Paul Tripp

President of Paul Tripp Ministries

~"And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matt. 6:13). Prayer reminds you that your biggest life struggles exist inside, not outside, of you. Real prayer always leaves you humbled because real prayer requires you to admit who you really are. We would all like to think we’re fundamentally good people whose biggest struggles in life exist outside, not inside, of us. But prayer confronts us with a humbling reality: we’re only hooked by the evil outside of us because of the evil inside of us.

Prayer requires us to face the fact that no matter what we suffer, the deepest, most abiding dilemma of our life exists inside, not outside, of us. Prayer requires us to face the dark and devastating reality of our sin and how it distorts what we think, desire, say, and do. Prayer requires us to acknowledge that we need rescue and protection because we carry around something inside ourselves that tempts us away from what is right toward what is wrong. Prayer humbles us as it welcomes us to admit that we carry around something inside that is self-focused and antisocial and therefore destructive to ourselves and to our relationships.

Prayer requires us to confess that the biggest problem in our lives, the one thing we cannot escape by change of situation and location, is ourselves! It’s our sin that seduces, deceives, and entraps us again and again. It’s our sin that causes us to want things we shouldn’t want, to think things we shouldn’t think, to say things we shouldn’t say, and to do things we shouldn’t do. Prayer calls us to quit blaming our circumstances and relationships for our words and actions. Prayer welcomes us to accept responsibility for our behavior and, as we do, to receive forgiveness and help.

Prayer destroys the finger-pointing, it’s-your-fault, blame game that paralyzes us. When you’re deeply persuaded that your hope in life is to get everything around you fixed, and the people around you are deeply persuaded of the same, you can be sure that nothing will get fixed. It’s only when you and your neighbor both confess that it’s the sin inside that leads you both to do what’s wrong—not the failure of the other—that each hungers for growth and change and then reaches out for God’s help.

Change always begins with looking within, and that’s exactly where prayer calls us to look. The celebration of a Savior, which lies at the heart of prayer, makes sense only when we acknowledge that we can’t escape from the sin inside us. When we acknowledge our sin, we quit blaming people, places and situations and begin getting serious about getting help. Prayer reminds you again and again that your biggest, most abiding problem is you.

“For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” Prayer reminds you that the key to real life is found in an allegiance to God’s kingdom and not your own. True heartfelt prayer ends as it begins—with recognition of God’s kingship and his glory. Prayer reminds you that life isn’t about you. Prayer reminds you that the center of your universe is a place reserved for God and God alone. Prayer reminds you that real peace, satisfaction, and contentment come when you live for a greater glory than your own. Prayer reminds you that hope in life isn’t found in building your own kingdom but in submitting to the wisdom and rule of a better King. Prayer calls you away from the kingdom of self, which is so destructive to everything life is intended to be, and welcomes you to the kingdom of God, where a God of love rules in wisdom and love.

"This article is a resource of Paul Tripp Ministries. For more information visit www.paultripp.com"

~"Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors ” (Matt.6:12). Prayer reminds you of God’s daily call to give the same grace to others as God has given to you. Prayer requires you to love others as you have been loved. Prayer makes no sense if it isn't rooted in recognition that God has placed his love on you even though you could never have earned, achieved, or deserved it. Prayer makes sense only when its rooted in the reality that you’ve been gifted every day with patient forgiveness and empowering grace. Prayer humbles you as it forces you to acknowledge that the most valuable thing in your existence, the love of God, is the thing that you had no capacity whatsoever to earn. And as prayer calls you to celebrate undeserved love, it requires you to commit yourself to love others in the same way. There is a direct connection between self-righteousness and an inability and unwillingness to love others.

It is a contradiction to seek God’s help yet be unwilling to help your neighbor. It is a contradiction to celebrate God’s love yet refuse to love others. It is a contradiction to be deeply aware of your moment-by-moment need of grace yet unwilling to give grace to the person you live near and say that you love. It is a contradiction to know that your only real hope in life is God’s forgiveness yet refuse to forgive that person who has sinned against you. It is a contradiction to know that God will only listen to your requests because he is patient and kind and then turn and respond to others in irritation and impatience.

It makes no sense to participate in an act that, by its very nature, recognizes that you’ve been blessed by divine love and grace, yet to have no practical commitment to love and grace in your relationships. It makes no sense to celebrate God’s forgiveness and then refuse to forgive others in those moments when forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration are so obviously and practically needed. As prayer calls you to celebrate vertical forgiveness, it requires you to offer horizontal forgiveness as well.

Prayer reminds you of God’s call to love. It reminds you that you’ve been designed to live a lifestyle of willing self-sacrifice for the good of another. Prayer reminds you that successful living is all about loving God above all else and loving your neighbor as yourself. Prayer reminds you that your relationships are always about the daily dynamics of a sinner living near a sinner, and because it is, there is no more important commitment in relationships than the commitment to forgive. Prayer reminds you that there is never a day when you aren’t called to give another grace that hasn’t been deserved or earned.

