Pray then like this: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name." (Matthew 6:9 ESV)
Today's reading: Genesis 6; Matthew 6.
Genesis 6 is the prelude to the great flood and the call of Noah. I take the "sons of God" (6:2) to be early monarchs (think violent warlords) who like Lamech (chapter 4) were polygamous, powerful, and brutal. Perhaps there was demonic activity behind this, as well (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6).
Yet, Noah was a righteous man, being a believer in God (6:9). Scripture says, "By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith." (Hebrews 11:7 ESV)
Matthew 6, the second reading today, is a most wonderful chapter in the Sermon on the Mount which features the Lord's Prayer and also Christ's words to his followers about dealing with fear and anxiety.
A pattern for prayer. I have come to appreciate and use the Lord's Prayer (Matt 6:9-13) more in my life recently. Sometimes, when I wake up at night or when I have time to pray, I feel at a loss to know what to pray for. Walking through this prayer, which is a kind of a template for prayer, and and thinking through each phrase, really helps me.
There are six petitions and the order is important to help us keep priority in prayer. We begin with "our Father," which reminds me that we come as his beloved children in Christ. What follows are three petitions for God's glory, and then three petitions for our good.
We pray first for God's glory...
1) The honor of his name. I pray that God's name -- his reputation and true knowledge about him -- would fill our world and that people would come to know and glorify him.
2) The triumph of His kingdom. I pray that Christ would return soon and that his glorious rule would be realized for our world. I pray that even now more and more people would submit to him as Lord and live as citizens of his kingdom.
3) The obedience of all peoples, including you and me. I pray that we, and many more, would freely and joyfully submit to the Lord's will. And here we might pray for our rulers, our neighbors, our friends and family, etc.
Then we pray for our own good...
4) The material needs we face. I pray for daily bread, and all other things needed for daily life. Here is where I learn to discern between needs and wants, but also to thank God for all good things he has given us. He cares about our physical life.
5) The forgiveness we need, and need to give. How important is this! To confess sin, and to thank him for our sins forgiven in Christ, and to have the privilege to forgive others. This is a petition that causes me to reflect whether there are others I am not forgiving.
6) The protection we need against the adversary. Here I pray for protection against temptation and for strength to face any testing that may come. We can also pray this for others whom we know are undergoing trials.
Here's a bit more help on understanding these petitions, from the Heidelberg Catechism.
Also, this simple truth is powerful: "No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money." (6:24) Often, when I'm stressed and overwhelmed and anxious and weary, it is because I am trying to serve other "lords" in my life. There are too many seemingly important somebodies, and too many self-interests that I can please, whether they be money, comfort, privacy, popularity, sex, education, career, others, pride, and on and on. Bob Dylan once wrote a song about it: "You’re gonna have to serve somebody / It may be the devil or it may be the Lord / But you’re gonna have to serve somebody."