Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Lord's Prayer

I would guess that most of us, whether we are Christians or not, have prayed before.

Do you pray?

If so, I want you think about this: When you pray, why do you do it?

And if you pray: What do you pray about when you pray?

Many in Japan, and all over the world pray for health and success, and for protection
and blessing at the beginning of the new year.

Most of them have no certainty that anyone is listening to them.

But how about you? Do you have any certainty that your prayers are really being heard
and going to be answered?

I think everyone would like their prayers to count for more than just hopeful wishes.

And the God who created this world and loves each of us here today, wants us to pray prayers
that will be heard and answered, because not every prayer prayed is answered!

And so Jesus teaches his disciples here how to pray so that God will listen and answer.

I can’t imagine a more relevant or easy to apply message than the one Jesus has sovereignly
scheduled to give to us here today through His Word in Luke 11.

The whole teaching is a template or outline from which we can start to build and launch our
own effective prayers.

Now the disciples had seen Jesus pray daily, in public, in private, and for long stretches of time
on His own, even at times spending all night in prayer.

Even though Jesus is the Author of life and God in human flesh, we see that He regularly prayed
to His heavenly Father.

By his continual praying, Jesus clearly demonstrated to His disciples and to us what an extremely
important thing prayer is for every person alive today.

I think the disciples began to realize this importance too, and that they were missing out on the
deep joy that Jesus was experiencing because of His close connection to God through prayer.

So one day when “Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished,
one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his
disciples.” (Lk. 11:1)

Perhaps they included John’s name as way to convince Jesus that it was something that He
should teach to them also.

Now the disciples had not seen good examples of prayer from other religious leaders.

In Matthew 6:5 Jesus describes the prayer life of the religious leaders of the day.

Jesus said, “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.” (Mt. 6:5)

Jesus went on to say that these leaders loved to make their prayers long to impress others.

They wanted respect and honor from people but not the closeness to God that private prayer

In their self-centered hearts they loved the praise of men more than the glory of God.

How about you and I? Do we seek God in our prayers, or do we really seek something else?

Now Jesus had already taught the framework for effective prayer during his early ministry in
Galilee when He gave His famous “Sermon on the Mount.”

So in response Jesus reminds them of the structure or skeleton of a good prayer so that His
disciples could continue to use it and build from it in their own prayer life.

He probably did not add all the details as He did in Matthew because they already knew it.

But why had they forgotten about it? I think because they had slipped away from using it.

This prayer is such a God-centered model of prayer, but we are not naturally God-centered.

Just like the disciples, we all have a tendency to fall back into man-centered prayers that sound
more like shopping lists than communication with the all-powerful, sovereign God.

Whether you know this prayer or not, we all need this refresher, since our prayers can so
quickly become self-centered and lack any faith or love for God.

Our prayers tend to drift toward selfishness, and that leaves us unfulfilled and empty,
especially as these prayers go unanswered.

So in verses 2 through 4 you have the Lord's own instruction about God-centered prayer.  

They are the only kind that get answers!

Then in verses 5 through 8 we see the Lord's eagerness to hear God-centered prayer.  

In verses 9 and 10 the Lord's certainty to answer such prayers.  

And in verses 11 through 13 the Lord's desire to give the best (Himself) to those who pray.  

So here is a wonderful outline on the matter of effective prayer to regularly come back to.

v.2: And he (Jesus) said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father,...”

Some view this prayer, which is often called “The Lord’s Prayer” as a prayer to recite every
Sunday or even more often.

When I was growing up, I went to a traditional Lutheran church that repeated the Lord’s Prayer,
word for word, every Sunday.

Though I learned it well, it soon became a religious ritual devoid of much thought or heartfelt
connection with God.

While it is not a bad prayer to recite at times, Jesus certainly meant that we are to treat this
prayer as an outline and as a springboard from which to leap into our own personal prayers.

The first reason I believe that to be is that Jesus says we are to address our prayers to “Father”
or “Our Father.”

Unlike other religions that pour out repetitive, formulaic prayers and chants in order to appease
or to convince deities to listen,

We, who trust in Christ, have become God’s dear children by faith, and therefore we
already have God’s ear because He is our loving heavenly Father!

He is not some distant, cold, unresponsive father, as some of us may have had, He is
deeply interested in every honest thought, feeling and word that His precious children utter,

And Jesus wants us to remember that this is the kind of God we come to when we pray!
We can be completely honest with Him and open our hearts to Him.

And God desires to be the Father of all who would come to Him humbly and receive Him as their
Lord and Savior with the simple faith of a child.

A few weeks ago we had some friends over to our house who have some young kids our own
children’s ages.

The kids got together and decided that they wanted to make the meal for the parents.

Being young, they needed a lot of help just to know how to find things, turn things on, and
they needed many reminders along the way to clean up the messes they made.

Now, to be honest, there was nothing in us parents that thought, “Wow, we really need our
kids to cook for us here. We just cannot manage unless we have their help tonight!”

