¶ Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when He finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” Luke 11:1
When one of the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, I wonder if he had been feeling (as many of us have often felt) that our prayers never seem to be answered? This disciple had watched and noticed that everything Jesus prayed for was answered by His heavenly Father. Who wouldn’t want to know how to pray prayers that always get a “Yes!” from God? And what Jesus taught him and his brother disciples was just that: A model prayer for how to always have God say “Yes!” to our prayers. If you want to prayers that are guaranteed to be answered, read on.
BAD THEOLOGY DISTORTS HOW WE PRAY
¶ “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. Matthew 6:7-8
Many of Christ’s public prayers were incredibly short. This stood in stark contrast to the religious leaders of His day whom Jesus said of them, “for a pretense [they] make long prayers” (Mark 12:40). The effectiveness of our prayers is therefore not dependent on how long they are or whether or not we use ‘the right words.’ But the effectiveness of our prayers is dependent upon us praying according to the will of God. The model prayer that Jesus taught His disciples explicitly includes the phrase “Your will be done” (Matt. 6:10). If you want your prayers answered, pray that! Ask God for His will to be accomplished in your life. But what Jesus taught about praying this way was much bigger than just about what God wants to do in our lives because that phrase continues, “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). This presents two equal and opposite potential dangers. Firstly, there is the danger of understanding Christ’s prayerful words to mean that we should think of earth as our ultimate home. It’s not. God Himself is (for a home is not so much a dwelling, but where we are loved and secure). Secondly, there is the danger of understanding Christ to mean that earth is not our home and therefore we shouldn’t care too much about what happens here (since the focus sounds like it’s on heaven not earth).
From my experience, the reason that many believers become disappointed with God and His seeming lack of answers to their prayers, stems from bad theology. Sometimes this bad theology is based on a misunderstanding for how Christ taught His followers the model prayer. For example, I have heard preachers teach that when Christ taught His disciples to pray that God’s will would be done on earth as it in heaven, He was teaching that since there is no sickness or pain in heaven, that living in the will of God on earth meant that we could live without sickness or pain if we only had enough faith. But this is not only a misunderstanding of what Jesus taught us to pray it is also puts the focus of God’s will entirely into this life on earth.It is too easy for us to get so wrapped up in this life that we think this life is the main deal. This bad theology creates an unreal perception of our life on earth and also unreasonable expectations of how God treats our prayers. Bad theology becomes a curtain that distorts our view of both the world we live in, and of God Himself.
GOD’S WORD PULLS BACK THE CURTAIN
The Bible pulls back the curtain on this unreal perception of this world and tells us the truth. A distorted view of this world and of God may lead some believers to believe the wrong things such as “It is never God’s will that people die.” Yet the Bible reveals that we will all die (Hebrews 9:27). It is wrong to think that every disappointment and the setbacks you experience is the Devil attacking you. The Bible reveals that all of creation is subject to disappointment and frustration (Romans 8:20). In fact, the Bible reveals that in this world, you will subject to occasions where you experience distress, disease and the death of loved ones (Romans 8:22). While some believers might assume that these things are necessarily the judgment of God and will ask “What have I done to deserve this?” the Bible reveals that even the most godly and holy of believers experienced this. Consider the brief life of John the Baptist and then take a course in Church History from ICI College and note the lives (and the life-spans) of Savonarola, Latimer and Ridley, and Robert M. M’Cheyne. If we can align our understanding of God and our expectations for our lives on earth with what the Bible reveals, we will have a clearer picture of reality rather than the distorted picture that the world and bad theology affords!
This earth is meant to be a shadow of the ultimate reality that awaits us in heaven. Where this shadow of God’s rule is obscured because of the darkness of evil, we need to earnestly pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it in heaven. The Church is also a shadow of this reality that awaits us all. And in an incredibly powerful way (and something I point out to every couple I prepare for marriage) marriage is meant to be one of the clearest foreshadows of heaven. This is why I always tell a couple that I prepare for marriage, or counsel when they are, that marriage can be one of the closest things to heaven on earth that you will ever experience. But this should not cause singles to feel as if they have no potential to appreciate the heaven that awaits each child of God, because the sweetness of heaven is often glimpsed in those acts of pure friendship, love, kindness, and generosity by a brother or sister in Christ.
AS IT IS IN HEAVEN
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4
Every now and then it is good to be reminded of how the believer’s heavenly home is described so that when we pray Christ’s model for us we can do so intelligibly. Heaven the dominion where God rules. There is perfect peace there (note the metaphor of the “glassy sea” around God’s throne, Rev. 4:6). There is absolute justice there because the Ultimate Judge has executed perfect justice (Rev. 20:11-12). The things that the King of Kings has declared good are the only things that are valued and sought after. Those things, such as injustice, wrong-doing, selfishness, falsehood, and immorality (which is the fruit of idolatry) are prohibited in God’s heavenly domain (Rev. 21:27). Except for the faithful heavenly creatures, every other citizen of heaven has been rescued and redeemed and personally adopted by the King Himself (Rev. 21:3). Therefore, when we pray as Jesus instructed for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, we should consider these expressions of God’s revealed will.
We should pray that:
When God’s people gather they do so to glorify God. .
When God’s people gather they should experience a foretaste of the peace of God that comes from being in His presence. .
God’s people should seek to promote the will of God in society that all people obey God and His Word. .
God’s people do all they can to promote the most fundamental aspect of justice—especially for the most vulnerable in our society—the right to live. .
God’s people exemplify to the world what is good, right, honourable, and virtuous especially when it comes to human sexuality and decency. This must mean that publicly object to such things as slavery, sex-trafficking, pornography, sexual promiscuity, and prostitution—all of which degrade human beings and especially demean women to the status of objects rather than persons who bear the imago dei. .
All people turn to Christ to be accepted by God and that the lie that all religions lead to God be exposed by the light of the gospel as a Devilish ruse designed to ensnare and delude his victims to a lost eternity. .
This is what we are praying for when we pray Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. And a final note on what happens in the heart and life of any believer when they pray these big prayers: God often uses the pray-er to help answer the prayers they pray. This is why we protest when certain politicians defy the Living God, who is LORD of Heaven AND EARTH, by their wicked schemes to see the vulnerable treated as objects or an expense on a hospital’s financial report. It is why we take a prophetic stand against the devilish evil that views a child in the womb as a mere clump of tissue cells, or why a frail and ill elderly hospital patient is nuisance in an over-crowded hospital ward. It’s why we object when well-meaning but uninformed believers announce that God does not expect the non-believer to obey Him or His Word. Because, we pray with our Lord that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven!