The Lord's Prayer

December 31, 2023

There is something just naturally within us that drives us to pray. Prayer springs forth from us impulsively, almost instinctively, in the face of what can sometimes be an overwhelming necessity in the midst of the events of our lives. And when we're pushed beyond our limits, we are frightened out of our wits at times, and pressed out of our comfort zone.

We resort to prayer almost just out of a pure reflex. We have to admit, we're always needy, aren't we? We're inadequate. We're deficient. We are desperately dependent upon God for everything. Without Him, we can do nothing. And prayer is the highest expression we have. And I think it's startling to think that our Lord himself, Jesus Christ, to an extent, was a dependent being.

In the incarnation, in him coming in flesh as a man, he laid aside some of the independent use of his deity, of his being God. He took on everything that we have except sin. He took on weakness. He took on tiredness. He took on hunger. He took on thirst. He was wholly dependent upon his Father and never acted out of his own deity.

Like us, Jesus had to rely on God every moment of every day. And he continually told his disciples, I only do what I see the father doing. I only say what I hear my father saying. He said, by myself, I can do nothing. And Jesus expressed this dependency in prayer. Prayer for him was an expression of a, of a, a deeply felt Prayer was the environment in which he lived, the very air that he breathed on a daily basis.

And for his life, in the midst of continual interruption, a full schedule, people's needs and cries around him at all times, he managed to maintain this intimate communication with God at all times. And his disciples, Finally realized what the secret of that was. One day they came to him as usual. He was praying.

When he finished, they had asked him, Lord, teach us to pray. They didn't ask him to teach them how to study, how to preach, how to evangelize. And if the other things we do in the Christian life, they knew that the secret to his life was the relationship he had with his father through prayer. And that is why they asked him specifically to teach them how to pray.

And his answer to that. Is what we're going to look at this morning. Now, the actual answer that Jesus gave to the question is found in Luke 11, but we're going to look at Jesus's. Teaching on prayer in Matthew chapter six in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus said it in Matthew. He said it a different time in Luke.

One thing we need to realize about the Gospels is Jesus probably did not just say one thing one time and that was it. He probably repeated his teaching different times to different audiences in different contexts. That's why I think sometimes in the Gospels the wording of one story of when Jesus did teaching might be slightly different than another.

He taught the same thing different times but maybe it used slightly different words. But the disciples realized that for Jesus, prayer was an absolute necessity. It was more than just an occasional practice. It was more than this simply saying grace before a meal. It was a lifelong habit, an attitude of mind and heart, and everything he did sprung purely from a life of prayer.

It can be truly said that Jesus fulfilled what Paul said in 1st Thessalonians 1st Thessalonians he prayed without ceasing and the disciples must have seen that prayer for him was not only an absolute necessity it was something perfectly natural as natural for him as drinking as breathing as eating as sleeping He didn't have to struggle in prayer.

He didn't have to drive himself to it. It wasn't an act of self discipline, where he had a calendar and said, I need to spend 30 minutes today in prayer. It was never a duty for him. It was always simply a delight to be in conversation with his father. Jesus had no sense of reluctance to pray. was a requirement he needed to fill.

He never seemed to have to drag himself away from something in order to pray. Why? Because all of his actions arose out of this overwhelming sense of need. He simply faced up to the fact that without his relationship with his father, through prayer, He would have been a lot less effective in everything he did in his ministry.

He could put in hours of activity and accomplish a lot less without being in dependent prayer upon to his father. The Lord's Prayer is what we would consider to be a primer on prayer. And in it, Jesus provides for us. A model of how we should pray, not exactly what we should pray. This is a model. This is an example for us.

This prayer, which is made up of six petitions, is going to fall for us into two rather obvious categories. The first three petitions are going to have to do with God and His glory. And for those, Jesus always used the pronoun thy, thy name, thy kingdom, thy will. The second three have to do with us and our well being, and Jesus there used the pronoun us.

Give us, forgive us, lead us. He begins his instruction on prayer with a warning.

And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore, do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.

One thing to avoid in prayer, and Jesus is very clear about this,

meaningless words and phrases, vain repetition. A mechanical utterance, repeating the same thing over and over and over again. Because what that does is that reduces prayer from a, from a very real approach, uh, uh, uh, uh, an attempt to be in relationship with God, to just repeating words and phrases again and again.

Some religions, eastern religions, have this thing they have called a prayer wheel. Where they will write prayers on a certain type of spindle and then spin it fast. And the thing that they think happens is the faster you spin it, the more your prayers get answered.

The phrase, meaningless repetition, describes any and every prayer that is all words and no meaning. All lips and no mind. All lips and no heart. Mechanical, mindless words, and an example that happens that we have in the Christian world, maybe some of you have experienced this, and I certainly did growing up because I was raised Catholic, was the rosary, where you're just repeating the same thing over and over and just moving beads one after another.

Some people think the more they say, the more likely they are to be heard. Well, that's certainly true in this world, isn't it? The one who talks the most and gets the loudest and says the most inflammatory things usually gets the most attention. But I don't think that works that way in the kingdom of God.

Because what sort of God would we be following who would be impressed by big words that we had? Or impressed by the fact that we said the same thing over a hundred times?

The God that we address in prayer. is the one who primarily wants to be in an intimate, loving relationship with his people. That is why this prayer, the Lord's Prayer starts with our Father. It's essential to know who we're praying to, isn't it?

Most of our prayer times, and I will fully admit to guilt in this, involve immediately rushing. into a series of petitions. And once I'm done, I say amen and go on with the rest of my day.

What this does is that takes the focus and puts it on us. What this does is it puts our focus ahead of being focused on the Lord. But Jesus shows us another way, doesn't he? We start with God. We start with the Lord. And we have to take this slow, measured, this gaze, this look at our Heavenly Father, at His greatness, at His eagerness to be in relationship with us, with His eagerness to give to us, His patience with us, and yes,

Jesus says, pray in this way. Our father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Now notice right at the beginning. Jesus doesn't say, pray these exact words. Jesus does not say, memorize this prayer and say it five times a day. But I find it very interesting that what he begins with, pray in this way, and maybe the best translation I heard, the best paraphrase of that is Jesus says, pray along these lines, kind of use this as a picture.

There's nothing in scripture that says this needs to be repeated verbatim. We do. I don't think there's anything wrong with that, but if we only do that and forget that Jesus says pray along these lines, I think we're going to miss a lot.

Address God as our Father who art in heaven.

This implies that God is personal. He is as much He as I am I. He is loving. He fulfills the ideal of fatherhood in his loving care for all of his children. He is powerful, he is not only good, he is great. And the words in the heavens show not so much where he lives, but the authority and the power that he has at his command as the creator and the ruler of The point is, God combines fatherly love with heavenly power, and that is why his love directs his power to work in our lives.

Jesus is not teaching correct etiquette in coming to approach God.

But before we pray, We need to consciously remind ourselves of who he is so that when we approach our loving father in heaven with the right attitude of humility in ourselves and confidence in him. And the word Jesus uses for father, it's not a formal term. It's a common Aramaic phrase, Abba. There are a lot of New Testament scholars who are pretty convinced that even here, Jesus is using the term Abba to direct himself to God.

And one thing, this may be one of those things that only I find interesting. But there are really good arguments in the New Testament that every time Jesus prays, he uses that phrase, Abba, with one exception. The only time in scripture when Jesus did not address his father as Abba was when he was on the cross.

And that was, my God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Because the relationship at that point, because the, the, the penalty and the punishment for the sin of the entire universe had fallen upon Christ. And that relationship somehow was different at that point.

Paul talks about this a couple times. Galatians because you are sons, And daughters. God has sent forth the spirit of his son into your hearts, crying out Abba, Father. Daddy. Romans, he does this again. Romans chapter 8 verse 15. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear. Paul says you haven't received the spirit to go back to where you were.

But you received the spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, Abba, Father. Father.

This is the term that boys and girls would use to refer to their earthly father, but it was never used in terms of God until Jesus came along and transformed the way that we are to focus on our heavenly father. And he taught his disciples to pray with the absolute same intimacy. That God is our Abba Father is a truth that we must cultivate for the health of our souls.

We are to pray to a Father who has a Father's heart, a Father's love, and a Father's strength. And the first and truest note of prayer must be our recognition of the kind of Father that we are indeed praying to. We must hear him. We must approach him as a child in full trust and in full intimacy and in full simplicity with all the, the, the, the frankness, honesty of a child.

See, when we've taken the time and the trouble to orient ourselves towards God and recollect that he is our personal, loving and powerful father, then the content Of what we pray is going to be radically changed if we have a firm idea of who it is we're actually talking to. Two ways that our prayer will be transformed if we come to God knowing that he is our loving father.

One, God's concerns will be given priority. Your name, your kingdom, your will. And secondly, our own needs. Although demoted to second place will be completely committed to him, give us, forgive us, and deliver us

the first three petitions. Express our concern to God's glory in relationship to his name. And in relationship to his rule, and in relationship to his will. And if we would imagine that God were some type of an impersonal force, they wouldn't have any personal name, or rule, or will for us to be concerned about.

We know that names today, basically serve simply as identity. They're merely labels to identify people and little else, and we're more concerned with how names sound than about what they mean. But in the ancient world, a name was considered to indicate character. It corresponded to the person, and this is especially true when it is applied to the name of God.

For somebody who was Jewish at that time, God's name would refer to the absolute reality of Him. God's name is who God is. He is already holy, but we are to pray that His holiness may be made manifest in ourselves as well.

And He says, Thy kingdom come. News alert, God has a plan. Sometimes we look around at our world and go, I don't see any plan working out anywhere in any type of coherent sense. God has a plan and Jesus Christ is going to rule in that plan. This is what Psalm 2 says. Why do the nations conspire and the people plot in vain?

The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers together against the Lord and against his anointed one. Let us break their chains, they say, and throw off their fetters. The one enthroned in heaven laughs. The Lord scoffs at them. I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill. You see, God's program and God's interests must be Be our first concern, but we often spend the bulk of our time asking God to bless our programs, our kingdom, our wants, and our needs rather than his.

It's God's will done in heaven? Of course it is. It's got done on earth? Well, it's only done in heaven because nobody objects.

The only objection to God's will is ever heard on earth and by people. Even all nature, all animals, confirm to God's will 100%. Let me give you an example. I can absolutely guarantee you, never in the history of the world has a lion ever woken up I'm not playing in Africa and said, I think I'm going to have a salad today.

All creation conforms to the will of God except man. We need to remember the will of God is good, acceptable, perfect. Why? Because it is the will of our father in heaven. He is infinite in knowledge, love, and power. And it is foolish to resist his will. Therefore, and wise to discern and do it. And so these first requests,

the prayer of surrender, we might even be praying. May my life be a source of delight to you. May your Holy name be honored. May you have your rightful place. May your will be done in my life. The trouble is, we all know that there are great areas in our lives that God is not reigning, that we are not letting His name be holy, and where His will is not being done in our lives.

Because we are holding on to those things, aren't we?

We have our own privileged areas. With the police tape across it. And the traffic cones out there that we say no admittance to God.

There are some areas in our life that we're just not going to surrender to God. Two reasons, I think. One, we don't want him to see what's really in that dark closet. Or two, we think we can figure that out ourselves. And in both cases, we are radically, radically wrong.

The second half of The prayer. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts as we have forgiven 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.

Prayer by its very nature is requesting. It's not insisting. It's not clamoring. We can't make any deep deals with God. We can't make demands on God. We don't have to because we are coming to a loving father and a friend. We ask, then we wait with patience. We ask, then we wait with patience. We wait with submission until he gives us what we have requested or something more and something better.

And since God is our father in heaven, loves us with the love of only a father can have,

we need to remember that God in heaven is concerned for our total welfare. He wants us to bring our needs, all of them, not cherry pick them, a few here, a few there, and the others we think we can take care of, to bring them trustingly to Him. Our need for food, our need for forgiveness, our need to be delivered from evil.

Now notice, Jesus does not say, give us this day our daily gummy bears.

That is not a necessity, although my wife would probably dispute that in my case. Bread symbolizes everything that is needed to sustain life. It kind of symbolizes food and health and shelter and the necessities, not just the luxuries of life. And Jesus wants us to be conscious of a day to day dependence upon the Father.

And I found it interesting that the word daily there can be translated either as what we need today or what we need tomorrow. And I found one writer who said, used in this morning, used in the morning, this petition would ask bread for the day just beginning. Used in the evening, it would pray for tomorrow's bread.

The point is we are to live a day at a time.

And forgiveness. As indispensable to the life and the health of the body as food is. Sin in scripture is often likened to a debt because it deserves to be paid. And all sin will be paid. All sin has been paid in Christ. But when God forgives sin, He drops the penalty. This prayer can be a very healing prayer, I think, for any type of fractured relationship.

Because Jesus is not saying, If you forgive, then God will forgive you. He will forgive. He is a forgiving God. God forgives those who repent, and one of the chief Evidence is in our lives that we have been forgiven by God is that we would have a forgiving spirit towards others.

If we refuse to forgive others and we have no desire to forgive others, I'm not talking about just struggling to forgive others. We all deal with that. But if you've got a hard heart that says no, I will not forgive. I think that is evidence that you don't know or you don't think that you've ever been forgiven by God.

Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. By the way, there's probably a better translation for that. Maybe better translated as deliver us from the evil one. It's the devil who's in view here, the one who tempts us into sin and from whom we need to be rescued. And I think this petition is probably more concerned with overcoming it.

rather than avoiding it. One way to paraphrase prayer phrases might be, do not allow us to be led into temptation that it's so overwhelms us, but rescue us from the evil one. I think Jesus is implying that the devil is too strong for us, but that our heavenly father will indeed deliver us if we would, but call upon him.

And I think that's what Paul was talking about in first Corinthians. Remember this verse, no temptation has seized you except what is common to man. God is faithful. He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

This is a reminder for us. To know the areas where we are weak. And therefore, we ask God not to expose us to temptations in those areas. Don't expose us to temptations in areas where we know that we are too weak to cope with it.

I've, I've done men's ministry on and off for, for many years and in a number of different churches. And I've been in groups where. Some of the men are just really intimate to share their struggles and their weaknesses. And in my experience, the men who show the most weaknesses in those groups are the strongest.

The ones who are the weakest, the weakest, the ones who say, I don't struggle with that. No, I don't struggle with greed. I don't have an issue with lust. Nah, anger is not an issue for me. Those are the ones who are the weakest because they struggle more with pride. And these three requests, which Jesus models for us, beautifully comprehensive, they cover all human needs, material, daily bread, spiritual, forgiveness of sins, and moral deliverance from evil.

This is our model of Christian prayer. It's thoughtful. It's God centered. It's based on a correct view of God. He is our Abba Father in the heavens. And we need to remind ourselves that He loves us with the most tender affection. That He sees His children, even in the secret place that we try to keep walled off.

He knows all of our needs before we ask him, and that he acts on our behalf by his heavenly and kingly power.

I want to close this morning with a story that I read while preparing for this. One man said, two of my sons play Pop Warner football. And there are strict weight guidelines in all the divisions. And yesterday was the day when all of the players are weighed and certified so they can play. It's a very big day for some of the boys who are close to the limit already.

They've been practicing for a month. As the players on my youngest son team came out of the gym, there was a lot of cheering and congratulating going on. I noticed that one of the boys on my son's team did not come out with the others. When at last he emerged, he was crying. A month ago, he was 16 pounds over the weight limit.

He worked very hard all month to lose the weight, and he thought he had done so, but he had lost only 14 pounds. He was 2 pounds overweight. And as I saw him come out, I wondered where his parents were. I thought, now this is when a boy Needs a dad. He needs someone to hug him, someone to tell him everything is going to be alright.

But there was no dad to console him. No parents in sight. This is where we all find ourselves, isn't it? Morally speaking, we've all missed the mark. Sometimes we don't even come close. Despite our best efforts, we fail. We didn't make the grade. Didn't make the right choices. Didn't come in at the right weight limit.

But then we found that God was waiting for us.

Arms outstretched.

As if to say, it's alright. I've paid the price.

This is the God we worship. This is our Daddy. This is our Abba. He wants us to come to Him. Sit in His lap and tell Him We know that he loves us and we want him to have his way in our lives to tell him our needs. Because here and only here, with our Abba Father, will we find true love, forgiveness, and everything we need.

Let's pray. Abba Father, our Heavenly Daddy, who knows us better than we know ourselves.

Lord, you know, we keep those things walled off. We keep those things in our lives that we think we can handle better than you, but you are our father who art in heaven. You are the loving father who loved us so much. But you sent your very son to die for us so that our sins may be forgiven and that we may be in restored fellowship with you for eternity.

You are our Abba Father. We are your children. We know that you love us. May we love you also. In your name we pray. Amen.