Life Upside Down 10
Proper Prayer 3
Wow, I don’t know about you, but this study on prayer from the words of Jesus Himself in His sermon to a crowd of people on a hillside overlooking the Sea of Galilee has been pretty powerful in our understanding of our communication with God. Over the past couple of weeks, we have talked about:
Activity of Prayer (v. 5a)
~ The Repeated Action
~ The Pleasing Aroma
Motivation of Prayer (vv. 5b-6)
~ Reward of Personal Recognition (v. 5b)
~ Reward of Communion with the Father (v. 6)
Content of Prayer (vv. 7-8)
~ Empty Phrases (v. 7)
~ Omniscience of God (v. 8)
Today we want to continue talking about prayer as we talk about the pattern Jesus laid out for us in verses 9-13 of Matthew chapter 6. Often this section is called the “Lord’s Prayer.” But, in reality, this is not actually a prayer He prayed Himself. Rather, this prayer is a prayer that is to be a pattern or model for His followers as they pray. But let’s begin by reading the whole passage of verses 5-13 and then we will concentrate our thoughts on verses 9-13.
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.
8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
9 Pray then like this: "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 also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen)
Pattern of Prayer (vv. 9-13)
So, Jesus begins this pattern prayer, or model prayer, with an imperative, “Pray.” Often, we interpret imperatives as commands or as some sort of stern instruction like “you need to do this.” But the imperative is also used in other ways in Scripture. Here I believe it is being used as an entreaty or strong request. It has the idea of Jesus pleading to His followers to pray differently than they have been in the past.
In the context of our passage, remember, Jesus has just told us that our prayers should not be seeking personal recognition or full of empty phrases. Then in a statement of entreaty or request Jesus says, “Rather pray like this.” It is like Jesus is saying to the crowd and to us, “Please . . . pray from your heart.” Don’t pray for self-recognition or a ritual of empty phrases, pray from your heart.
Now the interesting thing here is that we have taken this pattern of prayer that Jesus has given to us and turned it into a sacred prayer that some people say repeatedly as if it words have some kind magical power. In some cases, I believe, we have turned it into exactly what Jesus was trying to get us to avoid, empty, ritualistic prayers! Remember what we said over the last two weeks, the power of prayer comes from the heart, not repeated as empty phrases that are heaped up before God as if somehow the only way God will hear us is if we repeat them over and over to Him.
In other words, Jesus begins by pleading with us to pray like this and He follows that with a pattern. Though there is nothing wrong with the saying the words of this pattern prayer back to God as a prayer, but we must keep in mind that it must come from the heart. If we get nothing else from what Jesus has been teaching us I hope that we have seen with crystal clarity that Jesus wants us to pray from the heart. Jesus said, “Pray like this,” He didn’t say to “Pray these exact words.”
Now, like many students of the Bible, I see six petitions give in Jesus’ pattern. But you may find my perspective a little different from others you have heard who have developed these petitions from this pattern prayer. I hope that is not a bad thing. First, Jesus shows us a pattern for the tone of our prayer.
~ Tone of Prayer (v. 9b)
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Our prayer is a personal address to an individual with whom we have a relationship, “Our Father.” If you are a believer, these two words should clearly define your relationship with God. Think about this. Anybody in this world can refer to God as “God,” “Creator,” the “Almighty,” “Jehovah the ever existent One,” “King of Heaven,” or any number of other names. But only a person who has become a part of the family of God can genuinely call Him “Our Father.” How do we become a part of His family?
for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.
If you have come to faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you are a child of God. You are a part of the family of God and you can genuinely call Him your “Father.”
1 John 3:1-2
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.
If you are a believer, you are a child of God. In fact, Romans 8:15 tells us that the One we call Father, through this spiritual adoption, may be approached with even the intimacy of a child. The word Abba is a childlike expression of “Daddy.”
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!"
Clearly, the world as a whole may refer to God as “God.” But only those who have come to faith in Jesus can genuinely call Him “Father.” And just so you are clear about the One you are praying to, it is not your earthly father but our Father that is in Heaven. Addressing God as our “Father” should set a reverential and respectful tone for our prayer. We understand that when we talk to an earthly father that there should be an air of respect and honor. How much more should it be for the God of heaven, “Our Father?”
In other words, our prayers should not be flippant or without respect. We are to share our heart, but in the context that we are talking to God, our Father in Heaven. This doesn’t mean there are things you cannot talk to God about. He wants to hear what is on our heart, but there is a certain tone that should characterize our prayer. A tone of respect and reverence before a holy God, our Father.
This tone is further exemplified when Jesus tells us that our prayer should hallow God’s name. This simply means that we treat God’s name as holy, reverent, or sacred. The tone of our prayer should be treating God as One who is holy, honorable, and sacred. As you know, God’s name is certainly not treated as sacred in our world today, especially among unbelievers, and even some who claim to be God’s children. We hear it all the time. When something happens bad we say, “God damn it.” When something happens that surprises us we say, “O my god.” But these are the Christianized versions of cursing with God’s name. I refuse to repeat others that are even much worse than these. But the point is that even Christians do not treat God’s name as they should.
Maybe you use the anacronym OMG in your texts. I refuse to use that because I think it dishonors the name of my Father in Heaven. Why is this important? When we flippantly use the name of our God, we begin to treat God in the same way we use His name. There is a certain honor and respect that should characterize our prayer life and I believe that is exemplified in how we use His name.
