Sunday, November 20, 2016

Teach us to Pray

The following is from a sermon given on November 20, 2016

God has given us an incredible tool and privilege: prayer. Prayer is most basically communicating with God. That’s right, the God of the universe (not the president), who has unlimited power has given us mere humans the privilege of calling on him and telling him what’s on our minds: expressing thanks, making requests, confessing sin, interceding for others, sharing our fears & frustrations and even just engaging in common small talk. It is an amazing gift! Right off the bat, I’m going to confess that I don’t understand all the hows and whys of prayer. Like, how does a sovereign God who has a plan take our prayers into consideration? Do our prayers really change things? (Truth is, I’m comfortable with the fact that God has already taken our prayer—or lack of it—into consideration before we ever pray). But these questions really aren’t important, all we really need to know is that God has asked us to pray, and told us that our prayers matter and really do change things. 

You know what’s really amazing? So few people take advantage of it. I’m one of them. I struggle to pray regularly, effectively, deliberately, passionately. I get busy and it’s one of those things like flossing and exercising that I know I should do, and do sometimes, and when I do I’m always glad I did—but I don’t do enough. Truth is praying is more important than anything else we can spend time doing. We believers have a relationship with God. We are his children. I don’t know about you but all my relationships require communication. Without it there IS no relationship. Think of your relationships: If you have issues with your spouse, your kids, your parents…I can tell you for sure that a fundamental truth is that communication can make so much difference! Think: when you were dating you would write notes, talk all night on phone, text little sweet nothings throughout the day, sit and talk for hours. Now perhaps it’s completely reduced to necessary information only. Perhaps even worse, it’s laced with a prickly or sarcastic edge. With our kids: there was a time when they were babies when only gentle, smiling, affirmative words were the norm as they were learning to talk. Now they’re teens and the little you do say can be negative barking. Is there any wonder why these relationships are strained?  Teenagers, you should especially take this to heart! You want to have your life go well with you? Speak often & respectful with your folks. If every sentence you speak to your parents could be ended with the words, “you idiot,” just know that you’re playing your cards poorly—and it’s only hurting you! 1. You’re less likely to get what you want, 2.God is not pleased. “Honor your father & mother…that it may be well with you.” Let’s all try something: more positive communication. I will promise you it will make a difference! 

Now hear: God wants you to communicate with him. That’s prayer. It’s powerful. It’s under-utilized. And it’s the thing the devil wants to keep you from doing. He knows that when we pray God’s power is unleashed. So he’ll do anything to stop us. It’s that important. Important enough that Jesus wanted us to see it as a habit in his life.  

Luke 11;
1Now 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.” 
Jesus’ disciples saw this in his life. After making it clear that he and his word were the main things, his disciples wanted to know how to pray. This should be OUR desire! We have a relationship with him. He has spoken to us in his Word. I challenged you to do this. Sit at his feet & hear (absorb) his word. If you did, you received blessed, one-way communication. It makes perfect sense that Jesus would next teach them how to communicate with God. How are we to pray? That’s the question the disciples asked, & Jesus was eager to answer. Think about it: Jesus didn’t teach them how to sing, preach, take up offering, or even share their faith (all important things). He taught them to pray.

2And he said to them, “When you pray, say... 
Now, this isn’t a prayer to be said as a vain repetition, as if it’s a formula. No, it’s a model prayer. We are to pray like this.

hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come. 

3Give us each day our daily bread,
4and forgive us our sins,
    for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.” 

Please note that Luke’s version of this prayer is a little bit shorter than Matthew's, which is the basis of the familiar “Lord’s Prayer" our version of which was canonized in Anglican Book of Common PrayerAll the versions are essentially the same. Here Jesus is giving us a guide to remember the essential aspects of an effective prayer. 
For the past 20 years, I’ve been using this method. Why? It’s the one Jesus gave us!

1. Acknowledge your privileged position. 
This was radical! You’re his child! He loves you & wants to hear from you. You’re never interrupting! You have his ear. 

hallowed be your name. 
2. Affirm his “Awesomeness.” 
Tell him of your love and awe for him. This is a great time to both praise him for who he is and thank him for what he has done.

your kingdom come (your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven).
3. Align your priorities with his: his Kingdom is first. 
The heart of Christ’s outline is that we pray that God’s rule and reign be realized and that his will and way be accomplished. Don’t miss this. This takes some thought and meditation. Think about what’s important to HIM—not you. This is where we ask him to make himself known and loved in this world. This is where we pray for God to revive his church and awaken people to be born again. This is where we pray that God will pour out his Spirit and transform our culture! Imagine in your mind what God’s “will be[ing] done on earth as it is in heaven” might look like! Long for this in your heart! Ask him to do it!

This central point is the climax. Everything else we pray should be “according to his will” with the advancement of his Kingdom in mind. Jesus said (John 5:14-15), “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him”. That’s the kind of prayer God WILL answer!

Give us each day our daily bread. 
4. Ask him to provide for needs. 
This is where you pray for God to provide for our physical needs: food, shelter, clothing, health, etc. Christ came to this physical earth and knows that we have these needs. He cares for us and will provide! Also pray for others you know who have needs.

5. Address sin. 
Now, Jesus didn't sin. But he told us to spend a good portion of our prayer (over half!) dealing with our daily struggle with sin. Notice, however, it’s the last part of Jesus’ model prayer. My tendency is to start with this.  But we’ve already been forgiven! Now we’re dealing with sin’s effect on our relationships. 

Forgive us our sins, 
Confess your sins to God. (trespasses= Ignoring the law and going somewhere you don’t belong.)

for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to (sins against) us. 
Forgive others’ sins.

And lead us not into temptation. 
Ask God to guide you away from sin. He will!

That’s how to pray. 
OH, but there’s more! Because praying is more than just checking all the boxes. Praying effectively means having the right passion and heart.
5And 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, 6for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7and 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’? 8I 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. 9And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13If 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!”

So how should we pray? With determination. Undaunted. Relentless. Persistently.
Not worrying about inconveniencing God, but urgently coming to the One who never sleeps, who cares about us and our concerns, who LOVES us more than we love our own kids. Who’s default answer is YES! We should pray expecting that God wants to give us more than we ask! Even up to the Holy Spirit himself! And he wants us to ask!

NOW: Let’s Pray! 

No comments: