Summary: True prayer must be based upon relationship.
“Taking God Seriously”
March 22, 2009
We began talking about prayer last week by noting some things that are important to understand about true prayer:
• True Prayer Is Not a Performance - :1,5
• True Prayer Is a Matter Between God and You - :6
• True Prayer Isn’t a Matter of Style - :7
• True Prayer Engages the Intellect - :7
• True Prayer Recognizes God’s Sovereignty - :8
Today we move directly to our Lord’s teaching on the subject. We call it the “Lord’s prayer”, but in reality, it’s better called the “model prayer”, or the “disciple’s prayer.
It’s not often that I add to a sermon on a Sunday morning, but I was eating my Apple Caramel Pecan Crunch this morning and though I don’t like TV viewing on Sunday AM, I always flip on the tube to make sure there’s nothing I need to know about before I come to church. Quickly, there came on a commercial for the “Prayer Cross”. I DVR’ed it so that I could produce choice excerpts for you:
“The Prayer Cross has a “secret center stone” with the text of the entire Lord’s Prayer before your eyes.. Watch as people gaze in amazement as they experience the magic of the Prayer Cross for the first time…a one-of-a-kind spiritual accessory. When held up to the light, the entire Lord’s Prayer becomes instantly and almost miraculously visible…sure to bring joy and comfort to all who wear it, and astonish those who see the hidden prayer inside…the perfect way to keep the Lord’s Prayer close to your heart.”
Well, there you have it: the Lord’s Prayer, given that we might wear it around our necks. In case you have a burning desire to get one, it can be found—of course—at www.prayercross.com. I’m sure you’ll all be rushing out to pick one up for two low payments of $19.95 each.
Notice an irony with me, and it’s a significant one: Jesus has just called His disciples to knowledgeable prayer that is not just mere mouthing of meaningless words, repeating certain words as though the words themselves have power or the speaking of them is magical or something. Ready for the irony? What is the one prayer that every American knows, and which is more often recited in rote, dare I say “mindless”, fashion than the “Lord’s prayer”? You can say it without engaging your brain, without considering the magnitude of what’s being said in it—which is the exact, 180 opposite of what Jesus intended when He said, “do not heap up empty phrases”. Last week I referenced worshipping in a mainline church on the Sunday of my Walk Thru training; at a point in the service, as I’d be willing to guess happens every service, the one leading in prayer led us in the recitation of the “Lord’s Prayer”. There is nothing wrong with praying the Lord’s Prayer…but there is everything wrong with doing anything mindlessly, whether it’s the Lord’s Prayer or “now I lay me down to sleep”, or whatever. I was in a restaurant this past week when a little girl insisted that she and grandma pray before the meal, and she proceeded to begin “God is great” at such breakneck speed that the words, which she was not bashful about praying loudly, could hardly be understood! What’s the point of going through the motions of a religious ritual if there is no meaning behind it? Better not to open our mouths in reciting the “Lord’s Prayer”—or any prayer—if all we’re doing is mouthing words!
Notice how Jesus prefaces this prayer: “pray like this”, not “pray this”. Once again, we understand that what Jesus is doing is giving us, not a rote prayer, but a “template”, if you will, recommending to us the kinds of things that ought to be in evidence as we pray. He’s not telling us what to pray; He’s telling us how to pray. And in the words He gives, not a single one is wasted; all of them are important in praying; there are no sugar-coated pious placebos to be found. That’s not even to say that every time we pray, we are obligated to remember every clause and incorporate everything we find here into every prayer—though that’s not a bad idea—but the truth is that a well-rounded prayer life needs to find these elements in it.
I had a “STOP” sign on the wall of my office 25 years ago as a junior high youth pastor. I’m not sure if that’s because the first word to junior high kids needs to be “stop”—because they’re almost certainly doing something mischievous—or if it’s just because I thought it looked cool hanging on the wall of my office. Most likely, it was the latter, though there’s truth to the former!