Hallowed Be Your Name

When we are aware of someone’s name then we are aware of who they are.

A name defines us.

Some parents put time and meaning into the names they choose for their children, others don’t think too hard but come up with a name they like . But a name defines who we are. It represents us. It identifies who we are. Further, with time and experience, our name may become synonymous with particular things; with a particular family, with a particular place (if we’ve lived there a while), with a particular industry or workplace or organisation, and perhaps even a particular character trait.

I mean, think about the last few months here in Melbourne, how many times have you heard the Karen used in the media? Right now Karen is the name that represents someone who is an obnoxious, entitled, complainer.

But of course, this doesn’t rightly represent all Karen’s. We feel sorry for those people who are actually named Karen and are very nice people. Not all Karen’s are complainers, just like not all Wally’s are wasteful with water.

As we survey scripture we find there are over 100 names for God, many describing and revealing the character and person of God. In Matthew 6:9, continuing on from last week’s post, Jesus teaches us to honour the name of God, to hallow it, to recognise it as holy.

As we come to our Father in prayer we are to recognise that we are coming before God in all his majesty, holiness, righteousness, and beauty. We are children of the One who is all-powerful, all-glorious, all-excellent, and all-holy. And yet in prayer we are able to come before him and enjoy and adore him.

With this in mind, what then does it mean to adore God? I often feel we have inadequate words when we try to describe our adoration toward God.

You see when we adore something in human terms we have our heads affirming our adoration, our hearts yearning toward that which we adore, and our hands open to act toward that which we adore.

We think, we feel, and we act in adoration.

There is a head, heart, and hands aspect to this.

If we adore our particular football team we will watch the games, go to the games, buy a membership, debate others about how superior our team is, wear the scarf, and think often about our team and the players.

When we adore a person we will think about them, we will talk to them, we may have a photo of them on the wall, we will seek out the best for them–we want to be with them.

In prayer, as we show our adoration toward God, we come to him through relationship but we also come to him for who he is. We are drawn to God because of his greatness, his magnificence, his excellencies, his works for us and our world.

It can be stated rather crassly that the adoration component to prayer is simply repeating back to God how good he is. But I think this misses the point. We may well be telling God how good he is when we pray in adoration, but we do so because we recognise that God is God and we are not.

We are, after all, in a relationship with the God of the universe who has done things we cannot comprehend or understand, and whose character is displayed and told to us through his scriptures. Psalm 8 is a good example of adoration toward God, and we would do well to pray this Psalm as a prayer ourselves. It reads,

1 Lord, our Lord,
how magnificent is your name throughout the earth!
You have covered the heavens with your majesty.

2 From the mouths of infants and nursing babies,
you have established a stronghold
on account of your adversaries
in order to silence the enemy and the avenger.
3 When I observe your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you set in place,
4 what is a human being that you remember him,
a son of man that you look after him?
5 You made him little less than God
and crowned him with glory and honour.
6 You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
you put everything under his feet:
7 all the sheep and oxen,
as well as the animals in the wild,
8 the birds of the sky,
and the fish of the sea
that pass through the currents of the seas.

9 Lord, our Lord,
how magnificent is your name throughout the earth!

The whole Psalm resounds not only in praise for what God has done, but recognises the greatness of God. How majestic is your name in all the earth! It is a true Psalm of adoration toward God.

Jesus teaches us in the Lord’s Prayer that to begin prayer in adoration is prayer that highlights God’s goodness and greatness. It honours God’s name as holy. May we do this in our prayers during this time.


This continues our series in the Lord’s Prayer. More posts can be found at the following:

Our Father In Heaven

In the Anglican tradition, the Book of Common Prayer defines adoration as ‘…the lifting up of the heart and mind to God, asking nothing but to enjoy God’s presence.’

I’m not sure about you but I find that hard. 

Prayer is often hard, and I don’t think many believers, whether they are new in the faith or those who are more mature in their faith, think they’re very good at it anyway. I know in different seasons my prayer life changes, it goes up and down, but it can also take on a different shape. Sometimes it is through a list, other times I write them out by hand, other times I pray while doing a particular task–like doing the dishes or vacuuming. 

But when we pray in adoration we turn our hearts and minds not only to the things of God, but to God himself. As we commune with God through prayer we do so in relationship with him.

In this COVID season, as much good there is that comes from text messages, phone calls, family gatherings over Zoom, and FaceTime calls with loved ones, nothing replaces the actual physical presence of being together with those we love and cherish. I’m sure you’ve felt this in recent months. Our relationships and friendships are still in existence during this time, we can still catch up with each other, but there is something missing when we aren’t in each other’s presence. Likewise, our relationship with God is made all the more when through prayer we come and enjoy being with him. 

As Jesus teaches about prayer in Matthew 6:9 he begins by pointing us toward adoration. Adoration in the context of relationship. 

