Matthew 6:7-13 – “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’”
Many people around the world recite the Lord’s prayer word for word so as to speak magic words that will unleash the power of God. A few years ago the book called “The Prayer of Jabez” sparked excitement as if Bruce Wilkinson had discovered and unearthed some hidden buried treasure. Like the Lord’s prayer, many believed that if you recited this prayer “X” number of times in “X” number of days, God will unleash his storehouse of blessing on his people. Let it be clearly seen: God doesn’t work in formulas unveiling magic incantations he wishes us to recite. The Lord’s prayer is not to be recited like a magician performing a magic trick saying “abracadabra.” God is more concerned with our hearts as we pray. Yet, it is true that our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked; therefore, before we know how to pray, we have to know whom we are praying to.
Where do we learn about the God we are praying to? Many on the extreme end of the charismatic spectrum believe our experience with God in prayer through the Holy Spirit is sufficient to reveal what we need to know about God. On the other end of the spectrum, many in the skeptical/cautious/cessationist extreme would diminish (whether intentionally or unintentionally) the Holy Spirit’s role in revealing God to us. Clearly the Lord’s revelation of Himself to us must be found between these polar opposites. God has chosen to give us His written Word to know Him better. And clearly God has given us His Holy Spirit to remind us of all Jesus did and say as He convicts the world of sin and unrighteousness. Tim Keller said, “We know who we are praying to only if we first learn it in the Bible. And we know how we should be praying only by getting our vocabulary from the Bible.”
Any so-called impression or revelation of God given to us by the “Holy Spirit” must be tested against the revelation God has given to us through His Word. If that impression contradicts God’s inspired Word, then we must conclude that this revelation is not from God.
Yet Tim Keller takes us even further than merely looking at God’s Word as a standard by which we are to measure our experience with God. God’s Word informs our theology, our vocabulary, our understanding of God. If we did not have God’s Word to inform our understanding of God, I could try to convince you that God’s character is more like Harvey Weinstein than Mother Theresa. While that is also extreme, consider those on the extreme end of the charismatic movement. If they are purely relying on their experiences of “God” and his “revelation” of Himself to them without FIRST having their expectation of God’s work informed by God’s Word, then they aren’t quite as different as those saying God is like Harvey Weinstein. They’ll fashion a version of God that is most comfortable to them. Why would they do this? Because the enemy is the Father of lies who is seeking to lead our deceitful and wicked hearts astray from understanding the true character and heart of God.
Praise God for His written Word. Praise God for His Holy Spirit who leads us to the truth! “The Spirit of God does the work of God through the Word of God” (Matt Chandler).