Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
December 18, 2016
Teach Us to Pray
The importance of prayer in the life of a Christian cannot be stressed enough. When we are properly talking with God our lives will reflect that relationship and be lived in a manner that will bring Him glory and bring us stability and peace. The priorities of life will fall into their proper places so that we can accomplish in both action and attitude what God desires for us instead of what the world demands of us. We can be calm and reasonable in all circumstances of life knowing God is still in control even when the situation is chaotic. Our trust in Him continues and grows so that we are at peace – “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, Because he trusts in You” – Isaiah 26:3.
When prayer lacks or is improper, even professing believers will quickly decline to the actions and attitudes of the world around them. God will not be glorified because He will become a secondary thought at best, or He will be treated irrelevantly, or may even be blasphemed. Stability and peace will be lost because man will only have his own abilities and devices to trust so he must always strive and cannot rest.
I must stress that this a consequence of improper prayer and not just a lack of prayer. I have seen people become more agitated instead of calm because their prayers came from a false idea of God and the purpose of prayer. They remained uncertain about God’s care for them so they were unable to cast their cares upon the Lord and leave them there (1 Peter 5:7).
I have also been to many prayer meetings over my more than five decades as a Christian, and most of the time they were fine. But there have also been many meeting in which the prayers offered were improper either in their understanding of the character and nature of God or in being selfish wish lists instead of petitions to our sovereign Creator. Proper prayer is critical to living a healthy spiritual life. Turn to Luke 11 to see what Jesus taught His disciples concerning prayer.
1 It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.” 2 And He said to them, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. 3 ‘Give us each day our daily bread. 4 ‘And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.’ “
We are going to first look at the setting of this prayer and Jesus’ instructions concerning it, then we will examine the prayer itself in detail. It has two sections with Luke 11:2 focusing on God and His glory and Luke 3-4 focusing on Man’s need for sustenance, forgiveness and protection.
The Setting – Luke 11:1
The Place. Luke gives a vague introduction to this passage because the particular time and place were not important to its meaning and purpose. We know from previous passages that this occurs after the Feast of Tabernacles which occurs in late September or early October. We also know that Jesus is with His disciples and they are somewhere between Bethany where they had been hosted by Martha (See: One Thing is Necessary) and the region of Galilee where they will spend the winter.
Luke remarks that they are in a certain place which he leaves unnamed. People are prone to make sites of historical events into places of pilgrimage as if those locations had special powers. By leaving this spot unnamed, Luke not only keeps that from happening but is able to keep the focus on Jesus’ example and teaching concerning prayer.
Jesus’ Example. Luke presents this event as being prompted by something ordinary in the life of Jesus. It is simply something that is variously translated as “it happened” or “it came to pass” after Jesus was finished praying. Spending time in prayer was a normal practice for Jesus. Certainly He had times of focused prayer as He faced critical issues such as choosing His disciples (Luke 6:12-13) and before His arrest and crucifixion (Matthew 26:39-44), but the Scriptures also reveal Him getting up early to pray (Mark 1:35), going to secluded places to pray by Himself (Matthew 14:23; Luke 6:16), praying with children (Matthew 19:13), praying with His disciples present (Luke 9:18; John 17), and praying in public (Matthew 1:36; John 11:41-42). If prayer was so important to Jesus, then how much more should it be important to us if we really want to know and do God’s will?
The Disciples’s Request. Luke tells us that after Jesus had finished praying that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.” Luke does not name the disciple because his identity was not important to the point of the narrative. Leaving him unnamed removes any focus on a particular man who might be considered either more spiritual for bringing up the question or less spiritual for not paying better attention when Jesus taught on prayer in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:5-15) if that disciple had been present. The focus is instead on the question and Jesus’ answer to it. And let me quickly add here that this not two different accounts of the same prayer on the same occasion for the Sermon on the Mount had been given much earlier. They are two different accounts of two different occasions in which Jesus taught lessons that were nearly the same.
