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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
August 27, 2014
Teach Us to Pray, Part 3
Martin Luther said, “Prayer is the most important thing in my life. If I should neglect prayer for a single day, I should lose a great deal of the fire of faith.” Perhaps this is one reason so many professing Christians have so little fire in their faith. William Law added this insight, “he who has learned to pray has learned the greatest secret of a holy and happy life.” Prayer is not a secret in the sense it is hidden, for it is out in the open and God has given plenty of instruction concerning it. It is a secret in the sense that so few people learn to pray though it is a resource that is readily available. It is tragic, but prayer is one of the more misunderstood disciplines of the Christian life. One author subtitled his book on prayer, “Asking and Receiving.” There is a certain truth to that statement since the true Christian can ask of God and can be confident that he will receive an answer even if it is “no” or “wait.” However, a large portion of professing Christianity teaches an approach to prayer that can be characterized as “name it and claim it.” They demand and expect as if God exists to serve them instead of them existing to serve God. They think of prayer as a way to give God instructions instead of a means by which you report for duty.
On the opposite extreme are those that are timid and without any confidence that God is paying attention to them. They follow various practices in the effort to get God to hear and respond. That can range from memorized prayers that are repeated over and over, to long drawn out prayers that seem to be designed to somehow wear God out, to religious rituals befitting incantations.
We have been studying the section of the Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus deals with all these various issues concerning prayer as He corrects the self-righteous practices of the scribes and Pharisees and teaches His disciples to pray.
Remember that the theme of the Sermon on the Mount is found in Jesus’ warning in Matthew 5:20 that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus began this sermon by describing the characteristics of those who were truly righteous in that section we often refer to as “The Beatitudes.” Jesus then gave His warning about true righteousness and followed that by comparing the twisted teachings of the self-righteous religious leaders to the truth and righteous intent of God’s word. In Matthew 6, Jesus warns about the hypocritical and self-righteous practices of the scribes and Pharisees while giving instruction on the proper way to practice acts of righteousness with giving alms, praying and fasting used as examples. Jesus makes it clear that if you want your reward to come from God for acts of righteousness, then you must perform your acts of righteousness in obedience to God and for His glory. The self-righteous do their good deeds in order to be seen by men so the praise of me is their only reward.
Proper Purpose and Practice of Prayer – Matthew 6:5-8.
Jesus makes this point concerning the proper purpose of prayer in Matthew 6:5-6. The hypocrites prayed to be seen by men. The Pharisee in Luke 18 is a good example of this. He was self-righteous and “prayed thus to himself” about how good and wonderful he was. His prayer was about his own glory and not for the purpose of talking with God and seeking His glory. The proper purpose of prayer is to communicate with God without concern for what people may think. That is why Jesus advocated praying in secret so that there would not be the temptation to pray with a concern about impressing people. True righteous prayer is focused on God alone
In verses 6-7, Jesus explained the proper practice of prayer by contrasting it with and warning against the practices of the Gentiles who prayed with meaningless repetition and with long prayers supposing they would be heard for their many words. The Gentiles prayed to false gods that were either figments of their own imaginations or demons empowering idols, and therefore they could not be confident that their prayer would be heard or given any attention. Consequently, they developed elaborate systems in trying to get the attention of their false gods. Elijah’s confrontation with the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18 is a classic example of this. God is not impressed with long prayers or prayers repeated over and over again with the mind disengaged.
The proper practice of prayer in founded on coming to God with the confidence that He is real and cares for you. Why can you have such confidence? Because the living God who created you is good, loving, merciful and gracious as well as omniscient and omnipotent. He knows your needs before you even ask and He will do what is right concerning you and the requests of your prayers. Anne Lewis well describes the four answers God gives to proper prayer: 1) No, not yet. 2) No, I love you too much. 3) Yes, I am glad you finally asked. 4) Yes, and here’s more. The longer you walk with the Lord the more you appreciate the negative answers to prayer because you start to realize how selfish or foolish your requests can be. You become more thankful for His sovereignty and superior wisdom.
