BELIEVE: TEN KEY
by Pastor Martha-Jean Fitch
January 15, 2017
TEXT: Luke 11:1-4
Once there were three preachers sitting at a sidewalk café discussing the best positions for prayer. A telephone repairman worked nearby and could overhear their conversation.
"Kneeling is definitely best," claimed one.
"No," another contended. "I get the best results standing with my hands outstretched to Heaven."
"You're both wrong," the third insisted. "The most effective prayer position is lying stretched out, face down on the floor."
The repairman could contain himself no longer. "Hey, fellas," he interrupted, "the best prayin' I ever did was hangin' upside down from a telephone pole, 40 feet above the ground."
What's the best praying position for you? Is it with eyes closed and head bowed? Is it kneeling by your bedside? For many of us, it may be those times when we are in crisis mode - hanging upside down in life, not knowing which way to go, hanging on for dear life. But there really is much more to prayer than just a panicked cry out for help.
Prayer really is about a life-long relationship with God. It is the wonderful gift God has given us that enables us to get to know Him in a deep and intimate way.
We continue our series today of "Believe". We have looked at the 10 key beliefs of our faith - which included the belief that God is a personal God - that is actively involved in our lives and enables us to do things we could not or would not otherwise do. We now look at how that belief can go from our heads and into our hearts through the spiritual discipline of prayer.
Prayer is vital to our Christian walk of faith. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, "To be Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing."1 Prayer is our connection to God - our life-line and our power source. We believe that we pray to God to know Him, to find direction for our lives and to lay our requests before Him. Prayer is such an incredible privilege we have because of how Jesus bridged the gap between us and God through His death on the cross! It says in Hebrews of that, we can "come boldly to the throne of our gracious God (where) we will receive His mercy and find grace to help us when we need it most." (Hebrews 4:16) And yet, so prayer is often put on the back burner because we are just too busy or it is only used for those 911 calls for help. Many times, we can get frustrated with our prayers because we don't know what to say or how to say it --- and we wish we could just say it the right way so that God could hear us and respond.
When I was growing up, I had this very plaque hanging up in my room - and then we hung it up in our kids' rooms when they were young. It had a prayer written on it that I think y'all are familiar with. See if you can say it with me:
Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
If I should die before I wake
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
How many of you learned that prayer as a child? I assume that I learned it as a child - but I don't really remember praying it. I remember seeing it on the wall of my bedroom, but I think my parents taught me just to talk to God as I went to sleep. For as long as I can remember, I have just gone to sleep talking to God.
When I was nine, we moved into a house where my bedroom was right next to my parents. One night, as I was going to sleep, my parents knocked on the wall and said, "Martha-Jean, what are you doing in there? Who are you talking to?" "I'm just saying my prayers!" My parents said, "Well you don't have to say them out loud!" "I just want to make sure He hears me."
Have you ever wondered if you were praying the "right way" - for God to hear you? Or wished that someone would just show you how to pray with power and effectiveness?
Well, you aren't alone. So did the disciples! They had spent many weeks, even years with Jesus and watched Him do all sorts of wonderful things. You would think that they would have asked Him teach them how to do some wonderful miracle - like walk on water or feed 5,000 people - or how to heal a dying child or cast many demons out of a crazed man. But they didn't. They didn't even ask Jesus to teach them how to preach in the synagogue or teach great parables which held everyone's attention. But they did ask Jesus to teach them how to pray.
Now these disciples were no strangers to prayer. They had grown up saying proper Jewish prayers. But there was something different in the way Jesus prayed.
Perhaps they had seen how important prayer was to Jesus - and what effect it had on Him. Jesus would often go up a mountain to pray - or some deserted place - where He would pray all night long. Jesus prayed before He made a big decision, like who He was going to recruit for His disciples - and He prayed while grieving the death of John the Baptist. He prayed when His energy was depleted after healing and teaching the crowds - and prayed when the demands were many. And His prayers brought Him power to do amazing things!
One day, while Jesus had gone up the mountain with Peter, James and John - the other disciples tried to cast a demon out of a young child, but they could not do it. When Jesus came back down - He saw the boy and rebuked the evil spirit and cause it to come out of the boy. The disciples later asked Jesus, "Why couldn't we cast out that evil spirit?" Jesus responded "This kind can be cast out only by prayer." (Mark 9:14-29)
Perhaps that is why they asked Jesus to teach them to pray. They realized that it isn't possible to do these incredible miracles and live a life of strong faith - apart from the power of God, found in prayer. It is God's strength that enables that - not our own strength. A lesson we all need to learn.
