Episode 68: Our Lord’s Personal Model for Praying, Part 1

Peace to Live By Episode 68: Our Lord’s Personal Model for Praying, Part 1 - Daniel Litton
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[Transcript may not match broadcasted sermon word for word, and contains extra material that was cut from the broadcast due to time constraints]

       One of the most important things we do in our daily lives is pray. At that heart our being is our relationship with God, and we have this relationship through prayer. Really, the sole reason we, as humans, exist is to be in relationship with God. That’s why God created us. He wanted people to be his who would willingly love him, who would choose to love him. He didn’t want to have to force anyone to be his, to love him, and assuredly, he does not. Each of our individual relationships with God is a choice. We have chosen to be in relationship with him. But because we live in this fallen world, because God is separated from it physically, we relate to him for the time being through prayer. Indeed, the subject of prayer is what I want to talk about today and over the next two weeks.

       If prayer is so significant for us, as Christians—and it is—then I think it would be a good idea for us to consider how the Lord told us to pray—to know how to pray. Many of us pray daily, and a lot of us have different ways of doing it. What I want us to see over the course of the next three weeks is that Jesus outlined a certain, specific way we should pray. And, of course, this outline is found in Matthew chapter 6, and is commonly called The Lord’s Prayer, or the Disciple’s Prayer (as some have named it). I don’t think a lot of us think of this prayer when doing our own, individual, daily prayer sessions to God. In America, this prayer is often recited during Sunday morning church services, collectively within the congregation. And while that’s fine, that really wasn’t the only original intent of the prayer. This prayer is also a personal model for disciples of Jesus to be used daily.

       Now, obviously, we are not going to cover everything that could be said in regard to The Lord’s Prayer. Truly, one could spend months talking about it, and still probably not cover everything. But my goal is to hit the main points—the things that I believe are good for us to understand—when it comes to praying correctly and effectively. Remember, James has told us, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5:16b, ESV). Well, each of us is righteous because we have been made that way through Christ’s blood, his sacrifice on the cross. Nonetheless, it’s also true that we should be living righteously. So, in a sense, the more obedient we are to God’s commands, the more likely is he going to pay attention to what we say. When our heart is right before God, our prayers can go a long way, and have great power from God behind them. We can help others and ourselves as we pray a great deal of things.

       Before we dive into this discussion on the Lord’s Prayer, however, I would like to spend a little bit of time here and lay a foundation of why prayer is crucial for us. There are several reasons I want to touch on here.

       First, let us understand that prayer, on the most basic yet important level, is how we communicate with God, our Heavenly Father. We have discussed before that the sole reason we exist, the main purpose for our existence, is to be in relationship with God, to be in fellowship with him. The main goal of our lives is not fulfill our personal desires, it’s not to help other people, and it’s not even to share the Gospel with others, believe it or not. We all do those things, but the main aim and intent of our lives is, or should be, to love God with all our being. That’s why he created Adam and Eve in the first place, and that’s why he crafted each one of us in our mothers’ womb. God wants to fellowship with individuals who will willingly love him in their hearts.

       Another thing that’s noteworthy for us, is that prayer will provide us with personal help in our lives, without a doubt, and help others we pray for who are in our lives. We all need help in various ways, and God tells us in his Word to pray for the things we want help with. We pray for our own needs, and perhaps we spend even more time praying for the needs of others, whether they are needs others have told us about, or whether they are necessities we have perceived that others need. But, we are to go to God in prayer to ask for different requests. This is what Jesus taught us, and this theme is carried along through the rest of the New Testament. And even when we have desires on our hearts, things we would like God to do for us, or to help us with, we are to raise those things to him in prayer.

       Thirdly, prayer allows us to cast off our cares, our anxieties, on God so that he can deal with them and instead of us sitting around and worrying about them. I think we can all agree that anxiety is a big problem for us as we all face varying life circumstances that can weigh us down. We need to learn to cast our cares on God so that our minds can be at rest, so that we are not carrying around our problems in our heads throughout the day, thinking about them and worrying about them regularly. God indeed wants to help us with our difficulties, and he will surely help us when we let him—when we allow him to. A problem for us is that we often choose to worry about our issues instead of giving them to him, which doesn’t do us any good at all. It only enhances, or amplifies, our current trouble.