Proper Pattern of Prayer – Matthew 6:9-15
The last two sermons in this series have focused on the first few elements in the proper pattern of prayer that Jesus taught in verses 9-13. This passage is often referred to as “The Lord’s Prayer,” but it would be better described as “The Model Prayer” since that is actually its purpose. Jesus never prayed this prayer Himself as evidenced by the fact that He would never need to pray to be forgiven. Jesus taught it to His disciples as a pattern for them to follow in their prayers that was in sharp contrast to how the Gentiles and Pharisees prayed. Jesus commands them at the beginning of verse 9, “Pray, then, in this way” or “according to this manner.” In Luke 11:1 when Jesus’ disciples asked Him to teach them to pray as John had taught his disciples, Jesus used almost the exact same pattern.
We have already examined the first four elements of this model prayer in previous sermons. Let me review them with you very quickly.
The first element tells us how to address the one to whom we are praying and describes our relationship to Him. Our Father who art in Heaven. The Christian can be confident in prayer because our God is not only our Creator, but because we have been redeemed, forgiven and justified by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, He has also adopted us into His family so that we are His children. Believers can approach Him in the intimacy and security of a child coming to his daddy. And because He is Our Father who art in Heaven, we can be confident that He will never fail us as every earthly father will at some point. God is infinite in all His attributes, so there can be no lack in His ability, righteousness, wisdom, fairness, goodness, kindness or love. God always keeps His promises and so will never fail us or forsake us. He will always provide what you really need since He knows what is best for you. Even His discipline will always be in and from perfect love. He never misunderstands, has uncontrolled anger, or is unjust. You can trust Him completely.
The next phrase describes the passion of our prayers, “Hallowed be Thy name.” He is deity and we are His worshipers so we come to God with the highest reverence and honor. That is accomplished by believing what He has revealed about Himself and acting accordingly. We speak of Him in a reverent manner and encourage others to do the same. We seek to live in a virtuous manner by which we will also bring honor to Him.
The third phrase expresses our earnest hope and desire, “Thy Kingdom come.” True Christians long for that day in the future when Jesus will establish His kingdom on earth in its fullness. This element of prayer also expresses our yearning for Him to reign within our own hearts in the present. He is our sovereign and we are His subjects. We are even now citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20) and therefore we are aliens and strangers in this world (1 Peter 2:11) who are ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20). We pray “Thy Kingdom Come” and thereby pledge our allegiance to our King and set ourselves to follow Him now, or as Donald Coggan describes, “prayer is to stand to attention in the presence of the King and to be prepared to take orders from Him.”
The next element is the central focus and occupation of our prayers, “Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.” Life is about God’s will being done, not your own. This element forces the focus to shift away from your own selfish desires and back to God. It is for this reason that this is the aspect of prayer that is most often missing and therefore the reason that so few people learn to truly pray. They want their will, not God’s will. The arrogant make demands while even the humble bring a wish list to God much like children might do to a department store Santa Claus. The truly righteous understand as did William Barclay that “Prayer is not a way of making use of God, prayer is a way of offering ourselves to God in order that He should be able to make us of us.” The grammar of this petition, (aorist imperative) as with the three previous petitions, expresses the desire for a complete fulfillment. This is brought out even more clearly in this petition with the addition of the phrase “on earth as it is in heaven.” The righteous want God’s will to be done on earth the same way it is in heaven – completely, perfectly and without hesitation. True prayer is committing yourself to do that in your own life even though others do not.
Praying for Your Needs – Matthew 6:11-13
This model prayer changes focus starting in verse 11. The first four elements are focused on God. The next three elements address the needs we have as humans and how to have them met. These are the elements of which E.M. Bounds spoke pf when he said, “Prayer is the language of a man burdened with a sense of need. It is the voice of the beggar, conscious of his poverty, asking of Another the things he needs.”
