Have you ever been in a prayer meeting where you and your friends end up praying about things that don’t seem to be very important? “I have a cousin who has a cold,” one person volunteers. “I worry about my cat,” another explains. Of course, we want to be sensitive to the fact that these requests usually weigh heavily on the people who raise them. Still, you don’t have to sit through very many of these meetings before you wonder if we need to reorient our priorities in prayer.
We all know that the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9–13 has many lessons to teach us about prayer. But all too often, we miss how it helps us put first things first. Jesus’ model prayer reveals the priorities that should characterize the prayers of everyone who follows Jesus.
Petitions about Ourselves
Before we touch on the top priorities of prayer, we should admit that the Lord’s Prayer focuses a lot on petitions about us. Jesus instructed His disciples to ask, “Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matt. 6:11–13). The entire second half of the Lord’s Prayer is concerned with “us . . . us . . . us.” So, we should feel no shame in paying attention to ourselves as we pray. Seeking God’s help for our daily needs, asking for forgiveness, and pleading for God’s power to overcome temptation are among the highest priorities of our service to God in Christ.
Petitions about God
Even so, consider how the first half of the Lord’s Prayer leads in a different direction. Jesus made the top priority of His model prayer requests about God. “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (vv. 9–10). Rather than drawing attention to “us . . . us . . . us,” this portion of Jesus’ prayer focuses on “your . . . your . . . your.” It highlights the goal of all of history: that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10–11).
By placing these matters at the beginning of His prayer, Jesus called on His followers to give their highest priority to seeking the honor of God and the spread of His kingdom throughout the world. We are to pray for the glory of God to be acknowledged more and more. We are to petition for the spread of the gospel throughout the world. We are to cry out for Jesus to return and to bring the glorious kingdom of God to earth as it is in heaven.
As Jesus put it in Matthew 6:33, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”