Learning to Pray
Matthew 6:7-15 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 "This, then, is how you should pray: "'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.' 14 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Intro: Dr. Clarence Bass, professor at Bethel Theological Seminary, early in his ministry preached at a church in Los Angeles. He thought he had done quite well as he stood at the door greeting people as they left the church. The remarks about his preaching were complimentary. That is, until a little old man commented, "You preached too long."
-Dr. Bass wasn’t fazed by the remark, especially in light of the many positive comments. And the old man said, "You didn’t preach loud enough.” Dr. Bass thought it strange that the man had come through the line twice, but when the same man came through the line a third time and exclaimed, "And you used too many big words,” he began to wonder.
-Dr. Bass sought out a deacon who stood nearby and asked him, "Do you see that little old man over there? Who is he?" "Don’t pay any attention to him," the deacon replied. "All he does is go around and repeat everything he hears."
-Mark Twain attended a Sunday morning church service one time. He met the preacher at the door afterward and told him that he had a book at home with every word he had preached that morning. The minister assured him that the sermon was an original. Twain still held his position. The preacher wanted to see this book so Twain said he would send it over in the morning. When the preacher unwrapped it he found a dictionary and in the flyleaf was written this: "Words, just words, just words."
-Someone said, “Long-winded speakers exhaust their listeners long before the exhaust their subjects. Recognizing this danger, one speaker began his talk this way: "I understand that it’s my job to talk to you. Your job is to listen. If you quit before I do, I hope you’ll let me know."
-Someone else said that some preachers preach "longhorn sermons." That is, a point here, a point there, and a lot of bull in between. Well, Jesus never did that. He always delivered words that were worth paying attention to. We’re going to talk about some of His words today as we take a look at what many call the Lord’s Prayer.
Prop: Everyone can and should learn to pray as Jesus taught.
TS: Let’s take a look at what Jesus taught about prayer and apply those truths to our own relationship with God.
I. How not to Pray
A. Don’t Pray with man as the audience (5-6) Review from last week.
B. Don’t Pray Impersonally (7-8) The reference to the many words used by the pagans reminds me of Charlie Brown- wah wah wah wah wah. Sociologists have noted that the more comfortable we are with others, the less we have a need to talk. (Strite) Of course, that doesn’t mean that we stop communicating, but our communication becomes more meaningful and we become comfortable just being with someone, without having to carry a tiresome dialogue or in some cases monologue.
-When the Greeks would pray to one of their many gods, they would try to use every title and euphemism they knew of, hoping to gain their attention. Pagan prayers usually included reminders to the deity of sacrifices that had been offered or other services done implying that the deity had some sort of binding obligation to answer the prayer. But Jesus said your Father already knows what you need and He is more than willing to provide it without being obligated to do so.
-The kind of prayer Jesus taught is not formula-based. It is relationship-based. It is not manipulation or coercion to get a deity to give you what you want or need because they owe it to you. It is communication with One who already knows everything about you because He cares for you and wants the very best for you. Prayer is not an incantation that brings some magic result when the right words are used. That is closer to witchcraft than effective prayer. Prayer is language that expresses our hearts to the Father.
-I challenge you to really evaluate the words you use when you pray. Make sure you are being real with God your Father. And when you pray in Jesus’ name, think about what that means. Jesus said if you ask anything in My name it will be done for you. But we shouldn’t use His name like a magic formula. We use it to remind ourselves that the only way we are able to approach the Father in prayer is because of who Jesus is and what He has done for us. Prayer is the stuff our relationship with God is made out of. Keep in touch with Him and keep it real. Don’t let someone else’s clichés and formulas do your talking, no matter how eloquent the TV evangelist was who said them first! Speak to your Father from your heart.
-Some people use even the Lord’s prayer as some of the many words they think they should say in order to make God happy. But if it’s not from the heart, then it won’t reach heaven. Impersonal prayer won’t cut it. That’s a little bit about how not to pray, Now, how should we pray? Let’s look at this model prayer to get some direction.
II. How to Pray
A. Pray with Loving Respect (9)
-Prayer should begin with acknowledging who God is. There are about 66 words in this prayer, if you include the last part of v.13. About half of these speak about who God is, and the other half talk about what we need. That might be a good goal to aim for in our prayers – focus more on who God is, because who He is changes who we are.
-Who is He? He is our Father. Where is He? In heaven, where we will be one of these days if He really is our Father. Prayer should be personal, between us and God, but we also need to acknowledge that God is “our” Father, not just “my” Father. God is a Father to those who receive Him as such. He is willing to be a Father to the fatherless. Perhaps this is another reminder that every human being has value because they were created in the image of their Father, God. Does that mean that everyone will be in heaven because God is their Father? No, because only those who become as children, who receive God as their Creator and Father and identify with Him in faith and obedience can be part of His family.
John 1:12-13 “…to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God-- 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.”