At the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer this is described as a familial relationship between God and his children–“Our Father who is in heaven”. It’s not quite as close as ‘Dear Daddy’, but it certainly has a familiarity, a relational tone, that shows a deep and abiding relationship between us and God. 

Through the scriptures God reveals to us that he is a father to his children. The Old Testament portrays God as a father to his people–Israel–in Exodus 3-4; Psalm 2; Psalm 103; and Hosea 11 to name a few. In the New Testament we find that God the Father is, of course, the unique father to his Son, Jesus Christ. And the writers of the New Testament show the intimacy we, as the corporate people of God, have with God as we are considered his children, his sons and daughters. As 1 John 3:1 reminds us, 

“See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God…” 

For those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus, we know that the Creator of everything is not a father; he’s our Father. As children we are able to commune and relate to God as one who is our Father. 

Jesus teaches us about prayer as someone who is in perfect relationship with God the Father. Through his perfect and acceptable sacrifice for us on the cross we are able to step into the presence of God as his children. Through the blood of Jesus we have access to the Father, and we come to him as such in prayerful adoration. The relationship we have with God is one that is intimate and personal–a point we can never emphasise too much. 

It is important to recognise that not all earthly fathers live up to our expectations. Earthly fathers are not perfect; they fail us, they fail God, they fail themselves. Yet, whatever our relationship with our earthly father, it does not compare to the perfect love and care shown by God the Father toward us, his sons and daughters. 

Galatians 4:6-8 reminds us powerfully about our identity because of God’s love and care toward us,

“Because you are his sons [and daughters], God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

As Jesus begins this model prayer for us, and as he teaches us a way to pray, he begins by stating the unbelievable truth that we are in relationship with God–the Creator God of the universe–who we are able to call ‘our heavenly father’. 


This begins our series in the Lord’s Prayer. More posts can be found at the following:

Luther’s Evening Prayer

I came across Martin Luther’s evening prayer this week, written in his Small Catechism (circa 1529). I found it a prayer that encourages rest and solid sleep, recognising God’s hand, oversight, and care for his creatures.

“I thank You, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have graciously kept me this day; and I pray You to forgive me all my sins where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night. For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the wicked foe may have no power over me. Amen.”

Sleep well.

Lloyd-Jones On Prayer

mljlifeinspiritIn 1952-1953 Martyn Lloyd-Jones preached a number of expositions on John 17. These have been put together in a book called “Life In The Spirit: Classic Studies In John 17”. Although, it now looks like its been retitled and republished as “The Assurance Of Our Salvation“. In his second exposition, “Why Pray?” there are some terrific quotes about prayer worth being reminded of here.

“We might have considered a man very saintly because his will was conforming to the will of God, and because he meditated about these things and because his supreme desire was to live to the glory of God. Well, you might say, such a man would have much less need of prayer than anybody else, but it is not the case. Look at the most outstanding godly men and women, how often they spent much more time in prayer than anybody else. They did not just passively wait for God’s will to be done, no, they, more than anybody else, went, rather, and talked to God. And as you proceed to read the history of the church throughout the centuries, you will find exactly the same thing. Whether he belongs to the Roman Catholic Church or the Protestant Church, it is always the hallmark of a saint that he is a great man of prayer. John Wesley used to say that he had a very poor opinion of a Christian who did not spend at least four hours in prayer every day, and that is but a typical statement of God’s outstanding people in the church through the centuries.”

(John 17:1, Why Pray?, p26)

“You show me a man who does not pray very much and I will tell you the real problem of that man. It is that he does not know God, he does not know God as his Father. That is the trouble. The problem is not that he is not a moral man, or that he is not a good man. He can be highly moral, he may be very faithful in Christian church work, there many be nothing he is not prepared to do, but if he does not pray, I tell you that the essence of that man’s trouble is that he does not know God as his Father. For those who know God best are the ones who speak to him most of all.”

(John 17:1, Why Pray?, p29)

“Let me put it like this: the saints always prayed to God, and our Lord supremely did so, because they believed in God’s power, because they believed in God’s ability to help, and, above all, because they believed in God’s willingness and readiness to help. That is tremendously important. They, of everybody, knew the power of God, yes, but the world and its trials tend to shake our confidence in him and there is no better way of reminding ourselves of the power and the greatness of God, his ability and his readiness to help, that to go and talk to him; that is why the saints always fly to prayer. ‘The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe (Proverbs 18:10). In other words, the saint rushes to God in prayer and reminds himself of these things.”

(John 17:1, Why Pray?, p31)

Youth Pastor: Form A Prayer Team

When missionaries go overseas they begin forming a support team. This often takes place a few years before the missionary actually lands on the ground in their cross-cultural context.

One aspect of this team is financial. And much could be said in this regard, both positive and not so positive.

