“If we accept the Matthew 6 formula Jesus gave to shape prayer, then we must accept that our priorities, including our daily bread and the obstacles we think need to be solved in prayer—as urgent as they may feel for us—are things that must come after ‘your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’”
Our culture is not very interested in “the long game.” 1 If some activity does not appear to meet a perceived immediate need in life, our society is not deeply engaged in it. Daily focus has succumbed to an innate primacy of seeing personally perceived needs met first before others are considered. The nature of that orientation has infiltrated our faith experience, and we may be surprised at the degree to which those cultural attitudes shape our Christian practices of prayer. It tugs our attention to the things we feel are personally impacting us or those we care for.
Of course, not all of that is frivolous. We are encouraged to pray for the sick, make our requests known to God, and believe Him for intervention. But we forget that the things we personally see as needful, or perceive as obstacles to be removed by prayer, are things Jesus promised God would attend to as a matter of fatherly care. As a result, we focus most of our prayers on these things.
Jesus Himself engaged constantly in prayer. What did He pray about? What can we learn from the impact of His prayers?
In Luke 3, we see Jesus praying during His baptism.2 Others around Him would be confessing sin during this moment, but Jesus had no sin to confess, so what is He talking with His Father about here? The Holy Spirit event that subsequently unfolds suggests that Jesus’ prayer urged God to declare Himself and glorify Jesus—because that is what occurs. But for whose benefit? With the exception of John the Baptist, all those present are pre-believers. Jesus is just beginning His ministry but is already modelling how to partner with His Father in prayer. The focus is on the revelation of God’s kingdom.
In Luke 9, Jesus is alone with His disciples and is praying. The questions He poses to them in this text reveal His prayer focus: “Who do men say that I am? ... Who do you say that I am?”3 This deliberate discussion is unveiling His kingdom credentials.
The raising of Lazarus recorded in John 114 exposes the connection between preparatory prayer and kingdom revelation. Jesus speaks out loud, educating those around Him in the process of this audible prayer to His Father. The crowd includes disciples who believe, but also unbelieving Jews who have come to mourn with the family and who later complain to the Sanhedrin about Him. Notice Jesus’ words in this prayer: “I thank You, Father, that You always hear me.” Then the power of the kingdom erupts as He calls Lazarus back from death.
How did revelation develop within Jesus to direct and empower His redemptive life? It percolated with His Father in these times of prayer. Luke 5:16 states that Jesus regularly went off alone to pray, and Jesus said He only did “what he [saw] his Father doing,”5 so I think these prayer times were strategy sessions: What’s next, Father? What shall I do today and tomorrow? How shall I reveal Your kingdom? If Jesus, the man, had everything He needed to unpack the kingdom of God already encoded when Mary bundled Him into the manger, He would have had no need for prayer. But He was constantly in prayer because He was partnering with His Father every moment of the day to reveal the kingdom to the world. The whole focus of Jesus’ prayer life was the revelation of the kingdom of God—God’s mission.
If we want to be like Jesus, we must change the priorities of our prayers. Look at His prayer in the garden: “Father, if possible, let this cup pass from me. But not my will, yours be done.”6 Jesus is demonstrating a kingdom prayer posture as He moves toward His death, resurrection, and the Great Commission He gave us. We must ask ourselves: do we accept the instructions He gave us, and do we believe the promises He made to us?
“Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will have issues of its own.”7
“And I promise: ‘I am with you always, even to the very end.’”8
“I leave my peace with you, so don’t be troubled or afraid.”9
“Don’t worry about what you should eat or drink or wear. If my Father feeds the birds and clothes the lilies, don’t you think He will care for you?”10
“Seek first His kingdom, and all you need will be provided.”11
Then we should ask ourselves … Are we giving due attention in prayer to the things Jesus came to begin, died to accomplish, and commanded us to complete? Could we discipline ourselves to “seek first his kingdom” priorities in prayer and trust our heavenly Father more deeply in those things Jesus promised He would care for on our behalf?
If we accept the Matthew 6 formula Jesus gave to shape prayer, then we must accept that our priorities, including our daily bread and the obstacles we think need to be solved in prayer—as urgent as they may feel for us—are things that must come after “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”12 “This, then, is how you should pray.”
Gord D. serves as director of development for the Random Access Network (RAN) team. He and his wife, Rita, are happy to serve PAOC global workers who minister in sensitive contexts.
- According to the Urban Dictionary, “the long game” means considering the future implications of current choices, thinking ahead, being deliberate and patient.
- One of three situations where God audibly confirms the sonship of Jesus. Also see Luke 9:35 and John 12:28.
- Matthew 16:13-15, NKJV, emphasis added. Also see Luke 9:18-20.
- Based on John 11:41-42.
- Based on John 5:19.
- Based on Luke 22:42.
- Based on Matthew 6:34.
- Based on Matthew 28:20.
- Based on John 14:27.
- Based on Matthew 6:25.
- Based on Matthew 6:33.
- Based on Matthew 6:9-13.
This article appeared in the July/August/September 2021 issue of testimony/Enrich, a quarterly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. © 2021 The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. Photo by Aachal on Unsplash.