       Finally, before we go into studying the Lord’s Prayer, I would like to say that putting God first when we start our day is important for us. Some of us are particularly good at this, but some of us require some work at this. When we first wake up in the morning and get out of bed, I would recommend that you say at least a short prayer, a greeting to God, if you will, to start the day. In the most basic form this is a way we can put God first and set our day in the right direction. Remember, in verse 5 of Matthew 6 here, Jesus said “when you pray,” not “if you pray.” We should always have prayer on our minds, and not every prayer we do has to be in a formal formula or setting. Praying is to be done all the time, really. Personally, I like to call it being in continual or constant conversation with God. However, that’s not our focus for today; that discussion is for another time.

       I would also suggest and highly recommend that you spend a significant amount of time, say at least five minutes, praying before you go to work. This again is putting God first. Plus, I believe you will see your day flowing smoother and on a more level ground because you’ve prayed and asked for God to help you with your day. You’ve spend time praising and thanking him. You’ve made your fellowship time with him a priority for the day. And I think God honors that. Sometime ago I told my friends at Bible study to try this, and weeks later at one our meetings one of my friends told me he tried this, and was amazed at how it worked out for him. It really does work, folks. I have found that when I skip a significant prayer time before I go to work for the day that I usually find myself struggling in no short amount of time. And not to mention our prayer time even sets our minds in the right place. That’s also good for us. Today, however, we want to focus on our primary prayer time with God.

       So, now, let’s go ahead and turn to Matthew chapter 6. I want to start by reading verse 1, and then we will jump down to 5 and all the way through the Lord’s Prayer. And we will finish in the section about forgiveness. So, again, Matthew chapter 6, starting in verse 1, the text states:

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven….

““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. 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. “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. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
Pray then like this: “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 also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

What a tremendous passage about prayer from our Lord Jesus Christ, one with really unending applications.

       So, to start, Jesus sets up his discussion here in Matthew 6 by first talking about the fact that we should not be doing things in front of others just to be seen by them. In other words, if we are acting religious, or praying eloquent prayers, just so others can see and hear us, and think we’re a great person, we don’t have a right heart attitude before God. We are praying just for the sake of looking good instead of for the purpose of talking with God. We are doing the right thing, but for the wrong reason. Now, this doesn’t mean it’s wrong to pray in public; it certainly doesn’t mean that. It’s okay to pray out in public, like on a prayer walk or at a restaurant. The point is that we need to watch our motive when we pray. We can even pray in secret and still have a wrong motive. We can pray with a group of friends, or at a Bible study, and still have an incorrect motive.

       You see, when we pray in front of others to be seen by them, Jesus tells us that that’s the only reward we are going to receive—the praise of men. We aren’t going to receive any praise from God for such an action—no reward now in this life and no reward for Heaven in the future. Basically, in essence, the prayer doesn’t count. It falls short of even reaching God’s ears because it was not prayed with a right heart attitude. Jesus talked about some of the customs of the Jews in his time. These are things he observed, hypocritical things that he had seen probably growing up as a child and as he was out in public. He said, “For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others” (ESV). So, Jesus uses the word ‘love’ here to denote just how much the Pharisees enjoyed doing this. During the time of Jesus, the Pharisees, the religious leaders of his day, would stand up and pray in their church services, their synagogues, and on the street corners. And Jesus could tell that they really did this to be seen by others—to look good.

       Jesus also talked about the fact that when we pray, we are not to heap up “empty phrases” to God in order to be heard by him. This, again, was a pagan custom during Jesus’ day, as Jesus tells us. The people who believed in other gods thought those gods would hear them if they just keep repeating and repeating things in their prayers. Jesus called this “vain repetitions.” In contrast, when we have a request for God, as Christians, we are believe that God cares about our need, even knowing it before we ask it, and we should believe that God will provide for us. So, while the pagan believed in a ‘work’ of repetitions to obtain his or her request, the Christian believer should just believe by using ‘faith’ that the request will be received in the future, when it is God’s will and we are not asking with a wrong motive, as James has told us. Sometimes we are to petition God for a certain request that we believe is his will, as Jesus told us to always pray and never give up (see Luke 18:1), but often times all it takes is one prayer (as we learned in Daniel chapter 10 a couple of weeks ago).