The Need for Sustenance – Matthew 6:11. A basic human need is physical food for daily life and so we are to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” The grammar here, (aorist imperative), and in two of the entreaties that follow it, indicate a focus on the more immediate present for things needed. These pleas for provision, forgiveness and deliverance have greater urgency for they are things needed today.
We need to seek from God the provisions necessary for daily life. That is what the “bread” here (a[rtoV) is talking about. It is the food needed to sustain daily life. This daily petition stands in contrast to American culture in which we think that we provide for ourselves. We can be too much like the old farmer who prayed, “Dear Lord, We have this farm and we have this land because we cleared it and worked hard to till it. We have this food because we worked hard to plant it, hoe it and harvest it. If we didn’t work so hard we wouldn’t have it. Amen.”
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 need for God. It is God that provides for us as Psalm 65:9-14 explains, “Thou dost visit the earth, and cause it to overflow; Thou dost greatly enrich it; The stream of God is full of water; Thou dost prepare their grain, for thus Thou dost prepare the earth. Thou dost water its furrows abundantly; Thou dost settle its ridges; Thou dost soften it with showers; Thou dost bless its growth. Thou hast crowned the year with Thy bounty, And Thy paths drip [with] fatness. The pastures of the wilderness drip, And the hills gird themselves with rejoicing. The meadows are clothed with flocks, And the valleys are covered with grain; They shout for joy, yes, they sing.”
Yes, the farmer has to work hard, but unless the Lord provides, he will have nothing, and 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.
In addition, the Lord always provides what is really needed. That may not always be what you want, but it will always be what you need, and He knows your need better than you do. God provides what is good even when you desire what is not so good. Good parents feed their children a balanced diet. They make the kids eat fruits and vegetables and drink their milk even when the kids are protesting that they want greasy fast food, snack crackers, cola and candy. The amazing thing is that the more of the good food you eat, the more you like it – even lima beans and broccoli – and the less you like the junk food. The more you live with thanksgiving for what the Lord provides, the greater you like it and the less you desire the things of this world.
Let me add here that while God is our provider, He is not bound to meet everyone’s needs. That promise is only to the righteous. In Psalm 37 there is a contrast in each stanza between the wicked and the righteous. Taking just the first stanza (vs. 1-6) as an example: “Do not fret because of evildoers, Be not envious toward wrongdoers. For they will wither quickly like the grass, And fade like the green herb. Trust in the Lord, and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, and He will do it. And He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, And your judgment as the noonday.”
The rest of this Psalm continues in the same manner, and this same truth is seen in other Scriptures. God does not want the righteous to be preoccupied with material things. God wants your focus to be on Him. That is why He says in Matthew 6:25-33, “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things will be added to you.” His promise is that as you place your priority on Him, He will meet your needs for physical sustenance.
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, God meets your needs when you cannot work or when your own resources are inadequate through His people and His own sovereign methods.
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 in following after Him and in your own labor, but it is God that provides and you are to lift your heart in gratitude for it on a daily basis. Let me add that for the Christian this is not optional for the command in 1 Timothy 4:3-5 is to receive what you have with gratitude and give thanks for your meals are sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
The Need for Forgiveness – Matthew 6:12, 14-15. More important than our physical needs is to have our sin taken care of and so we pray, “And forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors.”
Modern psychology has made a valiant effort to get rid of man’s sin problem by redefining it, redirecting responsibility for it, or both. The sinful things that men and women do are now classified as this neuroses, that phobia, or some new psychological disease. Problems are most often attributed to the parents, but siblings, friends, acquaintances and sometimes even strangers can be blamed. Yet the sin problem and resulting broken relationships still remain.