And how much less does the sovereign Creator God who created all we see and rules over
it all need us to give Him any advice, suggestions, or help?!

Many Japanese participate in religious rituals and offerings with the fear that if they do not do
it something bad may happen to them.

However, if God is our Father, by faith in Jesus Christ, we have become dearly loved children
of God for free!

We are already greatly loved, not for what we do or can do, but for whose we are. We are His
own dear children by faith in Jesus Christ.

I love my kids, not for what they do for me, but because they are mine, they are my own.

God does not need our religious rituals and prayers, especially if we do these things in an
attempt to earn our status or His love.

However God does want to communicate His love to us, and He wants us to enjoy time
communicating with Him through prayer and Bible reading too.

As a Dad might enjoy having his 5 year-old son help him cook dinner, God does not need
our help, but joyful welcomes our presence and participation in His plans through prayer.

That is what prayer is all about, coming back to our Creator God, communicating the truth
of who He is, the truth of our daily need for Him, and being near Him as our Daddy.

And then it is asking for help so that we can join Him in His great mission on this earth.

Now, in Jesus’ prayer there is no mention of a time to pray, as if it is just some religious act
to perform.

No, communication with God is something that is to be a living and continual practice, just
as a young child continually talks to his or her own father, assured of His great love.

And there is no specific place to pray either.

Jesus prayed in many places, both public and private, though He told His disciples to never
make a show of prayer to impress others.
In 1 Tim 2:8, Paul urges Christians to pray in every place. (show)

But really, Jesus is not teaching anything new here, besides this new close intimacy with the
Father, which becomes clear through Christ.

All throughout the Old Testament we see wonderful models of prayer, it is just that the people
of this day, including the disciples, had gone away from the Biblical model.

And we are also prone to wander, if we are not in close communication with God through the Bible.

We can also lose this kind of God-centered prayer, and slip into worldly, man-centered prayer.

So we see in the next petition just how God-centered Jesus’ model prayer for us is.

And he said to them, “When you pray, say, “Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.” (Luke 11:2)

When we come to God, we do not just come to Him as our Father, we also come to Him
as God over all, who is far and away above us in every way.

And it’s good when this comes out of our mouths right away in prayer because we might
tend to think that the Father is centered on us, couldn’t we?

It’s a really important balance Jesus charts for us here.

This world is not chiefly about us, it is about God and His glory. And that is a very good thing
for His children to remember through prayer.

So how can we hope to connect with God, if we use His name irreverently, flippantly, or even
as an expression of cursing?

The high place the name of God deserves comes at the beginning of the ten laws of Israel.
‘You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.’ (Exodus 20:7)

For God will not hold one guiltless who transgresses that order of respect and of reverence
to His Name.

It is impious, irreverent, and blasphemous to lightly regard God’s holiness and majesty.

And so now we see why people have often used God’s name and Christ’s name as curse words,
even in Japan.

It is exactly what Satan would have us do in order to pull us away from God.

Satan actively works to get us away from God and the freedom only God can bring as we are vitally connected with Him through prayer.

So we pray first for our heavenly Father’s Name to be hallowed, or esteemed, honored, and set
apart in our hearts and in this world, above all things -

-including over our own ever-changing desires and emotions.

It is precisely because God is such a great and good God, who rules over all as our loving Father,
that we, who are His children, can have unshakable joy in Him too.

So this is a statement that recognizes the enormous respect that is required when we enter the
presence of the One who created and rules over all.

Our prayer then is that He be revered, treasured, and set apart as completely different and holy,
in our lives and in this world, because only He is God, we are not, nor will we ever be.

God says that His people are formed for Himself that they might declare His praise. (Isaiah 43:21)

And if you remember, God works for our greatest joy through that praise.

God is the greatest thing we could ever enjoy, He is the only One who can fully satisfy our hearts
now and forever.

In the longer version of this prayer in Matthew we see this addition:
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)

Of course we are praying for God’s good kingdom, which is why heaven is so good, to come
to Earth too.

We know that lasting peace and joy cannot happen through politics and human effort alone.

Only our Father can work, and He works chiefly in our hearts to bring about His good kingdom.

And so we pray that the Holy Spirit would come and set up His kingdom of peace and salvation
in our hearts and in the hearts and minds of all people.

The fruit of God’s Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness
and self-control,

and as we connect with Him in prayer He leads us to these in abundance.

As our good Father, we pray that He would reign in our hearts and in our minds, and not the
corrupting lusts of this world that only tear us away from the Giver of all good things.

We pray for God’s glory, and His good Word, and the truth of His mercy and salvation to fill
the world in and through our lives.

We don’t have time right now, but I encourage you to read another great example of this kind
of prayer this week in Daniel 9 and Nehemiah 1.

Now, very simply, the rest of the petitions here are requests to help us stay focused on this
one great mission of God to spread His kingdom through our lives.

