Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Lord's Prayer

Today we are continuing in the teachings of Jesus on prayer in the Sermon on the Mount.  Today we will be addressing what is commonly known as the Lord's Prayer.
In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as [it is] in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. Matthew 6:9-13 NKJV
Unfortunately, many forget what Jesus said just before He gave this model prayer and use this prayer word for word.  Jesus is not giving a prayer to God that we should recite, He is giving us a model prayer to teach us the proper way to pray.  Jesus just finished teaching us about not praying to impress God or man and now Jesus is showing us the correct way to pray.  This is not meant to be a checklist to check our prayers against, but just a guide to help us know if we are praying correctly or incorrectly.  I think we will find that the more healthy our prayer and spiritual lives are, the closer our prayers will follow the model presented here by Jesus.  So with that in mind, let us look at what Jesus says are important things to include in our prayers.

First Jesus tells us "In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name."  Jesus is telling us that when we pray, we have to recognize just to Whom we are praying.  He is not some man down the street, but He is our Father in Heaven.  He needs that proper place of respect in our prayers.  There has to be a reverence for His name.  There has be a respect and reverence for Him.  This is an essential part of prayer because it sets the tone for the rest of the prayer.  Think even about a child with an earthly father.  You would not consider that child to be very well behaved if there was no respect for their father.  I know for myself there are things I would never say to my parents that I would say to someone else and that is because there is a respect and recognition for just who they are.  It is the same way to God as our heavenly Father.  Once we are before Him and take the time to settle our hearts and recognize just Who it is we are about to address, our prayers will be reflect that.  It also helps us in our prayer because when we take the time to recognize we are speaking with the true and living almighty God and that we share a special relationship with Him as a child to a Father, we will not waste our time in prayer with empty frivolity but truly cherish each moment that we stand in His presence.

Next Jesus tells us "Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as [it is] in heaven."  This makes perfect sense because if you stand before God in recognition for all He is, you will recognize yourself for all you are not.  It is humbling to stand in the presence of the Living God.  We often come to God with some kind of agenda.  We have plans that we want God to bless and requests we want Him to grant.  That all fades away when we stand before Him in recognition for who He is. We must allow this humbling to take place.  I say that because if you are not humbled in the presence of God, you need to go back to step one because you certainly do not recognize Him for who He is.  That agenda we once had goes by the wayside as we seek after His agenda.  Think about it, why would we want God to bless our plans when He will give His plans?  Can we plan better than Him?  Why would we come to him with a list of our will in a variety of situations in our lives when we can ask Him for His will?  Do we know better than God to know how best to answer our requests or even what to request to begin with?  It is always better to just submit ourselves unto Him.  Instead of coming to God with our will, we need to just ask Him for His will.  And so that is the second part of prayer, the denial of self and our own will for Him and His will. 

Jesus then tells us "Give us this day our daily bread."  Now that we are standing of recognition of who He is and as a result who we are and that we have submitted ourselves to His will, we are now ready to make our petitions known to God.  We first petition God for our daily bread, that is the sustenance that we need to get by.  Jesus did not tell us to ask God for our cups to runneth over, a new BMW, a private jet, a storehouse of gold, and anything else like that.  We are told to ask for what we need to get by and not what we need to satisfy our flesh. This again is along the lines of the denial of self.  I know the Prosperity Movement teaches something entirely different, but my question to them is that if you have truly crucified your flesh, why do you keep asking God to satisfy it by lavishing upon you things that only serve the flesh?  On earth, all we need is our provision.  It is in heaven where we receive our riches.  God promises to provide our needs and so requesting that which we need is asking God for those things He wants to give us. 

Jesus continues "And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors."  Another important part of our prayer is confession.  The Bible tells us that if we confess our sins, God will forgive our sins.  The Bible also teaches that if we do not forgive others their sin, God will not forgive ours. This is a reflection of those teachings.  When we come to God in prayer, we must confess our sins to Him to be able to have fellowship with Him.  God knows all of our sin and when we fail to come to Him and confess those sins, we are being dishonest.  More than that, we are trying to hide from God that which He already knows.  That lack of openness and honesty puts a barricade between us that keeps us from having that really close time with God.  That confession of sin is entirely for our benefit.  It is a cleansing time to be able to take those sins burdening our souls and give them to God.  Holding them within ourselves only serves for them to continue to eat away at us.  The same is true for those who have wronged us.  We need to give those to God as well.  When we hold that anger and bitterness inside us for what someone else has done, it only serves to, again, eat us up inside.  When we give even the sins against us up to God, it is a lifting of that burden off of our own hearts. 

Jesus continues on the issue of sin "And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one."  Once we have given up that burden of sin in our hearts, we certainly do not want it to come back and so we ask for God's help in avoiding those situations.  Please note that God will never lead us to sin, but He will allow temptation as a means to test and strengthen us.  What we are really asking for here is just for God to lead us.  We must submit ourselves to His plan for our lives and we will find ourselves in less and less situations where we are tempted.  There is an interesting fact about following someone.  If you keep your eyes on them, you have less of a chance at getting lost.  The same is true to God, if we truly follow after Him, we will keep our eyes on Him and those temptations that come our way will hardly be noticed.  It is when we allow ourselves to get distracted that we lose where we need to be following and soon enough we find ourselves somewhere where we are not supposed to be.  This request in our prayers is a reaffirmation to seek after Him.  God will always lead us, it is up to us to follow that lead. 

Finally, Jesus concludes with "For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen."  And why shouldn't we close our time of prayer in worship?  When we come to God in prayer and acknowledge Him for who He is, submit ourselves to Him, recognize that He is our provider, meditate on the glorious gift of the forgiveness of our sins, and affirm our commitment to follow Him, how can we not worship Him.  When we see His love for us, how can we not express that love back to Him?  When we see his provision for us, how can we not give thanks?  When we see that He has a plan for us, how can we not rejoice in Him?  When the Almighty True and Living Creator God of all takes the time to hear from us, speak to us, plan for us, provide for us, and forgive us, how can we not just burst out in praise?  Worship is the natural response to prayer. 

And that is the model prayer as presented by our Lord.  One thing I hope we all see from these few lessons is that prayer is an act of honest submission to God.  It is a stripping down of all show and pretense and submitting ourselves unto God.  I think the biggest failure in the church today is forgetting the first step.  We never take the time to consider who God is and so our prayers become either trite and flippant or arrogant and demanding.  Understand just Who you are talking to and you will have a better understand how to talk to Him.  And how we talk to Him is from a place of submission.  We often today come to God with claims and demands instead of just submitting to His will.  Would you talk to your earthly father that way?  We teach our children to ask respectfully for things, to say please and thank you, and to be respectful of their parents.  Yet we come to God with the complete opposite attitude.  What if your child came to you and said "Dad, give me something to eat."  Would you not correct the child and remind him how to ask respectfully?  Would we not much rather our child say something like "Dad, can you please give me something to eat?"  Do you expect your children to claim things from you or would you prefer them to ask respectfully for them?  Understand that the same way you desire your children to show respect for you as a parent, our Father God desires us to show that same respect to Him.  And when we pray, recognize Him for who He is, see yourself in light of who He is, submit yourself to His will, make Him your Provider and trust only in Him, confess your sins to Him and you will experience the forgiveness He has already provided, affirm your desire to follow after Him, and worship Him for hearing and answering your prayers.  Nothing is more important than prayer in our lives.  It is how we speak to and hear from our God.  Prayer is never an act of last resort, but what we should do before anything else.  We must treat prayer as the precious and important gift that it is.  
 Pray without ceasing 1 Thessalonians 5:17 NKJV

No comments:

Post a Comment