Here is the thing that happens to many of us. Pay attention to the cycle that I am about to describe. As we lose sight of our daily need for forgiveness, we quit being so willing to forgive others. As we quit forgiving others and putting away their offenses, we begin to keep a record of the others' wrongs. As we keep a daily record of wrongs, we're increasingly aware of how much we’re affected by the weakness and failure of others. As we carry this awareness with us, we become increasingly irritated, impatient, and intolerant with others. So we deal with our disappointment with others by protecting ourselves from them with distance and busyness; living in networks of terminally casual relationships.

A mutual commitment to give grace daily is the only hope for a relationship of a sinner to a sinner, which is the only kind of relationship there is. Prayer reminds us of God’s call to love and forgive, and it reminds us that this call is most needed when it is most undeserved.

"This article is a resource of Paul Tripp Ministries. For more information visit www.paultripp.com"

~"Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11). Prayer requires you to see yourself as needy. The prayer for something as normal as bread for the day makes no sense unless it pictures something true about you. We are needy and dependent. We were never hardwired for an independent, self-sufficient existence. Prayer makes no sense at all unless it is really true that you are dependent upon God for the basic necessities of life. Prayer always requires you to acknowledge personal inability, weakness, and need. Daily prayer acknowledges daily need. Daily prayer acknowledges God’s call for you to be content with what he gives you today and to trust tomorrow into his hands. And if you are dependent on God for something as basic as bread, then there is a whole catalog of things necessary for your life that you are unable, in and of yourself, to provide.

I cannot and do not control all the things that need to be controlled in order to guarantee that I will have a job that can support my family. I do not rule all the circumstances that must be in place to ensure that my family has an adequate home to live in. I do not control all the things that will result in those I love and me being healthy and safe. I do not determine all the things that must be in place for my children to have a good school to attend. I do not exercise authority over the things that will ensure that I will have a solid church to attend. There are many important needs in my life that I do not have the power to independently meet.

But there is more. If you take obedience to God's call seriously, you need to know that you can’t become these things or do these things by yourself. You do not have the ability to turn yourself into a person who is loving, kind, patient, thankful, gentle, forgiving, faithful, and self-controlling. And you surely have no power whatsoever to ensure that the people near you will be these kind of people. These essential character qualities of life are only ever the fruit of the transforming work of the Spirit of God in your heart. They only come as he progressively delivers you from you and forms you into the likeness of Jesus.

Prayer yanks you out of your delusions of self-sufficiency and reminds you of how deeply needy you really are. Prayer reminds you that you will never be what you need to be and do what you are called to do without divine rescue and restoration. Prayer humbles you, and as it does, it makes you more patient and more understanding of others. No one is more patient with the weaknesses and needs of another than the person who has admitted that he is also deeply needy.

For many of us, somewhere in the early days of good commitments, wise choices, and loving responses, we quit seeing ourselves as needy, and the result is devastating. At some point we begin to feel that we have figured it out. More and more it seems as though we have arrived. We don't know it, but we are turning gifts of God’s grace into an occasion for personal pride. This pride in our wisdom, ability, and strength is subtle and deceptive. It almost always is. Then we announce, in some moment of theological change, “We don’t need God anymore.” And we don’t quit praying before a meal and at the end of the day, but our prayers are more a spiritual routine than an indicator of what we really believe about ourselves and God. We never quit participating in the programs and ministries of our church, but there's a clear separation between the Sunday celebration of God’s grace and the self-sufficiency of the rest of the week.

In fact, in a real way, we effectively quit praying, because we quit seeing ourselves as needy. Sure, we mumble well-rehearsed religious phrases with heads bowed and eyes closed. But these “prayers” are no more true prayers than the prayer of the Pharisee in the temple in Christ’s illustration in Luke 18. Often our prayers are devoid of a deep sense of personal need, and because they are, they are also devoid of heartfelt appreciation and celebration.

I wish I could say that I’ve never been in this position, but I have. Much of the trouble that I experienced in the early years of my marriage was due to my pride and my impatience with Luella, who was “not as righteous and mature as me.” My prayers were more an act of external religiosity than they were an honest expression of the cries of a needy heart.

Real prayer transforms you as it requires you to acknowledge how fundamentally needy you actually are.

"This article is a resource of Paul Tripp Ministries. For more information visit www.paultripp.com"

In life, prayer pushes us in all the right directions. It reminds us of the kinds of things we’ve said are so important to life with God and with others. Daily prayer reinforces all the commitments we’re tempted to forsake but that are vital to maintain. Prayer opens our eyes and our heart. Prayer is a necessary ingredient of healthy life and relationships. On our knees is the best posture for living life.