This would not have been an unusual question to ask for it was common for spiritual leaders to teach their followers their spiritual practices as noted in the question that John had taught his disciples to pray. Luke set the scene that this disciple’s request is prompted by seeing Jesus pray. Whether he had been present at Jesus’ earlier instructions on prayer or not, he desires to know better how to pray, and Jesus uses this as an opportunity to repeat what He has taught in the past (vs. 3-4) as well as teach further on the subject (vs. 5-13).
Instructions – Luke 11:2a
Jesus begins with a simple instruction, “When you pray, say . . .” indicating it was something they could recite, and certainly both this form and that in Matthew 6 have been recited and also sung often in the two millennia since Jesus spoke these words. However, the disciple’s request was to not be taught a prayer, but how to pray, so Jesus’ answer is a model structure for prayer and not something to be repeated over and over until it becomes rote and mindless. Jesus would not contradict His earlier instructions warning against meaningless repetition in prayer (Matthew 5:7). This is a template for prayer outlining major elements which should be included and also reflecting the prayers recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures. It begins with a focus on God and ends with man’s need for God.
God and His Glory – Luke 11:2
Appellation (To Whom We Pray) – Luke 11:2b.
The prayer begins with “Father,” an appellation – a name or title – for God that was unusual for the Jews but not unknown. The most common title for God in the recorded prayers throughout the Old Testament is “Lord” or “Lord God.” Being able to address God as “Father” is a special privilege. Anyone can call God “Creator,” but calling God “Father” is reserved for those who have a special relationship with Him. This privilege was given to the Jews when God chose them as His special people. This is expressed in Exodus 4:22 when the Lord told Moses to tell Pharaoh, “Thus says the Lord, Israel is My son, My firstborn.” In Deuteronomy 14:1-2 Moses tells them “You are the sons of the Lord your God . . . you are a holy people to the Lord your God, and the Lord has chosen you to be a people for His own possession . . .” In Deuteronomy 32:6 Moses tells the people in regards to the Lord, “Is not He our Father who has bought you? He has made you and established you.” (See also Isaiah 63:16).
Jesus gives His followers this privilege because they become part of God’s family. John 1:12 states that “as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” When an individual places their faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, they are “born again” and are adopted into God’s family. Paul speaks of this in Romans 8:15 in which he says, “. . . you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’” and in Galatians 4:4-7 where he speaks of Jesus Christ coming “. . . that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying ‘Abba! Father!’ Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.”
Being able to address God as “Father” speaks of both access and intimacy with God. The subjects of a king are limited in both their ability to approach the king and in their intimacy with him. But the children of a good king will have both access to him and the familiarity that only comes with a parent/child relationship. Jesus tells His disciples that when they pray to God they can call Him “Father.”
His Name – Luke 11:2c.
The first petition in the prayer is for the name of the Lord to be hallowed. To hallow means to make holy, to sanctify, to set apart in a reverential manner, and God’s name, which represents Him, is to be hallowed. It is to be set apart with reverence and given the highest respect and honor. You should never come into His presence in a flippant or careless manner. Beware and avoid the casual manner in which so many professing Christians now think of God, and in doing so they reduce the Creator of the universe into a being like themselves resulting in a lack of reverence. God is not your pal or good buddy. He is the Supreme Being, who, according to both the prophet Isaiah and the Apostle John, has four special living creatures, the Seraphim, which have six wings – two covering their face, two covering their feet, and two used to fly – that continually say day and night, “Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come,” (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8). If such majestic creatures show such reverence for God, should any human do less and especially those who profess to be Christians? How do you hallow God’s name?
1.Believe that He exists. Hebrews 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to please [Him], for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and [that] He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” This is the first step in pleasing God. It is the fool that believes or acts as if there is no God (Psalm 14:1-3).
