Intro: I think directions are some of the hardest things to follow and hardest things to understand. I’m reminded of this every X-mas when I’m trying to put my kids toys together. It seems like every time I read the directions there’s some key element missing. Or whenever someone gives me directions to follow on a trip they invariably leave an important part out like a major intersection I was supposed to turn on but they forgot to include in the directions.
-Let me give you an example of bad directions. A man was in the doghouse with his wife, so he ordered her some flowers and told the florist that the card should read, "I’m sorry, (comma) I love you." Unfortunately, his instructions must not have been clear enough. When the flowers arrived, the card read, "I’m sorry I love you" (no comma).
-I think most of us would like to receive some straightforward instructions so we don’t find ourselves in a big mess. And I think one of the major areas we’d like to receive good directions on is concerning the area of prayer. George Barna had a poll done that said that 64% of Americans say they pray every day. But I’d be willing to guess that close to 100% of those who pray would like some good direction on how we’re to pray.
-Today we’re concluding our series “Cliff Notes for Xians.” And we’re concluding our series w/a subject that all of us have heard @ but not all of us know how to do: How to pray.
Sermon Idea: Today in our passage of Scripture we’re going to see Jesus sharing w/His disciples one of the fundamentals of the Xian faith, which is prayer. Now if you struggle w/prayer, I want you to know you’re not alone. Even the disciples of Jesus needed help in learning how to pray.
-And I figure if they needed help then chances are pretty good we do as well. Luke 11: 1 says, “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When He finished, one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’”
-In our text we’ll be looking at today, that’s precisely what Jesus did. He taught His disciples how to pray. And in that process He shared w/them 4 items our prayers ought to include. It’s my hope that after this lesson you’ll have a better grasp on what your prayers ought to be like.
TEXT: MATTHEW 6: 9-13
Bckgrd: This section of Scripture is known as the greatest sermon ever preached: the Sermon on the Mount. It’s the longest section of the recorded words of Jesus. And in this section of Scripture, Jesus gives people some basic instructions on how to live. And the part we’ll be focusing on is where Jesus shares w/His followers some simple pointers on prayer.
-What are the pointers? Well, we’re going to see from the model prayer Jesus gives us some items our prayers ought to include. The 1st item our prayers ought to include is:
DIV. 1: PRAISE (v. 9)
Exp: I really hope this is a helpful tool for us in our prayer life b/c I really believe a lot of us would like to know how to communicate w/God; to know how to speak to God. But I think a lot of us just don’t do it b/c we don’t know how to. The good news is Jesus gives us an example of what our prayers should be like.
A. Now when I say Jesus gives us an example of what our prayers should be like I’m not saying that He’s telling us this prayer in Matthew 6 is the one we’re supposed to say all the time. This prayer is simply an example of what our prayers should be like. The phrase, “This, then, is how you should pray” could also be translated “pray along these lines” or “pray in this manner.”
1. And in this prayer we get a glimpse of some things our prayers should include. And the 1st item I notice should be included in our prayers is the item of praise. Praise to whom? Praise to God! Notice our text says, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.”
a. Let me tell you something and this might surprise some of you. The object of our prayers is not us! Sometimes I find myself using prayer to help fulfill my personal wish list. But Jesus reminds me here that the focus of my prayer is to be God and not me!
b. Look and see how Jesus brought praise to God. He said, “Hallowed be your name.” What in the world does “hallowed” mean? It means “to treat as holy, to revere.” How do we do that? For one, you revere God by simply praying to Him. As we talk to God we’re recognizing that He has power over all things. That’s an important facet of prayer b/c when we call out to God it shows our need for Him.
2. Ps. 20: 7-“Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will trust in the name of the Lord our God.” If you’re not taking time to speak w/God, to talk to Him, then you’re not revering His name. You’re giving a demonstration thru your life that you trust in things other than God.
a. Another way to give praise to God is simply by giving Him thanks. You know what I’ve noticed @ my prayers? That I often times forget to give God thanks for His blessings in my life. But the Bible says that thanksgiving and praise should be a part of me.
b. 1 Thess. 5: 16-18-“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Think of some things right now that you can give God thanks for in your life. When was the last time you thanked God for your family? When was the last time you thanked God for your church? When was the last time you gave thanks to God for your job and your home? For your friends; for life itself; for God’s mercy and grace in your life?
B. How else can we give God praise; how else can we hallow the name of God? By the way we live. Jesus said in Matt. 5: 16-“In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
1. Now let me ask you a question. Do your actions point people to Christ? Do your actions give evidence that you belong to Christ; that you follow Him? One of the best ways we can give praise to God is by conducting ourselves the way Christ would. It’s said that imitation is the greatest form of flattery.
