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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
December 27, 1998
The Proper Pattern of Prayer, Part 1
It has been well said that the church cannot go forward unless it is on its knees. When we properly understand that we can accomplish nothing for the kingdom of God unless it is the Holy Spirit working through us we also then understand the absolute necessity of prayer. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said that prayer is "beyond any question the highest activity of the human soul."
Two weeks ago we introduced this wonderful section of the Sermon on the Mount often called, "The Lord’s Prayer." We looked at the Proper Purpose and Practice of Prayer. This morning we want to begin to examine the prayer itself and learn the Proper Pattern for Prayer. Turn to Matt. 6.
We have already seen in 6:5,6 that the religious hypocrites sought the approval of men by giving the appearance of being pious by putting on a show of their prayers, but the Proper Purpose of Prayer is to speak to your heavenly Father and seek His approval rather than the acclaim of men. We saw in verses 7,8 that the Proper Practice of Prayer begins with a proper understanding of God and His love for us. We can go to Him with the confidence that He knows our needs before we even pray, and that as we pray according to His will He hears us and will answer us. This is in contrast to the gentiles who repeated their prayers over and over again trying to get God’s attention, and the Pharisees who gave long prayers trying to impress God.
We do not impress God by either the length or eloquence of our prayers. What God wants in our prayers is modeled for us by Jesus in verses 9-13. Though this is often called the "Lord’s Prayer," it is not "His" prayer but rather a model of prayer for us. Notice that throughout this section of Scripture that Jesus has been instructing His disciples on how to pray – 6:5 – "When you pray". 6:6 "But you, when you pray 6:7 "when you are praying" 6:8 "…before you ask Him." Now in 6:9 Jesus again addresses His disciples in the command voice saying, "Pray, then, in this way." You pray according to the model I am now giving you.
So this is not really "the Lord’s Prayer," but rather "Jesus’ Pattern of Prayer." Why spend the time to make this point? Because some believe that the prayer itself has power because Jesus prayed it. It is this kind of thinking that leads to the same meaningless repetition that Jesus spoke against back in verse 7. This prayer has no power because Jesus prayed it, for He did not pray it. Jesus had no need to ask for forgiveness. He gave it to His disciples as a pattern for their prayers.
In addition, let’s make it very clear, there is no power in the words themselves of this prayer or any prayer even if it is a prayer that Jesus prayed such as in John 17. The power is always in God, not in the words. I hope you understand this is directly contradictory to what those in the Positive Confession movement will tell you. The teachings of Larry Lea, Paul Yongi Cho, Robert Schuller, Kenneth Copeland, Kenneth Hagin, Charles Capps, Robert Tilton, Paul Crouch, etc, etc, etc, are absolutely wrong on this. Words in and of themselves neither contain spiritual power nor do they carry spiritual power. Prayer is not some mystical, magical incantation. Words are simply a means of communication. The spiritual power is always in God. Romans 8 even tells us that when words fail us the Holy Spirit intercedes with the Father for us. So this is not a prayer for us to repeat mindlessly, but rather a pattern for our prayers just as Jesus says in His introduction to it – "Pray, then, in this way," or as translated in the KJV, "After this manner therefore pray ye." We are to pray after the manner of this prayer, not in its exact words.
What then is the pattern?
III. The Proper Pattern of Prayer
"Our Father Who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy 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 forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen)."
This simple prayer of less than 60 words in greek (67 in English) covers all of what prayer is about. It tells us what our relationship is with the One to Whom we are praying, what His position is, what He is like, what is important in life, what we have need of, the source of that need being met and it covers past, present and future.
In your notes I have provided a chart that describes this prayer.
Prayer Relationship Spirit of Prayer
Our Father Father/Child Family
Who art in heaven, Creator/Creature Unpretentious
Hallowed be Deity/Worshipper Reverent
Thy Kingdom come. Sovereign/Subject Loyal
Thy will be done, Master/Servant Submissive
On Earth as it is
Give us this day Benefactor/ Dependent
our daily bread. Beneficiary
And forgive us our Savior/Sinner Penitent
debts, as we also Teacher/student Responsible
forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us
into temptation, Guide/Pilgrim Humble
but deliver us Liberator/Debtor Grateful
For Thine is
the kingdom, Sovereign/Subject Triumphant
and the power, Protected
and the glory, Jubilant
forever. Amen. Eternal
This prayer seems simple on the surface, but the closer you examine it the more intricate, more complex, more beautiful it is. Our desire should be to pray according to its pattern. In order to do that properly we need to make sure that we understand each of the elements within this model prayer. The first element is the address to the One we are praying to –
A. OUR FATHER: This defines our relationship with God in a personal way. Everyone can call God, "Creator" or "The Almighty" or one of several of God’s other names. But not everyone can call God, "Father." That great privilege belongs only to true Christians. 1 John 3 makes it very clear that there is a division among men.
