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How to pray… September 8, 2009

Posted by JP in Discussion.
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Mat 6:5-13  Also when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward in full already.  (6)  But when you pray, go into your [most] private room, and, closing the door, pray to your Father, Who is in secret; and your Father, Who sees in secret, will reward you in the open.  (7)  And when you pray, do not heap up phrases (multiply words, repeating the same ones over and over) as the Gentiles do, for they think they will be heard for their much speaking. [I Kings 18:25-29.]  (8)  Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. (9) Pray, therefore, like this: Our Father Who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name.  (10)  Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  (11)  Give us this day our daily bread.  (12)  And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.  (13)  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Almost everyone knows the “Lord’s Prayer”, either by acquaintance, or by use and intimate knowledge.  I wonder though, do we really understand what Jesus was teaching us, or do we just accept the litany by rote?

Let us look at the reality of what Jesus was teaching us: not just a prayer to be recited, meaningless and dead in spirit, but a methodology of how we are to pray, what we are to pray for, and strong instruction by direct admonition, or by intentional omission, of how not to pray.

At the beginning of this passage Jesus specifically instructs us not to use repetitious, meaningless prayer, not to pray publically for the sake of being seen praying. We are to pray privately, keeping our prayer between God and ourselves. This instruction, this direct admonition, of what not to do, flies in the face of so many religious practices – Roman Catholicism specifically and many Protestant denominations as well – all who maintain repetitious prayer and reciting of creeds and litanies as part of their corporate worship. I could write exhaustively on this subject alone, however, that is not the point of this post.  For now, let the point stand as made:  Recitation of the “Lord’s Prayer” is meaningless and contrary to the instructions given to us by Christ Jesus.

What I really want to discuss are the elements of the prayer and the reasons Jesus instructed us to pray “in this manner”.

(9) Pray, therefore, like this: Our Father Who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name.

John Piper said:

The most important prayer is that the most important person in the universe do the most important act in the universe.

That is why Jesus put this request at the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer: “Hallowed be your name.”

God is the most important person in the universe – more important than all others put together…The whole-souled act of hallowing God’s name is the most important act in the universe.

To “hallow” means to “sanctify” which in God’s case means to set apart in your mind and heart as supremely great and beautiful and valuable.

“Hallowed be your name” means, “See to it that your name is hallowed. Use your infinite power and wisdom and love to stir up billions of hearts and minds to admire you and prize you above all things.”

(10)    Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven

There are two aspects of God’s Kingdom – personal and worldwide:

Mat 6:33 But seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right), and then all these things taken together will be given you besides.

Mat 13:41-43  The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all causes of offense [persons by whom others are drawn into error or sin] and all who do iniquity and act wickedly,  (42)  And will cast them into the furnace of fire; there will be weeping and wailing and grinding of teeth.  (43)  Then will the righteous (those who are upright and in right standing with God) shine forth like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let him who has ears [to hear] be listening, and let him consider and perceive and understand by hearing.

In entreating God to bring His kingdom on earth we seek to let God be the Ruler and King in our lives now. His kingdom is a present reality wherever he rules as King. So when we pray, “Father, let your kingdom come,” we should mean, “Father, rule in my life. Be my king. Get the victory over my anxiety about life’s necessities.” This is the personal dimension of the coming of the kingdom.

Likewise, we are also asking God to draw history to a close and establish his kingdom on the earth.

(11)    Give us this day our daily bread.

Joh 6:35 Jesus replied, I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to Me will never be hungry, and he who believes in and cleaves to and trusts in and relies on Me will never thirst any more (at any time).

This is not referring to food and beverage for your stomach, but for your mind and your soul. It is referring to studying the scriptures of the Bible on a daily basis, and if you seek the word of the Lord daily, He will feed you with understanding of His word.

(12)    And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

Matt.6:14-15 – For if ye forgive men (people) their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: (15) But if ye forgive not men (people) their trespasses; neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Forgiveness is a two way street my friends. We cannot seek forgiveness if we cannot give forgiveness. There is so much to write on this subject as well but let me try to be succinct:

Mat 6:14-15 For if you forgive people their trespasses [their reckless and willful sins, leaving them, letting them go, and giving up resentment], your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  (15)  But if you do not forgive others their trespasses [their reckless and willful sins, leaving them, letting them go, and giving up resentment], neither will your Father forgive you your trespasses.