2.Believe the things He has revealed about Himself in His Word. Jesus said in John 17:17 that God’s word was truth and in John 8:29 that continuing in His word would give them knowledge of the truth and truth would set them free from slavery to sin. That honors God. On the other extreme, Romans 1 tells us that God’s wrath is revealed against the ungodly because they suppress the truth about God in their unrighteousness.
3.Always speak of Him in a reverent manner and encourage others to do the same. This goes back to the third of the ten commandments in Exodus 20. Taking the Lord’s name in vain, that is, using it in a flippant, disrespectful manner, is a sin. This includes using names and references of God as thoughtless exclamations such as, “God,” “O God,” “O my God,” and “Jesus.” That would included texting abbreviated forms such as “OMG.” You need to have a proper fear of God (Proverbs 1:7) which includes treating His name with reverence.
4. Your godly behavior. In Matthew 5:16 Jesus’ command is to “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Martin Luther asked, “How is God’s name hallowed among us?” His answer, “When both our doctrines and our living are truly Christian.”
God’s name is hallowed by those who turn to Jesus Christ and long for God’s rule over their lives. The next element arises out of this desire to see God’s name hallowed in ourselves and in others.
His Kingdom – Luke 11:2d
The second petition is “Thy kingdom come.” What does that mean? First, notice it is “Thy kingdom” and not “my kingdom.” This petition concerns God’s kingdom, not your kingdom. It is an expression of the desire for the promised kingdom of Messiah to come to earth. This great promise was given to David in 2 Samuel 7:12. Through David there would come a son whose Kingdom would never end. This is the one of whom Isaiah said in 9:6-7, “And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forever more. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.” The kingdom we are looking for is that of Jesus Christ our Lord.
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 expresses 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.
While we do not have the full manifestation of the kingdom of God at present, for the King was rejected and died on the cross for us and rose again nearly 2,000 years ago, we must remember that the Kingdom is present in part even now. The church is the revealed mystery of the kingdom and we are very aware by the Scriptures and personal experience that the present manifestation of the kingdom is not purified. As Matthew 13 points out, there are tares among the wheat, leaven in the bread, & wicked among the righteous. Yet, the kingdom is present in part.
Acts 8:12 records Philip “preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ.” Acts 19:8 records Paul trying to persuade the Ephesians Jews about the “Kingdom of God,” and then in 20:25 he gives his farewell to those who responded to his “preaching the kingdom.” When Paul finally arrives in Rome, he began “explaining to them by solemnly testifying about the kingdom of God” (28:23) and he did this for about two years (28:30-31). No wonder we see this same theme in Paul’s other epistles. In Colossians 1:13 he states that we need to give thanks to God because He, “delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.” In Romans 14:17 Paul even defines the character of the present kingdom of God on earth saying, “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
The Kingdom of God is not here on earth in its full manifestation, and so we desire along with the rest of creation for the complete restoration that will occur when He returns (Romans 8). However, the kingdom is partially present in a real sense. Jesus in now on the right hand of the Father in heaven (Hebrews 12:2). We have the Holy Spirit within us, and according to Philippians 3:20, our citizenship is in heaven. We are now, as it says in 2 Corinthians 5:20, “ambassadors for Christ.” Therefore when we pray, “Thy kingdom come,” we are not only asking that Jesus would return, but also expressing our desire for Him to operate in complete control of those that belong to Him. To pray “Thy kingdom come” is to pledge our allegiance to the King and set ourselves to follow Him now as if He were already physically present, and through the Holy Spirit He is present within us.
A historical illustration of this concept was when Richard I (The Lion-Hearted) of England was captured and held captive by the German prince Henry VI, king of Naples and Sicily. Richard’s brother, John, sought to usurp the throne. (This is the setting for Robin Hood and several other stories). Those who longed for Richard’s return continued to regard him as the king regardless of what his brother John did. They continued to live as citizens of Richard’s kingdom with some of them even dying for doing so. If this can be true in the matters of human affairs, then how much more in spiritual affairs. Jesus is king. We wait for His return and pray, “Thy kingdom come.” As citizens of heaven and therefore the loyal subjects of Christ, we pray, “Thy kingdom come,” and pledge our fealty and live our lives for Him in the here and now.