-Apparently, it was common for Jews to address God as “Our heavenly Father” when they prayed. It was less common to use intimate titles like the one Paul used in Romans 8:15, “Abba, Father” (Papa or Daddy). Jesus taught that God the Father is relational and wants to be close to those who call on Him. He also taught that God should be honored as the awesome Creator and Ruler of all that is. Hallowed (holy, separate, sacred) is your name. We treasure and love Your name more than any other. The Jews regarded the name of God as very holy. In fact, they rarely ever used it in order to keep themselves from misusing it, thus breaking the 3rd commandment. God’s special covenant name to the Jews was something like Yahweh. Most of the time scribes would use a euphemism or a description of God when they wrote. Notice that the book of Matthew (which was very Jewish) does not use the phrase “kingdom of God/Yahweh” but in typical Jewish fashion they called it the kingdom of heaven, so as not to use God’s name casually. God is holy and even though He has taken great pains to come near to us, we must never take Him for granted or treat Him with anything less than the highest honor we can give Him, verbally, inwardly, and outwardly.
B. Pray with Surrender (10)
-There was a common Jewish prayer used around the time of Jesus that sounded similar to some of the words Jesus used: “Exalted and hallowed be his…name…and may his kingdom come speedily and soon.”
-The Jews acknowledged in their prayers that God’s name would be highly honored and shown to be holy in the end of time when His kingdom would come. For now, God’s people can honor His name by living rightly- which is only possible through a right relationship with Him, which starts with surrender. Wrong living would dishonor His name or give Him a bad name in the eyes of those who are watching.
-So praying with surrender includes yielding to God’s plan and what He wants to do in this world, as well as what He wants to do in and through each of our lives. We want God’s rule to expand to every heart and life, that none should perish.
-When God’s kingdom comes, His will is going to be done here on earth, just as it is done in heaven with no sin or rebellion.
C. Pray with Trust (11)
-We are totally dependent upon God! I like the order of the 3 things found in vv.11-13…it’s unexpectedly backward. You’d think it would start with the spiritual, but it doesn’t. We are to ask for daily needs, daily forgiveness, and daily strength and guidance (J. Shirley).
-Proverbs 30:8 “…give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.” God doesn’t promise you the wealth of this world, but He does promise to take care of you. Rarely does He just dump it in your lap, however. Many Jewish men either farmed their own land or worked for someone else who farmed. Each day workers received a denarius, just enough to buy food for their family and some oil for their household lamp, and a few other necessities. It was barely enough to cover expenses.
-Jesus taught that our Father in heaven cared enough about us to provide us the means to sustain us each day. He can be trusted to provide for us.
D. Pray with True Repentance (12,14-15)
12 Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors…. 14 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
-Proportional Forgiveness- Grace & mercy flow downward. That is why only those who humble themselves can receive it.
-Have you ever played with 2 magnets to see how they react to each other? If you turn one around, they will repel each other. However, flip it over and SNAP! They come together. That is how repentance and forgiveness works. If we are not willing to repent and change our position, the Bible says that God resists the proud, and He will resist our proud, stubborn heart. But if we will do things God’s way, turn away from sin, and offer forgiveness to others, then we will be pulled so close to God that His grace will pour all over us. Only people of grace can really receive grace. On the other hand, only those who have received God’s grace have it to give. So it comes down to humbling ourselves enough to let God’s grace flow through us to others. If we just want it for ourselves, but not for others, that would be selfish and ungracious.
E. Pray for Guidance & Deliverance (13)
V.13 invites God to lead us and guide us every day of this life. The wording may be a little misleading, however. When you read, “Lead us not into temptation,” it sounds like we are asking God not to let us be tested. But God does allow His people to be tested. Some scholars point to parallel Jewish prayers, as well as to the Aramaic word meanings in this verse and believe the essence of it is, “Let us not sin when we are tested.”
-It would be quite easy to give into temptation and say, “Well, I guess the Lord didn’t answer my prayer. He didn’t keep me away from the temptation and I just caved.” Let me just say that God is always leading, but we may not always be following.
-So focus on these words and take them to heart: “Lead us… Don’t let us sin when we face a test, but deliver us from the evil one.
Dear Father always near us,
May your name be treasured and loved,
May your rule be completed in us—
May your will be done here on earth in just the way it is done in heaven.
Give us today the things we need today, and forgive us our sins and impositions on you as we are forgiving all who in any way offend us.
Please don’t put us through trials, but deliver us from everything bad.
Because you are the one in charge, and you have all the power,
and the glory too is all yours – forever –
Which is just the way we want it! (Dallas Willard, 269).
So, should we pray? Jesus thought so. When you pray…. Don’t do it for the wrong self-serving reasons. Don’t do it without really connecting with your Father who is in heaven. Don’t be impersonal, manipulative, demanding, or overly wordy. Don’t substitute prayer formulas or meaningless catch phrases for personal communication with your loving Father. Do show loving respect when you pray. Do surrender yourself to God’s plan, asking Him to do whatever He wants in and through you. Do show your trust in God’s ability to provide for you by asking Him for what you need today. Do pray with humility, being generous with forgiveness towards others as you ask God to forgive you. And finally, do ask God to help you pass the test when you face temptations. Ask Him to help you make right choices that honor Him and to deliver you from the evil one. Ask Him to lead you in the way you should go. Most of all, remember that prayer is all about relationship with God. Prayer is the means God has given us to touch Him. I pray that you will arrange your life around staying in touch with Him. We often try to reach around the things of this life to get in touch with God. He wants you to come close, undistracted, wholeheartedly connecting with Him. Lord, teach us to pray!