“Therefore, you must pray like this:” Matthew 6:9a
A beautiful gift given to mankind is that Jesus gave us a pattern to help us pray. These next several entries will zoom in on what is known as the Lord’s Prayer. While the exact words of the Lord’s Prayer are certainly beneficial to pray, what Jesus meant when he commands us to pray in this way is more about the content of the prayer than the exact words, as if these words were all that were ever acceptable to God!
The very first words are “Our Father.” This reminds us that God doesn’t just belong to us, and its not just an individual relationship: Christians are one big family, as united to each other as we each are to God. This is something that can easily be lost in our culture of rugged individualism. It often leads us to feel comfortable “going it alone,” thinking that a private devotional life is all that Christianity is. In truth, God made us for each other just as much as for him, and we miss out on so much if we don’t connect with fellow believers around us.
Next, Jesus speaks, “Hallowed be your name.” We don’t have a great one word English idea for what is being expressed here. It’s akin to asking, “Let your name be seen as good, as holy, as pure, and wonderful.” A person’s name in ancient cultures summed up who they were; in a sense, this is a prayer asking that God would be recognized for who he truly is. This is a wonderful prayer not only for those who don’t know him, but also for each of us who do. We each drift in our affections and even in our conceptions of God, and asking him to hallow his name is a great way to address this.
The prayer then moves to talking about God’s kingdom coming and his will being done. These petitions get down to the idea of God’s authority. All humans are resistant to authority over them, and this is no less true for twenty-first century college students. We are raised to question authority, to push back against it, and to strive to be our own ultimate boss. While not all authority is good, Jesus wants us to understand that God’s authority is not only something to be tolerated, but embraced, delighted in, and longed for. That’s because God’s character is perfectly just and noble, worthy of admiration, and his desires towards us are for life.
Where do you stand in your heart relationship towards authority? Perhaps you’ve had bad experiences with bosses, teachers, or even parents in the past. Are there ways that you’ve seen God’s authority to be different in Scripture? If you’re unsure where to find pictures of this, ask a Christian friend for help. Maybe you’ve had good experiences with the authority in your life. Praise God that this has been true, and list some ways of how these positive experiences have been a reflection of who God is.
Asking that God would bring his kingdom and have his will done here on earth is a prayer that can change us. It can open up our hearts to desiring his will to be born out in our personal lives, as well as in the lives around us. As you practice this prayer, keep your heart attentive to ways God may call you to transform your habits, or work to bring a positive change in your dorm or on campus!