First we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” (Luke 11:3)

Basically, “Provide for us all we need to be able to keep doing your will.”

Though we work hard for our food and provisions, we trust that it all belongs to God, including
our ability to work, and we humbly admit that we would have nothing unless He provided it.

We pray for and expect that God will provide for every single need in the path of living for Him
and for His glory.

As His children, we have certainty that He will give us everything we need and even more as
we simply live in His plan, by His power and grace.

Next, we pray, “and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is
indebted to us.” (Luke 11:4)

Reminding ourselves that we have God’s total forgiveness by faith in Christ, we can know
that our sins will be completely forgiven as we simply ask.

And then we ask for help to be merciful and forgiving to others just as God is to us.

We need to pray this way, because it is so easy to hold a grudge or bitterness towards others
when in fact we are much more indebted to God than anyone else could ever be to us!

If God has forgiven such egregious dishonor that we have brought to His Name, we can be
tender-hearted and forgiving towards others who have hurt us also,

but we will need God’s strength and perspective given through prayer.

We will need to pray for the strength and humility to live this way so that we can spread God’s
amazing love and forgiveness to others and help them to see His power through our lives.

And last we need to pray that God would “lead us not into temptation.” (Luke 11:4b)

To be clear, God never leads us into temptation, but like He did for Christ, God does lead us
into testing by allowing both pleasure and pain.

With pain, He tests us that we might learn to lean on Him and trust Him in all things,

and in pleasures He tests us to see if we will thank Him, and realize that in Him and
in Him alone is full and lasting pleasures forever, as Psalm 16:11 says.

We who are so prone to wander, need to pray that we would be kept from temptations in both
kinds of tests and for deliverance from falling into evil when those tests come.

We are not to get as close as we can to temptation, rather in the strength that God gives us we
are to draw close to Him in prayer, and we are to run from temptation, as Joseph did in Egypt.

We are to run from evil and run towards the deepest joys that can be found only in God.

As Psalm 5:11 says, But let all who take refuge in You be glad, Let them ever sing for joy;

As we do this, we will shine God’s loveliness brightly and clearly to others so they can
also find the only One who can satisfy forever.

Finally, Jesus gives us a story to help us remember what kind of God we come to when we
come to Him in prayer, asking for His kingdom in our lives, and asking for the things we need.

To save time, let’s read this story aloud together in whatever language you prefer. The Japanese
is here on the overhead, and the English is on your outline.

And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say
to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, 6 for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and
I have nothing to set before him’; 7 and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me;
the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you
anything’? 8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his
friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. 9 And
I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be
opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and
to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for
a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him
a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”  
(Luke 11:5–13)

Could you imagine a friend coming to your house at midnight wanting to borrow bread?

It seems like a very petty thing to ask for at such an hour!

And so first, I think God wants us to see that there are no prayers that are too small for us to ask.
He wants us to bring our honest requests to Him whenever we have them.

Next, if you look at verse 13 you see very clearly that in God’s eyes our hearts are sinful at root,
and without His transforming grace, basically evil, as Jesus says.

For a good man, for a friend, you might possibly get up and give bread at midnight.

But if it is an evil man knocking, we would tend to just lock the door and call the police!

But as Jesus says, the only reason we would ever give a person like this anything is because
of that shameless and continual beating on the door!

Are we continually beating on God’s door? He will listen as we keep coming to Him by faith.

However, God doesn’t just wait for us. No, while we were still sinners, not seeking Him at all,
He did more than just throw some old bread at us,

Yes, he personally came to us, gave up His life on the cross to save us and by His grace
alone He brings us into a relationship with Himself.

As Romans 8:32 says, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all,
how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”

As those who have become God’s own precious children, to those whom He has given the
most precious gift of His Son’s life in order to obtain,

How will He not also, along with Him, freely give us every single thing we need as we live
for His glory and continually ask Him for good things?

If your own dear son asked for fish for dinner, would you give him a poisonous snake instead?

Then how in the world could we think that God will give us anything less than the absolute best
to those who know Him as their heavenly Father.

But let us be careful not get too upset when we unintentionally ask for snakes in disguise and
God doesn’t want to give them to us.

I remember when my son Noah was 3 and he really wanted a cracker.

I found one for him, but just as I was about to give it to him I saw it was covered with mold
on one side!

I took and threw it away and he looked at me as if I hated him!

Like three-year olds, we unknowingly can bring our own misguided agendas to God and get
angry when He doesn’t seem to answer every request we have.

Do we really trust that He knows better than we do?

That in fact He does know and that He truly does give His children only what is best?

And what does Jesus say here is the best thing to continually pray for?

The Holy Spirit.

If we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we will delight to lift up and live for His Name alone.

We will find the greatest joy in being close to the Father and in becoming more like Him.

And the Father will give us every little thing we need in the path for living for His kingdom
first and humbly seeking Him for who He is: God over all things.

Let us, therefore, apply this message now by praying together.