Change the Conversation // Episode 3 // Pray First
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If we look at the concept of “pray first” from a biblical perspective, we often see it in the Old Testament through the context of decision-making—we see the people of God making decisions after seeking the answer from the Lord first. And we often see a negative outcome when they don’t seek Him first. Additionally, we see the great heroes of the Old Testament prioritize prayer: Moses, David, and Daniel just to name a few.
In the New Testament we see Jesus prioritize prayer and time with God before He begins his ministry, and we see Him continue to do so all throughout His ministry. We see the same thing with the apostles. The apostles devoted themselves to constant prayer before their season of active ministry began, and they continued to prioritize prayer all throughout their ministry.
As I prayed on what direction the Lord wanted us to take in the lesson portion of this conversation, I realized that He had been bringing the Lord’s Prayer in front of me, and to my mind, over and over again in the last several weeks. So that’s where we’re going to head today—in the direction of how to pray while we’re all trying to remember to pray first. We’re going to read the version in Matthew’s gospel:
Matthew 6:9-15 (ESV)
9Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
10Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
11Give us this day our daily bread,
12and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
14For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Jesus starts by saying, Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
When Jesus opens His prayer this way, He is saying that first and foremost we should remember to praise God in our prayers—open them with praise and reverence of the God we are now able to approach confidently and boldly (Ephesians 3:12, Hebrews 4:16). We see this exemplified all throughout the Bible as well. So many writers of the Psalms begin their petitions by glorifying and praising God. So what does this look like practically? I think it means that throughout our day, we’re saying or thinking things like, ”thank You, Lord, for who You are” or “God, you’re so good”—basically just a pondering on and praise of God all throughout our day which leads to an increase in our joy, peace, faith, etc. I’ve noticed that when I begin to make a habit of doing this throughout my day, it literally begins to shift my perspective because I’m continually meditating on the awesomeness of God!
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
So we’re to pray for God’s kingdom to be built on earth and His will to be done on earth—and in our lives. Jesus Himself exemplifies this one for us in one of His final prayers before going to the cross when He says, “Yet not as I will, but as you will." (Matthew 26:39). It carries with it a declaration of trust in and submission to God’s will. So again, how does this look practically? It means prayers like, “Lord, send revival and touch the hearts of the people around me” or “Lord, let your will be done in this situation.” It’s developing God’s heart within our own.