"The Prayer of Jesus" part 3
Give Us This Day...
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
November 1, 2009



Memory Verse:

Matthew 6:11-12 (NLT)
“Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.”

****************

Well, we’ve reach a pivotal point in our series. For the past couple of weeks, we’ve been working our way through the model prayer that Jesus taught to His followers. We know it as The Lord’s Prayer, and a lot of us even have it memorized. But truth be known, this prayer wasn’t meant to be like a mantra that you have to repeat over and over. It was meant to be a model or an example prayer for us to learn from.

And so that’s what we’ve been doing. We’ve been working our way through this prayer, drawing out principles that can enrich our prayer lives.

So far, we’ve talked about how when we pray, we are talking to our Father in Heaven. There’s a level of intimacy that we can have with Him as His children, and He welcomes every one of us to be adopted into His spiritual family. And while seeing Him as our Father conveys a level of intimacy, it also conveys an attitude of submission. It recognizes that He is the Father, we are the children, and therefore He is ultimately in charge. That’s what we talked about two weeks ago.

And then last week, we talked about how we can pray for the Kingdom of God to be established and to expand on this planet. That means praying for people everywhere to come to know Christ personally. And we can pray for God’s will to be done on earth. Not our will, but God’s will. Which means praying for our world from our political leaders all the way to the other end of the spectrum where you find the lost, the least, and the lonely. We pray for God’s Kingdom and God’s will to be realized in every part of our planet and in the life of every person.

And now we come to the next verse, which I already said is pivotal. Let me explain why.

So far, everything Jesus has taught us about prayer has been focused vertically. It’s been all about our Father in Heaven, about His Kingdom in Heaven, about His Will in Heaven and about experiencing them here. It’s all been directed at God, but now Jesus moves on and shows us how to pray for ourselves.

Which is actually a pattern you see a few different times in the Bible. For example, think about the Ten Commandments.

[PowerPoint
1. Do not worship any other gods besides Me.
2. Do not make idols of any kind.
3. Do not misuse the name of the LORD your God.
4. Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
5. Honour your father and mother.
6. Do not murder.
7. Do not commit adultery.
8. Do not steal.
9. Do not testify falsely against your neighbour.
10. Do not covet.]

On the screen, you see all ten in order. And what do you notice about the first four compared to the final six? The first four are all focused vertically, on our relationship with God. And only after dealing with those four does the focus change to our relationships with each other.

Or how about when Jesus was asked about what the Greatest Commandment is? Jesus responds with two commandments. The first one is about our relationship with God…

Matthew 22:37-38 (NLT)
“‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.”

And then the second commandment is directed at our interpersonal relationships…

[verse 39 is added to what’s already on the screen]
Matthew 22:37-39 (NLT)
“‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

So again, moving from the vertical to the horizontal. And that’s what we see here in this model prayer. After praying…

Matthew 6:9-10 (NLT)
“Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven.”

…Jesus moves from talking about God and about Heaven and moves on to pray about ourselves.

[verse 11 is added to what’s already on the screen]
Matthew 6:11 (NLT)
“Give us today the food we need…”

So again, we move from the vertical to the horizontal. But why? Why is this important? Because it gets us in the right frame of mind. When we start with God, only then do we have the right perspective to view ourselves and our relationships with each other.

But it’s interesting… Most people think this is what prayer is all about: asking God to give us what we want. But in the model prayer that Jesus gave us, that doesn’t even show up until we’re over halfway through. Because prayer is not about getting what we want; it’s about connecting with God. It’s about having a heart to heart with Him. It’s about getting to know Him and allowing Him to speak into our lives.

But even though it takes a while, Jesus does tell us to pray for our own physical needs. “Give us today the food we need…” And that’s the extent of it, as far as our personal needs go. Of course, this was just a model prayer, and when we pray we’re going to personalize it a bit. So when we pray about our needs, it’s going to take more than seven words. But again, just in comparison to the rest of the prayer, praying for our own physical needs is such a small part of what prayer is meant to be.

Of course, there’s more to this than I’ve shown you so far. And in this model prayer, Jesus does tell us to pray more for ourselves than just about asking for our daily food. But not about our physical needs; it’s about our spiritual needs. Take a look…

Matthew 6:11-12 (NLT)
Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.

Okay, so this is the section of this model prayer that we’re going to spend the next 20 minutes or so looking at. This section about praying for ourselves. So what do we learn from these verses? When we pray for ourselves, what are we to pray for?


How Do We Pray for Ourselves?

1.    Pray that God will provide for our basic needs

Matthew 6:11 (NLT)
“Give us today the food we need…”

The verse says, “Give us today the food we need.” Or you probably know it as “Give us this day our daily bread.” Which may or may not hold a lot of meaning for you today, but for the Jews who were the first to hear Jesus give this model prayer, their “food for today” held a lot of meaning.

Remember, a great deal of their identity as a nation was wrapped up in the Exodus from Egypt and the 40 years they spent traveling through the wilderness under the leadership of Moses. They would move from place to place, and even if they stayed in one location for a long period of time, the terrain wasn’t exactly favorable to growing crops.