ILLUS: 9 year-old Tommy had just received a model ship from his great aunt who lived a considerable distance away. As he looked at the outside of the box and the picture of a completed ship he was anxious to open the box up and see it up close for himself. When he opened the box, he was so disappointed to discover that the ship was in small pieces and had to be put together by hand.
-His discouragement only got worse when he remembered that his dad was out of town and couldn’t help him. He knew his dad would help, if only he was here. As he sat and thought he began to ponder, “What would dad do if he were here?” He looked around the table and his eyes caught hold of the assembly instructions.
-He thought, “Dad would do it right, he would follow the instructions. If I want to do it right, I’ve got to be like dad.” So he followed the instructions carefully and was able to put the ship together. Later, when his dad saw the finished work and heard what he had done, he praised his son for using his head and his heart to do the right thing.
a. You know, I think that’s a pretty good example of how we should respond in this life. Christ isn’t physically here w/us any more. But we should ask the question, “What would He do if He were here?” He’d follow the instructions as given in the Bible.
b. And if we want the pieces of our lives to go together we should do the same thing. And I can guarantee you that will make the difference between living in victory or defeat. Now I’m naïve enough to think that’s an easy task. But I know it’s possible to do. And as we live like Christ, we’ll bring glory and honor to Jesus and others will be drawn to Him as they see us living like Jesus.
Reit: The 1st item our prayers ought to include is praise. The 2nd item our prayers ought to include is:
DIV. 2: PROVISION (vv. 10-11)
Exp: Sometimes I’ll hear people tell me that they never pray for themselves. I’ll ask them why and they’ll tell me, “B/c I don’t want to be selfish. God’s got a lot of other things to deal w/other than my piddling problems.” Now while that may sound noble, it’s not.
A. I said earlier that the focus of our prayers is to be God. But that doesn’t mean that our earthly needs are to be totally ignored in our prayers. Notice that v. 11 says, “Give US this day our daily bread.” Having our daily bread may not seem like that big of a deal to us today.
1. If we want bread the only thing we have to do is run down to the Food Lion or Publix and pick up a loaf. But to the majority of the world, food doesn’t come so easily. But the reference to bread has an even greater meaning. The famed theologian Martin Luther observed bread as being symbolic of all our physical needs.
a. You know what that tells me? It tells me that God, who is infinite, who created all things, who is infinitely holy, cares @ the minor details of my life. He wants my needs to be met! Isn’t that incredible? But v. 10 reminds me that my needs are to be tempered by God’s plans. Notice v. 10 tells us “Your kingdom come, your will be done.”
b. There is a huge difference between what I need and what I want. I need water to survive. I don’t need a new car. I need shelter. I don’t need a 25,000 square foot home. I need food to live. I don’t need a Hardee’s thickburger every Tuesday.
2. So how should that affect my prayer life? It means as you pray you need to express the desires you have that you’d like to see met. But temper your prayers with “but not my will, but yours be done.”
a. And what will happen as we pray like that? God will answer our prayers! Now He won’t always answer them the way we want Him to, but He’ll answer them according to His will. But if we’re praying for things that are a part of God’s will we can know that they will happen.
b. Ps. 37: 4-“Delight yourself in the Lord and He’ll give you the desires of your heart.” These things are easier for me to understand when I recognize the relationship that’s been established in our text. What’s God called in v. 9? He’s called “Father.” For those of us who are believers, our heavenly Father is God Almighty.
B. Now what is a Father supposed to do? He’s supposed to take care of His children. If you’re a parent you understand what this means. Now it’s my desire as a father to meet the needs of my children. I want to feed them, provide shelter for them, and provide them w/love and stability.
1. But can you think of times when your kids have asked for things that you said “No” to? I remember begging my dad to get me a monkey when I was a kid. Guess what. I never got one. Some of you can probably remember asking for a brand new car when you turned 16.
a. But b/c we didn’t get those things did it mean that our parents didn’t love us? Of course not! They just knew that some of the requests we were making weren’t what we needed. Most of our parents did a good job of providing what we needed, not necessarily what we wanted.
b. Well, God works in a similar manner. He is willing provide His children w/what they need. And as we pray for the needs we have we can be confident that God will provide us w/what He’s promised.
2. Jesus said in Matt. 6: 25, 32-33-“Therefore I tell you, do not worry @ your life, what you will eat or drink; or @ what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek 1st His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
a. The point I’m trying to make is be willing to include yourself in your prayers as well. I don’t know what your specific needs are. But some of the things I pray for is for God to give me peace; for God to help me to control my temper; to stay away from impure things; to protect my family; to save my daughter.
