Enter His Gates with Thanksgiving and His Courts with Praise
In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught us to pray to the Father, “Your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.”But what is going on in heaven that we should pray for it to happen on earth? The Old Testament prophet Isaiah had a glimpse. In Isaiah 6 we read that in about 740 B.C. Isaiah had a vision of heaven, and he “saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple. Attending him were mighty seraphim, each having six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. They were calling out to each other, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven's Armies! The whole earth is filled with his glory!’" (Isaiah 6:1-3, New Living Translation)
So in heaven, according to Isaiah, angelic beings are ever praising God and shouting “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts” About eight hundred years later, the Apostle John in Revelation records something similar. John also had a vision of heaven, and in Revelation, chapter 4, we read that John saw the heavenly creatures singing, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty—the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come."
Actually when Jesus is teaching us how to pray and he gives us the Lord’s Prayer as a model, he begins the prayer, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be thy name…..on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9). The New Living Translation shows us the true meaning of the old English word “hallowed.” “Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy.” The Holman Christian Standard Bible translates the original Greek of the Lord’s Prayer as “Our Father in heaven, Your name be honored as holy.” As you can see, in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus is thinking of how the angelic beings sing “Holy, Holy, Holy” to his Father in heaven, and he is teaching us to ask God that even as these beings praise Him in heaven, so His name would be praised and honored as holy on earth!
This makes me think of Psalm 100, which I learned as a child. This Psalm teaches us to enter into the presence of God with singing and praise, with honoring God’s name.“Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name.” (Psalm 100:4, New American Standard Bible)
So according to Psalm 100, the way to approach God is though thanksgiving and praise! My friend Rev. Mike Endicott, who has a healing ministry headquartered in Wales, teaches that healing prayer, counter-intuitively, begins not with asking God for healing, but rather with praising God for who He is and what He has done. (Among other things, He is a caring, compassionate, forgiving, and healing God who has borne our sins, sicknesses and diseases on the cross.)
Jesus himself often prayed in the way I am describing---beginning by giving thanks and praising God. According to the four gospels, on one occasion Jesus had been teaching, and as evening approached, he was confronted with the fact that the crowd of 5000 people in the middle of nowhere was hungry. He asked his disciples to survey the available food, and they came up with five loaves of bread and two fish. So what did Jesus do? If we read the four gospels together, we find that he “looked up to heaven,” “blessed the food,” and “gave thanks”!
In a place of scarcity and human need, Jesus led, not with reciting the need to God, but with thanking God! As Psalm 100 commands us, he entered into the presence of God with thanksgiving and praise! From there a miracle happened! This is why Jesus teaches us to begin our prayers to the Father with the prayer of heaven, praising God’s name as Holy!
Winfield Casey Jones is a retired pastor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This column first appeared in the Pearland and Friendswood Reporter News.