Another aspect is that of prayer. 

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing”. A rather convicting quote. And a quote that those who’ve done mission work will resonate with.

To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing- Martin Luther King Jr.

A prayer team is essential for those who are commissioned and sent to places around the world in order to spread the Good News of Jesus.

I think this is the case for those of us in youth ministry too. 

Recently I’ve been convinced of the need to form a prayer team around me, my family, and the ministry we’re involved in. In fact, I’m not quite sure why I hadn’t initiated this previously.

So about a month ago I sent an email to a few friends who I thought would be willing to commit to being on this team.

Here’s what I wrote:

Hi,

I’m attempting to form a prayer team for me, my fam, and the ministry we’re doing at Rowville BC. It’s been something I’ve been thinking of for a while and sense the necessity for. You no doubt understand the need for this in your context and I believe it applies to local church min too.

Anyway, this is simply to ask if you’re willing to be part of that team.

What will it require, you may ask?

(1) That you commit to pray for me, my fam and the ministry here at RBC once per week.

(2) Actually pray for me, my fam, and the ministry here at RBC once per week.

That’s all.

I’ll be committing to sending out an email to the group with 3 prayer points each week too.

Thanks for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

So far I’ve had nothing but positive responses, and there is no pressure to being on the team. I currently have a group of 7 willing to commit to this and there may well be others who will join over time. None of the members know who else is on the team as I simply bcc them in. None of them attend my church, and in fact many of them are overseas themselves.

If you’re a Youth Pastor I reckon you should do this.

Here’s why:

  1. You can’t do youth ministry alone. A team of people praying for you will hold you and sustain you.
  2. Prayer gets squashed out for programs and people. How much have you really prayed this week? This actually raises the temperature of your own prayer life too.
  3. It keeps you accountable. People are seeing what you need and will ask questions about it.
  4. You end up thinking about your priorities. To write 3 succinct points keeps you focussed on what’s important in life and ministry.
  5. It reminds you of the positive things God is doing through the ministry. Each week I write a little highlight at the bottom of the email. It’s encouraging to think about the positives for the week.

It’s worth doing, I’d get on to it if I was you.

A DIY Discipleship Plan

We are in the fortunate position of living in a Christian resource-rich period of time. No other generation has had such access to the teaching of the Bible and other resources that come with it. Only a few years ago it was impossible to hear any sermon other than the one you heard while attending your local church. Now, I can listen to one sermon on the way to work and another on the way home. That’s crazy.

The amount of books, podcasts, music, articles and blog posts, devotionals, and different versions of the Bible give a plethora of options in helping us to understand and know God better. But, it can also cause a tremendous amount of confusion because there is so much choice.

discipleship

Therefore, I find it helpful to think about how I’m going to grow in my understanding of God and develop as a follower of Jesus by having a plan. In previous years I’ve attempted to read the Bible through in a year. There are many good plans to help with this and I find committing to reading four chapters a day the most consistent method. Having said this, I haven’t been overly successful lately.

Because I enjoy learning, particularly through reading and listening, I’ve decided to approach my discipleship development in a different way for 2015. Rather than have broad goals of reading the Bible through in a year and praying regularly I’ve sought to make them a bit more specific.

In structuring this plan I’ve broken my development into four areas; biblical theology, historical theology, systematic theology, and practical theology. Within these four areas I then have specific resources I’d like to read or listen to at different times throughout the year. See below as an example:

Biblical Theology

  • Read the book of Jeremiah 5 times
  • Read a commentary on Jeremiah
  • Reach the book of Hebrews 5 times
  • Read a commentary on Hebrews

Historical Theology

Systematic Theology

  • Read 3-4 books on the topic of ‘Salvation’ (Do you have anything to recommend in this area?)

Practical Theology

There are many resources to read, watch, and listen to. There are conferences to go to and church to attend. There are small groups to join and other community activities to be part of. There is no doubt that discipleship is communal. I don’t want to negate this. But on a personal level I also want to continue to grow in my knowledge of God through his Word, what He’s done in history, through the teaching of others and then seek to apply it.

It’s at least a plan, and I like plans, even if they don’t always get achieved the way I think they should be. So next year I’m going in with a plan to develop as a disciple. What about you?

Remembering Missionaries This Christmas

cross and christmasEvery week I receive numerous newsletters and emails from cross-cultural workers (or missionaries depending on your preference) telling me what they’ve been up to and what they’d like prayer for in the coming months. As you can imagine this time of year brings with it a certain theme – Christmas.

Christmas isn’t an easy time for missionaries. The same can be said for many people back home too. But part of being a missionary means you’ve left your extended family to live and work in a place where you’re an outsider.

You don’t know the language as well as the locals, you are away from the comforts you’ve been bought up with, you’re more than likely unable to worship in the capacity you’re used to for this festive season, and the big Christmas meal probably won’t include a large succulent turkey. Christmas can be a tough little period where you begin wishing you were back home.