I hope you understand that sin is a serious matter. It is not something light, inconsequential or “no big deal.” It has ramifications in your relationship with God and other people, and you cannot escape it on your own. Sin has, as Romans 1:18 states, placed man under the wrath of God. That leads to tragedy after tragedy in this life as the person pursues the impure lusts of their hearts, descending into degrading passions and eventually a depraved mind. After this life it means separation from God in conscious torment for eternity.
Only in true Christianity is there forgiveness of sin. Some religions erroneously try to balance sin off by good works. Others try to help a person live with the guilt caused by sin, but only in Jesus Christ Himself is there forgiveness and hence freedom from sin. Forgiveness is God’s passing by our sin. Forgiveness is that aspect of love mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13 that “does not hold into account a wrong suffered.” God wipes your sin off the record so that you are no longer condemned to its guilt and punishment. Psalm 103:12 describes God removing your transgressions as far as east is from the west, and Hebrews 10:16 states that God will remember no more the sins and lawless deeds of those who are forgiven in Jesus Christ. How can this be?
Having your sins forgiven begins with repentance from your sin and acceptance of the payment of its penalty on your behalf by Jesus Christ when He died on the Cross (2 Corinthians 7:9-10). The basis for this is not in your being good or becoming good. You only need to be poor in spirit – humble -, repent and believe. Forgiveness is founded on God’s love and grace by which Jesus has paid the price to redeem you. This is salvation and it brings about adoption into God’s family.
But Christians still fall 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 which states, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear.” There is a need of confession and repentance on a daily basis so that our relationship with God is never hindered. Guilt is a good indicator of the need to confess. God uses our emotions to alert us to what is going on in our lives. He uses guilt to alert us to the fact that there is 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 Lord’s parable in Matthew 18:21-35 about the slave that owned the king a fortune and was forgiven that debt, but he in turn refused to forgive another slave a paltry sum. The result was that the king threw him in jail and called the debt back into account. This is the meaning of verses 14-15 in our text. “For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” We do not earn God’s forgiveness by forgiving others, but we do demonstrate our understanding of His forgiveness when we practice the same with others.
If you are unwilling to forgive others their small transgressions, how can you expect God to forgive your own? You in fact demonstrate that you do not 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. When you are holding a grudge against someone then you are in danger of what the Lord has been talking about in this section. You need to first come to grips with 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.
The Need for Deliverance – Matthew 6:13
The believer wants to be forgiven, but even more he wants to avoid sin and walk in holiness so he prays, “and do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
At first glance this may seem to be something akin to praying, “God, 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 the 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.
The prayer closes with a doxology that is a reflection of 1 Chronicles 29:11 “Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is Thine; Thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and Thou art exalted as head above all.” The prayer ends as it began centered on God.
If there is nothing else that comes through to you, I hope that does. Prayer is centered on God, not on us. God is the Father of the righteous, and the righteous want His name hallowed. God’s people want His kingdom to come. The godly want His will to be done. Humans have an ever present need for food, forgiveness and deliverance. The righteous know God is the only source for these and so look to Him to meet their physical, mental and spiritual needs. God is the life of the righteous.
For Thine Is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory, Forever. Amen.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count the references to prayer in the sermon. 2) Talk with your parents about how you can trust God to provide for your needs and forgive you.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. Why is prayer so misunderstood even among Christians? What is the theme of the Sermon on the Mount? What is the proper purpose of prayer and how does this contrast with the practice of the Pharisees? What is the proper practice of prayer and how does this contrast with the practice of the Gentiles? Why is God not the Father of all humanity? What does it mean to “hallow” and how do Christians hallow God’s name? In what ways is God’s kingdom currently present? What aspect of God’s kingdom is still to come? Why is truly praying for God’s will so difficult for people? How does praying for God’s will change your prayers? What is the relationship between man working and God providing food? Why should you be thankful for any food you have? Must God meet the physical needs of all people? Explain. How do psychologists try to deal with man’s guilt? What is the basis for man receiving God’s forgiveness? What is the danger of not being forgiving of others? Can God lead people into temptation? Explain. How do you reconcile praying to not be lead into trials if trials can be a cause of rejoicing because they bring about maturity (James 1:2-4; Romans 5:3-8). How does praying to be delivered from evil correspond to 1 Corinthians 10:13? How has this model of prayer changed the way you pray? What changes still need to be made?
