[This is a post in our ongoing series looking at the themes raised by David Crump in his book Knocking on Heaven’s Door: A New Testament Theology of Petitionary Prayer. We began this series here.]
One of the first petitionary prayers I recall praying was for a tractor. I don’t know why I wanted a tractor and I don’t know what I would have done with one had I gotten up the morning after the prayer and had found a brand new red Massey-Ferguson tractor in my front yard. I’m supposing that someone in my life had communicated the powerful possibilities of prayer that in asking we receive and with a child’s faith, I acted. To my dismay, I did not get, nor have I yet gotten, my tractor.
Since then, the things for which I ask are more sophisticated, though I’m not sure that is always a good thing. What I do want is that my prayers be shaped by the things that Jesus in the Lord’s Prayer says that my heart should long for in prayer.
If we are praying according to this guide, we will be praying for the regular provision of our needs (“…our daily bread…”). We will pray for reconciled relationships and peace (“…forgive us our debts…”). And we will pray that we will be sustained through every test of our discipleship that comes our way, even as we ask that we might be spared them (“…lead us not into temptation…”).
But what we long for in the end cannot help but be tempered by the weight of the first petitions of this prayer. It is right to petition God for all that we desire. If that is a tractor, then ask for a tractor. If that is for a husband, then pray for a husband. And if it is for a convenient parking place, then pray for that. And yet the more our hearts are trained to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, the essential direction of the first three petitions, the more content we will be to take what he gives on a daily basis, whether great or small. We will be more happy to remain tractor-less if God is glorified in it.
Crump looks at this prayer as something of a grid by which our own heart priorities are revealed. And I must confess that my heart’s desire to embrace Jesus’ passion for the kingdom and my actual practice of that are at times some distance apart. Prayer along the lines of the Lord’s Prayer cannot help but bring them nearer.