Summary: To pray as Jesus prayed is to have the same understanding of God as He did: a firm but compassionate father, a giver who expects us to learn appreciation, and an empowering forgiver.
Introduction to Series
Praying As Jesus Prayed
Every fall I like to take at least two Sundays to focus on some aspect of that most basic of all the disciplines of the Christian life, the discipline of prayer.
I do this for several reasons.
First, building in a specific emphasis on prayer in our worship program makes it certain that it will get some particular attention each year. There are always a host of things that need our attention -- I told the committee evaluating me this year that I never had any problem finding something to preach about – but there are some things that need regular attention. And prayer is one of them.
Second, I choose to do this in the fall of the year because most of us experience this season as frantic. Children are going back to school, the proverbial August vacations that Washingtonians love to take are over, and the pace of life picks up. Frantic! Best of all, those beloved Redskins go back into action! Now that’s frantic!
It just gets frantic in September, trying to gear up for all these things. And that means that the life of prayer becomes even more important. But it also becomes more difficult to do. And so worship and preaching centered on the theme of prayer. Prayer is needed in busy, frantic, vital, vibrant, exhausting, exhilarating times.
This year I have chosen to take us through the world’s best known and best loved prayer, popularly known as The Lord’s Prayer. The Lord’s Prayer seems to have found a place in the hearts and minds of almost everyone who has had any exposure at all to the Christian faith. I find, for example, that when I am leading a funeral service, many Scriptures I quote draw blank looks from some of the folks who are there. They never heard such words before. A few, maybe, can quote the 23rd Psalm. But if I ask them to join in sharing the Lord’s Prayer, even the most pagan and most secular can do this prayer. It seems to have been lodged in the consciousness of just about everyone.
But that does not mean that we understand it. And that certainly does not mean that we pray it with comprehension. And it most certainly does not mean that we have lived the Lord’s Prayer or that we have allowed the Lord’s Prayer to seep in and become the framework out of which we do our praying.
And so my aims for today and for the following two Sundays are:
First, to teach you the Lord’s Prayer in such a way that it will enable and empower a more compelling prayer life for you. A more compelling prayer life, a more profound thirst for prayer, an intensified life of prayer. I want us to experience the Lord’s Prayer and thus experience some of the powerful possibilities in prayer.
Second, I hope in these few weeks to implant some attitudes, some postures, so that as you pray with enhanced understandings about the personalities involved in prayer you will have a prayer life that work better. That sounds awfully practical, I know, to say prayer that works better. I don’t mean magic. I don’t mean prayer that gets you everything you want from a Rolex watch to a new improved model husband! I mean prayer that works better in providing both you and God -- both you and God -- with companionship. I hope to implant some attitudes that will smooth the way for you and your Lord to be together.
And then, third, during these days I will aim toward using the Lord’s Prayer to help you hook up the spiritual life with the real world. I will hope that as a result of our thinking and praying and singing and worshipping together around this prayer that we will find out just how much responsibility there is in prayer... yes, responsibility
in prayer... because, as one of my old pastors used to say, "Prayer may be intensely personal, but it is never private" Think about that ... prayer may be personal, but it is not private. And because so many Christians seem to fall into the trap, as one wit put it, of being "so heavenly minded that they are of no earthly use", I’ll be working with you to help hook up your prayer and worship life with today’s life issues, today’s world, today’s realities.
If you really want to boil down these three aims and know what I’m going to do with three sermons and with three Wednesday evening studies, it’s very simple: to see what kind of God we pray to; to see what kind of people we are when we pray; and to see what we are going to have to do about all those other folks out there as we pray.