How Do We Pray?

by Joe McKeever

If you have to have a formula for prayer-and I'm not suggesting you do-I have a suggestion, at least for the beginning. Consider this:

"Dear Lord,
In the wondrous name of Jesus,
Through the precious blood of Jesus,
For the glorious sake of Jesus,
I come to Thee...."

The first-the name of Jesus-is about Christ. It's about Who He is and, by implication, who we are.

The second-the blood of Jesus-is about the cross; what He did and thus how we got here.

The last-the sake of Jesus-is about the cause; what He wants and why we're here.

The first, the Name, is about the audacity of praying in the first place and our right be here. We enter the Holy of Holies through the Name that is above all other names. "For there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). "And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son." (John 14:13)

The second, the blood, is about the authority with which we enter this most sacred place in the universe. We come boldly unto the throne of grace. "With His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption...how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (Hebrews 9:12 and 14).

The third, Christ's sake, is about the authenticity with which we pray. This is not about us. It is "for thy sake." "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven" (Matt. 6:10). "Have Thine own way, Lord;" "I delight to do thy will;" "What would you have me to do?"

Now, by contrast, we do not come into the Lord's presence by any right of our own. Prayer is not a do-it-yourself business. God does not have a celestial "Home Depot" operation set up in which He says, "You can do it; we can help." Far from it. We are ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20) and doing business for Him in His name. Someone has pointed out that the ambassador for the President of the United States has more authority in a foreign land than the President's brother does; it's about representing him and serving "in his name."

We do not come into the Lord's presence by the good works we have done. God loves good works, make no mistake about that. However, the plan is for our lives to produce that kind of fruit as a result of His Spirit working within us, and not as a means of getting anything from God. Christians sometimes struggle to find the line between the right and wrong kind of good works. The wrong kind are produced in the flesh, and prompted the prophet Isaiah to say, "We are all like an unclean thing; and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags" (Is. 64:6). But the right kind of good works are those deeds prompted by the Spirit within us, such as John had in mind when he said, "My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth" (I John 3:18).

We do not come into the Lord's presence for our own agenda, to get our wish list granted. Those who try are always disappointed. David had the right idea when he said, "Delight thyself in the Lord and He will give thee the desires of thy heart" (Psalm 37:4). The best prayer any of us will ever pray is the first one Paul uttered from the dirt outside Damascus when He stared into Heaven's bright light and said, "What will you have me to do?" (Acts 22:10). Nothing puts the matter in clearer focus than this analysis from James, the Lord's half-brother who headed the church at Jerusalem: "You have not because you ask not. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures" (James 4:3).

And so:

I enter into the Lord's presence in my prayer, 1) through the Name (and thus, the Person) of the Lord Jesus Christ, 2) through the cross (that is, through the blood) of the Lord Jesus Christ, and 3) for the sake (that is, the purposes) of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Even though I called this a "formula," I will caution myself and readers alike from treating it as one. Rather, think of this three-fold statement as a helpful reminder of God's plans for unworthy people such as us to be able to enter His presence to do business with Him.

How blessed we are to be able to pray.

Moses said, "What great nation is there that has a God so near to it, as the Lord our God is to us, for whatever reason we may call on Him?" (Deuteronomy 4:7)

In the words of the hymn, "What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer."

Joe McKeever is director of missions of the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans

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