Man’s Needs – Luke 11:3-4
The next two verses give voice to man’s need for sustenance, forgiveness and protection.
Sustenance – Luke 11:3
A basic human need is physical food for daily life and so we are to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Bread here is used as a reference to every kind of food needed. The grammar here, (present imperative), indicates the ongoing need for food each day in order to sustain life. This daily petition stands in contrast to American culture in which we think that we must provide for ourselves and have a pantry stocked to last several weeks to several months.
There is a general failure to recognize that “every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17). God is the source for all that we need, and we should acknowledge that when we pray. We eat nothing, we wear nothing, and we have nothing that did not come from this earth, and every element in it is the work of the creative hand of God. Yes, the farmer has to work hard, and that very hard work should remind him that he lives on a sin cursed world (Genesis 3:17-19) and of his need for God, for unless the Lord provides, he can lose his crop in many ways and have nothing. The same is true for you and me. We are to be grateful and thank God for all of his provision whether it is abounding or little. A regular habit of giving thanks before eating is one way to remind yourself of this and express it.
God meets your needs in several ways. First, through your own labor (Genesis 3:19). If you do not work, you show yourself to be unrighteous (1 Timothy 5:8), and if you are unwilling to work, you should not be fed (2 Thessalonians 3:10). Second, when you cannot work or when your own resources are inadequate, God meets your needs through His people and His own sovereign methods which may border on the miraculous. Jesus explains in Matthew 6:25-33 that God does not want the righteous preoccupied with material things needed for life, so His promise is that He will provide them as you “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.” There is no such promise for the unrighteous even though God does graciously make general provision for all creation.
To pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” is to place your trust in God as the source that will supply all your physical needs. You must carry out your part, but it is God that provides what you need when you need it. With grateful hearts you are to thank Him for what you have at present which increases your trust that He will provide what is needed later too.
Forgiveness – Luke 11:4a
Another great need man has is forgiveness, so we are to pray, “And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.” The “indebtedness” here (ojfeivlw / opheil ) is a reference to sin, not some obligation financial or otherwise.
Modern psychology has made a valiant effort to get rid of man’s sin problem by redefining it, redirecting responsibility for it, or both, but sin remains a very serious matter. It has ramifications in your relationship with God and other people, and you cannot escape it on your own. Sin places man under the wrath of God and leads to tragedy after tragedy in this life as the person pursues the impure desires of their hearts, descending into degrading passions and eventually a depraved mind (Romans 1:18-32). After this life, sin results in separation from God in conscious torment for eternity (Revelation 20:11-15).
Only in true Christianity is there forgiveness of sin for only in Jesus Christ’s atonement is their adequate satisfaction for its penalty. Because He died as the substitute payment for sin, God can judicially declare those who place their faith in Jesus as righteous and removes sin’s condemnation (Romans 8:1). God removes your transgressions as far as east is from the west (Psalm 103:12) and remembers them no more (Hebrews 10:16).
Forgiveness is founded in God’s love and grace and is gained when an individual repents and accepts by faith Jesus’ crucifixion as the payment for their sin (2 Corinthians 7:9-10). You cannot gain this by being good, but only by being poor in spirit (humble) to repent and believe. This is salvation and it results in adoption into God’s family.
But Christians stumble into sin, and when we do we need to obey 1 John 1:9 and “confess our sins” to keep our relationship with God pure and clean. Without such confession, our relationship with God is hindered as expressed in Psalm 66:18 – “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear.” You are still saved, but your relationship with God is obstructed. Guilt is a good indicator of the need to confess. The Holy Spirit convicts us and uses our emotions to alert us to sin that needs to be recognized and confessed.
