord’s prayer seems unrelated to the desperate state of our prayer. Yet, each request is a room filled with treasure, and we are called to move through the rooms one by one. Beginning with “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name,” the prayer moves us off center to a Father’s love, whose name is worthy of worship. We are children first of all, who are made to worship. The real cry of our heart, hidden by our desperation in prayer, is for a Father in heaven, and a worthy object of worship - for this we are made. More than the answers we are seeking in prayer, we need God. The answers to all our petitions, are in the Father Himself. “You have made us for Yourself O God, and our hearts are restless, until they find their rest in You.” (Augustine)
In the Father’s warm embrace, we gain a new way of seeing things. “Your will to be done, Your Kingdom come.” Seeing our prayers from the vantage point of the Father’s will changes our requests. Father, not my will, but yours be done. Are our prayers full of anxiety and fear about our material future, or worries about decisions we need to make? He assures us that when our heart’s desire is for His kingdom above all else, all these things will be added to us. (Matthew 6:33) Gratitude, a new contentment —for this day’s supply of shelter, food, clothing, guidance, health— find their place in our prayers.
Greater humility characterizes our prayers as we are reminded that while we enjoy the grace of His forgiveness, we cannot refuse to forgive those who have offended us. We ask Him to search our hearts to see if there is a wicked way in us. We realize afresh, that we are helpless in the face of temptation and the wiles of the devil. He welcomes our, “Lord, I cannot do it.” We see desperately how we need His protection from the world’s temptations; how helpless we are in the face of the evil one’s deceptions. Lord, have mercy.
Finally, the Lord’s prayer binds us together with all believers. It is a family prayer. We are not alone in our struggle in prayer.
Join the family this Lent in praying, “Our Father in heaven…”
Esther Powell, MEdc from the University of Virginia and the wife of Charlie Powell, has worked as an educator for nearly 30 years, in the United States and overseas.