Sunday, September 17, 2006
"And now about prayer. 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 assure you, that is all the reward they will ever get. 6 But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father secretly. Then your Father, who knows all secrets, will reward you. 7 "When you pray, don't babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered only by repeating their words again and again. 8 Don't be like them, because your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him! 9 Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be honoured. 10 May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done here on earth, just as it is in heaven. 11 Give us our food for today, 12 and forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us. 13 And don't let us yield to temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. 14 "If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. 15 But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Mth 5: 1-15)
Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be honoured. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done here on earth, just as it is in heaven. Give us our food for today, and forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us. And don't let us yield to temptation, but deliver us from the evil one." (Math 6: NLT)
KEY THOUGHT: Much has been written about Jesus' model prayer. Rather than something to be blindly recited, this is a short guide for disciples on how to pray.
The prayer easily divides into two parts: first, we recognize the estimable greatness of God, and then we recognize our dependency upon him. As the previous verses indicate, God is our Father whom we can approach freely as Father, while at the same time revering his holiness.
The first three petitions ask God to accomplish his ultimate will in our world and reveal his holy purposes to all people.
The second three acknowledge our need for sustenance, forgiveness, and strength to face the rigors of daily spiritual and physical life.
Bottom line, prayer doesn't need to be eloquent, but reverent of God, penitent before God, and dependent upon God while approaching him with confidence as children of God.
TODAY'S PRAYER: Holy and tender Father, I pray that you exert your power in our world and work your will in irrefutable and glorious ways. I trust you to fill my daily needs as I depend upon your mercy and grace to forgive me and empower me to forgive. May my life be used in your service to accomplish your will. In the name of Jesus I pray. Amen.
What Jesus Did! is a 365-day devotional through the book of Mathew. Visit HEARTLIGHT on the web http://www.heartlight.org/
A VISION FOR THE KINGDOM
Matthew 6:5-15 - When asked by his disciples how they should pray? Jesus gave us these words.
I used to think this was just a small prayer, a sample of what kind of stuff we could bring to God. Surely there must be bigger - better prayers. But after studying this for a while - I realized - no, this is THE PRAYER!
It encompasses all of life. You and I need to pray better - not just more - but better. I have been asking myself - why I do not pray like I play. If I were not an ordained minister would I pray at all?
Maybe you are asking those same questions too. As an introduction we are going to notice three aspects about this prayer: it is short, it is simple, and it is guaranteed.
It is short.
The Lords prayer is exactly 57 Greek words (just 52 English words). Men have written huge volumes on prayer; lectured for hours. Jesus took about 40 seconds. Some have tried to say that Jesus point is do not pray long. But it would be curious if he taught it, because he sure did not live it. We know that Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness fasting and praying and that He spent all night in prayer in Gethsemane.
So how much should we pray? Some of us have this knee-jerk reaction to spiritual disciplines, do not get too deep on me, just tell me what I need to do; give me the standard and I will do it.
In verses 7-8 here, Jesus warns us against praying many words thinking you will impress God by your many words as the pagans do. There is something more important than words, and that is your heart. Do not pray to impress God or others (v.5-6), real prayer can be simple and straightforward.
Ok you say - so my prayer should be short and I should do it in my closet, right?
Well not necessarily. The Biblical example is to labor in prayer and Paul instructs us, pray continually.
Some of Jesus most fascinating parables are about working hard in prayer: the widow who wears out the unjust judge with her requests for mercy - the man who knocks on his friends door at midnight. There is also a great saying of Jesus that men of violence take the kingdom by force. I don't think He is referring to some religious jihad, rather to strong men who labor in faith, work and prayer.
The key is motivation not length. There is no quota for length of prayer! Pray as much as you need - it is for your benefit and about your relationship. Asking how much you should pray is like asking how much should I talk to my wife?
There is no extra righteousness to be won by long prayers - and no righteousness to lose by short prayers. This is what I do not like about some programs for spiritual disciplines - they can reduce a prayer life to a 30 -minute quiet time. I have heard stories of people who come to faith and start praying all the time until they get discipled by some well-meaning person who tells them they need to have a structured 30 - minute quiet time in the morning. So the active imagination of faith gets whittled down to a timeclock duty and they end up hardly praying at all!
There is a freedom in prayer that is dictated by love - not by length.
It is simple.
The beauty of the Lords Prayer is that in its simplicity is its majesty.
It mentions only a few things, but it pertains to everything. It is like the old saying, It is shallow enough for a child to wade in - and deep enough to drown an elephant in.
The Christian faith is both the easiest thing in the world to grasp - but also the most difficult. It is all about putting your trust in someone else!
Prayer is the same, both the easiest and hardest, because it involves us putting our trust in someone else. In one sense prayer is talking to God without having to look in His face, but when you realize that all of your life is lived coram deo before the face of God - you realize you are before His face!
Experiencing the Lords Prayer is a little bit like an experience I recently had with maps. Last year I went to British Columbia. Now I thought it was just a small place north of Washington. My map has the United States in the center of it and then just a small bit of Canada at the top of the map and little of Mexico at the bottom. But I saw a Canadian map while I was in BC. On that map Canada is huge and the US is just a sliver of land at the bottom. I also realize that from the US/ Canada border up to the Yukon is as long as the US/Canada border all the way down to Mexico. And the diversity of scenery and the people I met in Canada!
The kingdom of God is a greater concept that we ever imagined. Our maps tend to have the kingdom of man in the center with Gods kingdom on the periphery. The Lords Prayer helps reorient our spiritual geography.
Now, the vision for the kingdom of God has to be huge to sustain 2,000 years (actually all of human history). One of the insights of the book Good to Great is that an effective company has an easy mission statement but is committed to it. That is the vision we get here, simple but powerful and transformative.
It is guaranteed.
Here is something to chew on: Everything in this prayer is going to happen, whether you pray it or not. God is going to be praised- by His children or by the rocks. His kingdom is going to come. His will is going to be done - He is the unstoppable force. He is going to provide for His children. He is going to forgive all those for whom Christ died. He is going to keep His people from [ultimate] harm. It is going to happen.
The most popular view of Christianity is that we are losing. Can you not see? The culture war is being lost. Look at television - look at the teen pregnancy rate - we are fighting a losing battle. But lets be good sports about it.
NO- Jesus says in Revelation, To him who overcomes I'll give the manna - the right to the tree of life…
As my old seminary professor once said, You do not get the good sportsmanship award if you are a follower of Jesus. You get the trophy of victory. You get the right to rule on the throne of Jesus like He rules on His Fathers throne today.
Do you know what the meaning of the Ascension is? It is not that Jesus is reigning for the first time as the 2nd person of the Trinity He has always reigned with the Father and the Spirit. The significance is that at the ascension He began to reign as a man on the throne. He has fulfilled the original command to Adam to rule the earth.
This goal of Gods kingdom is the highest goal you can have. It puts all your other goals in perspective, it gives all of your pursuits and struggles meaning. The Lords Prayer orients us to the kingdom of God , which is coming and is here. Too often, we forget and only focus on the kingdom of man.
But the kingdom of God will endure forever, eventually on earth as it does in heaven. Isaiah 9:6-7 is a familiar passage which talks about the 1st & 2nd Comings of Christ.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; And the government shall be upon his shoulder. And his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end. On the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and uphold it with justice and righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.
Friends do you want to see Jesus reign? Then pray His prayer.
It is a prayer He loves to answer. These are the areas He cares deeply about. These are not the only words you can pray. But, they are the focal point for how we think about Gods kingdom and priorities.
Author: Ronald Morrow (c) 2006