So with two million people, how did they survive? How did they eat?

Well, God provided for their needs. During the night, when the dew set in, a kind of food they called “Manna” would appear on the ground. So every morning when they woke up, they would go outside and collect it.

Now, we don’t really know what this Manna was. But we do know that it was white, appeared like flakes of frost, and when raw it tasted like wafers made from honey. When the Israelites gathered it, they would ground it up, make it into cakes, and bake it. Plus, it was supposedly something that if they didn’t gather it early enough in the day it would melt.

How about the name itself? What does “Manna” mean? Well, apparently it means “What is it?” They had never seen it before, so that’s what they said when they first saw it. “What is it?” It’s also very close to the Egyptian term, Mennu, which means food. So what we know is that Manna was some kind of a food that God provided for the Israelites on a daily basis.

In fact, if they got greedy and tried to gather up more than a days ration, it would go bad by the next day. It would become infested with worms and would stink. So they would go out each morning, collect only what they needed for the day, and that was it. They only exception was that on the day before the Sabbath… they day when they weren’t supposed to do any work… they were instructed to collect two days worth, and on those days it didn’t go bad.

That happened in the morning. And every evening, God provided quail. So they had Manna in the morning, and meat in the evening. That was their daily food.

So the Israelites learned early on what it meant to depend on God. He provided for their needs daily. And it was always sufficient. And this was passed down from generation to generation, and was incorporated into their Scriptures, and so was ingrained in they national psyche.

So when Jesus came along and told them that when they pray they should ask for God to provide their food for the day, I’m sure that their minds immediately flashed to everything they had been told about how God provided for their ancestors each and every day in the desert.

Jesus was reminding them that God would provide for their needs, every day. He wasn’t going to bow to their demands or satisfy their lusts for more, but he would provide for their needs. Perhaps from time to time God would bless them with more than they needed, the basic promise was to care for their needs, not their greeds.

How easy is it, though, for us expect and demand more from God? How often are we overtaken by our greed? How prone are we to treat prayer like some great shopping list?

Back twenty-five or so years ago, there was a music video put out by Lulu of Hee Haw fame. And really, it’s quite bad. I mean, terrible quality. It’s sad to look at the early music videos and see just how bad they were. But the song itself is kind of interesting. And it’s all about how we treat prayer like a shopping list. Can I show it to you?

VIDEO – Lulu, singing “Shopping List”

Isn’t that so real? Isn’t that how we tend to treat prayer, like some grand shopping list? But Jesus talks about praying for the basics… asking God for our food for today. He was talking about praying for our needs, not our greeds… for things like food, clothing, protection, health, family… In the Book of Proverbs in the Old Testament, there’s a prayer recorded that says…

Proverbs 30:8-9 (NLT)
…Give me neither poverty nor riches! Give me just enough to satisfy my needs. For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name.

So pray that God will provide for our basic needs. Secondly…


2.    Pray that we will want what God wants

Earlier in this prayer, Jesus told us to pray that God’s will would be done. Not “my” will, but “Thy” will. And I think a key to prayer is striving to discover God’s will.

This is actually something we talked about in our LIFE Group here this past Wednesday. We talked about how prayer is not about convincing God to give in to our will; it’s about us hopping on board with His will. There’s a verse in 1 John that says…

1 John 5:14-15 (NIV)
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

So the trick is to pray for what fits in God’s will. And how do you get to know God’s will? Well, you get to know Him better. The better you get to know Him, the better you’ll understand His will. So read His word regularly, talk with Him daily, check out other devotional books and group discussions that are going to help you understand who God is and what His will is.

When I first met my wife… well, she wasn’t my wife then. But when I first met Shera, I had no idea how much she liked spicy food. The hotter the better. But it didn’t take long… just a little time together and a few conversations, and I learned that she likes hot spicy food.

Well, a little time with God and reading His Word, a few conversations, and you start to learn who He is. And you begin to understand His will.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you’re going to know God’s will in every circumstance. Even Jesus had to pray to His Father, “Not My will but Yours be done.” Our will won’t always line up with God’s will.

But still, we should pray that God will instill in us His values, His character, His wants, His desires… and as that happens there will be a gradual shift of our own wills as they begin to line up with His will.

And I think as you pray you’ll discover that this happens naturally. As you spend time earnestly seeking God and His ways, you’ll notice the shift within yourself. Prayer is not so much about convincing God to give us what we want, but it’s about us coming around to wanting what God wants. Prayer changes us.

The third thing I want to draw out of what Jesus teaches us there is that when we pray for ourselves, we should…


3.    Pray that God will forgive our sinful words, thoughts, and deeds

Matthew 6:12 (NLT)
“…And forgive us our sins…”

Okay, but why? Why is this important? Well, beyond the whole Heaven and Hell thing, it’s important to pray for forgiveness so that our prayers won’t be hindered by sin, so we can have an open line of communication with God, and so our relationship with Him can be pure.

Psalm 66:18 (NLT)
If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.

