When we look at the Disciples Prayer (or The Lord’s Prayer), I believe we see three types of petitions that Jesus taught (Matthew 6:8-13).
We get this idea from the first three requests: “Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name; Your Kingdom come; Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
This first type of petition, according to Jennings, is the invocation of our prayer; it is the summoning of the Spirit of God that He would come to us and be God to us, to help us pray and do His will.5
Yes, it is asking Him to help us pray that His name be hallowed–let Your name be hallowed. And bring your kingdom to us; and bring your will to us.
But it is even more than that. It is asking Him to bring His love and fellowship to us, to bring His companionship and communion and friendship to us. The whole idea of praying that He would be real to us and that His kingdom comes to us, according to Jennings, “suggests eating and drinking and companionship.”6
And we get this idea also from Revelation 3:20, where we see the image of Jesus knocking at our hearts door wanting to come into us, to sup with us and us with Him. Here it is important to see that all prayer does not begin with ourselves. He starts it. Therefore, when we say that this type of petition is an invocation, that we are summoning God to come to us, we must remember that He has already summoned us to come to Him. Our summoning Him is just a response to His summoning us.
O Hallesby comments on Revelation 3:20: “… [It] affords a new glimpse into the nature of prayer, showing us that God has designed prayer as a means of intimate and joyous fellowship between God and man.”7
I agree. The nature of prayer is a means of obtaining fellowship with Him. And though we are separating out this type of petition as suggesting that it should come first, as to invoke God at the beginning of our prayer time to come to us and help us pray, this type of prayer is really also at the heart and core of all prayer. Yes, it is the nature of all prayer to desire that God would be present with us—to commune with us and be God to us.
Therefore, the nature of prayer is the desire of the soul for God; it is a crying out to God for fellowship and help. We see this most vividly in the prayer of David when he prayed, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Ps. 42:1-2a). Again in Psalms 63:1 David prays, “O God, You are my God; early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is not water.”
The second type of petition is…
2. That He would give us the things we need
Though this type of petition also includes the summoning of God to come to us and be God to us (since that is the nature of all petitions), it is different in that it is more specific as to our needs.
In this type, as in the Disciples Prayer, all the things we need can be grouped into three categories: (1) for our daily bread (“Give us this day our daily bread”)—for all the physical things we need for survival: food, clothing, shelter, etc.; (2) for forgiveness (“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive out debtors”)—that which we need for our spiritual life in order to maintain peace with God; and (3) for guidance and deliverance (“And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”)—that God would take care of us and protect us from all forms of evil.
The third type of petition is…
At first glance you may not see this type of petition in the Disciples Prayer. Perhaps to you it appears that all the requests are personal. And you are right; they are all personal. But if you look closer you will discover that they are all intercessory prayers as well, because the prayer does not address the Father as “my father” but as “our Father. Thus, if we pray the way Jesus wants us to pray, all prayer (all true prayer) is intercession.
According to Jennings,
Intercessory prayer is not some extra or dispensable sort of prayer; it is essential to the character of prayer itself that it be offered not only on my behalf but on my neighbor’s behalf as well. That all prayer is intercessory prayer is already implicit in the claim that the one to whom prayer is addressed is not ‘my Father’ but ‘our Father’…That we pray for one another is the necessary consequence of the communal and corporate character of Christian prayer.8
One of the Biblical words used for intercession is palal, used eighty times in the Old Testament. If you look at each time the word is used, you will see that it was used strictly by those who were dedicated to God and were great in prayer. Abraham was one of those great one’s who prayed and delivered Abimelech and his household (Gen. 20:7, 17). Likewise, Moses, by his prayers, was used by God over and over again to deliver the people of Israel (Nu. 11:2, 21:7, Duet. 9:20, 26). Hannah was also used by God to raise up Samuel (1 Sam. 1:10, 12, 26, 27) who himself became one of the greatest intercessors who ever lived. And there are several others such as David and Solomon, Elijah and Elisha, Hezekiah, Ezra and Nehemiah, and Isaiah and Jeremiah. All these and more interceded and were great for God in prayer.
Do you want to be great for God? If you do, choose now to dedicate yourself to selfless intercession. And He will bless you for it.
5 Theodore W. Jennings, Jr., Life as Worship, Prayer and Praise in Jesus Name, pp. 43-45.
6 Ibid., p.21
7 O. Hallesby, Prayer (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Augsburg Publishing House, 1931), p. 12.
8 Theodore W. Jennings, Jr., Life as Worship, Prayer and Praise in Jesus Name, p. 57.