In the Lord's Prayer, Jesus teaches us key petitions to pray for people: "Give us." "Forgive us." "Lead us." "Deliver us." But first, he teaches us key petitions to pray for God: "Hallowed be your name." "Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as in heaven."
King Asa of Judah lived long before Jesus walked the earth, yet Asa demonstrated the kind of praying Jesus taught.
A Cushite army of 1,000,000 men had marched toward Judah, intending to conquer the people and devastate the land. By comparison, Asa had a tiny army. The Cushites had 300 chariots; Asa had none.
He took his troops to meet the enemy, drew them up in battle formation - and cried out to God. Asa didn't relegate prayer to the intercessors back home - though they too surely prayed. Standing on the battlefield as commander-in-chief, he did the most crucial, strategic and wise thing he could have done. He prayed. He didn't cry out in panic to whatever god might be available. He called on the Lord his God:
"Lord, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, Lord our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this vast army. Lord, you are our God; do not let mere mortals prevail against you" (2 Chron. 14:11).
Asa brought a specific, desperate need to God. "Deliver us!" Asa asked. He cried out in behalf of himself, his army and his country. Yet notice the focus of his prayer throughout, the thrust from beginning to end:
"Lord [JHVH], there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, Lord [JHVH] our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this vast army. Lord [JHVH], you are our God; do not let mere mortals prevail against you."
Asa used God's covenant name three times in his short prayer. He twice acknowledged the Lord as "our God." Every phrase of his prayer pointed toward God. Asa did not use God's name as a ploy to get what he and his people needed. Asa did not try to manipulate the Lord. God who knows the heart saw Asa's fear and concern for his people and his land. Yet God knew that the words of Asa's mouth reflected the cry of his inmost being. First and foremost, Asa yearned for God's reputation and God's rule.
If he had prayed from his own natural instincts, Asa would have emphasized the enemy's dire threat and the people's great peril. Asa would have ended his plea: "Do not let this vast army prevail against us." Instead, Asa asked, "Lord do not let mere mortals prevail against you." Asa's greatest concern? The defeat of God's people would damage God's name.
King Asa prayed to God - and he prayed for God.
In so doing, he prayed the most powerful petition possible in behalf of himself and his people. In answer, "The Lord struck down the Cushites before Asa and Judah" (2 Chron. 14:12).
Christ within you calls to the deepest part of you, teaching you to pray: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."
As those petitions begin to rise from your spirit to your Father, your prayers for people change. Your petitions in their behalf become far more effective. Indeed, when you pray first and foremost for God, everything changes. Most of all, you.
As your inmost being resonates with the cries of his Spirit, he acts - for the sake of his kingdom, for the honor of his name.
(c) 2009, 2013 Deborah P. Brunt. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations are from NIV 2011.