…For we don’t know how to pray as we ought.” Romans 8:26
Most of us are all too familiar with what this verse is saying. We want to connect with God but don’t have the slightest idea of how to do that. A lot of us don’t like to pray with others because we feel like our words are inadequate or stupid sounding. It is hard to let our true feelings of hurt, frustration, fear, or other concerns out in the open. We may even feel like we can’t express our true feelings and thoughts to God for fear that they aren't pleasing to Him. We are forgetting that God already knows all about them.
Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O LORD, You know it all. Psalm 139:4 NASB
It [the Word of God] exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Hebrews 4:12 NLT
Since God is so intensely aware of us and our thoughts and feelings, He also knows that many times we just do not know how to connect with Him—that is, we don’t know how to pray. Good thing Jesus teaches us how to do it.
Pray like this: “Our Father in heaven, may Your name be kept holy.” Matthew 6:9
This is the beginning of what many call “The Lord’s Prayer” or “The Our Father.”
As we can see, the very first thing Jesus teaches us is to understand Who we are praying to.
Have you ever met a person who you just clicked with right away? A lot of times it’s because they seem to just “get you.” They seem to understand you and a connection is made. This is no different than connecting with God! The first thing necessary is to understand who He is.
Jesus is teaching us that any believer who comes to God in prayer is coming to their literal Father. But He is not just any father, He is God who lives in heaven. He is holy. Holy is another word for pure. God is absolutely pure and perfect. So this very first instruction on prayer lets us know that we are coming to the completely perfect and sinless God who is our Father.
The WEB version says that God’s name is to be kept holy. What does this indicate? Well, it seems that Jesus wants us to understand that since God is pure, we cannot come before Him in any way that would offend His holiness. This means that we cannot have an attitude that sin is okay.
If I cherished sin in my heart, the Lord wouldn’t have listened. Psalm 66:18
Sin is offensive to God, and if we cherish it - that is, love it or act like it is good - then we can pretty much forget about God hearing any prayer that we have to offer.
Please don’t read this as saying that we cannot pray to God unless we are perfect and sinless human beings. Not at all. But when we do pray we must understand that our sin is ugly and offensive. And if we are aware of any sin in our lives, it is important to ask God to help us hate this sin and to remove it. Again, we can tell God all about our sins because He already knows about them!
It seems like there are too many Christians out there that believe that God winks at their sin and doesn’t desire any change or growth in them whatsoever. Many of us act like God is just our "genie in the sky" ready to dole out whatever requests we may have. Jesus lets us know that is not true:
Let Your kingdom come. Let Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:10
After we connect with God by understanding who He is, Jesus teaches us to ask for God's will, not ours. God wants our very first desire to be for God’s kingdom to come! I am sorry to say that for many years this was the last thing that I desired. I had too many other things in life that I wanted—to get married, have children, a nice home of my own, and a lot of other things that left no room for God’s kingdom to come. In my mind, if God’s kingdom were to come, then I would miss out on these things that I wanted so badly.
What I failed to understand is that the things that I wanted could never compare to what God’s kingdom has to offer. That’s not to say that those things I wanted were bad. In fact some of those desires are given to us by God! The problem was that I wanted those things apart from God’s kingdom. I didn’t realize that God’s kingdom will fulfill to overflowing any desire we may have:
Delight yourself in Yahweh, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4
In other words, all my desires that He has given me will be fulfilled even in His kingdom!
In reality, Jesus is actually doing us a favor by commanding us to ask for God's kingdom. There is absolutely nothing better for us:
You will show me the path of life. In Your presence is fullness of joy. In Your right hand there are pleasures forever more. Psalm 16:11
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; neither will there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain any more. The first things have passed away. Revelation 21:4
How can anything on this earth compare to having complete pleasure and joy with no fear of anything bad ever happening again? In God’s kingdom we will never suffer the loss of a loved one, or have any pain or sickness or sadness. I cannot think of anything that could possibly be better.
This first part of learning to connect with God teaches us to focus on what is really important. It teaches us to put our minds on God and our lives with Him. But it doesn’t end there...
(We will continue this discussion in part two.)
Have you ever felt inadequate to talk to God?