Reit: The 1st item our prayers ought to include is praise. The 2nd item is provision. The 3rd item our prayers ought to include is:
DIV. 3: FORGIVENESS (v. 12)
Exp: The word “debts” isn’t in reference to monetary debts. It’s in reference to sin; to spiritual debts we owe to God. The Bible tells us there is a price to pay for sin. Rom. 6:23-“The wages of sin is death.”
A. To keep from having to pay the wages of sin, we need a benefactor to take care of that debt for us. And that benefactor is Jesus Himself. That’s why Jesus came and died on the cross, to pay for our debt of sin. If you’re a believer then Christ has paid for your debt of sin.
1. The good news @ that is your eternity is squared away. You can know w/confidence that when you die you’ll spend an eternity in heaven. But just b/c a person is a follower of Christ doesn’t mean they’ll never sin again. Example after example is given to us in the Bible.
a. But if believers don’t ask for forgiveness for their sins it will affect their lives here on earth. How so? Ps. 66: 18-“If I have sin in my heart, God will not hear me.” Unconfessed sin in our lives hinders our communication line w/God. If we’re not willing to turn away from our sins and ask for God’s forgiveness, then there’s really no need in us praying.
b. That’s why asking for God’s forgiveness needs to be a part of our prayer life. Otherwise we’re just wasting our time; we’re just talking to a wall instead of God.
2. What does God do when we ask Him for forgiveness? He cleanses us! He erases that sin from us. 1 John 1: 9-“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
a. The key is to confess. And that’s not an easy thing for us to do. Very few people are willing to admit they’re wrong. If you don’t believe me, just ask a wife who’s seen her husband drive around for hours b/c he’s not willing to stop and ask for directions b/c that would be an admission he was lost.
ILLUS: The famous opera singer Beverly Sills talked @ her struggles w/her weight. When she became the general director of the NY opera she put on weight she just couldn’t get off. She said, “It made me sick to look at myself. I’d reached the point where I didn’t want to have my clothes made any more. It was too embarrassing. So I ordered everything from catalogues.”
-Eventually Sills was forced to face the problem. She woke up one day and decided she needed to see a doctor. When she got on the scale it said she weighed 215 pounds. When she saw the scale she said, “I can’t possibly weigh that much!” The doctor looked at her and said, “Please look down. Are those 2 fat feet on the scale yours or mine?” She said, “Once I accepted the problem, I was on my way.”
b. There has to be a recognition on our part that we’re dirty before we can ever be cleansed. Confession of our sins; simple honesty w/God needs to be a part of our prayer life.
Reit: The 1st item our prayers ought to include is praise. The 2nd item is provision. The 3rd item is forgiveness. And the final item our prayers ought to include is:
DIV. 4: DIRECTION (v. 13)
Exp: One thing I know I need is for God to lead me. I’ve tried to lead myself on numerous occasions in life and I’ve discovered that I’m not real good at avoiding the pitfalls of life on my own. You know why? B/c, crazily enough, I’m drawn to them! It is a part of man’s nature to be drawn like a magnet to things that do NOT honor God!
A. So if we’re naturally drawn to things that don’t honor God, how in the world do we avoid them? We follow someone other than ourselves. We place ourselves under someone else’s leadership.
1. And it can’t just be anyone. If we’re going to avoid the pitfalls of life then our leader must be Christ! A part of our prayer life should be to ask God to “lead” us. Why is God the leader we would want to follow? B/c He has the ability to deliver us from the pitfalls of life.
a. As much as we want to stay out of the pitfalls of life; as much as we want to stay out of sin; ever so often we’re going to slip into the slimy pit of sin. The good news is that when we do, we have a God who doesn’t look at us and say, “Well, you screwed up. I’m out of here.” Instead we have a God who has the power and ability to deliver, to pull us out of the slime of sin and restore us.
b. Ps. 40: 1-2-“I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”
2. Maybe you struggle w/the direction you find yourself going in life. You struggle w/anger, lying, cheating. Maybe you struggle w/faithfulness to your family or negativity. Let me encourage you to pray and ask for God to lead you, to direct you; and if need be, to restore you.
a. Today we’ve seen 4 items our prayers ought to include. They are praise, provision, forgiveness and direction. Let these things mark your prayer life. At this time I’d like for us to simply take this time to pray and include all of these elements in our time of prayer. (PRAY)
b. Some of you may be ready to ask Jesus to lead you. You’re realizing on your own you end up in the miry pit of sin and now you’re ready to be delivered. If so, pray this prayer after me. Dear Jesus I know I’ve sinned against you. Forgive me. Restore me. I believe you died for me and rose from the grave and I ask you to save me.
B. If you prayed that prayer, take your Welcome Card in the bulletin and tear it out. Put your name on it and check the box that says you committed your life to Christ. Then place it in the offering basket and we’ll get you some information in the mail on how to grow in your walk w/Jesus.