Prayer, by its very nature, is predicated on both a sense of humility and a sense of power, for prayer is asking for something.
Humility is built into the fabric of prayer, for when we pray we are recognizing our complete inability to change circumstances, be they big or small. We can’t change our attitudes, so we ask for help. We can’t heal sickness, so we ask for help. We pray because we know this about ourselves.
At the same time, we pray because at some level we believe that what we cannot do, God can. Otherwise, why would we ask Him? At a base level, then, prayer simultaneously embraces the powerlessness of me and the great power of God. It’s a moment when humility and power meet.
That’s why it’s very curious when we come to the most famous prayer ever recorded – the prayer by which we are to model all our prayers, that we find Jesus not so much asking as commanding:
“Therefore, you should pray like this:
Our Father in heaven, Your name be honored as holy. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen” (Matt. 6:9-13).
Notice the lack of “please” in Jesus’ words. It’s one thing for the Son of God to speak in such a declarative way, but us? Who do we think we are, to boss God around like this?
And yet Jesus advised us to pray like this. To pray with confidence like this. To pray with boldness like this. To approach the throne of grace like this.
Now it’s possible to look at such statements, such declarations, and immediately corrupt them to our own ends. Like a 5th grader, we might look at these words and then pray, “God give me a bicycle.” I doubt that’s what Jesus had in mind when He spoke these words.
And yet there is a sort of sanctified bossiness that’s visible here. But it’s the kind of bossiness that is built on what we know to be true of the character of God. Take a look at what exactly Jesus advised that we tell God to do:
Make your name holy.
Bring Your kingdom.
Provide for us, Your children.
There aren’t any bicycles in these statements. Rather, each and everyone of them is built on what God has already said. Or to put it another way – we are telling God what He’s already told us. This is safe ground for bossiness in prayer. We aren’t asking for bicycles or money or comfort or ease. We instead are praying from a heart that has been transformed by the gospel – one in which the deepest desires line up with the deepest desires of the heart of God.
So it’s okay to boss God around. As long as we are bossing Him around with what He’s already told us He wants to do.