Mat 18:23-35 Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a human king who wished to settle accounts with his attendants.  (24)  When he began the accounting, one was brought to him who owed him 10,000 talents [probably about $10,000,000], (25) And because he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and his children and everything that he possessed, and payment to be made.  (26)  So the attendant fell on his knees, begging him, Have patience with me and I will pay you everything.  (27)  And his master’s heart was moved with compassion, and he released him and forgave him [cancelling] the debt.  (28)  But that same attendant, as he went out, found one of his fellow attendants who owed him a hundred denarii [about twenty dollars]; and he caught him by the throat and said, Pay what you owe!  (29)  So his fellow attendant fell down and begged him earnestly, Give me time, and I will pay you all!  (30)  But he was unwilling, and he went out and had him put in prison till he should pay the debt.  (31)  When his fellow attendants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and told everything that had taken place to their master.  (32)  Then his master called him and said to him, You contemptible and wicked attendant! I forgave and cancelled all that [great] debt of yours because you begged me to.  (33)  And should you not have had pity and mercy on your fellow attendant, as I had pity and mercy on you?  (34)  And in wrath his master turned him over to the torturers (the jailers), till he should pay all that he owed.  (35)  So also My heavenly Father will deal with every one of you if you do not freely forgive your brother from your heart his offenses.

The point is that if we hold fast to an unforgiving spirit, we will be handed over to the tormentors. We will lose heaven, and gain hell.

The reason is not that we can earn heaven, or merit heaven, by forgiving others, but that holding fast to an unforgiving spirit proves that we do not trust Christ. If we trust him, we will not spurn his way of life. If we trust him, we will not be able to take forgiveness from his hand for our million-dollar debt and withhold it from our ten-dollar debtor.

Paul said in Ephesians 4:32, “Forgive each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” In other words, God’s forgiveness is underneath ours, creates it, and supports it. So that if we don’t give it to others—if we go on in an unforgiving spirit—what we show is that God is not there in our lives – we are not trusting him.

(13)    And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

Mat 26:41 All of you must keep awake (give strict attention, be cautious and active) and watch and pray, that you may not come into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Jas 1:13  Let no one say when he is tempted, I am tempted from God; for God is incapable of being tempted by [what is] evil and He Himself tempts no one.

Mat 4:1 THEN JESUS was led (guided) by the [Holy] Spirit into the wilderness (desert) to be tempted (tested and tried) by the devil.

So God does not do the tempting—he does not put evil desires in our hearts (for he can have no evil desires in his heart)—but he does bring us into the presence of many tests and temptations. In fact, every step we take is a step into the presence of temptation. There is no moment of your life that is not a moment of temptation—a moment when unbelief and disobedience is not a possibility.

The Lord’s Prayer does not teach us to pray against that kind of sovereign guidance. What it teaches us to pray is that the temptation does not take us in. Do not lead me into temptation. Deliver me from the evil that is set before me.

Today I will stand before innumerable temptations. That is what life is: endless choices between belief and unbelief, obedience and disobedience. Nevertheless, I pray almighty God: forbid that I would yield – hold me back from stepping inside the temptation.

… For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

This is an acknowledgement, a rightful acquiescence, of His sovereignty. The kingdom is His, all power is His, and all glory is His. We have no part in adding to His power and glory, nor do we have any business seeking credit for it.

The reason this is so important is because I know of no truth which is more fundamentally pervasive than God’s zeal to be glorified, which means his zeal for us so to think, to feel, and to act as to make him look as glorious as He is. We do not add to His glory – we want to make God’s glory shine. We want to make it visible. The goal of our lives’ should be to live such, that when people know us well enough, they would say, “God is glorious!”

Mat 5:16  Let your light so shine before men that they may see your moral excellence and your praiseworthy, noble, and good deeds and recognize and honor and praise and glorify your Father Who is in heaven.

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