He is Worthy! We Are Needy!
Peter Lord, one of my heroes and mentors in prayer, often says, “Most Christians pray out of crisis or from a grocery list.” His wisdom reveals not only the reality of our prayer behavior, but the flaw in our mindset and motivation in prayer.
Crisis and Grocery List
Crisis praying is certainly focused in the right direction. When we are in urgent situations we should look to the Lord. Psalm 34:6 says, “This poor man cried out, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.” However, when the primary and sporadic motivation of our heart for prayer is triggered by the pain of our circumstances, we have reduced God to a heavenly rescue squad that exists chiefly for our emergencies.
Grocery list prayer, while very common, is an approach to God that stems from our persuasion that prayer exists for us to inform Him about our problems, hoping He will order the universe according to our expectations. These expectations are usually rooted in our desire to avoid suffering or difficulty. God is reduced to a heavenly vending machine that exists for our temporal satisfaction.
The Model Prayer
Over the years I have taught on the model prayer Jesus prescribed in Matthew 6:9-13 (often described as “The Lord’s Prayer”). Sometimes the series has been deep and thorough, taking 10-12 weeks to complete. On other occasions, I have reduced the teaching to a one-sermon summary. Recently, I was asked to teach on this model prayer at a church in Calgary and was impressed that the prayer can be reduced to two primary ideas: 1) He is worthy, and 2) We are needy.
He is Worthy
The model prayer is essentially divided into two parts. The first segment is entirely Godward in focus. When we pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” we are exalting God. We are declaring His worth. As John MacArthur notes, “This is a prayer that in every phase and every petition, beginning and closing and all in between focuses on God. His person, His attributes, and His wonderful works are the thrust of this prayer.”
We Are Needy
The second segment is a declaration of God as our source. We recognize and declare that we are needy. In prayer we resolve that we trust Him for our physical, relational, and moral needs. “Give us this day our daily bread (physical), and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors (relational), and do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one (moral).”
Every believer has experienced the confluence of positive surges and negative declines in prayer. Our motivation can wane and wander into the weeds. If crises or grocery lists are the motivation for our prayers, we will be woefully inconsistent. Ultimately our prayers should not be spurred simply by our circumstances, but by His character.
Jesus wants us to experience consistency in our spiritual pursuit in prayer. A daily conviction that He is worthy and we are needy provides a pure and passionate motivation in prayer. One person may make a seven-figure income, live in a multi-million dollar home, and have perfect health – but He is still worthy and that person is still needy. Another person may be jobless, homeless, and friendless. God is still worthy and that person is still needy. One person is young, another is old. One person is a seasoned Christian while another is a brand new believer. He is still worthy and we are still needy. The motivation never changes.
The Ultimate Purpose
As we mature, we advance to fully embrace the ultimate aim of all of our prayers, fueling the depth of our motivation. The model prayer says it clearly: “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” Prayer exists to advance His kingdom through our lives, exhibit His power in our lives, and extol His glory in everything.
When Paul wrote his epistles from prison he relied on “prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:19). His heart passion was clear when he wrote, “According to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (vv. 20-21). This is the motivation of a clear-headed, pure-hearted, and eternally-focused Christ follower.
Motivation for a Lifetime and Beyond
So when you wake up tomorrow morning feeling weary and discouraged, remember: He is worthy and you are needy. Pray. When you come home from a hard day at work, exhausted and frustrated – and you are not in the mood to attend the prayer meeting – remember: He is worthy and you are needy. Pray. When things are going smoothly and life is feeling problem-free, remember: He is worthy and you are needy. Pray.
One day when we stand in His presence among the saints of all the ages and myriads of worshiping angels, we will still declare that He is worthy. “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:12). We will even then continue to rejoice that we encountered Him when we were needy. “For You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9). All things will consummate in His glory. “Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13).
With all this in mind, let’s pray the right way, for the right reason, and for the right purpose. We will be encouraged, equipped, and empowered to live as true disciples in this world as we consistently grow to know Him and make Him known.
Copyright © 2012 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.