Summary: Believing prayer requires knowing the God to whom we pray.
You Can Tell a Lot about God
by the People He Hangs Out With!
[You Can Tell A Lot About God—Part 1]
Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister
First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO
Introduction: We are in the midst of a on-going study of the Lord’s Prayer, or the Disciples’ Prayer if you prefer—the prayer Jesus taught his disciples to pray. Clearly it is not a ritual, or prayer that Jesus intended that we pray by memory—though it is always good to prayer Scripture. Jesus intended it is a pattern by which we could learn to pray. We have examined the six stanzas of the prayer in general. In the future weeks, we will look in greater detail at each phrase, seeking to unpack the rich layers of meaning beneath each.
Tonight we begin with the opening words. Repeat the prayer with me: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. (Matt 6:9-13, KJV)
A little girl was drawing a picture. Her teacher watched over her shoulder for a moment and then asked her what she was drawing. “I’m drawing a picture of God,” she said confidently. “But no body knows what God looks, “ the teacher corrected. “Oh, but they will when I am done,” the little girl replied even more confidently.
To whom are you praying, when you say “our Father which art in heaven”? Does it matter? Of course, it matters. Listen to Jeremiah 9:23-24: "This is what the LORD says: "Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight," declares the LORD. “
Moses apparently thought it mattered. Of all the questions that he might have asked of the voice from the burning bush, he asked one thing—who are you? It wasn’t enough that it was clearly a supernatural encounter. He wanted to know the identity of the voice behind the miracle. We would do well to be more like Moses in this regard. Not every supernatural, miracle-producing force is worthy of your faith and obedience. Clearly, Satan, his angels of light, the end times Man of Lawlessness (2 Thess 2), and sometimes mischief making fakers can produce look-a-like supernatural phenomena.
Contrary to what many may teach you in our day, it is not enough to believe in any old god. The question is which God do you believe in? As much good as the Alcoholics Anonymous do in helping addicted people find freedom, they are clearly treading on dangerous ground when they teach folk to find “a higher power” however they may conceive of it. Elijah didn’t think any “god” was s good as another when he challenged the prophets of Ahab and Jezebell to dueling prayers on Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18). He admonished them to make up their minds which God they were going to serve. He knew “not all gods are created equal.”
Some pray to statues made of stone or wood. Others pray to spirits that can be contained within a cathedral or church, unable to interfere or help at work or home or school. Yet others conceive of gods fashioned in their own image, imaginary gods who can do nothing more or less than what their creators can conceive. Plato of old suggested that many gods are nothing more than our own shadows cast on the wall by the fires we have kindled with our own hands.
My question: when you pray “our father” to whom are you praying? Who is your God? If someone asked you to describe your God, would someone else be able to recognize him from your description? Would you be able to recognize him from you description. I insist that this is important!
Some of us speak of God as if he is without distinction or description. We are dumbfounded by the suggestion that our Father in Heaven ought to be different from some abstract “godness” or some impersonal higher power. Imagine you were in a room full of people and someone asked you “who is your husband or wife?” Would it do to suggest that it doesn’t make any difference? Any husband or wife will do? Is it enough on Father’s Day to send a card or present to any old father because fathers are all alike? Would it do if you were sent to pick up your grand daughter or daughter at nursery school and you came home with the wrong child because you argued that it shouldn’t make any difference as long as you came home with a child?