The Pattern Prayer and Prayer for Divine Blessings

A question that arises is whether or not there are differences between what Jesus said in the Lord’s Prayer and what he says later in the Sermon on the Mount about asking, seeking and knocking as expressions of prayer. Perhaps one difference is that the Lord’s Prayer guides us what to say in prayer and the later verses guide us regarding how we pray.

In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus tells his disciples to pray for five things. First, he mentions praise of God by his children, which describes an intimate interaction between them. In their praise, they are reverent because they recognise he is in heaven and they rejoice in his holiness, in the way that he is always perfect. 

Second, Jesus instructs them to pray for the growth of the kingdom of God. Such growth happens in two ways: one is through the conversions of individuals and the other is revealed in the ongoing and deepening consecration of his people.

Third, Jesus tells them to pray about the provision of daily needs. Here Jesus mentions daily food, but the request extends to all legitimate daily needs connected to life in this world.

Fourth, Jesus says that they should pray about pardon for personal sins, which is a reminder that such sin will be present throughout life. True confession will occur alongside forgiveness of others, which tells us that confession of sin should be made when appropriate to one another.

Fifth, Jesus instructs his people to pray for protection during spiritual conflict, which again indicates what his followers can expect throughout life. Satan and his forces are out to trap and defeat the people of God and one part of their duty is to ask for divine help in order to have victory. 

But how do they pray for such blessings? Later in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus uses three pictures to illustrate prayer - ask, seek, and knock. As we look at them, what ideas come to mind? Here are five suggestions. One is simplicity, a second is nearness, a third is desire, a fourth is specificity and a fifth is persistence.

The simplicity is seen in the verbs that Jesus uses – ask, seek and knock. They are taken from everyday activities that each of his listeners engaged in. We all know what it is to ask for something, to look for something, to knock at someone’s door.

The three examples also indicate nearness. If we want to ask for something, we have to be within hearing distance of the person. If we seek for something, we need to be near the space where it can be found. And if we knock at a door, it is obvious that we have to be beside it. Prayer is drawing near to God. 

The third idea is that of desire because usually the three illustrations are connected to what someone wants strongly. A child asks its parent for an item it wants, a treasure hunter seeks for an item he wants, and a door knocker wants access to the person in the room. This is a reminder that true prayer is never offered in an indifferent manner.

Fourth, the examples lead us to think of specificity. We know that normally we don’t ask vaguely, nor do we describe a person as a seeker who is merely looking at the ground, and nor do we regard someone merely standing at a door as a knocker. I suppose we could say that it is specificity that distinguishes real prayer from hypocrisy. God demands that we be specific in our prayers.

Fifth, Jesus uses the present tense when he refers to asking, seeking and knocking. He does not mean that we should only ask for something once. Instead we are to persevere with the petitions. Perseverance is the indicator of expectancy. If we give up praying for something, it may be a sign that we did not believe God could answer the petition. 

Obviously, those sets of verses are not the only teaching in the Bible on prayer. We cannot use the sets by themselves and ignore what is said elsewhere. For example, we are told that we must pray according to God’s will, which is a reference to matters that he has revealed as suitable things to pray about. And one of the psalmists says that if we regard sin in our hearts the Lord will not hear us. We can say that in order to pray we also need to be submissive to God’s will and cleansed from sin.

Read more

© (2017)