Think about it this way. When you are talking to a person who refers to their earthly father as “their old man,” what do you think of their father? If nothing else, you understand they don’t think highly of him. In the same way, the world understands God by the way in which we talk about Him. Even though we understand God in a close familial relationship as our Father or Daddy, I would be careful about regarding God as pal or buddy. This in my mind reduces the Creator to something less than reverent or holy. He is so much better than having a pal or buddy.
We shouldn’t be flippant or careless about prayer to God. Hallowing His name doesn’t just apply to our prayers, but to all of life. Why? Because you will treat God the same way you talk about Him. Jesus makes it clear that there is a certain tone that should characterize our prayer life. It is one of reverence and respect toward God as our Father, holding His name in high regard. The next part of Jesus’ model prayer is praying with expectation.
~ Expectation of Prayer (v. 10a)
Your kingdom come
First, we need to establish what a kingdom is. If we are going to pray with expectation of a kingdom, what exactly are we expecting? As you might expect by the very nature of the word “kingdom,” this is a realm in which a king rules and reigns over a people. A kingdom has a king and a people who are obedient to that king.
The Old Testament prophesies about a son of David who will reign and whose kingdom never ends. This son of David will be the Messiah who will rule with a rod of iron and listen to how Isaiah 9:6-7 describes him.
And the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.
This is something every believer looks forward to in the future when Jesus Christ reigns as a King during the millennial kingdom and in the eternal state. So, are we to pray with expectation of the return of Christ and the establishment of His future kingdom? Do you think if we did pray with expectation that it might change how we pray and even how we live our lives on a daily basis? Absolutely! If we knew we only had 30 days before the return and reign of Jesus Christ I think we would not just pray differently, but it would change how we live our lives.
But I think that when Jesus said “your kingdom come,” He was indicating something deeper than praying for God’s future kingdom to come. There is an aspect of a present kingdom on earth right now, do you know what I mean. Paul preaches about the kingdom of God in Acts 19:8. Philip preached about the good news of the kingdom in Acts 8:12. Colossians 1:13-14 says that “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
Though the kingdom of God prophesied about in the Old Testament is not here yet, we see it being manifest in the personal experience of every believer. Remember how we described a kingdom? A kingdom is when a king is ruling in the lives of his people. Whenever Jesus is allowed to rule and reign in the heart of the believer, there is a manifestation of the kingdom taking place.
The Pharisees had this same question about the kingdom for Jesus. Listen to his answer in Luke 17:20-21.
Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, "The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or 'There!' for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you."
The kingdom was present in the life of Jesus and it is present in the lives of every person who comes to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. To pray, “Thy kingdom come” is to pray that Jesus Christ would reign here and now. Yes, we still long for the future promised kingdom, but for now we pray that our lives will manifest Jesus as king of our lives. We pray that our lives will evidence Jesus’ reign in our lives. When we pray “Your kingdom come,” we pray that others will come into the kingdom through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Thus, we are praying for a present kingdom to be established in the heart and lives of people all around us. Yet, at the same time, we pray that Jesus Himself will return soon and establish His future kingdom.
The true Christian longs for the Lord to return and set up His kingdom. Does this mean that “Thy kingdom come” is equal to saying, “Lord Jesus, return quickly?” Yes and no. Yes, it does express that, but it also expresses the desire of a heart that wants Jesus to be in control of everything in their life in the present. “Your kingdom come.” This all leads us to an attitude of submission.
~ Submission of Prayer (v. 10b)
your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven
Why do I call this phrase an attitude of submission? Because if we are honest, most of the time we come in prayer to God wanting our will to be done, not God’s will. Though we may say we want God’s will, we seldom come to God that way. This phrase in Jesus’ model prayer flies in the face of the “prosperity gospel” preachers or the “name it and claim it” teachers. Remember what James 4:3 tells us?
You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
However, if we come in submission before God seeking His will to be accomplished we find our prayers being heard and answered.
1 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.
Prayer is an aspect of submitting to God’s will and trusting Him, not manipulating Him! The trouble with so many of us is that we come to God in prayer thinking we are worthy or deserving of God moving on our behalf rather than seeking to understand His will and submitting to it. Though God is sovereign, I do believe there is an aspect of our prayers that does move God too. We are not changing His will, as much as we are aligning our will with His.
Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
If we align our hearts with His, if we come in submission to Him, come with confession of sin, if His will becomes our will, God promises that our prayers will have great power as they are working. Does that mean we will get exactly what we prayed for? No! We are praying that God’s will be done and that may simply be you submitting to Him.
Listen, we know without a doubt what God’s will is for our lives and the lives of others as it is recorded for us in His Word. We may pray for someone to be healed, but more importantly, we should pray that they return to the Lord if they have strayed and that they submit to God’s will. Do you know that Jesus prayed this way for Himself? The day before Jesus goes to the cross, listen to His prayer.
And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will."
Jesus was submissive in His prayer to the will of the Father. Proper prayer is characterized by the attitude of submission.
My hope and prayer this morning is that these aspects of proper prayer become a part of your prayers. Not that we repeat this prayer that Jesus gave as a pattern, but that the characteristics of this prayer become evident in our prayers.
The tone of our prayer indicates not only a personal relationship, but a reverential respect and honoring of His name. That you pray with expectation of God reigning in your heart and life and the lives of those you are praying for. And third, that our is a prayer of submission to God’s will. What a powerful pattern that should characterize the tone and attitude of our prayers to our heavenly Father.
Do you know God as your Father? Have you ever accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and become a part of God’s family as His child?