Teach us to pray - Part 1
August 5, 2012 Series: Teach us to pray
Topic: New Testament Passage: Luke 11:2–11:2
Intro: Teach us to Pray
Read Luke 11.1-13. Before our return to the book of Judges, we will spend August studying PRAYER. When you want to see something grow in the church, you don’t start with programs for it; you begin with preaching on it. Our series will not explain everything the Bible has to say about the doctrine of prayer. Instead, we will study one of the most amazing, yet, minimized passages in Scripture that has come to be known as “The Lord’s Prayer”. Our text can be found in two locations. In Matthew 6.5-15, Jesus preaches the “Lord’s Prayer” as part of a sermon atop a mountain which extends over three chapters. Our series title, TEACH US TO PRAY, comes from the second text in Luke 11.1-13, where Jesus teaches the “Lord’s Prayer” in response to a disciple’s request to be taught how to pray. I always appreciate when Scripture reveals the disciples to be “normal” –that even the guys who were literally walking with Jesus didn’t have everything figured out.
Prayer is not just talking
Why have an entire series on one prayer? If you’re anything like this disciple, prayer is a struggle. I am convinced that most of us don’t know HOW or WHAT to pray. Many of us “talk with God”, but I wonder if we really understand what we are doing? How much thought goes into our approach to God before we pray? How much of what we say before the throne of God is in fact genuine prayer? Ecclesiastes 5.1-Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. 2 Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. 3 For a dream comes with much business, and a fool’s voice with many words. There are few things that Jesus felt it necessary to teach his disciples with such a specific order and format…twice. Memorizing and reciting prayers daily has been part of the Jewish tradition for centuries. Some of us may have grown up reciting the Lord’s Prayer as many Christians traditions include it as part of their service. And while I do not want us to become legalistic about prayer, I do want to avoid the two ditches—SILENCE and BABBLING. In other words, perhaps form and content matter and that is why Jesus taught us to pray. What if, whenever we come into the presence of God, Jesus wanted us to ALWAYS remember certain things. What if, he wanted to make sure we don’t just start “talking” to God without thinking about what I am doing and who I am talking to.
Prayer is hard
If you’re a parent, to alleviate the fears of your child, you’ve probably told them that praying is just talking with God. This is good and true. But at some point, we must come to understand that TALKING is not necessarily PRAYING—one is easy and the other is hard. According to his sermon on the mount, Jesus appeared to know that we wouldn’t struggle with talking to God, but we would struggle with praying to Him. Matthew 6.5-8 5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. The disciples lived in a culture saturated with religious and irreligious “prayer”. There were the religious folks known for their very public and very lofty sounding prayers designed to impress others. There were also the irreligious, but spiritual, people known for their repetitive and wordy chants. According to Luke 11, before Jesus came on the scene, John the Baptist even taught his disciples how to pray, probably so they wouldn’t make the same mistakes. Prayer is hard because no one has ever taught us to pray.
What also makes prayer so hard is that there is nothing else like it. Martin Lloyd-Jones wrote that, “Prayer is beyond any question the highest activity of the human soul. Man is at his greatest and highest when, upon his knees, he comes fact to face with God.” More than anything else, prayer changes things—I am not talking about God’s mind or our circumstances, but us. That is why I believe prayer is more difficult than anything else in our Christian faith. There are many things which we would consider “spiritual disciplines”: reading, fasting, serving, evangelizing, etc. Prayer is harder than all of them, even preaching a sermon is easier than prayer. I am a talker. I can talk with anyone about anything; even when I get in a difficult situation I can talk my way out of it. Communicating with God is not the same as communicating with a human. And God is a person but he is not human. With a deluge of words, I can make people think whatever I want them to. But when a man or woman is alone with God, he cannot hide who he truly is. Prayer is hard because God knows the real condition of his faith.