So unconfessed unforgiven sin in our lives can mean that God will not listen to our prayer. The Old Testament prophet Isaiah tells us basically the same thing when he says…

Isaiah 59:2 (NLT)
It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore.

You know, we’re living in a world today that likes to deny or ignore anything that makes anyone feel uncomfortable. We’re not held responsible for our actions anymore. If we do something wrong or have a problem in our lives, it’s because of our parents or some traumatic event that happened when we were young. Even our view of sin has softened… we now call it a mistake, a lifestyle choice, an option, even a disease.

But the truth is that while we’ve softened our view of what sin is, God’s view of sin has remained the same. He’s still aware of it, He’s repulsed by it, and He knows just how devastating sin can be in our relationship with Him. It’s a roadblock to our communication with Him. So we need to confess our sins to God, apologize for hurting Him, and allow Him to forgive us and restore us into relationship with Him.

“Spirituality is not how little you sin, but how quickly you repent when you do sin.”
~ Tim Elmore

“You don’t have to be perfect for God to hear your prayers, but if you are living in deliberate defiance… if there is a closed closet in your life that you will not allow Christ to enter… that acts as a barrier to prayer.”
~ Bob Russell

Sin shuts us off from God. It hinders our relationship with Him. It even dampens our prayers.

Have you ever tried to carry on a casual conversation with someone when you know and they know there’s a problem in your relationship? There’s something there, but you’re just not willing to address it? What happens? Well, the conversation is very uncomfortable, it’s superficial, it’s shallow… it may be polite but there’s no substance. The problem in your relationship just cuts you off from each other, and you’ll never be able to move on until that problem is taken care of.

Sin is like that. It creates a barrier in our relationship with God. But the good news is, it’s a problem that can be fixed. Jesus tells us to pray that God will forgive us, and that’s exactly what will happen. God will forgive us.

1 John 1:9 (NLT)
But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.

So if you’ve been struggling in your prayers, and you just don’t seem to be getting through, do a self-inventory. See if it could possibly be because there’s unconfessed sin in your life. Confess it, and then you can move on.


And connected to this is the fourth thing…


4.    Pray that we extend that same forgiveness to others

God extend His forgiveness to us, and that empowers our prayers and enables us to go deeper in our relationship with Him.

Matthew 6:12 (NLT)
“…And forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.”

Earlier this morning, Chris read a passage for us from Matthew 18. It was a story that Jesus told about a servant who owed his king millions of dollars. So the king was going to sell the man and his whole family into slavery in order to pay the debt. But the man pleaded with the king to the point that the king forgave the debt. He would never have to repay it.

But then that same man went to a fellow servant who owed him just a few thousand dollars, and he had that man thrown into prison.

When the king heard what had happened, he was furious. He forgave this man of a debt of millions, and then this man had the gull to throw someone else in prison over a few thousand? So the king had the man thrown into prison himself until he could repay the debt, which of course would be impossible from prison.

You see, the king in the story forgave the debt of his servant, and he expected his servant to show mercy and forgiveness to others, too. And that’s what’s expected of us, too. God offers us complete forgiveness for all our sins, including the sin of treason against Him. So by what right do we withhold forgiveness from anyone who has harmed us? As the king told the servant…

Matthew 18:33 (NLT)
“‘Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’”

And that’s a recurring theme throughout the New Testament. We’re often told that since we have been forgiven, we should be forgiving. Like in Colossians chapter 3…

Colossians 3:13 (CEV)
Put up with each other, and forgive anyone who does you wrong, just as Christ has forgiven you.

And in Ephesians 4;

Ephesians 4:32 (CEV)
…Be kind and merciful, and forgive others, just as God forgave you…

Back to the story. When the servant refused to forgive the other man and the king found out, what did the king do? Jesus told us…

Matthew 18:34-35 (NLT)
Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.
“That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”

Now I ask you, what’s wrong with that picture? How do you make money? By working. Where did the king send the man? To prison. What kind of job do you expect he’d be able to find there? There’s no way the man would ever be able to pay back what he owed. Even if he wasn’t in prison, there’s no way he’d be able to pay back millions. But there he is stuck in prison, with no hope at all.

And that’s the point. We can’t pay back the incredible debt we owe to God. That’s why we so desperately need His forgiveness. But He makes it clear that if we refuse to extend that forgiveness to others, then our own forgiveness will be null and void.

“He that cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass if he would ever reach Heaven; for everyone has need to be forgiven.”
~ George Herbert

Your relationship with God is directly affected by your forgiveness of others. If that doesn’t motivate you to forgive, nothing will. Jesus really drives this home at the end of this model prayer. Right after teaching the prayer, He tags on…

Matthew 6:14-15 (NLT)
“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Wow, that’s pretty serious. So when you pray, make sure you pray for and act on a forgiving attitude toward all who have done you wrong.


Alright, that’s four ways in which we can and should pray for ourselves. There is another area, which we’ll talk about next week… overcoming evil.

Let’s pray…

 

 

Copyright © 2009 SunriseOnline.ca