Summary: This sermon focuses on God and his will and his kingdom. So the first thing Jesus teaches us is that prayer starts with God and then moves to us.
Our Father, Who Art in Heaven, Hallowed Be Thy Name
Teach Us to Pray
Many of us have probably mindlessly prayed the words of the Lord’s Prayer and never really thought about what we were really praying for. And that’s part of what gives rise to this sermon series we’re starting today. The other is that most of us have never been taught to pray. My father was a minister and never in all my days in the church have I been taught to pray, not even in seminary. We’re going to take the time to really understand what Jesus was teaching us in the Lord’s Prayer.
As we begin, we need to recognize that this prayer is the most authoritative and important prayer that Christians ever pray because it was given to us by Jesus himself. It is the only prayer where Jesus teaches us how to pray. This prayer is so important that in the early church believers were taught to pray this prayer three times a day, in the morning, at noon and at night. Every time they received Holy Communion they were to pray it and when someone was baptized, they were to pray it. Throughout the history of Christianity, it was consider one of the three most important things for a Christian to memorize along side the Apostle’s Creed and the 10 Commandments. The Apostle’s Creed was seen as a summation of the Christian faith and the 10 commandments as the summation of Christian ethics and the Lord’s prayer was the summation of Christian spirituality. Thomas Watson, a 17th century Christian preacher said, “It was a heap of massive gold.” And yet for many of us, we just pass right through it when we pray.
There are six petitions or things we ask of God in the Lord’s Prayer. The first three have to do with our relationship to God. The last three have to do with ourselves. Before we ever ask for forgiveness or our daily bread or deliverance from temptation, we start off first focusing on God and his will and his kingdom. So the first thing Jesus teaches us is that prayer starts with God and then moves to us. When you pray the Lord’s Prayer, you are already asking for things which God wants to do. God wants his will to be done. God wants to give you your daily bread. God wants you to receive his forgiveness. God already wants to do these things. God knows that you need them and he knows what you’re going to pray even before those words cross your lips.
So, what’s the point of praying? In prayer, instead of convincing God to do something, it is confessing your faith in the God who already wants to do these things. You are stating that you believe God is holy, that he can forgive you and that he can feed you. In the Lord’s Prayer, you are confessing what is already true and you’re claiming that. So that when you pray, you are lining your will up with that of God’s will when you pray the Lord’s Prayer. With that in mind, let’s begin to look at the Lord’s Prayer.
The first word is Father. Jesus teaches us to have an intimate and personal relationship with God. When you go to the store to buy a Father’s Day card, you look at the cards which say Father or Dad. There’s a difference between those two. For me, I am always drawn to the cards with Dad because Father is just too formal. Whenever Jesus talks to God he uses the word Abba which means Father but it is more like a child’s use of the name Daddy. It signified an intimacy and familiarity of God, a close relationship. Part of what Jesus wants us to realize is that relationship with God is meant to be intimate and familiar. He doesn’t want us to pray like this: “O Great Spirit in Heaven or O Light of all Lights….” No, he wants us to pray, Abba, Dad or Daddy in heaven.
God is a personal being. He’s not a force that gives us life. He is a personal and intimate being. That is grounded in the fact that when God created us it was out of His desire to give love away. God created us to be recipients of His love. He created us for the very reason we have children, not to be our servants but because there is something within us which longs to give love away. And that’s how God feels about us. But we also know that God created us not only to receive his love but to reciprocate his love. He created us to understand his love, to experience his love and to be able to respond to his love by giving love back. So when you pray and talk to God, you are entering into that relationship or fellowship with the Lord. That’s why when you pray, we call God Dad or Daddy and not Father.