Struggling with prayer, a disciple who didn’t hear the sermon asked Jesus to teach them HOW and WHAT to pray. So, if you struggle with how or what to pray, your FIRST step is to do like his disciples did—simply ask Jesus for help. Their request was probably inspired by watching Jesus pray all the time. They didn’t always hear him praying, but they saw him praying. What did that look like? According to the gospel record, he would withdraw to desolate places and pray (Luke 5.16). He regularly withdrew from the crowds, into a wilderness, alone, for the purpose of communing with God. Sometimes he would go up on a mountain, sometimes a desert, sometimes behind some rock or tree. Sometimes he would be gone a few minutes, sometimes all day. Sometimes he left in the morning while it was dark, other times he would withdraw in the evening. When Jesus was away, I have to believe they wondered: “What is he talking to God about? Does he talk the whole time? I never know what to say!” “What does he do with all that time? I can barely last five minutes?” “How does he stay focused? I lose my train of thought rather quickly, my mind wanders? He must enjoy it.”
They watched Jesus and felt dissatisfied with their prayer life. The reason we struggle in our prayer life is that we have never been taught to pray. I believe Jesus instructs His disciples by teaching them how He prayed (see John 17). This prayer was not intended to be memorized and recited—though that is helpful. It is a prayer guideline to ensure our personal communication with God resulted in meaningful dialogue.
Matthew 6.9 9 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Have you ever thought about how you begin your prayer? How do you address God? For whatever reason, my children always begin most of their prayers with “Dear God”—to which I always ask them if they are writing a letter. Everyone one of his prayers, recorded in Scripture, Jesus addresses God as Father. (Matthew 11.25-26; Luke 10.21; John 11.41-42; John 12.27-28; John 17; Matthew 26.36-44; Mark 14.32-39; Luke 22.46). Father is an intimate term because prayer is a very intimate thing.
God is a PERSON. God is not a vending machine, an eight-ball, or some kind of impersonal power. He is not a human, but he is a perfect being with personality. God is personal in that he possesses emotion, intellect, and desire. He speaks, he acts, he responds, he engages with us. We can have relationship and, therefore, communicate and KNOW HIM intimately.
God is a Father. God is not only a person, Jesus calls him a Father. For some of us, the concept of fatherhood has been perverted by the sins of your earthly Father. Addressing God as Father changes the purpose for why you are praying. Though we go to our Father for money or keys to the car, most of TRULY want our father’s love, affection, approval, and protection. We want him, not his stuff. And that is exactly what God wants you to want. In Matthew 6.8 he warns his disciples not to be like the wordy gentiles because, “your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
God is our Father. God is the creator of everything, but He is not the Father of everyone. According to Ephesians two, all men and women are born children of wrath with the devil as their Daddy—by nature and by choice. God becomes our Father through adoption—through Jesus death and resurrection, God has rescued us from the devil’s orphanage and adopted into His family. Galatians 4.4-6 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Prayer begins with humility; recognizing that NOT EVERYONE gets to come into the Father’s presence. We have been made worthy by grace.
Our Father…In Heaven
But he is not just “Our Father”, He is “Our Father in Heaven.” We are people of extremes so we must avoid the ditch on either side of this road. One side takes IN HEAVEN and ignores OUR FATHER. We address God as an impersonal COSMIC POWER—he is little more than a heavenly vending machine and our prayers a bunch of loose change. The other side, and more common, side takes OUR FATHER, and ignores IN HEAVEN. We can become so enamored with our new identity as an adopted son, so captivated with God as Father, that we become TOO COMFORTABLE in his presence. We get lazy in how we speak with our father, who is NOT an earthly Father, but God in heaven. We become irreverent and begin to address him come like one of our buddies. We become irreverent and forget whose presence we are in.
This is not to say that we need to be fearful about saying the wrong things, but we must be thoughtful not so much about our words, but our disposition before the LORD. Prayer takes us into the presence of ALMIGHT GOD. Consider Isaiah 6.1-7 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”
4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”
6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”
Hallowed by Your Name: Adoration
Our attitude in prayer matters, HOW WE PRAY, matters perhaps even more than WHAT we pray. But Jesus deals with the first WHAT: Hallowed by your name. We must all consider whether our prayers are me-centered or God-centered. A simple examination of the Lord’s Prayer will find that it contains more about God than it does me. Most of the time, we rush into prayer focused on all of our problems, all of our needs, and all of our desires for ourselves and for others. This is not how Jesus says we should begin to speak before OUR FATHER in HEAVEN. And if our first concern is recognition, our second concern must be adoration—praising God for who He is.
