By Pastor Glenn Pease
People succeed for a thousand different reasons, but the one thing they all have in common is desire. Igor Sikorsky, the great Russian airplane designer, tells in his autobiography of how his father took him to Paris as a boy, and they visited an airport where he saw his first plane. His imagination was stimulated, and he developed a burning desire to build a machine that would fly. He begged his father to let him leave school and work on it. At 17 he began, and after two years he had spent nearly all of his fathers money, and his plane never got off the ground. His sister still had faith in him, so she gave him all she could afford. After two more years he got his plane off the ground, but plunged it into a local lake, and barely escaped with his life. The family still believed in him, so they mortgaged their property to enable him to build another plane. He did it, and then went on from this success to build the first successful multi-motored plane. Finally, he designed an built the famous China Clipper, which he flew around the world.
His success began with his burning desire, and it was his desire that pushed him on through all this failures to achieve his goal. If failure stops a man from pressing on, you can count on it, he has lost his desire. As long as desire is burning, there is always fuel to keep it going, for desire determines destiny. This is true in every realm of life. Take marriage for example. If two people really desire to find a solution to their problems, they will work out a way. If they loose desire, however, they have little hope of success. Desire is the fire that pushes us higher.
On the locker room wall of the University of Notre Dame's football team is the well known saying, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going." Football games are not won in the first half when both teams are fresh. Victory comes in the second half when their bodies ache, and they only want the grueling punishment to end. That is when the team with the deepest desire digs to the depths of their being for that reserve energy to keep going. If there is no deep desire to win, it is all over. If it is there, however, there is no telling what kind of spectacular plays will be made. Deep burning desire drives a team to do in a few minutes what they could not do in hours.
The greater the desire to reach a goal, the more likely it is, that goal will be reached. Longfellow said in his teens, "I most eagerly aspire after future eminence...My whole soul burns most ardently for it, and every earthly thought centers in it." Do you think there is any connection between his burning desire and the fact that most of us recognize the name Longfellow when we hear it? There is a very definite connection. Right after World War II, a young preacher who liked to paint had a showing of 50 of his paintings in one of Boston's great art galleries. The critics were amazed, and declared he was a genius. He never even went to art school, but James Greer was one of the great landscape artists of our nation. William Stidger, one of his seminary professors, had him install one of his paintings in his house. He asked him how he came to be a painter, and he replied, "I always wanted to paint more than I wanted to do anything else in life...." This is the key to almost every success story you will ever hear. You tend to become what you really desire to be.
If this be the case, there are few things in life that are more important than that of developing the desires that will dominate, direct, and determine the direction and destination of your life. That is why the Lord's Prayer deals with desires. The six petitions of this prayer represent the six basic desires that are to characterize the child of God. When these six desires dominate your life, and become the inner driving force of your life, you are as successful as any human being can be. Prayer is the soul's sincere desire. Here in this prayer of our Lord, we have the very essence of prayer and desire linked together as one.
This prayer was taught to the disciples because they came to Jesus asking Him to be taught how to pray. This prayer comes in response to their desire to know how to pray more effectively. It is, therefore, an answer to prayer, or their soul's sincere desire. Desire is the cause of it as well as the content of it. It is a prayer which, in itself, is an answer to prayer, and the key to all answered prayer. The key, of course, is divinely directed desires. Fenelon, in the 17th century, said, "To pray is to desire...to desire is to pray, and sense, if we desire improper things, we may be cursed with the granting of our prayer, it behooves us to desire only high and worthy things."
What he is saying is, strong desire almost always leads to the getting of what is desired. That means if you desire the wrong thing, you will probably succeed in getting it, and so your very success becomes a curse. Bernard Shaw in, Man And Superman, was right when he said, "There are two tragedies in life. One is not to get your hearts desire. The other is to get it." In other words, sometimes the worse thing that can happen is to get what we most want. The Prodigal wanted his inheritance right now, and he got it, and ended up with the pigs with nothing to show for it. Midas got the golden touch he so much desired, and ended up destroying the daughter he so much loved. The Israelites got their quail they begged for. God granted them their deepest desire, but it became a curse, and many of them died, giving credence to Oscar Wilde's statement, "When the gods wished to punish us, they answer our prayers."
This means that the goal of prayer is not answered prayer, but divine desire. The highest goal of prayer is not to get what we want, but to come to want what God wants us to have. We see this so clearly in Christ's prayer battle in Gethsemane. He had a strong desire to escape the cup that awaited Him. He had the normal human desire to live and not die, plus the pure and holy repulsion from taking on the sin of the world. Both His human and divine nature had a desire to let that cup pass unconsummed. The goal of His prayer, however, was not to get that sincere desire fulfilled, but to get His desire conformed to the will of God. He was able to win this victory, and let His Fathers desire dominate His own. That is why He could pray, not my will but Thine be done. Desire determines destiny, and because Jesus was able to wrestle His desires into a proper order where God's desires took priority over His own, He became the Savior of the world. The destiny of all mankind hung in the balance, as these conflicting desires struggled for priority.
Nobody knows better than Jesus that desire determines destiny, and that is why the prayer He taught all of the family of God is a prayer designed to determine desires. Thomas Aquinas, the greatest theologian of the middle ages, called the Lord's Prayer, "A list of perfect desires." Newman Hall said, "As the 10 commandments are a summary of our doctrine, so the Lord's Prayer is a summary of what ought to be our desires." Bishop Gore said, "Understand the Lord's Prayer and you understand altogether how to pray as a Christian should. It is not really an exaggeration to say that the climax of Christian growth is to have thoroughly learned to say the Lord's Prayer in the spirit of Him who first spoke it."
Oh, thus, by whom we come to God,
The Life, the truth, the Way,
The path of prayer Thyself hast trod,
Lord, teach us how to pray.
And Jesus answers that prayer by teaching us the desires that are to dominate us as we come before God in prayer. The Westminister Shorter catechism defines prayer like this-"Prayer is the offering up of our desires unto God, for things agreeable to His will." That means the Lord's Prayer is the perfect prayer, for all of its desires are perfectly agreeable to God's will. If you truly desire what the petitions of this prayer ask, you cannot help but be successful in prayer.
But that is the catch: If you truly desire. The proof that this is hard work is that Jesus sweat drops of blood in bringing His desire into conformity with the Father's will. Don't kid yourself, and think we have here a simple success formula, and all you have to do is say the words, and like open sesame, the door of heaven will open in response. The idea of using this prayer like a magic formula is contrary to its very purpose. If you cannot bring yourself to truly desire what this prayer requests, the mere repeating of the words is vain repetition, and no prayer at all.
You can say this prayer a thousand times: Hallowed be Thy name, and then go out and use the name of God in vain as a curse word. It is meaningless words, and you just as well recite the multiplication table, for words without desire is not prayer. People confuse wishing with desiring. A wish may be the seed of a desire, but it has not yet germinated. You can hear a great piano player, and say, "I wish I could play like that." But that is the end of it. A desire to play like that moves you to action, and you take lessons, and you practice. True desire always motivates action to achieve what is desired. Anyone who truly desires what he asks God for is taking action that helps achieve the answer. The mere wisher is using prayer as a gimmick. He hopes God will just bring it to pass without him lifting a finger. The person who says I wish I knew the Bible better may pray, "Lord help me understand the Bible." He hopes it will happen by God imparting it to him supernaturally. The person who desires to know the Bible prays the same prayer, but he also reads the Bible, gets study aids, and devotes a part of his life to achieve the goal.
In this model prayer of only 52 words in the Greek New Testament, Jesus gives us the list of desires that always please God, and are desires that will always motivate us to actions that please God, and lead us to successful Christian living. Just as the ten commandments are divided into two tables, with duties to God, and duties to man, so the Lord's Prayer is divided into two sections. First there is three God-centered desires, and then three man-centered desires. This prayer helps us keep a balanced perspective. We are concerned about both the divine and the human. The divine has priority over the human, however, and is in keeping with Jesus's command to seek first the kingdom of God.
