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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
February 4, 2007
The Proper Pattern of Prayer, Pt. 2
I Got up early one morning
And rushed right into the day;
I had so much to accomplish
I didn’t have time to pray.
Troubles just tumbled about me
And heavier came each task.
I wondered, God, why don’t you help me?
And He said, “You didn’t ask.”
I tried to come into God’s presence,
I used all my keys at the Lock.
God gently and lovingly chided,
“Why child, you didn’t knock.”
I wanted to see joy and beauty,
But the day toiled on grey and bleak,
I called on the Lord for the reason –
He answered, “You didn’t seek.”
I woke up early this morning
And paused before the day.
I had so much to accomplish
I had to take time to pray.
Too often our lives are like the first part of this poem. We can get so caught up in the rush of trying to live that we forget what life is all about. It takes diligence to keep the proper priorities in life and we struggle against that pressures that call for us to fill up our time with so many other things. We know that time with the Lord is the life blood of the Christian life, yet in the rush to get everything else done, that ends up suffering. We then try to prevail in our own power and fail to communicate with the One that empowers us to live. But even if we do manage to keep time reserved to spend with the Lord, it is not enough to just spend time in prayer, we must also pray properly.
In our introduction to the subject of prayer a couple of weeks ago we saw that Jesus clearly described the proper purpose and practice in prayer in Matthew 6. In verses 5 & 6 Jesus warned against the practice of the Scribes and Pharisees who prayed for the purpose of being seen by men in order to gain their acclaim and honor. The proper purpose of prayer is to communicate to God for only what God thinks of you is truly important. Praying in order to impress others is wrong.
In verses 7 & 8 Jesus corrects both the Gentiles and the Pharisees in their wrong practices of prayer. The Gentiles thought they could get God’s attention by their repetition while the Pharisees thought they could accomplish that by the length and eloquence of their prayers. The truth is that God knows our needs even before we pray. The proper practice in prayer then is to simply tell Him what is on our hearts and trust Him to do what is best. Neither the length, repetition nor eloquence of our prayers impress God. We can be confident that our God who is real and personal will hear and answer the humble prayer that seeks His will.
In verse 9-13 Jesus gives the proper pattern of prayer. This example prayer is short, yet it covers all of what prayer is about. It tells us about our relationship with the One to whom we are praying including who He is, what He is like and how to properly approach Him. This prayer also teaches us what to pray for by revealing what our true needs are and the source of those needs being met. It covers past, present and future.
We looked at the first few elements of the prayer last week. The first element is the proper address to God. We call out to Him saying, “Our Father.” This defines the true Christian’s relationship to God. Everyone can all God, “Creator,” but only those who have been born again and adopted as His children can call to Him in the intimacy of the terms, “Abba, Father.” And because He is Our Father “which art in heaven“ we understand that He is not like our earthly dads. God is not a man and so He is not limited in righteousness, wisdom, fairness, goodness, kindness, love or the ability to carry out His will. God will never fail us or forsake us. He will always provide what we really need since He knows what is best for us. Even His discipline will always be in and from perfect love and never from uncontrolled anger, injustice or misunderstanding. We can trust Him completely.
The passion of our prayer is seen in the next phrase, “Hallowed by Thy name.” This sets the tone of our prayer. To “hallow” means to “make holy, to sanctify,” and so we come to God with the highest reverence and honor. We accomplish this by believing that He is and what He has revealed about Himself. To do less implies that God is a liar. We speak of Him in a reverent manner and encourage others to do the same. Taking the Lord’s name in vain by using it in a flippant and disrespectful manner is a sin. And we seek to live in a virtuous manner which will also bring honor to Him.
The next element is our earnest hope and desire: “Thy Kingdom come.” We long for that day when Jesus will establish His kingdom on earth in its fullness. We yearn for His return, but this aspect of the prayer also means that we desire for Jesus to reign within our hearts here and now. The kingdom of God is present on earth in part. Scripture tells us that our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20), therefore we are aliens and strangers in this world (1 Peter 2:11) and ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20). When we pray “Thy Kingdom Come” we pledge our allegiance to our King and set ourselves to follow Him now.
The occupation of our prayer is found in the next element, “Thy Will Be Done, on Earth as it Is in Heaven.” This is the center of prayer for the true Christian, and yet this very point is probably the most attacked part of prayer in Christianity. The preachers of the health, wealth, prosperity doctrine take verses such as Matthew 21:22, “And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive,” and teach that you can get whatever you want. How shallow. They never put that together with verses such as James 4:3, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your lusts.” They ignore 1 John 5:14,15 which says, “… if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.” They want their will, not God’s, and that is the basic problem. Selfishness & self-centeredness blocks proper prayer. They do not understand that prayer is about seeking after God’s will and not their own. Prayer is an application of trusting God, not manipulating Him.
Many struggle with this element of prayer because they do not yet grasp the nature of true love or the goodness of God. Instead, they resent not getting the particular material things, certain relationships, good health, and pleasant circumstances they want and often think they deserve. They may or may not express this verbally, but such individuals blame God when life does not go they way they want.
