Prayer—Communing with God
Prayer simply means communion with God—it’s talking with your Creator. Jesus’ disciples asked him how to pray and this was his response:
“This then is how you should pray:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen”
This is typically referred to as “the Lord’s prayer” and people sometimes pray it word-for-word, particularly when the occasion calls for a ritualistic or brief prayer to open or close ceremonies. This is fine, but it’s really not a prayer to be spoken by rote. “The Lord’s prayer” is actually an outline of different types of prayer. In other words, it’s a prayer skeleton that needs to be filled in with the “flesh” of our spontaneous prayers according to our unique expressions, communion, needs or desires and the specific people and situations touching us.
The outline can be broken down as such:
- “Our Father in heaven” = Communion or fellowship with God.
- “Hallowed be your name” = Praise & worship.
- “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” = Binding & loosing or intercession, that is, releasing God’s will and kingdom into people’s lives and situations on earth, including your own.
- “Give us today our daily bread” = Petition, that is, praying for your needs and righteous desires.
- “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors” = Repentance, venting, and forgiveness where applicable.
- “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” = Armoring up, protection, watchfulness, speaking in faith, and deliverance.
- “For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen” = Return to praise and close.
As you can see, each part of “the Lord’s Prayer” refers to a specific type of prayer.
The First Two Types of Prayer
Let’s consider the first two types of prayer from Christ’s outline:
“Our Father in heaven” refers to communion with God since the believer is addressing God as his or her “Father.” ‘Father’ indicates familial relation and relationship requires communication, hence fellowship. Christianity at its core is a relationship with the Creator of the universe, which is why the gospel is referred to as the message of reconciliation in 2 Corinthians 5:18-20. I encourage all believers to cultivate an intimate relationship with their heavenly Father where you’re in constant communion throughout the day, even when you’re in bed (Psalm 63:6). Paul referred to this as “praying without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17 KJV) and the “fellowship of the Holy Spirit” (2 Corinthians 13:14).
Please notice, by the way, that Jesus instructed us to pray to the Father, not to him (Matthew 6:9). Praying to the Father in the name of Jesus is prayer protocol (John 16:23).
“Hallowed be your name” refers to praise & worship. To ‘hallow’ means to honor as holy and venerate, that is, treat with respect and reverence. God’s name—YaHWeH—represents the Creator Himself so we are to hallow the Great “I Am” (Exodus 3:13-14). The only way you can accomplish this in prayer is by telling him. Praise is celebration and includes thanksgiving, raving and boasting, whereas worship is adoration. Praise naturally attracts God’s presence and is in accordance with the law of respect: What you respect moves toward you while what you don’t respect moves away from you. Worship, on the other hand, is adoration or awe, and is the response to being in His presence. See Psalm 95:1-7 and Psalm 100 for verification.
We could further differentiate praise & worship as such: Praise celebrates God whereas worship humbly reveres Him; praise lifts God up while worship bows when He is lifted; praise dances before God whereas worship pulls off His shoes; praise extols God for what He’s done while worship adores Him for who He is; praise says “Praise the Lord” whereas worship demonstrates that He is Lord; praise is thanksgiving for being a co-heir in Christ while worship lays the crown at His feet.
Every believer is called to deeper praise & worship. It will literally revolutionize your life, as it has mine and continues to do so.
Communing with God
It’s no accident that (1.) communion with God and (2.) praise & worship are the first two kinds of prayer Jesus mentions in his outline (Matthew 6:9-13). They’re simply the most important. After all, what does the average father or mother want to hear from their children, particularly as the children grow and develop? Not, “Gimme, gimme,” but rather simple communion: “Hi Dad! How are you doing today? You’re awesome!” “Do you have time? I’d like to just hang out with you.” “Mother, I have something I’ve been thinking a lot about and I’d like to share it with you to see what you think.” “Mom, you’re so beautiful!” “Dad, tell me more about that project you’re working on in the yard; it’s lookin’ great so far.” Etcetera. If this is the kind of communion our earthly parents prefer why would we think it’s any different with our heavenly Father?
You can have these types of conversations with God throughout the day, every day—when you wake up in bed, when you’re in the shower, when you’re driving, when you’re walking down the hall, in the evening, etc. As noted earlier, Paul referred to this as “praying without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17 KJV) and the “fellowship of the Holy Spirit” (2 Corinthians 13:14). We have to get away from the idea that we only encounter God when we go to church gatherings once or twice a week. This is an Old Testament mentality.
