How to Rejoice in Prayer

Pastor Craig Carter

During our current sermon series we are learning how to pray based on a prayer Jesus taught us called the Lord’s Prayer. It is found in Matthew chapter six and Luke chapter eleven.

Last week we observed that in order to start praying we actually need to stop praying. We learned how to pause in prayer and spend time in silence and solitude. It is in quietness and stillness that we are able to position ourselves to hear from God and receive all that He has for us. 

And that pause is prompted by the way in which we are taught to address God, “Our Father…” 

Of course, we know that the Lord’s Prayer continues, “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.” (Matthew 6:9 ASV)

It’s easy to skim over the opening line as if it’s some kind of pleasantry before we get down to the real business of asking and getting. But nothing could be further from the truth. The first ten words help us understand who God is and leads to the second step of learning how to pray – rejoice. 

Listen to what author Pete Greig says about it in his book, How to Pray: A Simple Guide for Normal People: “Having paused to be still at the start of a prayer time, the most natural and appropriate response to God’s presence is reverence. Try not to skip this bit. Hallowing the Father’s name is the most important and enjoyable dimension of prayer. So linger here, rejoicing in God’s blessings …” 

Last week we observed that we need to learn how to pause in prayer as if our life depends on it, because in a way, it does.  The same is true of learning how to rejoice in prayer – it is vital to our prayer life and to our very existence. 

From the words of the Lord’s Prayer itself, let’s see why that is the case. 

It is vital to learn how to rejoice in prayer because…

1) God Is HOLY

Our concept of who God is influences the entirety of our prayer life. If we see God as a sort of “cosmic cop” who is out to get us, we’re going to lay low and hope He doesn’t catch us doing something we’re not supposed to. This is a very prevalent view. 

If we see God as an impossible to please parent, we’re going to try to appease Him and win His approval. 

If God is just a happy-go-lucky, senile, grandpa, we’re going to expect Him to empty His pockets and satisfy our every whim. 

While the title we use, “our Father,” can be helpful, it can also be harmful to our prayer life as well. That’s because many of us have misconceptions about what a father is like. For some of us, it conjures up a tyrant. For others, it brings to mind an ATM. For still others, a father represents someone who is noticeably absent. 

But ours is a perfect loving Father who, according to the parable of the prodigal son, runs to meet us and lavishes us with good gifts, even when we don’t deserve them. God is the kind of Father we need, rather than the kind we may have had. 

And no earthly father, no matter how good and loving he may be, can come close to the type of God we have. That’s because He is “our Father,” but He “art in heaven” (a place of glory and grandeur). That means He is altogether different and distinct from this world.

It’s why it is appropriate to say: “Hallowed be thy name.” (Matthew 6:9b ASV)

The word translated “hallowed” means “to make holy, or separate.” This meaning is shown in the NLT: “Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy.”

When we hallow someone’s name, we don’t just give respect to their title, we honor the person who holds it. When someone has “made a name for him/herself,” it means they have a certain reputation that stands behind their name. Consequently, we are to use that name carefully and wisely. 

It is why we are told not to use the Lord’s name “in vain.”

Given the informality of our culture, it’s easy to treat God in a friendly, even flippant way. That feeling is further reinforced by the fact He is our Father, or Daddy (Abba). So our tendency may be to rush into God’s presence, stick our hand, and say, “How ya doing? Good mornin’, Big Man Upstairs! What you got for me?”

But the opening line to the Lord’s Prayer helps us get the relationship right. When we hallow God’s name, it helps us understand who God is – altogether holy. And the only proper response is to give Him our praise, adoration, and worship. 

So before we start pleading and requesting things of God in prayer, it is appropriate for us to first begin praising and rejoicing before Him. The prayer book of our ancient forefathers, the Psalms, helps us in this regard:

O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth! Your glory is higher than the heavens. (Psalm 8:1 NLT)

Worship the Lord with gladness. Come before him with rejoicing. (Psalm 100:1 NASB)

Or, let’s just take our cue from Jesus: “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.” (Matthew 6:9 ASV)

2) God is due HONOR

The next phrase of the Lord’s Prayer is, “Thy kingdom come.” (Matthew 6:10a ASV). When we utter this phrase, it reminds us of who God is – King. 

This thought is echoed throughout Scripture. In Psalm 44:4a, David claims, “You are my King and my God.” (NLT)

For people living in a democratic republic, it is difficult to grasp what this means. We prefer to spread out the sources of authority and responsibility in our society. But in a monarchy, the king has all of the power. So for God to be king, it means…

He is the One who determines the rules that govern our lives.

He is the One who judges lawbreakers and rewards law-abiding citizens.

He is the One who administers and directs the affairs of people under His rule.

So whenever we pray, “thy kingdom come,” we are acknowledging that the Lord is the One who is in charge and, as such, is due our honor as His loyal subjects. That’s a hard prayer for most of us to say because, like we do with earthly authorities, we tend to question and second guess the One who is King. We’d much rather, “Our kingdom come. Our will be done.”

I love the response of Bible teacher, J. Vernon McGee, to that type of thinking: “This is God’s universe, and God does things His way. You may have a better way, but you don’t have a universe.”

God is the King and Ruler over all that exists but, here on earth, the principle domain of His reign is the human heart. 

Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst [within you].” (Luke 17:20-21 NIV)

God’s kingdom is internal and personal to those who submit to His rule. So when we pray, “Thy kingdom come,” we are relinquishing control of our lives. 

Most of us see ourselves as the king of our own castle and master of our own domain. We consider ourselves part of a ruling triumvirate – me, myself, and I! So we have to set aside our own wishes and let God take over and establish His Kingdom in our lives. 

