I find it fascinating that the disciples of Jesus, who walked with Him on earth, ministered with Him, and daily sat under His teaching, asked Him to teach them how to pray.
If they had to ask, I still have some things to learn.
The first question I have is:
When Jesus answered His disciples,
2 He said to them, "When you pray, say: "'Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.
3 Give us each day our daily bread.
4 Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.' "
When Matthew tells this story, there's much more admonition around HOW to pray. Do not do it the way the heathen do, with vain repetitions, and not as a way to put your righteousness on display.
We're not supposed to regurgitate this prayer without understanding what it means and how it is a model for how we should pray. And certainly not as a way to look holy.
Notice that it starts with an address: Father. Prayer is talking to God as a father. We could write an entirely separate article on what it means for the Creator of the Universe to want us to address Him as Father.
Here's what we need to know. Quite simply, we implore a father because He is the one who brought us into this world, who protects us, and who provides for us.
But notice that right after we call Him "father," we remind ourselves that his name is to be hallowed. That means He is set apart. He is altogether other. While we call him father, He's not like our earthly father, who is very much like us.
Next, we express our wish that His kingdom would come, that it would break forth, that it would be established, and that the whole world would submit to His kingship, bask in His glory, and enjoy His blessings.
10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
So not only are we to ask for His kingdom to come but for His will to be done here on earth the same way it is done in heaven. In other words, we're asking Him to bring heaven to earth.
Notice we haven't even asked him for anything specific for us yet, which is good because we're wondering how to pray for the nations.
In Genesis 10, read the Table of Nations which is essentially a list of family groups that spread out from Noah after the flood. The term nation comes from natal and has the same root word as nativity. Nations beget nations, which become countries.
But what we're praying for when we pray for "nations" is the families of the world.
According to Jesus, it's the same for you and me: God's kingdom would come, and His will would be done on earth (by earth's families) as it is in heaven.
His will is that they would receive their daily bread from Him and be forgiven and forgive one another. Not only that, but they would not be led into nor give themselves over to temptation, and they would be delivered from evil (and "the evil one," as this is sometimes translated).
The question of WHY we should pray (for anything) typically comes down to two types of "why": Why should I pray for them? and Won't God do what God's going to do; why do my prayers matter?
Because God tells us to (Matthew 6:10),
Because we want God's kingdom and will to come, and
Because our prayers are powerful and effective (James 5:16-17)
Search throughout the Bible for blessings and curses. Over and over, God promises blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. Ultimately, all our curses for disobedience were put to death with Jesus on the cross when He lived a perfectly obedient life and transferred all His blessings to us.
But seeking His kingdom and righteousness first (Matthew 6:33) means we will get blessings for obedience, so praying that God's will be done on earth means we're praying for all the families, nations, and countries on earth to submit to his kingship.
Honestly, if God's kingdom is our goal, submission to His kingship should be at the top of our To Do list. And what would be more kingdom come, and His will be done than the nations of the world submitting to His lordship?
Here comes the crux of what we mean when we ask, Why should I pray?
16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months.
Could God have caused it not to rain without Elijah's prayer? Yes. Could God bring His kingdom to earth without our prayers? Yes. But God chose to use the means of Elijah's prayer to stop the rain. He also chose to use the means of Elijah's prayer after 3.5 years to bring the rain back.
So yes, God doesn't need our prayers. But He has chosen our prayers to deliver His grace to the world.
There are many things we could pray for. But, if you've gotten this far, I hope you'll see that God's desire is what we should be praying for when it comes to praying for other nations, our nation, and our families.
God desires many things for the nations: justice, righteousness, peace, care for the poor and the sick, release for the captives, food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, and clothes for the naked. Most of these are things He wants us to do. But laborers are few, so Jesus tells us to pray to the Lord of the harvest that He will send laborers (Luke 10:2; Matthew 9:38).
But at the very least (which is the most), we would do well to pray that His kingdom would come to the nation, that His will would be done, and that provision, forgiveness, righteousness, and deliverance would be theirs in Christ Jesus.
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