1 John 3:1 See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him . . . Drop to verse 7 Little children, let no one deceive you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; 8 the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 10 By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.
Notice the two divisions: There are children of God and there are children of the devil. Ephesians 2 tells us that all of us were "dead in our trespasses and sins," that we walked "according to… this world… the prince of the power of the air…." that we were "sons of disobedience," and that we were by nature "children of wrath." All of humanity starts out as children of the devil, so something must happen for us to become children of God. Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3, "unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." You have to be "born of God" 1 John 3:9 says. Those who know Jesus as Lord and Savior have the privilege of addressing God as "Our Father" because they are only ones that are the "children of God." John 1:12 says 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."
The idea of God as our Father is a precious truth. It is seen not only in the idea of being "born again" as "Children of God," but also in the references to being "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 Gal. 4:4-7 where it 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." What a precious truth. We who have no claim, no right, and no heirship were adopted and made God’s children and given those very things as a gift of God’s grace in Jesus Christ.
Consider as well the extra love that adoption represents. When a man and wife have a baby, part of their love for that child comes from their love for each other and the fact that the child is part of both of them. The parents of an adopted child choose to take that child and call him/her their own though there is no blood tie. The child is not their own, yet they love the child as their own. That is a much less selfish love, and God loves us in that manner. He willingly chose us and adopted us as His own. What a great love.
And so, we who have been born again through Jesus Christ can pray, "Our Father." That address speaks of both the access and the intimacy that we can have with Him. The subjects of a King are limited in both their ability to approach the king, and their intimacy with him. But the children of a good king have both access to him and the familiarity that only comes with a parent/child relationship. In the same manner we can come to God and say, "Our Father."
God is Our Father through Jesus Christ our Lord. But take note that He is "Our" Father and not "My" Father. Think about it with your own children. Do you remember when they first became aware of ownership? That they "own" some things that other people "own" other things and some things you have to share.
I remember when Jonathan first ascertained ownership of mom and dad and started saying, "my daddy," and "my mommy." However, it was not long after that that David came along and Jonathan had to learn the plural possessive "our daddy" instead of just the singular possessive of "my daddy," for I am also David and Jimmy’s dad.
In the same way we recognize that God is "Our Father," plural possessive, and not "My" Father alone. God is Father to all who believe. His family is large. There is no room for a selfish claim to an exclusive relationship to Him. My prayer to Him needs to be beyond myself and embrace my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
Another precious truth is brought out in the next phrase. A truth especially precious to those who have a distorted understanding of fatherhood because their dad did not live up to what God demands of parents. God our Father is not like our earthly father, for even a good earthly father will fail at times, but God – Never! God is Our Father . . .
B. WHO ART IN HEAVEN,
This differentiates Him from any earthly dad. God is in a completely different category. God is not a man that He should lie nor the son of man that He should change His mind (Numbers 23:19). God is Our Father who is in Heaven. I have a basis for hope because God is not like man. God fulfills His promises and His love is an everlasting love. It will not cease, and it will not diminish, for it is not dependent upon my actions. God demonstrated His love for us in that while we were yet sinners – disobedient and enemies against Him, He loved us and sent His Son Jesus Christ to die in our place as the offering for our sins (Rom 5:8). God is "Our Father Who Art in Heaven," and He loves me. He will take care of me. I have a personal, intimate, loving relationship with the One who controls Heaven, the One who is the creator of all.
That also means that there is no limit to the resources available to Him to meet the requests that I bring to Him. An earthly father is always limited – even wealthy ones. But "Our Father Who art in Heaven" has no limitation. He is able to care for us. That is why the Apostle Peter could tell us to cast all of our care and anxiety upon Him, because He, God, "Our Father Who Art in Heaven," cares for us.
Let me add this thought as well. There is no limitation to His wisdom. We shall never even come close to approaching God in wisdom. I can place my trust in Him and rest in His sovereignty because as a wise loving Father He will do what is best for me whether I understand it or not. I can rest in His love and His plan for my life even in those times when life gets hard because His wisdom is greater.
God is "Our Father Who Art in Heaven" and I no longer have to fear. No fear of eternity because I will be with Him. No fear of the earthly future because as my Father He will guide and provide for me. No fear of the present because He is ever with me.
