Mentors in Prayer

The "Lord's Prayer"

Matthew 6:9-13

Teaching t10554

Introduction

Last week, we began a series on prayer.  I suggested that one of the best ways to learn to pray more effectively is to meditate on the prayers of the inspired biblical authors.  Since their prayers were inspired by God, we know that they are according to God’s will—expressing the attitude of entrusting oneself to God’s loving authority and focusing on God’s priorities.  We can personalize these prayers, asking the Holy Spirit to guide us to apply them to our specific lives and situations.

This morning, I want us to look at the best-known of all biblical prayers—the so-called “Lord’s Prayer,” found in Matt.6:9-13.  Many of you can repeat this from heartas a reflex.  But before we use it this way, we need to read Jesus’ warning(read 6:7,8).

There is a tremendous irony here.  Jesus warns us here not to use prayer as meaningless repetition in order to extract our wishes from God.  He gave us this prayer as an alternative to this mindset.  He didn’t say, “Pray these words”—he said, “Pray like this (along these lines).”  Yet sadly, religionists turned this prayer into the very thing that Jesus forbade!  I used to say it over and over again (without even thinking about what it meant) in the hopes of impressing God with my devotion—so he would give me what I wanted.  Even years after I met Christ, I could not hear the first two words of this prayer without going into a kind of spiritual autopilot.

But it is possible to get over this problem and benefit greatly from this prayer.  I have found it extremely helpful in starting my day with God.  When you know you need to talk to God but you’re not sure how to get started, personalizing this prayer really helps.  Let’s read it (read 6:9-13a).  One way to benefit from this prayer is to see how it reminds us who God is and who we are in relationship to God.  Jesus urges us to think of and speak to God in three distinct but related ways...

“You are my loving Father & I am your child.”

Read 6:9a.  I don't know what this communicates to you, but I know that it communicated something very radical to Jesus’ hearers.  The religious leaders of Jesus' day never addressed God in this way.  They used terms like “Sovereign Lord,” which emphasized God's power and authority.  For them, God was a far-off, distant authority figure—to be addressed formally.

But Jesus addresses God as “Father.”  This is the Aramaic word “Abba”—which is roughly equivalent to “Papa.”  It is a term of endearment, connoting a close personal relationship between a loving father and his child.

But by praying “Our Father,” Jesus not only claimed to have an intimate love relationship with God as his unique Son; he was also inviting each one of us to enter into and enjoy this same kind of relationship with God, to say “You are my loving Father and I am your child.” 

That is why Jesus came.  Read Gal.4:4-6 (NLT).  Jesus came to pay the full price of your forgiveness, so that God can adopt you permanently as his beloved child.  And he even sends his Spirit to live in your heart so you know God as your loving Father and pour your heart out to him.  Wouldn’t you like to know God in this way?  You can!  Just tell him you want to know him this way, tell him you want the forgiveness that Jesus paid for, tell him you want his Spirit to come into your heart. 

When I use this prayer to present myself to God, it reminds me to start by remembering God’s unconditional love.  I say, “Thank you so much for making me your child. Thank you for coming out to get me when I was so far from you.  Thank you that I am always welcome into your presence—not because of what I do for you, but because of what Jesus did for me.  Thank you that you are delighted to talk with me even when I been distant and sinful.  Help me pour out my heart to you now...”

 “You are my rightful King & and I am your servant.”

Read 6:9b,10.  Notice that in these three requests, the imagery for God changes from loving Father to ruling King.  Jesus is calling on us to say, “You are my rightful King, and I am your servant.” 

We need to know God both as our loving Father and as our rightful King.  Because he is my loving Father, I am secure in his acceptance.  But God is also my rightful King—he owns me because he created me, and because he redeemed me at the great cost of his own Son.  And I am not only God’s child; I am also his servant, his soldier—embracing his plan to liberate people from Satan’s dark domain (Col.1:13), and offering myself in his service in this battle (Rom.6:14 “weapons”).

This is how you should read all three of these requests—not as abstract wishes that God’s kingdom come someday, but as your own personal request to be used by God today to advance his kingdom.

“May your name be honored” means “I want others to come to know you as their God, to praise you as their Redeemer—and I want to be used today to draw others to you.”  So as I pray along these lines, I pray for opportunities to show Jesus’ love and share his good news with those who don’t yet know him.