       So, now, we are at the start of The Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave us those two preliminary warnings before he jumped into the prayer, and now we are at the prayer. Now, again, while this prayer is often used in a corporate, collective sense, I want us to realize today that really this prayer, I believe, is also for daily, individual use. Midway through the prayer, Jesus says, “Give us this day our daily bread.” I think this captures the fact that this prayer is a daily prayer that is to be recited by Jesus’ disciples. I would also like to state that this prayer being a model prayer is also a skeleton. In other words, this is just a basic rundown of the order of what we are to say to God and also the different areas of which we are to pray to God. Interestingly enough, I think this prayer, when really analyzed, as we are going to try to do, actually captures all the specific areas of our praying. What I mean is that anything you want to pray to God usually can be fit somewhere into Jesus’ formula here. So, while this prayer is straightforward and basic perhaps, I think Jesus intends and want us to fill in the columns, if you will, under each section of the prayer.

       Coming to the first area, then, we read the following: “Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven.”

       Notice first, who we are praying to. We are praying to “Our Father.” Anyone who knows me well, and anyone who’s listens to me pray, knows that I almost always pray strictly to God the Father. I usually do not pray to the Son or to the Holy Spirit. And why do I personally practice this? Well, The Lord’s Prayer is certainly one of the reasons. Jesus tells us to pray to God the Father, not to himself or to the Holy Spirit. And, believe it or not, nowhere in the New Testament are we told to pray to anyone except God the Father. That’s who the Apostle Paul prayed to anytime he prayed. That’s the order that God has setup. Now, that being said, I know a lot of people who pray to Jesus primarily, and occasionally you’ll hear someone pray to the Holy Spirit. So, is it wrong to pray directly to Jesus or the Holy Spirit? No, I don’t believe it’s wrong as you are still praying to God, obviously. Like I said, on some occasions I will pray to Jesus and the Holy Spirit, so I do not personally believe it is wrong. It’s just we don’t find these examples in Scripture.

       Jesus tells his disciples to call God 'Father' when addressing him then in his model prayer here. In the Old Testament, God was referenced as Father in only fifteen occurrences. However, when looking at the New Testament, we see almost 250 occurrences, which is quite a dramatic difference. As a matter of fact, in the Sermon on the Mount here, where the Lord’s Prayer is located, there are many references to God as 'Father.' So, Jesus wanted to show God as personable, and that a personal relationship with Him is not only feasible but is to be desired among as, as his followers. Certainly, this was good news to those hearing this for the first time, and it is still a great reminder of God’s personal nature for us. So, just as many of us are familiar with having a loving, earthly Father, we know that we have a Father, who is truly our Father, in Heaven who loves us greatly. The Apostle Paul even took it so far as to say we are to address God as ‘Daddy’ (see Romans 8).

       Now, the second part of the open, “Our Father in heaven” involves where God is. So, third, we note that God the Father is in Heaven. That is where he resides. Again, we learned a couple weeks ago that God is in Heaven because this world has been affected by sin. God no longer freely comes down to the earth and communes with us like he did with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Now, God did come down to the earth as God the Son, Jesus, but he went back up to Heaven until his enemies can be made a footstool for his feet—until the world is ridded of sin. So, today, Jesus sits at the right hand of God in the throne room of Heaven. In the same breath, it’s also true that God the Holy Spirit dwells within each of us, as Christians. We are collectively God’s temple as the body of Christ, but we are also individually temples of God. Nevertheless, God the Father dwells in Heaven, and this certainly denotes the fact that we are separated from him because of sin in our world, and for us, as Christians, in our flesh.

       The next part of the first sentence in our Lord’s Prayer states, “hallowed be your name.”