Sermon Notes: The Proper Pattern of Prayer, Part 3
August 24, 2014 – Matthew 6:11-15
God has given plenty of instructions about ______, yet it is still the most misunderstood Christian discipline
Some approach prayer as “name it, claim it” – ________________of God and expecting
Many have no confidence in prayer and so follow religious ___________befitting pagan incantations
The characteristics of true righteousness are described in the ______________- Matthew 5:3-16
Jesus corrected the self-righteous ________________of the religious hypocrites in Matthew 5:21-48
Jesus warns and instructs concerning ____________of righteousness in Matthew 6:1-18
Proper Purpose and Practice of Prayer – Matthew 6:5-8.
The proper purpose of prayer is to ________________with God without concern for what people may think
The proper practice of prayer in based on believing God is real, He knows your needs and He ______for you
Prayer answers: 1) No, not yet. 2) No, I ____you too much. 3) Yes, I am glad you asked. 4) Yes, here’s more
Proper Pattern of Prayer – Matthew 6:9-15
Jesus teaches His disciples to pray using a __________that is in sharp contrast to the Gentiles and Pharisees
God is the Creator to all, but the _____________of only those redeemed and forgiven through Jesus Christ
Our Heavenly Father is infinite in all His attributes and so never fails – He can be ___________completely
God is deity, we are His worshipers & so we give Him the highest __________& honor in speech & actions
True Christians long for that ___________day when Jesus will establish His kingdom on earth in its fullness
A Christian’s allegiance is to God for we are even _________citizens of heaven and ambassadors of Christ
The central focus and occupation of prayer is that __________________be done on earth as it is in heaven
The righteous wants God’s will done ________, perfectly and without hesitation – pledging themselves to it
Praying for Your Needs – Matthew 6:11-13
A change of focus in the prayer to the _____________we have as humans and how to have those needs met
The Need for Sustenance – Matthew 6:11
We seek from God the ________________necessary for daily life.
God provides what we really need – not what we may ________
God provides for the righteous, but He is not bound to provide for the _________________- Psalm 37
God wants you to be preoccupied with _____, not with the material things needed to live – Matthew 6:25-34
Place your ______________in God to provide and give Him thanks for what He gives – 1 Timothy 4:3-5
The Need for Forgiveness – Matthew 6:12, 14-15.
Man tries to remove his guilt by classing it as a psychological disease and by ____________others
Sin is _______________having ramifications to yourself and others – and you cannot escape it on your own
Only in true Christianity is there _______________of sin – God can wipe it away and remember it no more
Forgiveness begins by ___________repenting of your sins and accepting Jesus’ redemption payment for you
Those who have been forgiven by God should _______with forgiveness to others – Matt. 6:14-15; 18:21-35
God will hold ___________________those who are unwilling to forgive – James 2:13
Feelings of bitterness or resentment are good ______________there is an issue of unforgiveness
The Need for Deliverance – Matthew 6:13
“Temptation” (peirasmovV) is neutral and can mean either a solicitation to evil or a _____________.
God has ______________in solicitation to evil – James 1:13
The sense here is in agreement with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt. 26) and _________________
We are to pray for what God has __________________- provision, forgiveness, deliverance
Prayer is a __________________against our own presumption and false sense of security
We ask to be spared the trial, but if God has us go through it, we pray deliverance to endure & _______in it
Doxology – Matthew 6:13
This is a reflection of 1 Chronicles 29:11
Prayer is centered on _________, not on us.
The righteous know that God is the source for our ever present needs for food, forgiveness and __________
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