Praying like a slave.
If you are a Christian, then there is something very important that you need to know: that you are not your own. You do not belong to yourself. Your life will no longer be directed as you see fit. When it comes to your life goals, ambitions, and hopes, you must sacrifice them all and replace them with the will of God. In Romans 1:1, according to many English translations, Paul refers to himself as a “servant” of Christ Jesus. It’s far too tame a translation, for the word Paul actually uses is “slave.” We read it quite plainly in 1 Cor 6:19, we are not our own, for we were bought with a price. We confess it in our catechism too, that our only comfort in life and in death is that we are not our own, but that we belong – body and soul, in life and in death – to our faithful Saviour Jesus Christ (Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 1).
Now slavery to Christ is in fact freedom itself, freedom from sin, and it puts us in the place of truest blessing. To submit to the will of God is to be as a fish in water – it’s our natural element and the only place in which we can truly flourish. Now we can open those thoughts up another time, but for now, the point remains: you do not belong to yourself. You are a slave to Christ. In everything we think, say, and do, our first and only question must be: What does Christ want me to think, say, or do? In everything we do, we do not use our own judgment, but submit to His – as it is revealed in His word. All authority on heaven and earth belongs to Him, and all things must therefore totally submit to His will and desires.
Now what we’ve been talking about so far flows very naturally into our prayer lives. In fact, this is why our Lord taught us to pray: “Thy will be done.” Wow! There is such a magnificent economy of words in that one simple phrase. It is so weighty that our minds fail even to perceive its magnitude. There is so much insight and direction here, we could never fully pray this prayer! Now maybe you’re wondering what I’m talking about. Let me put it this way: the whole Bible is summarized, contained, and applied in those four words – “Thy will be done”. God’s will is revealed to us in Scripture, and so “Thy will be done” is really a command to pray through the entire Bible. It is a command to take up what is revealed, all the promises and commandments of Scripture, and ask God to fulfill them. Let me give you a few examples, that might make this more clear.
In Colossians 3:1 we read “seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” That is God’s will for you – that you would seek the things that are above. There is enough prayer-fuel in Colossians 3:1 to keep the bonfire of prayer blazing for weeks on end! Here is an example prayer (feel free to pray it as you read it): “O LORD God Almighty, so often I seek the things that are below, I set my affections upon them – please forgive me! Please send Your Spirit and open my eyes that I may behold Christ! As I worship with Your people and come under the preaching of Your Word, may I truly seek and see Christ! Please fill my heart with such a desire to seek Him, that I may truly and fully obey your will! O Lord, Your will be done in my life, Your will that I seek Christ with all my heart.”
How about Deuteronomy 6:6? “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” “Lord! Forgive me! For I am a wretch! I have not hidden Your word in my heart. I do not minister them diligently to my family when I sit in my house, when I walk by the way, when I lie down, and when I rise. Thank You that Christ died for my pardon in this thing. And now Lord, arise and help me! Lord please enable me by Your Spirit to know and love Your word, that I may have a word ready in season at all times. Please may my house be filled with the word of Christ. Please give me the needed wisdom to speak Your word to my loved ones, and make it effective in their hearts as well. O Lord, there is so far yet to go in these things, but Your will be done!”
Those are two random examples, poorly executed. And yet, there is just so much that we may pray for. We could read-pray our way through the whole Bible! In fact, why not? Certainly there will be parts where praying may seem more difficult, but even that will be beneficial as we are forced to study and ponder further on the truths of God’s Word.
Another application might be to consider specifically areas of your life where you are not conforming to God’s will. Do you have an anger problem? Are you discontent? Are you worldly minded? Is your affection for Christ dim? We ought to reflect on these things and consider them in light of the Word of God. Do I lack kindness, for example? In Ephesians 4:32 we read: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” “Lord, I am unkind. I harbor bitterness, and I am very critical. I am not tenderhearted towards others as I ought to be. Please forgive me, soften my heart, cause me to be full of Christ’s love. As He forgave me, as He is patient with me, so may I be patient with others, kind and tenderhearted. Lord, I do not have it in myself to do this, and so please work in me by the power of Your Spirit. Thy will be done!”
Our prayers ought not to be characterized and shaped by our own will and desires, they must be weighty with the will of God. And if we are to grow in this, we must be mighty in the Word of God. As we come more and more to know His will, so we will be better and better fitted to pray His will. Be often in His word, that His word may dwell richly in your heart, and as it dwells richly in your heart, it will manifest richly in your prayers. Brothers and sisters, let us pray indeed that His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Soli Deo Gloria!