Praying Theologically – Prayer Thought : Matt. 6:5-9

That word ‘theological’ can have negative connotations for some, as theology can often seem dry or “heady,” devoid of faith and sincere emotion. This can the case sometimes, but true theology is anything but dry or academic. True knowledge and study of God always leads to true godly wisdom which leads to true godly living and worship.

As it concerns prayer we are highly conditioned by our upbringing and experiences in the church. If you’ve been in high church, formal liturgical atmospheres then prayer can often seem to be rigid and predictable. To such persons, the Scriptures remind us that prayer is conversation and act of intimate worship with God. Not that there is anything wrong with praying prepared prayers; these can be quite helpful for us! But Jesus warns against turning prayer into some robotic, repetitious practice:

And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Many of us, however, haven’t been raised in a high church but in a free, low church and thus prayer is treated much more casually and organically. To such persons that feel as if prayer is just “speaking your mind,” the Scriptures remind us that prayer is worship and that God highly regulates and determines His worship. Prayer is not just about saying whatever pops in our heads; Jesus reminds us that prayer is to be structured and guided by who God is and what He reveals in His Word:

And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:

Pray like this. Now Jesus isn’t saying that prayer is some sort of mantra that if repeated will unlock some mysterious power and grant us our every wish. No, what Jesus is saying is when you pray, mean this, think this. In other words, let this be the model by which you speak with and worship God.

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.

Prayer, above all else, is to be focused on the worship and glory of God. It is possible only through Christ Jesus for it is only in Jesus that we are adopted by grace through faith alone as sons and daughters of God. Only in Jesus can we actually call God ‘Father.’ We come in Christ, on His merits, according to His work and will, and we come to worship our Father. We come to attribute glory and honor to His name which represents the glory of His being. He is our intimate Father but He is also the transcendent God who is over all. He is ‘in heaven.’ And because of His greatness, His character, His beauty, we worship Him.

Pray needs to be focused above all else on God Himself. It needs to informed and shaped by God’s Word. This is what we mean when we say that prayer should be theological. God has revealed Himself, shown us how He is to be worshiped. Moreover, He’s given us innumerable models for prayer, from this prayer above (the Lord’s Prayer) to the prayers of the prophets and apostles to the prayers of the Psalms. Our challenge then is to not treat prayer flippantly, but at the same time avoiding allowing prayer to become robotic. I believe that if we keep Jesus’ simple warnings to us in mind, and focus on making prayer first about our Father in heaven and the hallowedness of His name, then we will always stay properly in the space between these two extremes.