How to Pray (Part 3): “Your Kingdom Come, Your Will Be Done”
This is the third of a five-part series on the Lord’s Prayer. Don’t miss Monday’s post (“Our Father”) or yesterday’s (“Hallowed Be Your Name”), and be sure to come back throughout the week for the rest!
The point of prayer is not to get God to help us in all of our agendas. Instead, we should seek to join God where he is already working. When we pray, “Let your kingdom come, your will be done,” we are surrendering ourselves to pursue God’s agenda on earth.
When we pray, “Let your kingdom come, your will be done,” we are surrendering ourselves to pursue God’s agenda on earth.
There are two key things to accomplish when we pray this way:
1. Know and pray Scripture, because Scripture is how we know best what God wants to do in the world.
Our faith is supposed to serve as the wire that connects God’s power to the needs of the world. If you have an electrical source and an appliance, one has plenty of energy, but the other (while visually imposing) is totally lifeless. There has to be a cord that connects them and transfers power.
That’s what we are doing when we say, “Your kingdom come, your will be done” (Matthew 6:10 ESV). We are adding our faith to God’s promises, connecting the power of God’s promises to our situation.
What this means is that our prayers should be grounded in Scripture. I’ve heard it said that the prayers that start in heaven are the prayers heard by heaven. Or, as Mark Batterson says in The Circle Maker, “One thing is certain: Our most powerful prayers are hyperlinked to the promises of God. When you know you are praying the promises of God, you can pray with holy confidence.”
This has come home to me in two practical ways:
- Take notes in your Bible. This is a good habit for several reasons, but it’s particularly apt for prayer. Whenever you spend time in the Word, highlight verses that stand out to you so you can go back and pray them. Let your prayers start with your reading of Scripture. The HEAR method (Highlight, Examine, Apply, and Respond in prayer) of reading the Bible is a helpful way to do this.
- Memorize more Scripture. My favorite pray-ers are those who lace Scripture all throughout their prayers. I love to hear Scripture prayed back to God! If Scripture memory is a challenge for you, enlist the help of others. A little accountability with your small group can go a long way here. Come up with 10 verses (or five, or 20) to memorize in the new year that you could start using in your prayers.
2. Pray with the Holy Spirit, because he is the one who knows God’s will and is responsible for extending God’s kingdom on earth.
Prayer is supposed to be a two-way conversation as the Holy Spirit reveals what he wants for God’s kingdom. The Spirit is supposed to pray through you.
Most of us think of prayer as only talking, but we need to think of it as a two-way conversation, where there is talking and listening. We need to develop the habit of “listening prayer.”
We need the sharp-edged, absolute character of the Word and the intuitive, personal leading of the Spirit. The Word provides the structure, the vocabulary. The Spirit personalizes it to our lives. If we believe Scripture only applies to people in general, then we can miss how God intimately personalizes his counsel to us as individuals. We can become deists, effectively removing God from our lives. But everywhere in Scripture we see God speaking to us with a personal touch, prompting us to obey and love.
We have to be careful here, because people often mistakenly believe that they have heard from God. (I brace just about every time someone says, “God told me …”) But here’s what I know: The Holy Spirit shows up in the book of Acts 59 times, and 36 of those times, he is speaking. It doesn’t usually tell us how he speaks, which is frustrating for Type A folks like myself. For instance, in Acts 13:2, just how did the Holy Spirit tell the church to separate Barnabas and Saul for the work of the ministry? Sky writing? A liver shiver? Maybe a group text?
As maddening as it can be, I believe that ambiguity is intentional, because there is supposed to be a great deal of humility about what we hear from the Spirit. We cling firmly to the steadfast truth of Scripture. Every other mode of hearing from God has to be held loosely.
The Spirit prayed through the church in the book of Acts, and he’s supposed to pray through us today. You can start praying with the Spirit by simply saying, “God, I don’t want to just pray to you; I want to pray with you. I want to pray to the Father, with the Spirit. So, move in me as I pray.”
Here is one more suggestion about how to pray in light of this phrase, “Your kingdom come, your will be done.” Eugene Peterson says these phrases juxtaposed are an example of two important kinds of prayers: morning prayers and evening prayers. It’s a concept he borrows from the Jewish tradition (seen, for instance, throughout the Psalms).
Morning prayer is active, petitionary prayer, where you pray boldly against things in the world that are not right: “God, change this! Bring your kingdom into this mess.” Evening prayer, on the other hand, is where you submit yourself to the will of God and rest in his choices for your life, trusting he has given you what is best like he promised and that he’ll take care of all things. Both morning and evening prayers are essential components of a healthy prayer life.