Theme registry rebuild completed. Turn off this feature for production websites.
David Hall's picture

The Rev. David W. Hall (PhD, Whitefield Theological Seminary) is married to Ann, and they are parents of three grown children. He has served as the Senior Pastor of Midway Presbyterian Church (PCA) since 2003. After completion of his undergraduate studies, Pastor Hall studied at Swiss L’Abri and then enrolled at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, graduating in 1980. In addition to pastoring, David Hall is the author or editor of over 20 books and numerous essays.

Article by David Hall

Prayer 102

June 1, 2015 •

Read Matthew 6:9-13

There is no more vital subject for Jesus followers than prayer. Jesus provides instruction on giving and fasting (cf. Mt. 6: 2-4, 16-18), but he elaborates more fully on prayer. Keeping with his theme of avoiding showiness, Christ next tutors his disciples on what not to do (Mt. 6:7-8), followed by his instruction on what to do (cf. Mt. 6:9-15). The Lord’s Prayer has guided many generations, and it became a regular part of catechetical works and even systematic theologies. Some Puritans (Thomas Watson among them) view it as a grand summation of the gospel, or as a system or body of divinity in miniature.

J C. Ryle comments on it: “The Lord’s Prayer consists of ten parts of sentences. There is one declaration of the Being to whom we pray; there are three prayers respecting his name, his kingdom, and his will; there are four prayers respecting our daily wants, our sins, or weakness, and our dangers; there is one profession of our feeling towards others; there is one concluding ascription of praise. In all these parts we are taught to say ‘we’ and ‘our.’ We are to remember others as well as ourselves. On each of these parts a volume might be written.”[1]

Prayer is a key part of Christian experience. Matthew Henry once opined that it is as likely to find a living person who does not breathe as a Christian who does not pray. Prayer is clearly an important part of spiritual experience, and the Lord’s guidance into the principals of spiritual conversation with God elevates prayer as one of the most significant parts of the Christian life. As noted earlier in this series, not only does Christ teach us how to pray but also he simultaneously teaches us about God. Prayer itself, along with the character of the Deity sought, are highlighted in this succinct primer in prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer is likely the most recited prayer ever. It provides a map for how we pray. It is like a cardboard model that a young one traces; it also has profound depth. When Jesus says “pray like this,” he is teaching—and his children are free to embellish as they grow—but he is also providing for children at any stage of prayer.

Notice that Christ teaches us that the true believer must ever be on guard against attempting to manipulate God in prayer. He warns those who had received God’s revelation in the OT to avoid meaningless babble, superstition, and ostentation. The same would be true for regular church attenders and small group participants. God is not impressed with the volume of prayer or with the magnitude of our words. A broken and contrite heart will not be despised in prayer as in life.

Some even come close to confusing godly prayer with Eastern meditation. The purpose of prayer is not to dull our senses and have our mind sink into a trance. Nor are we to repeat the words over and over in Rosary-fashion. Neither is breathing, accompanied by a simplistic repetition, the design of prayer. And in no case are our prayers bargaining sessions or attempts to twist God’s arm into doing what we want. No, we start with his Fatherhood, his locale (heaven), his name, his kingdom, and his will—not our own!

The first 3 petitions are God’s concerns (last time); the last 3 are our concerns. Surely it is clear that Jesus wants us to begin with God, not ourselves.

In a sermon on this passage, J. Ligon Duncan probes: “Do we attempt to manipulate God in our prayers? Do we find that our prayers are less conversations than they are shopping lists? Do we find ourselves repeating things because we are not sure that God will give us what we need, what is good for us? Is his kingdom and fatherhood, always in view as we pray? These are the questions that the Lord Jesus is asking us to ask this morning.” God does not expect us to ignore our needs (those come out in later petitions), but he wants us to begin with the right focus.

John Calvin teaches that when we pray we should not lose that focus. Thomas Watson—the Puritan who could sell millions of bumper stickers (or maybe someone will construct an emoji from his pithy aphorisms) commended aiming “at heaven while we are praying for earth.” The Godward beginning continues as the next petitions (next week) focus on our human needs. And from stem to stern, the God-centeredness will help renew your prayer life. And keep you on track.

[1] J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Matthew (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1977), 50.


The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is member supported and operates only by your faithful support. Thank you.