This attitude most often surfaces when a tragedy strikes. Though we understand the emotional turmoil that may occur in the midst of some disaster, yet their reaction manifests the underlying heart of pride. They think themselves as worthy and deserving. They are not “poor in spirit.” Their prayer of “Thy will be done” is not one of hope and understanding that brings peace, but rather is resentful or even defiant surrender. It is said between clenched teeth in the same manner as someone defeated in a fight would say “uncle.” That is not true prayer and reveals a sad delusion of who God is and what He has done.
Others will pray, “Thy will be done” in the passive resignation of one who has been defeated and has given up the battle. They quietly go through the motions of prayer trying to use all the correct terminology, but there is no heart in it. They also have a sad misconception about who God is, what He has done and what He desires.
Still others malign this aspect of prayer with an over emphasis on the sovereignty of God that results in fatalism. They will pray because they are supposed too, but God is just going to do whatever He wants anyway. They pray, but there is no real belief or expectation their prayers make any difference. They are like those at a prayer meeting held in a farm community during a prolonged drought. They came to plead before the Lord that He would in His mercy and grace bring the much needed rain. The pastor came, the Elders came, the deacons came, the deaconesses came, all the faithful in the community came – but only one little girl brought an umbrella!
Yes, the Bible teaches in no uncertain terms that God is sovereign and He does not change, but the Bible also teaches that in some way God pays attention to our prayers and things happen as a result. We pray “Thy will be done” in hope. James 5:13-18 makes this point clear when he talks about praying for the sick and then says in verse 16, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain; and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the sky poured rain, and the earth produced its fruit.” When we pray we need to believe that God will hear and respond. Praying for God’s will to be done is not fatalism.
How do we pray for “Thy will to be done, on earth as it is in Heaven?” The same way Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane before His crucifixion. Without going into a full exposition of His prayer in Matthew 26, we find Jesus petitioning the Father several times. He does so with great emotion because He has the human desire to avoid the cross, yet at the same time Jesus seeks out and yields Himself completely to the Father’s will.
It is to be the same way for us. When way we pray for “Thy will to be done,” we express our petition and can have passion in the prayer. There should be a sense of rebellion against the sin that is in the world while there is a total seeking of and yielding to the will of the Father. The hearts of true Christians want God’s will to be done, not their own. In humility they know that their understanding is very limited and so they desire to be submissive to what God wants. This results in being able to gives thanks in all things, both the pleasurable and the unpleasurable, because they know they can trust God to do what is right and best.
The true believer wants God’s will to be done on the earth as it is in heaven. Heaven is where God sits enthroned and His will is done there perfectly and without hesitation with the result being peace and righteousness. That is our desire for the earth and we look forward to the day when that will be a complete reality when Jesus Christ will sit enthroned as king, but in the meantime, we pray for that to be true in the lives of individuals and in connection with circumstances of life that we encounter.
These first four elements of this model prayer remind us to Whom we are praying and what life is really about. The next three elements speak to our needs and how to have them met. The first need mentioned is for sustenance.
“Give Us this Day Our Daily Bread.” We need to seek from God the provisions we need for daily life. That is what the “bread” here is talking about. It represents our basic needs for life. This is quite a contrast to much of American culture in which we think that we provide for ourselves. Like the old farmer we pray, “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. The farmer has to work hard, but unless the Lord provides, the farmer will have nothing and the same is true for you and me. And so in gratitude we thank God for all of his provision whether is be abounding or a little. The Lord does not always provide for us what we want, but He does always provide we really need.
But let me add that God is not bound to meet everyone’s needs. The promise is only to the righteous. Psalm 37 is written in stanzas that contrast the wicked and the righteous. Among the contrasts are the Lord’s promises to sustain. Verse 16-20 state, “Better is the little of the righteous Than the abundance of many wicked. For the arms of the wicked will be broken; But the Lord sustains the righteous. The Lord knows the days of the blameless; And their inheritance will be forever. They will not be ashamed in the time of evil; And in the days of famine they will have abundance. But the wicked will perish; And the enemies of the Lord will be like the glory of the pastures, They vanish like smoke they vanish away.”
That same truth is seen in other Scriptures. God does not want the righteous to be pre-occupied with material things. Instead, as Jesus says in Matt 6:33, “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 then He will meet your needs for physical sustenance.
God meets our needs in two ways. 1) Through our own labor (Genesis 3:19). If we do not work we show ourselves to be unrighteous (1 Tim 5:8), and we should not be fed (2 Thessalonians 3:10). 2) Through His people and His own sovereign methods when we cannot work or our own resources are inadequate
To pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” is to place our trust in God as the source that will supply all our physical needs. We will carry out our part in following after Him and in our own labor, and we then lift our hearts in gratitude for what He has provided. And please note that we are to do this on a daily basis. The cupboards do not have to be full to prove the Lord provides. In fact, His provision may be best seen when the cupboards are not full for then we must trust Him on a daily basis just as the nation of Israel did while being fed by the daily manna. Note also that this is a command, so it is not optional for the godly. 1 Tim 4:3-5 gives a similar command telling us to receive what we have with gratitude and that our meals are sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
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 our relationships with both God and other people, and you can not escape it on your own. Sin has, as it says in Romans 1:18, placed man under the wrath of God. That leads to tragedy after tragedy in this life as the person pursues the impure desires of their hearts and descends into degrading passions and eventually ends up with a depraved mind. After this life is over it results in separation from God in conscious torment for eternity.
Only in true Christianity is there forgiveness of sin. Other religions erroneously try to offset sin by balancing it with good works, or they may help a person live with the guilt caused by sin, but only in Jesus Christ Himself is there forgiveness and therefore 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.” He wipes our sin off the record. We are no longer condemned to punishment and guilt (Romans 8:1). God casts it as far as east is from the west and He remembers it no more (Psalm 103:13).
Having your sin forgiven starts with repentance from it and acceptance of the payment of its penalty on our behalf by Jesus Christ when He died on the Cross(2 Corinthians 7:9-10). This is salvation from sin and it brings about the restoration of a relationship with God.
But Christians still fall into sin, and when we do we need to “confess our sins” (1 John 1:9) to keep our relationship with God pure and clean. Without such confession, our relationship with God is hindered. Psalm 66:18 states, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear.” So there is a need of confession and repentance on a daily basis so that our relationship with God is never hindered. One good indicator of the need to confess is guilt. God uses our emotions to alert us to things that are going on in our lives. He uses guilt to alert us to the fact that there is sin that needs to be dealt with.
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 owed the king a fortune and was forgiven it 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 I am unwilling to forgive others their small transgressions, how am I going to expect God to forgive mine? We in fact demonstrate that we do not understand God’s mercy and forgiveness and like the unjust steward, we will bear the consequences. James 2:13 tells us, “For judgement will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgement”.
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 offering forgiveness to those who have by comparison wronged them very little.
The believer wants to be forgiven his sins, but even more he wants to walk in holiness and not sin 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 “God, keep me out of trouble.” But it brings up a difficult question. Can an holy, righteous, pure, undefiled, blameless, unblemished, virtuous God possibly lead anybody into temptation? And if you don’t ask Him not to do so, would He lead you into evil?
The answer to this dilemma is found in the fact that the word “temptation” 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 we know that we are to rejoice when trials come (James 1, Romans 5). 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.”
I do not believe this element of prayer is for God to spare me from all trials in life. If that were true I would not grow the way I should. I believe the prayer is in agreement with 1 Corinthians 10:13 which tells us that God will not allow us to be tested beyond what we are able. The pray then would be, “Father, do not lead me /allow me to enter a trial that is too great for me and in which I would stumble and fall into sin.”
This actually reflects the other elements in the 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, according to His promises, will deliver us from evil, and evil is a real danger that is all around us. Jesus Himself prayed for the disciples and us in John 17:15 “I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil [one].” Our prayer then becomes like that of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. We pray, “Father, spare me the trial, but if the trial fits Your wisdom and Your way and Your plan, then please protect me so that I may endure it and grow through it.”
This model 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 us I hope that does. Prayer is centered on God, not on us. He is our Father. We want His name hallowed. We want His kingdom to come. We want His will to be done. We look to Him for all that we need: our physical needs, our mental needs, our emotional and our spiritual needs. He is our life. 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) Write down all the Scripture references made. 2) Talk with your parents about how you can improve your praying.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
How are you doing at keeping the priority of prayer in your life? What could help it be better? What is the proper purpose of prayer? What is the proper practice of prayer? What was the purpose of the prayer of Matt. 6:9-12? What is the relationship of God with believers? non-believers? How is God different from earthly fathers? What does it mean to “hallow” God’s name? How can that be done? What is your relationship to the kingdom of God? How do you demonstrate your loyalty to God? What does it mean to pray, “Thy will be done.” What are some of the wrong ways that people pray this? How did Jesus pray this in Matthew 26? What is the relationship between God providing and you working? What are God’s promises concerning providing? Are they conditional or unconditional? If conditional, what are the conditions? How does modern psychology deal with sin? What are the personal consequences of sin? How can a person be forgiven their sins? What are Christians to do when they sin? Why? What is the relationship between being forgiven and forgiving others? Does God ever lead anyone into temptation? What is the difference between being tempted and being tested (see James 1)? What is the source of temptation? What are the benefits of testing? How has this model prayer helped you in your prayer life?
Sermon Notes – February 4, 2007
The Proper Pattern of Prayer, Part 2 – Matthew 6:9-15
The Proper Purpose of Prayer – Vs. 5-6
The Proper Practice of Prayer – vs. 7-9
The Proper Pattern of Prayer – vs. 9-13
Our Father – vs. 9
Who Art in Heaven – vs. 9
Hallowed Be Thy Name – vs. 9
Thy Kingdom Come – vs. 10
Thy Will Be Done, on Earth as it is in Heaven – vs.. 10
Give Us this Day Our Daily Bread – vs. 11
And Forgives Us our Debts, as We also Forgive our Debtors – vs. 12, 14,15
And Do Not Lead Us into Temptation, but Delivers Us from Evil – vs. 13
Doxology – vs. 13
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