We recognize as well that those who are forgiven should respond to others with forgiveness. That is the point of the second part of this petition. It is also the point of the Lord’s parable in Matthew 18:21-35 of a slave that is forgiven an enormous debt but will not forgive the puny debt of a fellow slave. We do not earn God’s forgiveness by forgiving others, but by it we do demonstrate the reality of being forgiven. Unwillingness to forgive others may in fact demonstrate a failure to understand God’s mercy and forgiveness, and like the unjust steward, you will bear the consequences. James 2:13 tells us, “For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.”
Feelings of bitterness and resentment are good indicators that there is an issue of unforgiveness in your life. Holding a grudge is a sign of danger. Recognize the depth of your own sin and then put into practice the Lord’s command to love even your enemies and “not hold into account a wrong suffered.” Those who understand the great forgiveness that they have received will respond by forgiving those who have by comparison wronged them very little.
Protection – Luke 11:4b
The last petition in this model prayer is for protection – “And lead us not into temptation.”
At first glance this may seem to be something like praying, “Lord, keep me out of trouble,” but it brings up a difficult question. Can a holy, righteous, pure, undefiled, blameless, unblemished, virtuous God possibly lead anybody into temptation? And if you don’t ask, would He lead you into evil?
The answer to this dilemma is found in the fact that the word “temptation” (peirasmovV) is neutral. It can mean either a solicitation to evil or a testing.
God has no part in a solicitation to evil. James 1:13 makes this point clear, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” The meaning in our text is “Lord do not lead us into trials/testings.” Yet at the same time I do not believe this element of prayer is for God to spare me from all trials in life. James 1:2-4 and Romans 5:3-8 even state that trials and the testing of faith are causes for rejoicing because they force us to mature. I believe the sense here is the same as Jesus prayed in Gethsemane, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as Thou wilt.” It is a prayer request made in agreement with 1 Corinthians 10:13, “Father, do not lead me /allow me to enter a trial that is too great for me – one in which I would fall into sin.”
This actually reflects the other elements in this prayer. God promises to meet the needs of the righteous, yet we are to pray that they are met. God promises to forgive, yet we are to pray that He will forgive us. God promises that He will not allow us to get into a trial that is over our heads, but will “provide a way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it,” yet we are to pray that He will not lead us into a trial that is beyond us.
The prayer is a safeguard against our own presumption and false sense of security. We are to pray that the Lord delivers us from evil according to His promises, for evil is a real danger that is all around us. Jesus Himself prayed for the disciples and us in John 17:15, “”I do not ask Thee to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil [one.].” Our prayer then becomes like that of Christ. You ask the Father to spare you the trial, but if the trial fits His wisdom and His way and His plan, then you plead for His deliverance so that you may endure it and grow through it.
Avoid the multiple traps of improper prayer. Memorize this prayer or the one in Matthew 6:9-10 if you have not already done so, then use it as the framework to personalize your prayer to our loving Father. It is His name that is to be hallowed. It is His kingdom that is to come. It is His will that is to be done. You can trust Him to provide what you need for life. You can trust Him to forgive your sins because of Christ, and you are to respond by forgiving others. You can trust Him to keep you from temptations that would overwhelm you and cause you to sin. God will continue His work in conforming you to the image of Christ that you may be holy even as He is holy.
Sermon Notes – December 18, 2016
Teach Us to Pray – Luke 11:1-4
The Setting – Luke 11:1
The Disciples’s Request
Instructions – Luke 11:2a
God and His Glory – Luke 11:2
Appellation (To Whom We Pray) – Luke 11:2b
His Name – Luke 11:2c
His Kingdom – Luke 11:2d
Man’s Needs – Luke 11:3-4
Sustenance – Luke 11:3
Forgiveness – Luke 11:4a
Protection – Luke 11:4b
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