The successful prayer life is one in which the dominate desires revolve around-
1. God's person-hallowed be Thy name.
2. God's power-Thy kingdom come.
3. God's purpose-Thy will be done on earth as in heaven.
If man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, then that end should be reflected in those desires that bring us before God in prayer. Prayer gets distorted and abused when we forget God's priority, and begin to come to Him only as a resource of power to get our own will done. There are too many books on prayer that promote this idea of power in prayer from the perspective of how we can use God to get what we want. This tends toward developing dominate desires that are self-centered rather than God-centered. This leads man to that devilish role where we exalt ourselves above God, and strive to use Him as our servant. This can be innocent and cute when a child does it in ignorance. Like the little guy who prayed, "Remember when the snow was so deep there was no school. Could we have it again?" Or the little girl who prayed, "Dear God, I would like to be a teacher so I could boss people around." Adults are not so open and blunt about it, but they could still develop desires that are equally self-centered.
When God's person, power, and purpose, have the priority, selfishness is crowded out. The three Hebrew friends of Daniel illustrate what a burning desire to please God will do. They were to bow down to a golden image, or be thrown into a fiery furnace. They would have a normal desire to escape such a fate, but their desire to do the will of God took priority, and they responded-"Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up." Their burning desire to be loyal to God was greater than their desire to escape, and the result was God honored their desire, and saved them from the fire.
You cannot lose when you put God first. I like the spirit of Mark Hatfield, a dedicated Christian senator, who takes this truth literally. He said, "I can't lose an election. My opponent may get more votes, but I will still win, because my commitment is to God's will. It's obvious to me that if my opponent gets more votes, God has some other place for me." That is the spirit of submission to the will of God that the Lord's Prayer requires. Without this spirit you can say the prayer, but you can't pray it, for to pray it is to desire what it asks.
The Lord's Prayer is an answer to the prayer, teach us to pray. Now we need to pray, Lord teach us to truly pray the prayer you have taught us to pray. In other words, help us to develop the desires that make it the real prayer of our lives.
Teach me to suffer, strong and brave-
And mingle with my poor weak blood
A valorous spirit, quenchless fire!
In Thy blest Heart's redeeming Flood
My soul, dear Lord, in gentle mercy lave.
Refresh me with the nectar of Thy love,
Be Thou sole end and aim of my desire!
It is your desire that will determine your destiny in the plan of God. Even an atheist, like Bertrend Russell, recognized that desires are what determines what men will do. You can have duties, and moral principles, but they will not determine anything unless men desire to be dutiful and moral. Desire, he rightly says, is the spring of human action, and if you want to know what men will do, you must know their system of desires.
If a man desires his will be done regardless of God's will, then he is dangerous without measure, for then, like Hitler, he will violate any and every moral principle for the sake of his desire. On the other hand, if his desires conform to those of the Lord's Prayer, you can feel secure, for such a man will suffer personal loss, rather than violate the will of God. The person who desires are the desires of this prayer is not only the ideal politician, but the ideal person in every area of life. The more your desires match the desires of this prayer, the more you are like Christ. When you can really pray, not just say, but really pray this prayer, you have reached the pinnacle of spiritual success.
In the oldest commentary we have on the Lord's Prayer, going back to the African theologian Tertullian, who lived 160-230 A.D., we read him saying of this prayer that it embraces, "As it were the whole of the Lord's discourse, the whole record of His instruction; so that without exaggeration, there is comprise in the prayer and epitome of the entire Gospel." Here is the Gospel in a nutshell, and the more the family of God can truly pray this prayer, the more they will be the light of the world, and a channel for God's will being done on earth as it is in heaven.
It is obviously not enough to know the Lord's Prayer. Millions around the world pray it as a rote prayer. Most of us have prayed it in groups of people. It can have meaning this way, but usually we are more concerned about whether we should say debts or transgressions, than about the real desires of the prayer. The problem is, we think knowing it is enough, and so Christians are taught the Lord's Prayer, and everyone is content if it can be recited. This is folly, for knowing it is not desiring it. I can know there is a good book on prayer in the library, but it will not do me any good until I desire to read it, and learn how to pray better. Christian education has only gotten to the first base when it imparts knowledge. There will never be any runs scored until there is a desire to use that knowledge to achieve the end for which God gave it.
So when it comes to the Lord's Prayer, let us recognize, you can say it, say it, say it, and never really pray it, because you think it is a matter of words to utter. It is not. It is a guide for us to follow in developing desires, and getting our desires in the proper order so that we want in life what God wants us to want. This is the ultimate in success. Let us use this prayer as a desire developer, for desires determine destiny.