Sometimes mom said “no,” but that never stopped me from asking. If I didn’t smell chocolate chip cookies as soon as I opened our front door after school, I’d request a snack. Sometimes she made me wait for dinner, but not always, so every day I asked. I had a confidence in my mom that I often lack with God.
For years, I questioned the value of praying for a husband, since I knew singleness could be part of God sovereign plan. Sometimes I doubt whether he cares about things like a tight budget. I find it hard to ask him to heal my sister-in-law’s multiple sclerosis, since a “no” pushes me into the dark place of suffering.
I hear other Christians share similar obstacles. If God cares more about eternal things, like people dying and going to hell, they wonder whether he really cares about finding them a new job. If God is sovereign, he’ll do what he wants, so why bother asking for another child. If they ask God to heal their mom, but she still dies, they struggle with feeling abandoned by him.
Jesus Bypasses Our Obstacles To Prayer
When Jesus taught the crowds how to pray, he stepped right over these quandaries. We call it the Lord’s Prayer, and in it Jesus throws open the doors on our inhibitions. Have a physical need or desire? He tell us to pray about it: “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt 6:11). Hurt from broken relationships? “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” (v.12). Stuck in patterns of self-destruction? “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (v.13).
Whatever eats us up inside–the things we worry about, the fear that keeps us up at night, the temptation that won’t go away–Jesus invites us to pray about that. And he bypasses our obstacles to prayer with two assumptions:
1. God Cares About Human Flourishing
Jesus teaches us, through the Lord’s prayer, that God cares when we’re hungry, hurt, and tempted. He dreams about human flourishing, not just about our spiritual maturity. He wants us to ask him about our earthly concerns.
2. Lamenting Brokenness Is A Good Thing
But, Jesus’ prayer also recognizes that life on this earth is not characterized by that sort of human flourishing. We hunger in a multitude of ways. We get hurt. We self-destruct and bring others down with us. Jesus isn’t teaching us to pray as if the solution to these problems is a higher level of spirituality where all hurt evaporates. He’s teaching us to face the hurt and ask God to fix it, to lament the brokenness and cry out, “Your kingdom come.”
Every Prayer Is A Prayer For The Kingdom
When Jesus teaches us how to pray, he’s plugging us back into the bigger story. He’s highlighting how our family dysfunction, unfulfilled sexual needs, or diagnosis of diabetes are a result of Adam and Eve–and us with them–rejecting God’s offer to set up his kingdom on earth.
God’s rule would’ve brought human flourishing, but now his kingdom is in heaven and we live out the repercussions of that on earth. This reality manifests itself in the tension with our boss, fight with our kids, and envy at the gym. Whatever issues we struggle with stem from this bigger problem. We need his kingdom to come back.
Jesus’ prayer offers us the space to be brutally realistic, but still bold, when we pray. Between the lines of his prayer we can lament the millions of children that go hungry in the US alone, the divorce tearing apart a friend’s family, and the depression that grips us.
But the prayer also invites us to pray to God with frankness about what we want and expect him to answer. He is the kind of God who wants his humans to flourish. We can pray, confident that his heart leans towards saying “yes” to our prayers, even if we have to wait for the Resurrection to hear it.
That’s why Jesus teaches us to hinge our requests on “Your kingdom come.” Without widening our prayers to that frame, we’ll feel abandoned by God, disappointed, and futile in our prayers.
So pray for your deepest longings–that God will give you a child, miraculously remove the cancer, or change the same-sex attraction. Pray confidently that he wants to meet your deepest needs, and will at the Resurrection. Be like a kid asking for a cookie after school, because maybe–just maybe–he’ll say yes.