16 September 2012
Main Text: Matt 6:5-13
Point of Emphasis: How to Pray
Most people see prayer as a discipline or duty, something you ought to do, and are commanded to do; rather than a passionate desire of strong relationship. I want us to think differently about how and why we pray, so as to see prayer as a Remarkable
Here are a few quick examples of those who had great prayer lives.
"George Müller began each day with several hours of prayer, imploring God to meet the practical needs of his orphanage. Bishop Lancelot Andrews allotted five hours per day to prayer and Charles Simeon rose at 4:00 a.m. to begin his four-hour regimen. Nuns in an order known as 'The Sleepless Ones' still pray in shifts through every hour of the day and night. Susannah Wesley, a busy mother with no privacy, would sit in a rocking chair with an apron over her head praying for John and Charles and the rest of her family. Martin Luther, who devoted two to three hours daily to prayer, said we should do it as naturally as a shoe maker makes a shoe and a tailor makes a coat. Jonathan Edwards wrote of the 'sweet hours' on the banks of the Hudson River, 'rapt and swallowed up in God.'" (Philip Yancey, Prayer, 14)
5 "And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. 7 And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.
8 "Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. 9 In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.
10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.
13 And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Your's is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
This passage contains the most famous prayer of Christianity. It is commonly called "The Lord's Prayer" or "Model prayer". The idea of a model is a good representation of what this prayer demonstrates. For the present this means that prayers are not magical formulas. Though there is nothing wrong with praying Scripture, just praying these words does not conjure up God's favor or grace. The purpose of prayers is something far more personal; it is a remarkable conversation between man and God.
This prayer is found in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount, one of Jesus' most famous orations. The sermon addresses much that one should do in the Christian life, of which prayer plays a central role. In verse one of chapter 6 we see the larger category of the Christian life that Jesus is presenting. He says to not practice our righteousness before others and addresses this topic specifically in relation to giving, prayer, and fasting. These are the outward actions of a Christian, but are to be accomplished with the motive of seeking after God and not merely seeking glory for ourselves.
In verse five Jesus addresses prayer. He compares a person who truly prays with those of the hypocrites and Gentiles. The hypocrites like to shout their prayers from the streets and rooftops. The reason these people are called hypocrites is that the word for hypocrite in Greek is an actor. People who practice such prayers are merely putting on a show to be well regarded themselves and are not truly seeking after the purpose of prayer: to connect with the Almighty. This text shows that they have their reward. All these persons are doing is seeking the praise of men, but that is not the end goal of prayer, rather we should be seeking the pleasure of God.
Also, Christians are told not to be like the Gentiles when they pray. Now this means that we are to pray in Hebrew … no I'm kidding, rather the word is referring to those persons who pray to the pagan gods. Gentiles or heathens were known for praying many empty words to their false gods. Even the Lord's Prayer is often repeated by the unredeemed seeking favor from God. It is not the many words, but the repentant heart that makes an effective prayer.
So what then, how are we to pray? That is exactly what Jesus shows us in the Model prayer. For the sake of memory we would like to break down the model prayer into an easy to remember model: ACTS—Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication.
The basic definition of adoration is "to love or respect" something. In prayer we place this at the beginning to rightly acknowledge the recipient of our prayer. If we really take time to ponder the person of God we soon become awed by his power, might, and holiness.
The Lord reigns, He is clothed with majesty; The Lord is clothed, He has girded Himself with strength. Surely the world is established, so that it cannot be moved. 2 Your throne is established from of old; You are from everlasting.
3 The floods have lifted up, O Lord, The floods have lifted up their voice; The floods lift up their waves. 4 The Lord on high is mightier Than the noise of many waters, Than the mighty waves of the sea. 5 Your testimonies are very sure; Holiness adorns Your house, O Lord, forever.
6 Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. 7 For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture, And the sheep of His hand.
4 For the Lord is great and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods. 5 For all the gods of the peoples are idols, But the Lord made the heavens. 6 Honor and majesty are before Him; Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.
Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! 2 Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before His presence with singing. 3 Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. 4 Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. 5 For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations.
In the Lord's Prayer Jesus tells us to address God as "Our Father in heaven." As great as he is, God is still related to us, in Christ. He has chosen to come to us when we could not go to him. The second line says "hallowed be thy name." It is a fancy way of saying "God you are holy," and we say this in recognition of our sinfulness. Verse 10 continues this thought by discussing his kingdom and will, both will never end. This is a recognition of who God is, but it also is a recognition of who we are not, which leads us to our second point.
The contrast to the holiness of God is the sinfulness of man. Though God has a kingdom, we must recognize that we have none of our own. Though God's will always comes to completion we must realize the futility of our efforts apart from him. The stark differences between God and man should lead one straight into confession. Confession is the acknowledgment of man that he is a sinner, that he has done something wrong, and that he needs forgiveness.
In Matthew 6:8 Jesus tells us that God knows what we ask before we ask. He knows our sins before we confess them, but in order to be in a right standing with God we must confess our sins. Often this is a difficult thing for us to do because of our own pride, but if we have adequately acknowledged who God is in adoration we will want to do nothing else but beg for his forgiveness as we confess our sin before him. Though confession can be painful, we know it is good for the soul because, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 Jn 1:9).
In the Lord's Prayer we see that verse 12 is specifically looking at the confession of sins. We are asking God to forgive us our debts or our transgressions. It is only natural to see that if we are going to ask for forgiveness that we have a forgiving heart. Confession is something between us and God, but a Christian must also continually seek forgiveness for the wrongs they have done to others. It is even at these times that we realize that we cannot continue to seek God and not seek forgiveness from others. Confession must be sought on all levels or relationships.
Though not specifically addressed in the Lord's Prayer, giving thanks is one of the most common themes in the Bible.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
It is especially appropriate to give thanks before moving to the final element of prayer.
The first three elements of ACTS, deal with humans before God and highlight our position before the Almighty. These three cannot be accomplished without humility. A humble heart before God is important, especially as we are prone to spend the majority of our prayer time asking from God for things. True supplication is a humble request. You cannot ask God of something without humbly coming before him.
In the Lord's Prayer we are taught to ask for the essentials of life, "our daily bread". How do we sincerely ask for this when we have refrigerators and pantries full of food? Well we need to think of all those who struggle for their basic needs, like our Manna kids, and remember that any of us could be in dire need of basic food. This is a corporate inclusive prayer "give us" so in this way we do not pray selfishly.
Some say that if you ask God for something he will give it to you. They may even say "name it and claim it." This is problematic because it does not take into account our position before God or God's own character. There must be an understanding that perhaps God's will may be, for instance, that he does not want to make us millionaires and that even though we pray to be one it is left unanswered. This by no means is a lack of faith, as some would say, but must be recognized as a prayer that is incongruous with the will of God.
- When were you taught how to pray?
- What are the roadblocks to your prayer life?
- How can we be a hypocrite (as the text shows) in prayer?
- How can we be a Gentile in your prayers?
- What is your favorite prayer of adoration?
- What is your favorite prayer of confession?
- What is your favorite prayer of thanksgiving?
- What is your favorite prayer of supplication?