Although the Holy Spirit was active among the Israelites in Old Testament times, it was much different than the way it is with believers in the New Testament. The Holy Spirit’s work in that earlier era was limited and selective because the Israelites were spiritually un-regenerated. However, they did have a covenant with God and there were glimmerings of what the Spirit’s function would be in the new covenant. David, for instance, was a type of the New Testament believer. Yet there was no spiritual rebirth, no indwelling and no baptism of the Spirit, at least not in the thorough scale we enjoy today.
Simply put, the Israelites were not temples of the Holy Spirit as believers are in the new covenant because they weren’t spiritually regenerated (Titus 3:5). The temple of God was a literal temple—a building—and before that, a tent tabernacle. Both the Tabernacle of Moses and the Temple of Solomon housed God’s presence via the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 25:22). These structures were literally God’s house (although His presence was hidden in the Holy of Holies where the Ark was located, and the High Priest would only enter once a year). For the Israelites to encounter God they literally had to go to the Tabernacle or Temple, but—Praise God—this isn’t the way it is in the New Testament period because believers are literally the temples of God through spiritual rebirth (1 Corinthians 3:16)!
So attending church gatherings at a church facility is not the primary way to connect with God in the New Testament era, although it is a way due to the corporate anointing, which Jesus spoke of in Matthew 18:20, not to mention the anointing of fivefold ministry gifts, detailed in Ephesians 4:11-13. Experiencing this “corporate anointing,” however, doesn’t require going to a specific building. It can take place wherever believers meet—a park, a street corner, the mall, someone’s house, a vehicle, the workplace, etc. Even better: Since every believer is the temple of God in this New Covenant period we can encounter the LORD every day. If you’re not doing it already, I encourage you to get in the habit of fellowshipping with the LORD on a continual basis, 24/7. It’ll revolutionize your walk.
Communing with God in Solitary Places
There’s a difference between the 24/7 fellowship noted above and personal prayer sessions. Regarding the latter, Jesus said “when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:6). Jesus was simply talking about finding a solitary place for prayer sessions, known only to you and the LORD. This is in contrast to religious hypocrites who love to pray in front of others, which really isn’t communion with God, but rather putting on a show to impress people, which is fakeness, (Matthew 6:5). ‘Hypocrite’ literally means “actor.” This isn’t to say, by the way, that it’s wrong to pray with other believers, as is shown in the Bible (Acts 12:12), just that’ it’s wrong for believers to pray in front of others for the purpose of impressing them and proving how supposedly godly they are.
When Jesus said to “go into your room, close the door and pray” he was simply talking about finding a solitary place where it’s just you and the LORD. It’s interesting that Jesus “as was his habit” often went to solitary places in the wilderness to pray, as shown in Mark 1:35, Matthew 14:23 and Luke 22:39-41. How come? Because there’s something about nature that’s conducive to encountering the Creator.
I think this is why people are attracted to outdoor activities—like hunting, hiking, kayaking, fishing, etc.—because on some primal level they encounter God who is revealed in creation (Psalm 19:1-4, 97:6 & Romans 1:20). Paul & his ministry companions understood this:
On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer.
Let me bring something up that all hard-working ministers can relate to: Recently someone insinuated that it must be great to be a full-time minister because of all the supposed time off. I just smiled and allowed him to continue in his arrogant ignorance (although my wife humbly spoke of the constant work and devotion necessary for serving in full-time ministry). The guy simply wasn’t aware of what it takes to run a world outreach ministry, including the determination and focus it takes to write books that are often over 250 pages.
Later that night the Holy Spirit ministered to me and said that the man was ignorant of what it took to even start a world-reaching ministry let alone run one. Images flashed through my mind of literal years going out to pray in wilderness areas North, South, East and West of my home, seeking the LORD and interceding, etc. This was well before I even intended to start a ministry. Often I would drive an hour to get to a good spot, sometimes 90 minutes or more. Images of these prayer locations and the sweet communion I had with the Lord flashed through my mind. Of course, this man was completely unaware of all this because I never informed him. Jesus said to keep your prayer sessions to yourself and God. I’m only sharing it here as 1. an example to believers (1 Peter 5:1-4) and 2. to illustrate that those who seek the LORD will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13). As you make the LORD first priority—not your only priority, but the first priority (Matthew 6:33)—He’ll “direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
For an easy-to-understand scriptural way to discern God’s will and fulfill it in any stage or level of spiritual growth see this article.
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