“May your kingdom come... may your will be done on earth as it is heaven” means “I want others to follow you and live for your priorities—and I want to be used today to model this way of life so that others see how good it is to live for you.” 

So as I pray along these lines, I ask God to reveal to me if I have a controversy with his leadership of my life.  If he shows me something, I need to agree with him and ask him to show me how to turn around in this area...

I also pray for the Christians in my life who don’t yet have this purpose for their lives.  I pray for them to be awakened to give their lives to him in his service—and I ask God for the opportunity to influence them to this end.

I am also learning to pray for global mission work, social justice, etc.

At this point, I like to reflect on Ps.118:24 and Eph.5:15,16 (read).  “This day is a special gift from you.  This day, you are giving me unique opportunities to know you as my Father and to serve you as my King.  I realize that I will never have this day again, Lord, so please help me make the most of these opportunities.”  This attitude, this focus, brings me face to face with my need for God’s provision...

“You are my faithful Provider & I am dependent on you.”

Read 6:11-13a.  Here are three more requests.  This may be the most familiar and understandable part of this prayer—even though it has some perplexing verbiage.  But notice two important things about these requests.

They are requests for the resources to do my part in advancing God’s kingdom (preceding context), not a wish list purely for my own enjoyment.  Like a soldier being authorized to requisition materiel for his mission, Jesus is inviting me to ask for what I will need today to fulfill his mission for my life.  This is what it means to ask “in Jesus’ name”—to ask as his representative in order to accomplish his mission.

These requests express my recognition that I am completely inadequate to accomplish God’s mission by my own power or ingenuity.  I am weak and fallen, and I need God to supply me daily/situationally with the resources to do his will.  “You are my faithful Provider, and I am dependent upon you.”

These three requests concern three areas in which I need God’s daily provision: physical, relational and spiritual. 

Re-read 6:11.  “Food for today” refers to physical nourishment for bodily strength.  It’s difficult for us to depend upon God for enough food for today since we live in such affluence.  But we can thank him for this, and we can ask him for the physical stamina and the bodily health and the financial means to serve him today.

Re-read 6:12.  This is a difficult verse because it sounds like God’s forgiveness of us is dependent upon us forgiving others.  Indeed, this is what Jesus explicitly says in 6:14,15 (read?).  But the rest of the Bible makes it clear that we should forgive others because God has already forgiven us (cf. Eph.4:32).  Jesus may be reminding his self-righteous audience of God’s standard of they want to earn his acceptance (cf. 5:17-48).  Or he may be emphasizing that a key sign of those who have been forgiven by God is that they are willing to forgive others.  Or he may be saying that our ability to experience God’s forgiveness is connected to extending forgiveness to others.  I’m not sure.  But I am sure that he is reminding me of how important it is to show other people his sacrificial, forgiving love—and that I need his supernatural help to do this.  I ask God, “Please take away my cold heart and give me his heart of compassion.  Empower me to be genuinely other-centered, to express his delight in other people.  Enable me to freely give myself away to meet others’ needs, trusting that you will meet my needs as I do this.”

Re-read 6:13a.  The main request here is “Deliver us from the evil one.”  “Do not let us yield to temptation” doesn't imply that God wants to make me fall unless I remember to ask him not to.  It means “I don’t want to succumb to Satan’s attacks; protect me from him as I serve you.”  As a soldier/servant of Jesus, I am invading Satan’s kingdom to liberate his captives.  Because of this, I can expect him to attack me every day.  So I need to ask God for his protection from the evil one every day.  I ask “Lord, show me how Satan is attacking, give me the strength to stay at my post when under attack, give me the courage to keep moving forward under fire.”  And although 6:13b probably isn’t in the original prayer, I thank God that he is more powerful than Satan and certain to ultimately win this battle.

Conclusion

Finally, notice that Jesus says “we” and “our,” not “me” and “my.”  Jesus presumes that we are praying in the context of community his followers.  This not only means that I should pray for other Christians along these same lines.  It also means that I should often pray in this way with other Christians (EXAMPLES).

So give this a try—start every day this week with God along these lines.  Thank him for being your loving Father.  Tell him you want to serve him today.  Then ask him for all that you need today to serve him.  And pray this with your spouse or a friend at least a couple of times this week.  See what happens!

Discussion

What else do you find helpful to start your day with God?