Not everyone is a member of God’s Kingdom. We must join it, become its citizens, and pledge our allegiance to the King. 

When we pray, “thy kingdom come,” we are saying, “My life is no longer my own, it’s yours, Lord. Do with me as you will. Rule and reign over me. I honor you as King.”

As the psalmist said, “The Lord is king! Let the earth rejoice!” (Psalm 97:1a NLT)

3) God gives HOPE

It is easy to rejoice when things are going great in our lives, but how about when circumstances are less than pleasant and God seems a million miles away?

The deepest level of worship is praising God in spite of pain, thanking Him during a trial, surrendering when suffering, and loving Him when He feels distant. 

And the Lord’s Prayer helps us in this regard. We recognize that we have a God who is a loving Father. But He is an exalted King in heaven and His rule can even extend to this planet. 

“Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth.” (Matthew 6:9 ASV)

So we ask with hope and expectation that God’s kingdom will be evident in our lives (e.g. healing, deliverance, relief, restoration, reconciliation). But even when it isn’t apparent, we can still rejoice because nothing has changed – God is still our Father and He still sits on the throne. 

It’s why David could cry out to God: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest. (Psalm 22:1, 2 NIV)

He went on to describe how his enemies had him hemmed in on every side, while onlookers mocked and sneered at him. But in spite of these dreadful circumstances, David put his hope in the Lord and rejoiced: I will declare your name to my people; in the assembly I will praise you. (Psalm 22:22 NIV)

Let me be very honest with you … There’s a lot about life that I don’t understand, and sometimes I’ve even been a little disappointed in the way God is running His universe. But I think God’s big enough to handle my doubts and disappointments. I’m learning to understand that I may never understand. I’m okay with that. 

I’ve also come to the conclusion that I’m okay with not being okay. So even when I don’t understand God or, on some occasions, may not even like Him and the way He’s doing things, I’ve decided I’m stuck with Him. He’s the best I’ve got and, in fact, He’s all I’ve got … and that’s enough for me.

I’m going to accept His will, not as I want it to be but as it is done. And I’m going to praise Him anyway and rejoice in Him. I think that’s what it means to hallow His name. And guess what? That’s not a bad place to be. 

Listen to what else David tells us in his psalm (or prayer): But you are holy, you who inhabit the praises of Israel. (Psalm 22:3 WEB)

In other words, rejoicing in God and praising Him, even when we may not feel like it, lifts us into His presence. Our Father is in heaven, while we’re stuck here on earth. But when we learn to rejoice in prayer, God brings a little bit of heaven to us. 

I know that’s true because I have seen it happen and have experienced it firsthand. I told you back during Advent about how one of the hardest things I ever did was one of the greatest blessings I’ve ever received. 

A little boy in the congregation I served in Alabama died following heart surgery at six months of age. His mother and father transported him home from the hospital in Birmingham. A group of people from our church met them at the funeral home and prayed with them but when it came time to give the body to the funeral director, the mother refused. Finally, she allowed me to take her precious son from her arms and I held him until the family left for home. It was a hard thing to do but quite an honor. 

A few days later we held the funeral for little Matthew. In my message I mentioned that I was confident Matthew was safe and secure in His Father’s arms and that he was well-suited for what the Bible says inhabitants of heaven do constantly – worship and praise the Lord. I shared how, as an infant, Matthew was serenaded by “Baby Praise” music in his nursery. I also mentioned that the last time I saw Matthew alive, when I baptized him in the ICU at UAB Hospital, he was wearing little headphones with that music playing in his ears. 

I explained that after he took his last breath on this planet, Matthew took his next breath in heaven and I shared that there is no doubt that the first words he ever uttered were songs of praise. 

I’ll bet one of the songs was similar to one he heard here on earth. It was his family’s favorite that is based on a Scripture verse that was pertinent to what folks were feeling because of what had happened. 

In the Old Testament we’re told about a man named Job who didn’t lose one child, he had ten tragically killed. In response: Job … fell on the ground and worshiped. “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:20-21 ESV)

I closed my message by saying, “First, the Lord gave us Baby Matthew, and now, the Lord has taken him away into His eternal presence. Blessed be the name of the Lord!” Our worship leader then began singing, Blessed Be Your Name. When he got to this verse, “God, you give and take away…,” Matthew’s parents rose to their feet and lifted their hands to heaven. The rest of the congregation stood and joined in.   

I don’t think I’ve ever felt more in God’s presence or closer to heaven than I was that day. And it’s because a group of people said, “We don’t understand what has happened and we definitely don’t like what has taken place. But blessed (or hallowed) be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

It is vital that we learn how to rejoice in prayer because when we pray we are communicating with a God who is holy, who is due honor, and who gives hope. And the only appropriate way to approach Him is through praise, adoration, and worship. 

How to Rejoice in Prayer:

1) Praise God because of who He is

2) Pray the Psalms or listen to songs of praise (See Prayer Tool #5: How to Pray the Psalms, prayercourse.org/toolshed)

3) Prayerfully engage in corporate worship 

4) Pray the “native language” of your heart (dance, draw something, knit, run, hike) (See Prayer Tool #7: How to Pray Creatively at prayercourse.org/toolshed; Also, just brag on God like you would a loved one)

Let me close with one final quote from the Old Testament prayer book: “Sing a new song to the Lord!” (Psalm 98:1a NLT)

You and I are that new song. No one else can think like you or see life like you or worship like you. So learn how to rejoice in prayer and give God what He really wants – your praise and adoration. 

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