Using the Lord’s Prayer as a model, here are some things that prayer does in you and will do through you in the heart of others.

Our Father in heaven . . .” (Matt. 6:9). Prayer reminds you that you are never left alone to the resources of your own strength and wisdom. Many of us not only lose sight of one another and the commitments we've made to daily, active love, but we've forgotten the Lord as well. Yes, we continue to go to church, and we wouldn’t think of forsaking our faith, but in the hallways, bedrooms, and family rooms of everyday life, we’ve begun to feel that it was all up to US, all on our shoulders. Part of the slow devolution of our spiritual lives was a view of the responsibilities, opportunities, struggles, and blessings of marriage that tends to forget God. Here is why this is so devastating to many of us: when you forget God’s presence, promises, and provisions, either you tend to get overwhelmed and give up, or you try to do God’s job. Neither is a workable option.

Perhaps the most powerful way in which daily prayer for yourself has the power to transform you is this: prayer reminds you that you are never alone. Prayer reminds you that you are never left to your own righteousness, wisdom, and strength. Prayer reminds you that each location or situation where you exist is not only inhabited by God but, even more encouragingly, that each is ruled by him. The one who controls the situations in your life is not only a God of awesome power but is the definition of everything wise, true, faithful, gracious, loving, forgiving, good, and kind.

But there is even more that the Lord’s Prayer confronts you with. It’s that this God who is powerful and near is your Father by grace. If you are God’s child, there is never a moment when you are outside the circle of his fathering care. Like a father, he loves you and is committed to faithfully providing what is best for you. When you’re facing those disappointing moments of life, when you’re not sure what to think, let alone what to do, prayer can rescue you from hopelessness and alienation. Prayer encourages you to say, “I’m not sure how we got here, and I’m not sure what we are being called to do, but there is one thing I am sure of—I’m never, ever alone because I have a Father in heaven who is always with me.”

Acknowledging God will protect you from yourself. It will protect you from discouragement and fear and the passivity that always follows. It will protect you from the pride of self-reliance and self-sovereignty. If you are ever to live life as God designed it to be lived, you must begin with this humble admission: you have no ability whatsoever to produce the most important things that make for a wonderful life. The changes of thought, desire, word, and action that re-create, rebuild, mature, and protect you are always gifts of God’s grace. As you choose to do things God’s way, he progressively rescues you from your own self-interest and forms you into a person who really does find joy in loving him and others. It’s only a God of love who will ever be able to change a fundamentally self-oriented, impatient, demanding human being into a person who not only desires to love but actually does it. There is a word for this in the Bible—grace.

Prayer reminds you that you’ve been graced with a Father’s love and that love will not let you go until it has changed you in every way that is needed.

“Hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:9–10). Prayer reminds you that God’s purpose for you is always bigger than you. You’ll never understand your life or be content in it until you understand that it’s part of something bigger that’s meant to define and shape how you respond to it. Remember people lose their way because they have no bigger vision for their lives than the establishment of their own little kingdoms. When there’s no larger kingdom to capture my allegiance, my life sadly becomes a war between my kingdom purposes and the kingdom purposes of others. Whether I and they know it or not, each is working in the mundane moments of life to realize their dream for their life.

Prayer reminds you that real life is found only when you forsake your little kingdom of one for the bigger and better call of the kingdom of God. Prayer reminds you that God gives you his grace, not so much for the purpose of making your kingdom work but to welcome you to a better kingdom. Every time you pray, you’re acknowledging God’s rule over you and your life. Prayer is an act of submitting your purposes to God’s. Prayer is all about confessing the self-focus and self-sovereignty of sin. Prayer is a willing offering of your life and all it contains to the loving and wise authority of God. Prayer is an active part of what it means to live for a bigger kingdom than your own.

Real life begins when we quit trying to be sovereign over our lives. Real life begins when we quit trying to set the agenda for our lives and begin, in practical everyday ways, to pursue God’s agenda. Real life begins when we quit being kings and begin to willingly and joyfully submit to and serve the King of kings. Prayer reminds you of a King greater than you and a kingdom better than your own.

About Paul Tripp

Paul Tripp is the president of Paul Tripp Ministries, a nonprofit organization whose mission statement is "Connecting the transforming power of Jesus Christ to everyday life." Tripp is also professor of pastoral life and care at Redeemer Seminary in Dallas, Texas, and executive director of the Center for Pastoral Life and Care in Fort Worth, Texas. Tripp has written many books on Christian living that are read and distributed internationally. He has been married for many years to Luella, and they have four grown children. For more information, visit http://www.paultrippministries.org/store

  • Editors' Picks

    How Islam Conquered Christianity
    How Islam Conquered Christianity
  • End Times and The Planet of the Apes
    End Times and The Planet of the Apes
  • Influential Women of the Reformation
    Influential Women of the Reformation
;