Teach Us To Pray
March 31, 2019 | Randy Smith
Teach Us To Pray
Sunday, March 31, 2019<
Pastor Randy Smith
Imagine a couple that falls in love and gets married. They have a great honeymoon. They move in together and for the next 50 years of their life together spend very little time communicating with each other. Sure, they talk when there’s a need – who will pick up Booby from soccer practice, what time dinner will be ready, where they plan to spend Thanksgiving and why their taxes are so high. Short snippets of verbal exchange, but no conversation, no opportunity to learn about each other, no exchange of thoughts, feelings, ideas and dreams, no plans or discussion regarding the relationship. Basically, no relationship at all. It’s a business partnership devoid of verbal intimacy that comes from healthy speaking and healthy listening.
God wants a relationship with His children. He wants a relationship based upon ongoing love and trust and growth and joy. And in order for this relationship to be genuine, there is the ongoing need for communication. God talks to us when we read the Bible. We talk to God through prayer. These are not optional aspects of the Christian life. They are the Christian life. Success here is the barometer regarding the strength of our relationship with God.
Today’s sermon is about prayer, a non-negotiable component of the Christian life. So as a professing Christian, how often do you pray? How much do you know about prayer? Specifically, what are the key components to a good prayer? That’s what I would like to talk about as we study our Lord’s Prayer from Luke 11, verses 1-4.
The Need To Pray (verse 1)
Let’s begin with the first point. As you can see in your notes, I am entitling this, “The Need to Pray.”
As we see in verse 1, Jesus continues His customary dedication to prayer. If Jesus found the need to pray, what does that communicate to us? But the point here is that the disciples were impressed how Jesus prayed. They had a genuine desire to learn how to be better at prayer. They said in verse 1, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Lk. 11:1). What a great request! And Jesus answers that request in verses 2-4.
Commonly this is called “The Lord’s Prayer” which is a little misleading, as Jesus would never have prayed this for Himself because the Sinless One would have never needed forgiveness for His personal sins. That’s why some refer to this as “The Disciple’s Prayer.”
The more common and longer version of this prayer, the one we often said each week from memory in the Catholic Church, is found in Matthew 6. There it was part of the Sermon on the Mount. Here, the shorter version in Luke is an answer, as I said, to the Disciple’s question.
The prayer was never intended to be recited verbatim from memory. We know that’s not the way we communicate in a relationship. Moreover, Jesus warned us to avoid “meaningless repetition” (Mt. 6:7) in our prayers. The Lord is delighted when we speak to Him personally, intimately and passionately, from an active mind and genuine heart like that of a child talking to a trusted parent. That’s why the first word in the prayer (verse 2) is “Father.” Next week we’ll see that that is actually the context of this prayer when we look at verses 5-13.
Therefore it is best to look at this prayer as a model prayer, a guide to help us organize our thoughts and bring our requests before God with meaningful structure. It’s somewhat similar to the ACTS model that I have taught you in the past. It is understanding that good prayers have Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication.
The remaining outline going forward is rather simple. First, Jesus informs us to honor God in our prayers, specifically the desire to hallow His name and pray for His kingdom (verse 2). And then second, Jesus informs us to pray for God’s help, specifically regarding the need for food, forgiveness and righteous living (verses 3-4).
The Need To Honor God (verse 2)
Sermon point two. So let’s move to the need to honor’s God’s name.
How often do we praise God in our prayers? If you are like me, most of your prayers are chalked-full of requests, but very light on the adoration.
Notice how Jesus chose to list the adoration part first of all. Verse 2 says God’s name is to be hallowed.
God’s name represents all that He is. Therefore to hallow His name is to declare His holiness. Of course we can’t make God more holy as He is already set apart and perfect in all His attributes, but it should be our primary desire to see God’s honored in our life and in the lives around us. In our lives, represented as a priority in our prayers, should be a passion for God to receive the praise that is due His name.
