Summary: Each line of the Lord’s Prayer confronts us with spiritual and life choices. How will we pray? How will we live?
The Lord’s Prayer Choices---Part 2
Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister
First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO
“Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and power, and the glory forever. Amen.” (Matt. 6:9-13)
Introduction: Henry Ward Beecher, famous preacher from early in the last century wrote of the Lord’s Prayer, “I used to think the Lord’s Prayer was a short prayer; but, as I live longer, and see more of life, I believe there is no such thing as getting through it. If a man, in praying that prayer, were to be stopped by every word until he had thoroughly prayed it, it would take him a lifetime.”
(Christian Reader, Vol. 34)
Prayer is fundamental to the Christian life. Prayer is to the believer like the air line to a deep sea diver. We cannot survive without it. It must and should be our first impulse, not our last resort! One writers says “Prayer is like the mortar that holds the bricks together, or the quiet pauses in a symphony. Without the mortar everything falls apart; without the quiet between the notes, no music. And without daily private prayer, Christians face spiritual anorexia.” (Mitch Finley in U.S. Catholic (Feb. 1987). Christianity Today, Vol. 31, no. 12. )
The Lord’s Prayer is part of the Sermon on the Mount, the most foundational extended teachings that Jesus gave his disciples. As such, it is at the root of the Christian life. In fact, rightly understood, the Lord’s Prayer is not so much about a formula for prayer or a particular ritual for worship, as it is about a way of looking at the Christian life. It is this concept that I want to explore over the next several weeks. We will look for lessons about prayer and more importantly about a praying lifestyle. Tonight we continue a very brief survey of the prayer.
Phrase by phrase, the Lord’s Prayer outlines the values and priorities that make possible the Christian lifestyle. Each part of the prayer confronts us with a fundamental issue of life and forces a choice. How will we look at life? How will we decide to live our prayer?
The prayer Jesus taught his disciples to pray can be divided into six sections or phrases. In Part 1, we examined the first three. The first stanza concentrated on the God to whom we pray—Our father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. The first phrase forces us to look at our identity as creations and children of God who are made to know and enjoy him forever.
A Sunday school teacher told of his class of youngsters had some problems repeating the Lord’s Prayer, but they didn’t lack in imagination. One child prayed, "Our Father, who art in heaven, how’d you know my name." ( C. L. Null, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Christian Reader, "Kids of the Kingdom.")
It is God to whom we pray. A mother was tucking in her preschooler for the night when the little girl asked if could pray. Delighted, the mother told her it was a great idea to talk to Jesus. As she began praying, her words kept getting softer and softer until only her lips were moving. Then she said "Amen."
"Honey," mom said, giving her a hug, "I didn’t hear a word you said."
"That’s okay, Mama," she responded. "I wasn’t talking to you." (Helen B. Poole, Canon City, Colorado. Christian Reader, "Kids of the Kingdom.")
The second phrase speaks of hope—Thy kingdom come. They will be done on earth as it is in heaven. We pray to a sovereign God who is in control and whose will is always the best. It reminds us that our hope for the present and future is in the hands of the living God.
The third phrase asks for daily bread, not future needs or present wants, just daily provision. This is a prayer about security. Where does yours come from? There are two ways of facing life—with worry or wonder. To pray this prayer says we have chosen to trust the hand of God and not worry about the outcome.
This brings us to the last three phrases of the prayer. These stanzas speak of three great jewels of the Christian faith: grace, faith, and worship.
4. Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. The fourth phrase is a reminder of GRACE.
We humans can relate to God in two ways, either by law/works/our own efforts and the resulting guilt—or by grace. There is a real difference. How do you stand before God? I know you have considered these two questions, but let me ask you again. If you were to die tonight, are sure you would go to heaven? Yes or no! If you were to die and stand before the Lord and he would ask you, why should I let you into my heaven, what would you answer? I would don’t pretend to tell you that the Lord will ever ask you that question in that way, but the answer speaks volumes. Your answers tells whether your standing before God is based on grace or guilt.