In The Weapon of Prayer, E.M. Bounds wrote,
“One of the constitutional enforcements of the Gospel is prayer. Without prayer, the Gospel can neither be preached effectively, promulgated faithfully, experienced in the heart, nor be practiced in the life. And for the very simple reason that by leaving prayer out of the catalogue of religious duties, we leave God out, and His work cannot progress without Him."
If Bounds is right about this -- and I think he is -- there shouldn’t be a single Christian whose first thoughts in the morning aren’t prayers with the hope of binding us together with God’s power to accomplish His mission.
It was exactly this kind missional prayer that Jesus was teaching when He taught us to pray.
Matthew 6:9-13 (ESV)
9 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
The first half, verses 9 and 10, aren’t just pleasantries, they aren’t just about warming God up so that He is more likely to give us what we ask for when we get to the next half. These verses are not just about adoration, praising or hallowing his name is adoration, but it is more. These verses are also a plea for God to complete His mission.
Isn’t it God’s mission to hallow His name? Isn’t His grandest purpose in the Gospel to reveal His glory?
Isn’t God’s purpose in the Gospel to extend His Kingdom (His reign over all things) and to continue to extend that reign as D.A. Carson puts it until there is no one contesting or resisting His authority. Certainly, everyone is under His authority today, but many are rebelling. Isn’t the end goal of the Gospel mission to bring us back under joyous submission to the King of Kings? Isn’t His intention through the Gospel to accomplish His will?
Paul wrote in the opening lines of Ephesians, “He does all thing according to the council of His own will.” So aren’t we as we pray in this way simply aligning ourselves with His mission in the Gospel? That is exactly what we are doing
Even as we look to the second half that at a glance may appear to be about us, is it not still about His Gospel mission? Just consider the next 3 petitions.
What do we need? What is our daily bread? Isn’t that our daily sustenance that strengthens us physically to make disciples, to fulfill the Gospel mission He gave to the Church? As Jesus teaches across all of the Gospels is there ever a point at which He is not calling us to faith motivated, Gospel empowered action?
No, the reason we need daily bread is not to build our own kingdom but His.
Isn’t forgiveness of our sin, just another great purpose of God’s in the Gospel? And by the way, as we pray for that forgiveness and Jesus calls us to forgive us as we forgive others, isn’t that also Gospel mission that we are reconciled to God and one another?
That final request for deliverance and protection is necessary not because we can be removed from God’s love by temptation or evil, but because if we fall it takes us out of the action, it removes us from the Gospel mission. We are engaged in a war, not with cultures or people, but a war being waged against the glory of God and physical armor is just not enough. We need to be shielded by His power.
I contend that Jesus’ pattern for prayer is unmistakably missional. It was not His intention for us to somehow turn this pattern of prayer into something we would recite without thinking about what we were saying. It was not His intention that we turn prayer into our opportunity to command God or to try to control God. He didn’t intend for us to use pray to get our way, to build our own Kingdom, or simply to make us comfortable in the world.
God the Son taught us how to address God the Father in order to see God’s mission fulfilled. Jesus isn’t teaching us to pray maybe prayers (prayers that might be answered), but powerful, God moving, circumstance changing, miracle inducing prayers that reveal God’s glory, advance His Kingdom and accomplish His will.
So when you pray, let me encourage you in every prayer to “Pray then like this…”