I’ve never mentioned this to you, but a little over 20 years ago I was on the list to be an extra in movies. I was in one movie that I think most of you are familiar with. Only my wife knows the title. You’re wondering, but I am not going to tell you. Reason being is because I do not want you watching the movie. Nowadays it’s almost impossible to be in a PG movie that does not take the Lord’s name in vain. My conscience was burdened for this reason and that brought my promising acting career to a screeching halt (lol!).
Hallowing God’s name at its most basic level is not saying God’s name in vain – a violation of the third commandment (Ex. 20:7). God’s name followed by the curse word. But even the notorious and ever-popular “Oh My…” now we even tritely use the letters “OMG” as if the name of the Holy One can be taken as a figure of speech, a point of exclamation or a throw-away comment in our forms of entertainment.
As believers we desire God to receive the glory and honor and respect that He is due. It’s the never-ending chorus of heaven, “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY” (Rev. 4:8) and it should be our highest desire here on earth. In this first petition we are asking God to manifest the holiness of His being, to see Him get the reverence He deserves, starting first with our holy actions that seek to emulate, reflect and glorify our heavenly Father.
The second petition is a desire to see God establish His kingdom. Verse 2, “Your kingdom come.” Once again, a passion on the heart of all true believers for God’s glory – a desire for Him exalted and not me. A desire for His kingdom manifested and not mine.
The confusion regarding this petition comes regarding the timing of God’s kingdom. On one hand we have to say that the kingdom has already arrived. Didn’t both Jesus and John the Baptist say, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt. 4:17)? If the kingdom represents God’s reign, it has indeed arrived. God told us in Colossians 1:13 that He has already, “Rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son?”
I would like to believe that Jesus is reigning on the throne of each heart of each person that has received Him as their Lord. As Christians it’s His will over our self-will. It’s His lordship over our self-governance. It’s ultimate submission to Him as King over our self-reliance. It’s an invisible reign that is manifested in our loyalty to King Jesus. It’s the tiny mustard seed, as Jesus said, that will grow to be a massive plant.
The King as a spiritual kingdom. Yet as Jesus reigns in our hearts we desire to see Him reign over the entire world – a physical kingdom. We long for the day when sin is not in, but rather when righteousness prevails. We long for the day when, Philippians 2, “Every knee will bow…and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil. 2:10-11).
We look around and see the injustice in the courtrooms and the slaughter of innocent babies and racial prejudice and persecution of God’s people and foolish politicians and schoolyard bullies and the celebration of sexual immorality and denial of Creationism and hatred toward the Bible and the use of God’s name in vain and cry, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus” (cf. Rev. 22:20). Come quickly and establish Your kingdom where righteousness prevails, Your will is done on earth and every soul acknowledges you as the true King.
The Need For God’s Help (verses 3–5)
Let’s move on. We go from praying for God’s glory to praying for God’s help – the third point. And where does it start? Again, probably something uncommon in our prayer requests – to request daily food and be grateful when it arrives.
As one "Blogger" sadly wrote, "When I was a believer, I never understood the point of thanking God for the food I ate. I mean, the stuff that eventually became the food on my table was grown or raised on a farm somewhere, harvested, transported elsewhere for processing, then shipped to a market where I payed money for it. Where exactly was God supposed to come into the picture? Thank the farmers if you're going to thank anyone, I figured. To quote Bart Simpson. 'Dear God, we paid for all this stuff ourselves, so thanks for nothing'" (Ojuice5001).
As believers we cringe at a response like that, but if we are honest with ourselves how much do we (in American churches) really depend on God for our daily food? Of all that Jesus could have mentioned regarding our needs, this one was first off His lips.
Back then our Lord’s original audience often didn’t know where their next meal was coming from. They lived day-to-day in trust upon God for daily food. Because we often take food for granted here in America, our daily dependence on God for this necessity of life has weaned and our prayers have rather become consumed with the trivialities of life. In a strange way, God's good and perfect gifts (Jas. 1:17) abundantly lavished on our lives have not created a greater heart for the Giver, but rather have given us a greater love for lesser gifts.
One of the benefits of fasting is the reminder of our incredible weakness and need for God to sustain us on a daily basis. The request for daily bread is a humble recognition of our dependence on God for all things all day.