The word “Hallowed” means to revere, to set apart, or to make holy; and And we are supposed to do this to God’s Name. “The name” means all that is true of God, and all that has been revealed concerning God. It means God in all his attributes, God in all that He is in and of Himself, God in all that He has done and all that He is doing. This is God’s Story. Creation is God’s stage. THIS is all about Him. In Explicit Gospel, pastor Matt Chandler writes: From beginning to end, the Scriptures reveal that the foremost desire of God’s heart is not our salvation but rather the glory of his own name.” (SEE HANDOUT).
Bottom line: It doesn’t matter how many concerns you have, how big our problem is, whether your situation is irritating or devastating, we must begin our prayer with honoring God. Jesus gave an order of things for a purpose—for God’s glory and our joy. We must never fail to observe the order, not only to honor God, but to center our attitudes in the right place. We must remember who God is. This is why Scripture should inform our prayer because this is where God has revealed himself.
Consider how our prayers change when we begin with intentional decision. I mean coming before OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN, and confessing his greatness, his sufficiency, all of his attributes: DECLARING TO GOD WHO HE IS AND WHAT HE HAS DONE:
Father you are worthy. Father you never change, you are merciful, you are gracious, you love. Father you are the creator of all things, beautiful, and artistic. Father you are the giver and taker of life. Father you are strong, and mighty, always in control, always working to bring about your perfect plan. Father you are present everywhere and you see all things. Father you know all things, past, present, future and possible. Father you are never surprised and you are always in control. Father you are peace and in your do I hope. Father you know my weaknesses, my failures, my sin, and my sufferings. Father you are kind, caring, and gentle, always giving me exactly what I need. Father you are good, doing all things for my joy. Father you are wise, doing the right thing, at the right time, in the right way. Father you are faithful and forgiving. Father you are slow to anger, just, and righteous. Father you are my redeemer, you saved me by sending your Son to die for me, and you are preparing a home for me in heaven.
Conclusion: Right and Wrong
When all is said and done, our prayers must begin with recognized WHO GOD IS, HOW and WHY I CAN EVEN BE WITH HIM, and WHAT THIS IS ALL ABOUT. Jesus teaches us be careful how we approach our God in prayer, so that we do more than talk…we pray. Ecclesiastes 5.1-Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. 2 Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. 3 For a dream comes with much business, and a fool’s voice with many words.
Corporate Recitation: Matthew 6.9-13
Benediction: 1Chronicles 29.10-18 (A Prayer of David)
10 Therefore David blessed the Lord in the presence of all the assembly. And David said: “Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever. 11 Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. 12 Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. 13 And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name.
HALLOWED BY YOUR NAME
For the sake of his name, God did not destroy the desert (Ezek. 20.5-9).
God saves men for his name’s sake (Ps. 106.8).
Pharoah’s heart was hardened for the glory of God (Ex. 14.4, 18).
The beginning of the Israelite monarchy was about the glory of God (1Sam 12.19-23).
Solomon dedicated the temple for the glory of God (1Kings 8).
Israel became great and powerful among the nations because God was “making himself a name” (2Samuel 7.23)..
God did not destroy Israel when it deserved to be destroyed, because he did not his name blasphemed among the nations (Isaiah 48.9-11)
God’s vision is for the earth to be filled with the knowledge of his glory (Hab. 2.14).
God decided to destroy the Israelites because they would not lay it in their heart to give glory to his name (Mal. 2.2).
Jesus life and ministry was about the glory of God (John 7.18; 17.4).
The cross of Jesus is about the glory of God (John 12.27-28).
You and I are saved to the praise of his glorious grace (Eph. 1.3-6).
The Christian life is about the reflection of the glory of God off of our lives and into the universe (Matt 5.26; 1Cor 10.31; 1Peter 4.11)
The second coming is about the consummation of the glory of God (2Thess. 1.9-10).
The consummation of all things is that God might be praised (Rev. 21.23).
Adapted from Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler.