"The Prayer of Jesus" part 1
Our Father in Heaven
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
October 18, 2009



Memory Verse:

Matthew 6:9 (NLT)
“Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy.”

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VISUAL – NEW CREDIT CARD WITH CHIP REQUIRING CODE

Does anyone recognize this? Yes, it’s a credit card… one of those things most of us use way too often. Well, this particular card is one of those new ones with a chip inside it, so that when I use it, I have to enter a code into the reader. Kind of like how Debit Cards work.

Of course, my problem is remembering yet another code. How many codes do we have to have in this world? When I get to pick my own code, I’m pretty good at remembering it. I have a bit of a system, so I know what code to use if it has to be 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, or 10 letters or numbers, and what to use if it has to be a combination.

But this credit card is one of those things where they assign you a code, sent to you in a separate envelope. So of course, I have to do exactly what I’m not supposed to do, and keep that code nearby in case I can’t remember it.

This morning we’re starting a brand new series on prayer, and I think a lot of us think that prayer works much like this credit card works. We think that if we really want something, all we have to do is use the right words in the right combination at the right time, and God will have no choice but to give us what we want.

Or we think of it as a vending machine… we put the right combination of coins in, press the right buttons, and we’ll get what we want.

And so we turn prayer into some sort of formula… we develop our prayer rituals… and we think we have to stick to them if we’re going to pray correctly.

Right now with Nate, at every meal time we use one of those old formula prayers. There are actually a variety of them out there, but the one we’re using with Nate is the same one I used when I was a kid… “God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for our food. Amen.”

And while I believe those kinds of prayers do have value, I’m also fully aware that those kinds of prayers are really entrance level. They’re superficial prayers, and if we become satisfied with that as being all there is to our prayer lives, then we’re really missing out. Because prayer is meant to be so much more than that.

As Nate grows and as he establishes his own relationship with God, he’s going to learn to pray much more personal prayers than that. He’s going to leave those formulaic ritualistic prayers behind, and he’s going to explore the depths of communing with God. And least, that’s my hope for him.

Because prayer is not meant to be a religious duty to fulfill, it’s not meant to be a way to get what we want… it’s meant to be a heart to heart with God. It’s meant to be a means for us to get to know God. It’s meant for us to spend time with Him and allow Him to speak into our lives.

“No words make prayer. Only a heart reaching out to God is prayer.”
~ Carroll Johnson Shewmake

And you and I need to be reaching out to God in prayer each and every day.

Deuteronomy 8:3 (NLT)
…People do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

Notice it doesn’t say, “every word that comes from the pages of the Bible”, although those are important. But “from the mouth of the Lord”. And the way that God has chosen to speak into our lives is through prayer. Prayer is our lifeline. If you want to survive and thrive as a Christ-follower, you need to be praying. If we as a Church want to grow and make a difference in our city and beyond, we need to be praying.

I read some quotes from some of the great Christian leaders of the past couple centuries about the importance of prayer… let me share a few of them with you.

“The man who mobilizes the Christian church to pray will make the greatest contribution to world evangelization in history!”
~ Andrew Murray
South African church leader

“I would rather teach one man to pray than ten men to preach.”
~ Charles Spurgeon

“The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray.”
~ Samuel Chadwick (1860-1932)
Methodist preacher and college president in England

We need to be people of prayer. For ourselves, for our church, for our world… we need to be people of prayer. At our Dreams & Dessert a few weeks ago, we talked about how prayer needs to be a focus for us this year, as individuals and as a Church. As Jesus emphasized…

Luke 19:46 (NLT)
“The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be a house of prayer’…”

One of the quotes I read just read talked about “prayerless religion” and how there isn’t any power in that kind of religion. Isn’t it amazing how many good, religious things can distract us and pull us away from what’s really important? It’s amazing how involved we can become in so many different things that we ignore the basics.

Even the 12 apostles faced this conflict in their own schedules. They were leading the early church, and they were having all these demands and expectations placed upon them. In particular, there were some widows who were going hungry and a rift began to develop between the Greek-speaking believers and the Hebrew-speaking believers, and pressure was put on the 12 apostles to step in and take over the food distribution program. Take a look at what they did…

Acts 6:2-4 (NLT)
So the Twelve called a meeting of all the believers. They said, “We apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program. And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility. Then we apostles can spend our time in prayer and teaching the word.”

The Apostles themselves faced the struggle of meeting demands and living up to expectations, while still committing themselves to what they were primarily called to do… pray and preach.

Now, I am called to preach. You probably aren’t. But we are all called to pray. So what is it in your life that infringes on your prayer time and prevents you from really connecting with God? What are the demands and expectations and distraction that spring up like weeds and choke the life out of your prayer time? And what’s it going to take for you to get rid of those weeds?


On the banners on the side walls, you see three words that help define who we are as a Church… Connecting, Equipping, Empowering. Well, prayer is all about connecting with God… and through this series I want to equip and empower you to do just that.

So what we’re going to do is, over the next four weeks we’re going to work our way through the model prayer that Jesus gave us. We call it the “Our Father” or “The Lord’s Prayer”. And for many of you, you would have memorized this prayer as a child.

In fact, even in leading into this prayer, Jesus gave some warnings about how we are not to treat prayer. So before we get to the prayer itself, let me highlight three warnings that Jesus gives us here.


Three Warnings about Prayer:

1.    Do not use prayer to show off.

Matthew 6:5 (NLT)
“When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get.”

For the religious people Jesus was talking about, praying in public was a status thing for them. It was a way for them to show others just how holy there were. So everyday at noon, they’d head down to the corner of Grafton and University and start praying out loud for everyone to hear, with the idea that people would see them and think, “Wow, look at them praying. And they’re using all these flowery words. They must really be spiritual people.”

Now, Jesus wasn’t against praying in public. In fact, Jesus Himself prayed in public. But for the people He was talking about, whenever they prayed in public it was just an ego thing for them. Just a way for them to show off and feed their pride. It wasn’t about connecting with God; it was about impressing other people.

Some of you may be patting yourself on the back right now because you never pray in public. But let me ask, why don’t you pray in public? Is it because you’re afraid of what others will think? Because that’s just a different symptom of the same problem. You still see prayer as a performance for other people. But prayer is not meant to be a means of showing off. Prayer is meant to connect with God.

But in this case, Jesus was specifically talking about people who were praying in public for the applause and admiration they could receive. And He said this was a problem, and then proposed this solution…

Matthew 6:6 (NLT)
“But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”

Actually, if you go through this chapter, there are a few times that Jesus says to do things in secret. Why? To make sure your motivation is right. He says, “When you pray, do it in secret so the only one who knows that you’re praying is God. They you can be sure you’re not doing it to show off.” And He goes on to add a few other things. He says, “When you give to the needy, when you fast, when you do something nice for someone else… watch your motives. Are you just doing it to show off? Then do it in secret. Don’t boast about it, don’t brag about it, don’t take out a full page ad in the newspaper. Let God be the only one who knows and let God be the one to reward you for it.


2.    Don’t pray as a religious ritual.

Listen to what Jesus said…

Matthew 6:7 (NLT)
“When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again.”

The people Jesus is talking about… what are they trying to do? They’re trying to manipulate God. They think that if they say the same words over and over again then God will have to do whatever you say.

It’s actually a very popular practice. There are a lot of people today who talk about the Law of Attraction and the power of positive thinking. They talk about visualizing what you want and it will become a reality. There’s the health and wealth Gospel and there’s the name it and claim it theology and there’s a whole movement based on books and videos like The Secret. I know one guy who’s into all those things. Every time I see him, he’s reading another book about the power of the mind and of visualizing what you want to happen. And right now, he sweeps floors for a living. Which is a fine job, but if you’re going to be able to visualize your reality, don’t you think you’d be doing something else?

Anyway, when this kind of practice is applied to prayer… when you just repeat your prayers over and over again as a kind of magical incantation… it’s basically just our attempt to manipulate God and force Him to do our bidding.

So Jesus criticized people who used vain repetition in their prayers as a way to manipulate God.

Now, there is a difference between being repetitive and being persistent. Jesus criticized people who were repetitive… But He encourages us to be persistent. Sometimes you need to be persistent and patient in your prayer. But that’s very different from the kind of praying Jesus was referring to in Matthew 6. The people Jesus was talking about were using repetition to impress God and force His hand with their many words.


3.    Don’t think of prayer as a way to inform God of what you need.

How many people think that prayer is a way to tell God what they need so He will provide it for them? Isn’t that the way we treat prayer? But listen to what Jesus said…

Matthew 6:8 (NLT)
“…Your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!”

So what’s the point of praying?!? If God already knows what you need, then why bother? Perhaps because prayer isn’t about letting God know what you need? Oh, I think that’s part of prayer… you can ask God to provide for your needs. But I think that’s really a small part of what prayer is meant to be, and not the dominant thing we treat it as.


So hopefully, as we go through this series, you’ll recognize why Jesus issued these warnings and instead move toward what prayer is really meant to be. So let’s talk about this prayer that Jesus gave us.

Now, I’ve already talked about how there is no formula for prayer. There is no ritualistic prayer that you have to say in order to really pray. And so I don’t believe that Jesus gave this prayer as a prayer that we have to recite together regularly. I think He gave it as a model or an example of what prayer can and should be like.

So while we don’t have to always use the exact same words as He did – which you wouldn’t be able to do anyway unless you learn Aramaic – I think there are underlying principles that we can learn from this model prayer and that we can use in our own prayers.

And so we’re going to examine just the first part of that prayer this morning…

Matthew 6:9 (NLT)
“Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy.”

If you have it memorized, you probably know this part as “Our Father which art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name.”



Jesus teaches us…

A.     The intimacy of personal prayer

Jesus introduced something brand new here. A revolutionary concept… praying to God as “Father”. There were a few times… not many, but a few times… in the Old Testament were God was described as a Father. But that was always in reference to Him being the source of all creation. It wasn’t a relational term, it was a positional term.

“Jesus set the pattern for prayer as a continuous mode of friendship. The Old Testament contains many beautiful and magnificent prayers, usually led by a king or prophet… Some scholars suggest that Jesus virtually invented private prayer. No one in the Old Testament directly addressed God as ‘Father’ whereas Jesus did 170 times.”
~ Philip Yancey
Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?

So along comes Jesus, and He instructs us to pray “Our Father”. How dare He refer to God with such intimacy?

And this wasn’t the only time you see this in the New Testament. In the passage we looked at earlier this morning, Paul wrote…

Galatians 4:6 (NLT)
…We are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.”

Romans 8:15 (NLT)
…You received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”

There’s that term again: “Abba, Father.”

Now, what comes to mind when you hear that word, “Abba”?

AUDIO – PLAY SEGMENT OF “DANCING QUEEN”

Okay, just so you know, for the band ABBA, that name was just an acronym of the people in the band…

Anni-Frid Lyngstad
Björn Ulvaeus
Benny Andersson
Agnetha Fältskog

But when Paul used the term, “Abba”, He wasn’t referring to them. No, the Aramaic term “Abba” is the rough equivalent to our terms “Papa” or “Daddy”, and it would have been the first word that many children learned to say. It was a term of intimacy and endearment, while at the same time being respectful.

So Jesus teaches us to address God as our Father, and not as some distant God or Lord. And Paul goes a bit further using the intimate term a child would use for their Daddy.

I remember the first time I heard Nate say “Dada.” What a thrill that was. About a month ago, he started calling me “Mommy”, which wasn’t so thrilling. A little bit of a gender-recognition issue here. So every time he calls me “Mommy”, I immediately correct him and say, “Daddy.” So what do you think happened this past week? He started calling me “Mommy-Daddy”. I guess that’s progress.

But when he does get it right, I just love hearing my son call me Daddy. And I wonder if that’s the same kind of thrill that our Heavenly Father experiences when we come to Him with that same kind of intimacy.

In telling us to pray “Our Father”, Jesus was teaching us that we can approach God with a certain level of familiarity and intimacy. But at the same time, He was teaching us something else. He was teaching us…


B.    The supremacy of God over all

So Jesus was teaching us the intimacy we can have with God, and at the same time the supremacy and transcendence of God over all creation. He has no equal. He is the Father of all, the everlasting Father.

In fact, Jesus emphasized the supremacy of God this way…

Matthew 6:9 (NLT)
Our Father in Heaven, may your name be kept holy.

Where is our Father? In Heaven. In fact, He rules there. And His very name is to be hallowed, or honoured, or holy.

You know, it’s sad… and we’ve talked about this before… but it’s sad that in our society today the names and the titles of God are treated as anything but holy. I mean, even on T.V. these days, you can hear the name of Jesus or the titles of God just tossed around as if they meant nothing. And at the same time there are all kinds of other crude and profane that aren’t allowed on T.V.

If I had to choose, I’d choose the other words. I’d rather none of them be used, but I’d especially want the names and titles for God to be treated with respect and honour. I’d want His name to be kept holy.

Because He is holy. He is the Almighty God, the Creator of All, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, He’s the Great I Am, the Omnipotent Father, He’s the awesome Lord, He’s the Victorious Warrior, the Commanding King of Kings… and He deserves our respect.

Nate calls me “Daddy”, and that’s great. There’s an intimacy in the father-son relationship. But you know what else is there? There’s an authority structure. Nate knows, or at least he’s learning, that I’m the father. I love him and I want the best for him, but I’m the father. If I tell him to do something, he’d better do it. He’d better listen to me. He’d better show me respect. Not because I’m a tyrant, but because I’m his father.

Our Heavenly Father loves us, and He wants the best for us. But that doesn’t give us license to do whatever we want and ignore how He has instructed us to live. He is the Father, we are His children, and we’d better respect that relationship.


And the third thing that I believe Jesus is teaching us right in the very first sentence of this prayer is…


C.    The attitude of submission we must possess

In recognizing that God the Father is supreme over all, that includes us. He is over us. His ways are higher than our ways. He thoughts are greater than ours. So we must submit ourselves to Him and to His ways. His agenda needs to be placed ahead of our own. His mission must take precedence over ours.

In fact, look at the very word “submission.” It means that we place our mission under His mission. You get that, right? So prayer isn’t so much about getting God to rubber stamp our mission; it’s about us getting on board with His mission. We don’t bring God around to our way of thinking; prayer changes who we are and brings us around to His way of thinking.

If we take a sneak peek at the never verse… and we’re going to look at this verse more next week… but if we take a quick look, we can see this kind of submission in action. What does Jesus say?

Matthew 6:10 (NLT)
“May Your Kingdom come soon. May Your will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven.”

It’s not about my kingdom or my will… it’s about His. It’s about me submitting to Him and His ways.

“At its core, prayer probes the depth of personal submission… It’s at the heart of every prayer… Our relationship with God is so multi-faceted. He refers to us His friends, as children, even as co-inheritors with Jesus. But there’s also another aspect of our relationship in that God also relates to us as Lord and as subjects.”
~ Dave Workman


So there you have it… “Our Father in Heaven, may Your name be kept holy.” True prayer… the kind of prayer that Jesus taught… starts with a recognition of who God is and with our submission to Him. And we’ll build on that over the next few weeks.


Now, to go along with this series, I have something I want to hand out to you this morning. This is a little booklet that is actually an excerpt from a bigger book by Jim Cymbala. If you really want to explore what prayer is and what it can be in your life, then pick up one of his books. They’re excellent. But you can start with this little booklet.

 

 

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