The Lord’s Prayer
5 “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. 6 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.
7 “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. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. Matthew 6:5–13 (ESV)
How do we approach a Holy God?
We are able to talk to God. He speaks verbally to us in His Word and nonverbally through His obvious providence. We commune with Him through prayer. Charles Hodge declared that “prayer is the converse of the soul with God.” In and through prayer we express our reverence and adoration for God; we bare our souls in contrite confession before Him; we pour out the thanksgiving of grateful hearts; and we offer our petitions and supplications to Him.
In prayer we experience God as personal and powerful. He can hear us and act in response. The Scripture teaches both the sovereign foreordination of God and the efficacy of prayer. The two are not inconsistent with one another, for God ordains the means as well as the ends for His divine purposes. Prayer is a means God uses to bring His sovereign will to pass.
Prayer is to be addressed to God alone, either to God as Triune or to the distinct persons of the Godhead. To pray to creatures is idolatry.
Proper prayer has several requisites. The first is that we approach God with sincerity. Empty and insincere phrases are a mockery to Him. Such prayer, far from being an exercise of godly religion, is an offense against God.
The second is that we approach God with reverence. In prayer we must always remember to whom we are speaking. To address God in a cavalier, casual, or flippant manner, as we might speak with our earthly friends, is to treat Him with the contempt of familiarity. As people pay homage to a king by entering his presence with a posture of respect and obeisance, so we come before God in full recognition of His supreme majesty.
The third requisite, which follows from the previous ones, is that we approach God in humility. Not only must we remember who He is, but we must also remember who and what we are. We are His adopted children. We are also sinful creatures. He invites us to come boldly before Him, but never arrogantly.
God instructs us to be earnest and fervent in our requests. At the same time, we come in willful submission. To say “Your will be done” is not an indication of a lack of faith. The faith we bring to prayer must include a trust that God is able to hear our prayers and that He is disposed to answer them. Yet when God says no to our requests, this faith also trusts in His wisdom. God’s wisdom and benevolence must always and everywhere be assumed by those who entreat Him with petitions.
We pray in the name of Jesus because we do thereby acknowledge His office as Mediator. As our High Priest, Christ is our intercessor even as the Holy Spirit is our helper in prayer.
R. C. Sproul, Ed., The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition), (Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust, 2015), 1808.