God is "Our Father which art in heaven." That tells us who we pray to and sets us in proper relationship to Him. Flowing out of that is the key passion of all prayer: "Hallowed by Thy name."
C. HALLOWED BE THY NAME.
This sets the tone of our prayers because God is not our pal, our good buddy, with whom we joke and clown around. He is to be given the highest respect and honor. We should never come into His presence in a flippant or careless manner. He is the Supreme Being, who according to both the prophet Isaiah and the Apostle John, has four special living creatures who continually say day and night, "Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come," (Rev. 4:8). To hallow means to make holy, to sanctify, to set apart in a reverential manner, and God’s name is to be hallowed. It is to be set apart with reverence.
How do we do that?
1. Believe that He exists. Heb 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. The first step in pleasing God is believing that He is.
2.Believe the things He has revealed about Himself in the Word. Romans 1:18 tells us that God’s wrath is against the ungodly because they suppress the truth about God.
3.Always speak of Him in a reverent manner and encourage others to do the same. Taking the Lord’s name in vain, i.e., in a flippant, disrespectful manner, is a sin. It is breaking the third commandment of the Ten Commandments. This includes thoughtless exclamations such as, "God," "O God," and "Jesus." Include with this diminutive forms such as "Gosh," and "geez." You need to have a proper fear of God (Prov 1:7) and that includes treating His name with reverence. God is "jealous" for His Holy name (Ezek. 39:25).
4.Your godly behavior hallows God’s name. Let your light shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven (Mt 5:16). 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 will be hallowed when mankind turns to Jesus Christ and they long for God’s rule over their lives. And so we pray:
D. THY KINGDOM COME.
What do we mean by that? First, notice whose kingdom – "THY Kingdom." The kingdom of God. This expresses the desire for the kingdom promised from of old, the kingdom of Messiah, to come upon earth. This great promise was given to David back in 2 Sam. 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.
To pray, "Thy Kingdom Come" is to pray that Jesus Christ would reign here and now. 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 expresses that, but it also expresses the desire of a heart that wants Jesus to control everything, and that can be fulfilled in part in the present.
Remember that the Kingdom of God is present in part even now. No, it is not in its full manifestation for the King was rejected and died on the cross for us and rose again nearly 2,000 years ago. The kingdom program changed to include the church, and we are very aware by the Scriptures and personal experience that the present manifestation of the kingdom is not purified. As Matt. 13 points out there are tares among the wheat, leaven in the bread, & wicked among the righteous. Yet, the kingdom is present in part.
In Acts 8:12 we find Philip "preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ." In Acts 19 we find 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 did this for about two years (28:30,31). No wonder we see this same theme in Paul’s other epistles. In Col 1:13 he says 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 14:7 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. That is why we long with the rest of creation for the complete restoration that will occur when He returns (Rom 8). Yet, the kingdom is partially present in a real sense. Jesus in now on the right hand of the Father in heaven. We have the Holy Spirit within us and, according to Phil. 3:20, our citizenship is in heaven. We are now, as it says in 2 Cor 5:20, "ambassadors for Christ." Therefore when we pray, "Thy Kingdom Come," we are asking not only that Jesus would return, but also that we are seeking that He would, through the Holy Spirit, 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 present – and through the Holy Spirit He is within us.
A good example of this from History was the time when Richard I (The Lion-Hearted) of England was leading a crusade to Palestine. On the way back he was held captive by the German prince Henry VI, king of Naples and Sicily. Richard’s brother John sought to usurp the throne. (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 even dying for doing so. If this 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 to live our lives for Him and in obedience to Him.
In considering just these first few elements of Jesus’ pattern of prayer, our prayer lives should change. We can, as Hebrews 4:16 says, "draw near with confidence to the throne of grace," instead of fear because there is an intimacy available to us with the Creator of the Universe, so much so, that we can call Him, "Abba" – "Daddy." At the same time, since He is "Our Father Which art in Heaven," there is also the proper respect due to Him. We do not approach Him as a "buddy" or a "comrade," but with the proper honor and reverence due the One who is inestimably higher than we are. We seek to hallow His name. We also long for His kingdom to come- not just in the future, but to control our hearts right now.
When you pray, don’t just quickly begin to address God without taking time to think about who it is you are talking with. Give time to think about who He is, praise Him for it, thank Him for being able to come and talk with Him. And if you cannot address God as "Our Father," then you need to come and talk with me or one of our church leaders and get your life right with Him. There is no better way to live.
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