Summary: Introduction to the series on the Lord’s Prayer. Aim is to show that prayer is not something we only say but a way of living in a vital relationship with our Heavenly Father
"When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him! Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins." (Matthew 6:5-15, NLT)
A small town had one church and one bar. Members of the church complained that the bar was giving the community a bad image. And to make matters worse the owner of the bar was an out spoken atheist who didn’t believe in God. The church had tried for years to shut down the bar and finally decided to hold a prayer meeting. The church folks gathered on Saturday night and there was a horrible thunderstorm raging outside and to the delight of the church members, lightning hit that old bar and it burned to the ground. The next morning the sermon in the church was on the power of prayer. But the insurance assessor promptly notified the bar owner that they were not going to pay for the damages because the fire was an ‘act of God’, and that was an exclusion in the policy. The bar owner was furious and he sued the church, claiming that they had conspired with God to destroy his business. But the church denied that they had anything to do with the cause of the fire. The presiding judge opened the trial with these words: “No matter how this case comes out, one thing is clear. The atheist believes in prayer and the Christians do not.”
The disciples did believe in prayer! That was why they asked Jesus “Lord teach us to pray.” At first glance this is a strange request since from infancy as devout Jews they had been taught to pray. At their mother’s knee, by their fathers, in the rabbinical schools, they had been taught the fundamentals of prayer.
Yet they ask Jesus to teach them to pray. Significantly that they never asked Jesus, nor did he ever teach them to preach suggesting that it is more important to learn how to talk to God than to talk to other people about God!
As the Disciples had observed Jesus at prayer they had witnessed something different, something unique about the way Jesus prayed. They realized that for Jesus …
PRAYER IS NOT
A MOUTHING OF WORDS (although words are essential in effective praying)
A RELIGIOUS DISCIPLINE (although effective praying takes discipline)
A CELESTIAL 911 (although pray does involve requesting God’s intervention in a time of crisis…
Reminds me of the sign in a classroom that read ‘In the event of a disaster, the ruling against prayer in the School will be temporarily suspended!)
A DIVINE REQUISITION FORM (although prayer does involve making our requests known to God. Perhaps a good litmus test or our prayer life is to ask ‘What portion or percentage of my prayers is made up of presenting my requests to God?’)
A HEAVENLY HIGH (although sensing God’s awesome presence is vital, it should never be restricted to my mood or inclination towards feeling spiritual)
Jesus demonstrated in His own prayer life as well as in His teaching on prayer that prayer, true prayer is more that a repetition of learned phrases or formulas, prayer as Jesus taught His Disciples (and us) in the Lord’s Prayer is more than something we memorize, something we babble unthinkingly. For Jesus …
PRAYER IS A PATTERN FOR LIVING
When Jesus said ‘Pray like this’ he never meant us to just repeat the words as a sort of religious incantation or chant rather He meant us to use it as the basis of our daily conversation as we walk through life in communion with our Heavenly Father.
How would we feel if our loved ones only spoke to us in carefully memorized and canned phrases? “I love you , mother most dear, you are always so kind and gracious tending to all my needs” We want to connect, to experience an authentic, heartfelt, genuine relationship with our loved ones…