In among all the palaver that comes with celebrating a Western Christmas the main tinge of sadness comes from not being able to celebrate with others, particularly family. It is the relational aspect to Christmas that can be hardest, that can being with it this sense of disappointment.

In the two years we were in the Middle East we felt that strongly. We lived within a school that had a few other expat teachers to celebrate Christmas with. It was a great time together and we did of course have a lot of fun. But once the food has been eaten and the afternoon slumber has come over you there is that time of reflection and wishing you could just hang with people you know.

On the other hand there is a great opportunity for missionaries to share the good news of what God has done. Living in a different culture where Christmas isn’t thought of as anything more than a Christian holiday and a few days off work becomes a time where you can tell others about what it really means. That Christmas is actually the remembrance and celebration of God entering the world in human form, bringing hope and joy. And while this may be an assumed reason in the West, when living in a non-Western country the ability to talk about faith and religion is far greater. Striking up a conversation about why Christmas is important and what it means can come far more naturally in a foreign setting than in the Santa-obsessed, present-focused West.

This Christmas is again, like every year, a good reminder to think of those who are away from family.

I am making a conscious effort to pray for and drop a line to those who I know are serving in a missionary capacity. Perhaps you could too?

A few things you could pray for could be:

  • Joy among the sadness of being away from family.
  • Opportunities to share the real meaning of Christmas with those they live and work with.
  • Time for reflection and recuperation from the year that has been.
  • A deeper sense of the love of God and the love of those back home.

Power Through Prayer by EM Bounds

EM Bounds is known as a prolific prayer-warrior, mainly because of his many and various books on the topic. While they were written many, many, years ago they are still greatly relevant for our soul today.

“Power Through Prayer” is a book written particularly for ministers, that’s certainly the impression you get from reading it. Bounds encourages everyone, but particularly those who preach, to come back to prayer, to fight for prayer, and to do all things with and through prayer. Bounds stresses the power that comes through prayer, and through close communion with God in prayer you soul will be lifted high unto the heavens.

Bounds tells tales and stories of people of the past who have spent many hours on their knees fighting for their congregation, the people they minister to. Throughout the book there are various quotes about prayer from famous churchmen in Christian history, including a special affection for David Brainerd, the young American preacher and Indian missionary of the 18th century. They are very inspiring and perfect for an Instquote if one could be bothered. In fact, much of the book is quotable as he wrestles the reader to the ground, urging them to take up a prayer ministry. There is constant encouragement to spend time in prayer, praying for the sermon, and the souls of men and women.

An example of this would be:

“What the Church needs to-day is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost can use — men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men — men of prayer.”

Even though the book is only 128 pages it is an inspirational book. It will shake you up and help you understand the power of prayer in the Christian life. I would highly recommend it to anyone who is wondering about prayer and its importance. It is an excellent book, and you can even download a free PDF of it here.

E. M. Bounds, Power Through Prayer (128 pages; London, UK: Marshall, Morgan & Scott).

God Hears Our Prayers

“The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord accepts my prayer.” (Psalm 6:9)

Isn’t great that we can be safe in the knowledge that the Lord hears our prayers?

While reading Psalm 6 this morning this verse stood out to me. It gives me assurance of a God who listens to me, who hears me, and who accepts me.

Prayer can be a difficult and weary task at times. Our relationship with him may be rather dry, or it is difficult to speak to God when we are conscious of our own sin. However, the Lord is good and he hears our prayers and cries for help.

David, the writer of this Psalm, is troubled and knows he has done wrong. It seems he is conscious of his sin and is guilt-ridden because of it. He is crying out to God, desperate for his help.

It can be easy to resonate with David here.

How often are we in sin? How often have we done things we don’t want to do? How often have we gone against God and chosen the wrong path, the wrong words, the wrong actions toward others? Sometimes this leads to regret, to a knowledge of guilt, a knowledge of sin.

There is no worse feeling, I believe, than knowing you have sinned against the Almighty. He is an all-powerful, glorious, and magnificent God who knows all and is in all and is through all.

Here David rests in the knowledge that the Lord has heard his pleading, his cry for help, and his cry for mercy. What great assurance! To know the Lord has heard our pleas and heard our cries brings an assurance from above.

Yet, he not only hears them, he also accepts them! He is willing to accept what we say to him, hearing our anguished cry for forgiveness and for help. Through our Mediator, Jesus Christ, our cries are heard and accepted and we are made new once more.

Through the work of Jesus Christ upon that beautiful cross the Lord hears and accepts our prayers. But even more, he hears and accepts us! Us! With all our sin, foibles, and quirks he takes us into his loving arms and holds us in our time of need.

O what assurance, O what loving grace!