Sooner or later in your life — young people, heads up, old people know this. Sooner or later in your life, pressures and problems become almost overwhelming.
• Physical problems — “Give me bread.”
• Relational and mental problems — “Please forgive me.”
• Moral problems — “Don’t let me go into that temptation again.”
And what I want you to see is this: You have a Father. He’s a thousand times better than any earthly good father or bad father. You have a Father, and he cares about every one of those. You can’t pray about a problem he doesn’t know and care about. None — no matter how small they are.
And he beckons you to come to him and to talk to him in prayer about them because he knows what you need, and he’s not surprised by anything.
Now, that’s the usual way we attack our problems — directly. “God, help me. I’ve got a problem.” And all the attention begins to focus on the problem. “And yes, God, you’re saying ‘come,’” but your life is starting to shrink up around the problem or the set of problems.
You wake up thinking about it; you go to bed thinking about it. And your life is shrinking, little by little, down around this cluster of pain and problems: marriage problems or kid problems or health problems or work problems. Your life is just shrinking down, and all the while you’re calling on the last three petitions. “God, help me. I need some bread, I need some money, I need some forgiveness, I need some help morally.” And you’re crying out and your life is just shrinking down.
Now, when I say it that way, I don’t mean for you to stop doing that. I do not mean: Stop crying out to God. I don’t mean: Stop knowing your problems are there and saying, “I need help.”
I want you to see that God offers you another strategy of victory.
It’s not different. It’s not contradictory. It doesn’t replace what I just described, but it is indirect. It’s indirect.
There’s a direct way of, “I’ve got a problem. I’m going after it,” and then there’s something indirect. And here I’m thinking about the first three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer.
God made you to be a part of something big. He made you to be a part of something spectacular and magnificent. And you’re allowing — perhaps — you’re allowing your life to just shrink down around these problems. God’s in it, and he’s patient. He’s loving and he provides help, but I’m just saying there’s another strategy.
It’s a supplemental remedy for life: namely, to be drawn up. Let yourself be drawn up into the first three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer. God made you to be a part of hallowing his name, and extending his kingdom, and seeing his will be done. He made you for something magnificent, and, yes, something mundane as well. He made that. He cares about that.
But what we fail to see — I speak from experience. What we fail to see often is that when we lose our grip on the greatness of God, and his name, and his kingdom, and his global will, we lose a divine equilibrium in life, and we become increasingly vulnerable to those problems overwhelming us. When we lose our grip on his name, his kingdom, his will, the big universal, global, glorious, awesome, magnificent purposes into which we have been caught up — when we lose our grip on that — and life begins to shrink down around even a God-pursued problem-solving, we lose an equilibrium, a divine equilibrium.
I’ve called it ballast before in life, in your boat. You’re just a little boat and the waves are crashing, but your ballast is heavy and deep. I’m pleading with you that you not lose your grip on the supremacy and centrality of hallowing the name of God in your life. I’m urging you from the Lord’s Prayer and from experience that you do go to God for bread, and you do go to God for forgiveness, and you do go to God for overcoming besetting sins — and you do go to God to advance his will, and to seek his kingdom. And you do all of it for the hallowing of his name.
The great value in your life — in your marriage, in your parenting, in your single life, in your friendships, in your studies — is, “I will live so that both my heart, and other hearts, hallow, esteem, reverence, lift up, honor, value, treasure the name of God over all things.
Keep your feet on the ground. We live there. We will never not live on the ground with its mundane aspects. You may not see it clearly now, but I testify, and I say from Scripture, there is more deliverance, more healing, more joy in the hallowing of God’s name as your supreme goal and priority than you ever dreamed. It’s so indirect. It just feels often irrelevant. I’ve got this massive problem and you’re telling me, “Hallow the name of God”? Yes, I am.
Plead. It is a request. “Hallowed be thy name” means “Let your name be hallowed.” And who needs to do it more? I do.
It’s a global prayer, but it starts right here with you. When I wake up in the morning, I’m not hallowing the name of God. Most mornings I’m thinking about my problems, and they seem to be bigger than God. So I pray this. This is a prayer. Isn’t that encouraging that Jesus would tell us, “Ask the Father to help you hallow him”?
So I invite you, go deep and go high in the Lord’s Prayer. Let him be a sweet, close, tender, warm, need-meeting, caring Father to you. And on that, rise up, and join him through prayer and life in the seeking of his kingdom and the doing of his will, all to the end that his name be hallowed.
John Piper is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College and Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. He is author of more than 50 books, including “Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist” and most recently “Expository Exultation: Christian Preaching as Worship.”
A version of this article previously appeared on the Desiring God website under the headline “How to Pray for Victory.”
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