In Matthew chapter five and verse eight Jesus says: ‘Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.’ Tosh has asked that I write this blog post as an introduction to a series of posts written by various people on ‘The Lord’s Prayer.’ Matthew 5: 8 is the verse that he allotted to me. The idea being that this post forms an introduction to those that follow. Hopefully whetting your appetite for prayer itself.
If you or I were to attempt to stir a person or group to pray, or to become more diligent in prayer, I am not convinced that we would begin in the same place as Jesus. We may be tempted to begin by quoting texts of Scripture that stir faith and hope e.g ‘… The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.’ James 5: 16. Or perhaps the earlier verse in that same Epistle where it says, ‘You do not have because you do not ask.’ James 4: 2. Or perhaps we would attend to the teaching of the bible where it speaks of asking and receiving. All the while seeking to stir up faith and hope.
That is not where Jesus begins. In truth He seems to move in exactly the opposite direction. The way in which he begins would cause, and I hate to say it, the vast majority of people to not bother praying. If we are honest I think that many times prayer is about me presenting my needs to God and hoping and expecting the God of all power to answer them (and I’d be very pleased if He did it quick smart!).
Yet Jesus opens up the world’s most famous teaching on prayer by making one point crystal clear. It is as follows:
Prayer is not about presenting needs to God
But if God already knows your needs then why bother praying? If He already knows that you need money, health or relationship help and assuming that He forgets nothing then what prayer would accomplish has already been taken care of. So if prayer for you is about presenting your needs to God, then it’s taken care of.
If prayer then is not about me presenting my needs well what is it?
I have two wonderful parents. Parents who have always taken care of us as best they could. If we ever did, or do, have needs that they can meet then we have seen time and again their provision. And that with no strings attached. Earlier this week though I got to spend sometime sailing down Loch Ness with no-one but my dad. Just the two of us and thankfully no lifeboat or rescue helicopters were called. During that time no needs were spoken about, instead we simply enjoyed the fellowship of a father and son. Sadly relationships are normally something that we know the true value of only when they are removed.
I believe the reason that Jesus started this teaching on prayer by emphasising that it wasn’t about presenting all our needs was not to discourage us from coming to God. But rather to draw emphasis to the fact that there is something much greater available to us in prayer. Something that stirred the Son of God to rise early in the morning, to seek quiet places, to be often and frequent in prayer. In prayer He enjoyed, and we can too, the rich and pure fellowship with God Himself, our greatest need and desire.
Prayer then according to Jesus is not about me presenting my needs to God. Prayer is about me presenting myself to God. The staggering and disarming thing is that the God we encounter in prayer reveals Himself to us as Father.