And When You Pray

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men.  I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.  But 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.  And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.  Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.  This then is how you should pray:  “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…..”

                                                                                                                                                Matthew 6:5-9

                Last evening as I was reading in the third volume of Wilhelmus A Brakel’s The Christian’s Reasonable Service in a section, in which the author deals with the first petition of the Lord’s Prayer, I came across the following helpful phrase regarding prayer.

God hallows Himself: “And I will sanctify My great Name” (Ezek. 36:23) God hallows Himself both in the works of nature and of grace, revealing to man what manner of God He is.”  (page 499)

                What A Brakel is saying here, and I believe that this is absolutely crucial for believers to understand is that the first principle of prayer is to hallow, or reverence God’s Name.  When we pray we are engaged in something much deeper than just making requests of God.  In God’s grace we are invited to bring our requests before Him (Philippians 4:6-7).  What we are doing is really much more however.  We are engaged in a relationship in which we are being fundamentally changed (what the Bible calls being sanctified) by our encounter with our Lord.  2 Corinthians 3:17-18 makes this clear.  So much of our experience in prayer, and the struggles we have with prayer are owing to this transformation.  There are times when prayer is a real joy.  Other times it is characterized by dryness and real struggle.  I believe that this is when we are being refined by God.

God’s purpose for our praying is to cause us to develop a sincere reverence for Him.  If we were to use the word glory to describe our purpose here, as in to “glorify God”, what we would mean by this is that we would be giving God His proper weight.  Our struggle is centred upon the fact that we keep thinking of God as if He is like us.  We keep falling short in our understanding of God’s true greatness.  God will not allow us to persist in this attitude for long.  A Brakel tells us that God “Hallows His own Name”, meaning He will always be bringing us to reverence Him for who He really is.  Prayer brings us to the point where this happens in our lives.  We, in prayer begin to see that He alone is God, there is no other, including all the false views of God that we create for ourselves.  In prayer God shows us His goodness, or graciousness.  He consents to be reconciled to us through the Lord Jesus Christ entirely on His merit not ours.  I do not believe that we truly understand just how gracious He is towards us.  In prayer He reveals to us His justice in judgement.  He really does deal with sin, but provides a way of redemption through His Son.  In prayer we are confronted with His omnipotence as He works out His purpose in our lives.

Once we begin to pray we find that nothing is ever the same again because God meets us and we begin to see His glory revealed through His Son.  He offers us and invitation to come to His throne of grace in real prayer.  Shall we pray?