       In the most basic sense, God’s name is hallowed because he is holy. There is no fault found in him. Revelation 15:4 tells us that God by himself, separated, is holy. In contrast, this world is not holy, and we as humans, are not currently holy in the physical sense. We will be completely holy someday in Heaven in the future when we are with Jesus. In God’s character, he is holy, righteous, and good. His name is forever to be praised, as Jesus will tell us later in this prayer. Remember, God is an eternal, everlasting being, in that he was never created, and has no end. There never has been a moment in the existence of anything of which God has not existed. God transcends all things. I know this can be hard for us to wrap our minds around. It defies the laws we see in our current realm of existence. In other words, we try to use the laws of our current realm to understand God, but we really cannot understand him. Another way to say it is our brains were programmed, if you will, to believe there has to be a beginning and an end to everything. With God, though, there never was a beginning and he has no end. We, as humans, in contrast do have a beginning; we just have no end. We are created; God was not (see Exodus 3:14 & John 8:58).

       Now, Jesus also notes that God’s ‘name’ is holy. I’m sure as we’ve read through the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments alike, we have noticed over time that many names are used for God. Now, these names provide revelation of the person of God and are used describe his character. The names can also show God’s purposes. We see how important the names of God are when we read Exodus 20:7, when God told the Israelites then and tells us today that, ““You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” The Lord Jesus Christ would reiterate this during his day, for those who saw his miracles, and still rejected God, when he said: ““Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” (Mark 3:28, 29, ESV). But we know and believe the unpardonable sin to only be unpardonable for those who committed it during Jesus’ earthly ministry because they saw the great miracles that he did and still spoke out against the Spirit of God.

       Since we are out of time for today, we are going to end here in discussing our Lord’s Prayer, and we will pick up next time in discussing verse 10 which begins with, “Your kingdom come.”

       In conclusion today, perhaps you've been listening to what I've been talking about—about how we are to pray, as Christians, in understanding the Lord’s Prayer. Maybe your not experienced in praying—you do not know Jesus—but you’re thinking today that you would like to change that. You have believed in your heart what you have heard today; you would like to come to know Jesus. Well, no matter who you are, I want you to know that God leaves open the door of his salvation to anyone who will believe in him. It doesn't matter who you are, what your background is, or even what you have done in your life—the wrong things you’ve taken part in. There is nothing you have done in your life, no evil you have been part of, that makes you ineligible for God’s salvation. There is nothing you have to worry about. If you have heard my message today, and you believe that God is real, and that Jesus really is who he says he is, then you’re in a good place today.

       So, if you would like to know that you are saved from your sins, have eternal life, and are free from the weight of your sins—from the worry and the concern that comes from living in sin—if you want to be set free from all of that, and accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, then I want you to pray a prayer with me something like this:

God, I am coming to you today separated from you. As a matter of fact, I’ve spent my whole life doing what I wanted to do, not showing you any regard or reverence, and it has not turned out so great. Now, though, I accept your free gift of a new life through Jesus Christ. I believe that you sent Jesus to the earth as a man, who died in my place on the cross, and that this action by Jesus now stands as the payment for my sins, which separated me and you. I believe that Jesus rose from the dead and that He is now in Heaven with you. I believe that Jesus really is right in everything he has said. So, God, please transform my life, though Jesus, and make me like him. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

       So, if you have prayed that prayer today, you can rest assured, no matter who you are, that you have been saved by God's grace.

       Let's pray:

       Father, I thank you for these things from your Word, and learning about our personal relationships with you, and how we are pray by using the model of the Lord Jesus, and how that's still applicable today. I pray for those who have just accepted Jesus would grow in You, and would not wavier, and that they would be grounded in the truth that they have just believed.

       Father, I pray for those of us of who already know Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior, that we would continue to be close to you. I pray that we would make prayer a priority, and enjoy the time that we spend with you. Help us to continue to grow, and continue to seek to make you happy—in all areas of our lives. So, bless us as we go about the rest of our day today, and continue to make us like Jesus. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

-Daniel Litton