Then we need to ask for, verse 4, forgiveness from our sins. “And forgive us our sins.” A little confusion here so let me explain this one in the form of some questions.
What is a sin? It’s a violation against God’s character when we disobey a command of His. Who sins? We all do and we do it on a daily basis. What happens when we sin? We often have natural consequences, but primarily we store up God’s judgment against ourselves. What does that result in? The violation of God’s commands results in God’s eternal judgment. Is there any hope? Yes, Jesus Christ lived the perfect life, died for our sins on the cross, conquered sin through the Resurrection and offers forgiveness to those who receive Him by faith. To what degree am I forgiven when I come to Jesus? Complete forgiveness because Christ died for all your sins – past, present and future. Then if I am already entirely forgiven in Christ, why do I need to ask God, as this prayer states, for forgiveness? Now we get to the heart of this request.
Answers: One, because sin destroys. Confession helps our soul heal from the guilt we incurred. Two, because every sin we commit, though it does not forfeit our salvation, breaks fellowship with our heavenly Father. Three, because our forgiveness came at a great cost – the death of God's very Son. Therefore we ought to take sin seriously in our love for our Savior and carefully recognize the specific areas we are falling short. Four, because true believers are committed to repentance. Confession of sin is important because without acknowledging the error of sin, we will never take the necessary steps toward what God ultimately desires, which is repentance (turning from the sin altogether).
But before we move to the final petition, we need to look at the second half of this one. Verse 4, “And forgive us our sins, [now this] for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.” The implication here is that God would forgive us and that we would pray for the strength to forgive others – something we know that is very difficult to do without the Lord’s grace.
The version in the Matthew account is more is even more direct. “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Mt. 6:12). Scary! Did you catch that? The prayer is asking God to be as merciful to us as we are to others. If there is any doubt, two verses later in Matthew Jesus says, “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions. (Matt. 6:14-15).
What this is basically teaching is that if we have understood our offense against a perfectly holy God and received His complete forgiveness, it is the epitome of hypocrisy to be sinned against by another sinful human and then refuse to forgive such a person. Forgiving others is the evidence we truly understand and have received God’s forgiveness.
Last one, we are to pray that God, verse 4, “Lead us not into temptation.”
There is probably the most confusion on this one. Why are we praying that God lead us not into temptation when James 1:13 says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone”?
Here’s the answer. The same Greek word can be translated “temptation” and “test.” They are a world apart and context determines which translation to use. Satan is the one who tempts us to sin. God is the one who tests us to righteousness. Satan wants to destroy us. He wants to weaken our faith. He wants us to spiritually fail. On the other hand, our Lord is forever testing us. His goal though tests, often in the form of trials, is to make us spiritually stronger, refine our character and increase our faith. Part of the test at times is overcoming the temptation.
It is the Lord in His sovereignty who sends test. “Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Mt. 4:1). However, it is during these tests that Satan finds His greatest opportunity to tempt us. So when the heat in life is turned up, will we trust God and walk by faith in His commandments or will we listen to the “father of lies” and sin? The prayer here is that the Lord will help us pursue righteous actions as we emerge from the test spiritually victorious.
Let me give you an example that I shared with the local pastors a couple weeks ago. Since this is in the context of forgiveness, let’s say you serve someone greatly in the church and then they let you down in a very painful way. This is both a test and a temptation. How will you respond?
If you give into the temptation some responses will probably be: Bitterness or self-pity or refusing to help in the future or anger with God or possibly even leaving the church to avoid the individual. Pride! It’s about my name and my kingdom!
But if you successfully pass the test some possible responses will be: Prayer or grief for another's sins or thankfulness for the opportunity to minister or increased perseverance or a greater understanding of how often you disappoint God. Humility! It’s about God’s name and God’s kingdom.
After I really thought about this prayer given to us by Jesus, I concluded the reason we need prayer and specifically these requests is because we are selfish. I naturally want my name to be famous and my kingdom to come. I believe it my self-sufficiency that puts food on my table. I believe my goodness outweighs my sin and I believe I can overcome the evil one based on my own strength. Only God can help me overcome this!