Turn to Luke 11 in the New Testament. And let's read about Jesus teaching the disciples to pray. We'll be looking at verses 1-4.
Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As he finished, one of his disciples came to him and said, "Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples."
2 Jesus said, "This is how you should pray:
"Father, may your name be kept holy.
May your Kingdom come soon.
3 Give us each day the food we need,
4 and forgive us our sins,
as we forgive those who sin against us.
And don't let us yield to temptation."
You will recognize the prayer is what we call the "Lord's Prayer". A better title for the Prayer really could be "Disciples' Prayer" or "The Model Prayer" because the "Lord's" prayer really is the prayer in John 17 where Jesus prays for the disciples - or when Jesus prays in the
Garden of Gethsemane.
When Jesus says, "This is how you should pray" - it could also be translated to say, "pray along these lines." Instead of just being a prayer to memorize and say by rote, I believe that Jesus wanted us to use it as a model or an idea how to pray.
I want to add that the Bible offers many ways to pray. The Psalms are full of prayers where people poured out their hearts to God with all sorts of emotions, from joy to rage! God wants us to grow in relationship with us, which calls for us to be in conversation with Him, both talking AND listening. Today, we will look at the Lord's Prayer as a model for what things we should include in prayer - and specifically, where our heart and focus should be as we pray.
I am indebted to Pastor Brian Bill in his sermon that helped me look at the ways the Lord's Prayer is written.2 It really is divided up into three requests for God and three requests for us. Let's look at it closer.
The first 3 statements are all about God. Beginning with Adoration. "Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Your name." God's name is to be honored and respected. So often God's name is used flippantly or even used as a curse word. But there is power and strength in God's name and we are never to use His name in vain.
But even more than that - our prayers need to begin with worship and praise. We are to come into His presence with awe and adoration - but not with a feeling of distance but rather amazement that the Creator and King of the universe is our loving Father. There is an intimacy in calling Him Father - but also a sense of respect and honor.
The other night - as I was talking to God as I was going to bed - I found myself tossing and turning in my thoughts - sharing with God my concerns and worries. And as I was praying, I really believe I heard Jesus say to me, "Just adore me." At first I thought - but wait, I need to tell you one more thing I need. I kept wanting to just focus on MY need - what I wanted God to do for ME. But God just said, "Just adore me." And you know what was amazing? When I stopped looking at myself and started focusing on God - "hallowing His name" if you will - I was filled with a peace and a calm, and was able to go to sleep so very easily.
God wants us to focus on Him in Adoration - and then in Affirmation. We pray, "Your Kingdom come". The word Kingdom in Greek means reign or rule. When we pray "Your Kingdom come", we are asking that God will come and rule in our lives. We affirm that He is the King and Master of our lives and want to live as citizens in His Kingdom.
The third statement is very similar. It is an Acceptance or a surrender to God's will. We pray, "Your will be done, on earth and it is in heaven." We give up our focus on our own wills and self-centered living and live according to God's will. We start focusing on ways we can live for God's glory, bringing the things of heaven to earth. Things like God's love and compassion, healing and grace.
When we seek God's kingdom first - and seek to adore Him and surrender to His will - then we will have the right perspective about ourselves. The second half of the Lord's Prayer focuses more on things we are requesting of God.
We pray for God's provision. "Give us this day our daily bread." This is where we pray for all our needs - and not just physical. Truly we are dependent on God for everything we have. In Philippians 4, Paul tells us that we are to pray about everything - telling God what we need and thanking Him for what He has done. And "God will supply all your needs from His glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus". (Philippians 4:6 and 19)
And then we pray for Pardon. We say "Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us." Our prayers need to include that time of confession - asking God for forgiveness. It truly is amazing that God can offer us mercy and freedom from the sin that binds us. But this prayer comes with a reminder that we are to forgive as Christ has forgiven us. We can't ask God to do for us what we are unwilling to do for others. As Chuck Swindoll says, "Our prayer's effectiveness depends upon our willingness to forgive someone else." 3
It is interesting to note that in these prayers for ourselves, one focuses on our present state - our "daily bread". Another focuses on our past - our sins that have happened in the past. And the last one points to our future.
We pray asking for God's protection. "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." We live in a fallen world where temptations abound - but God can protect us and help us. I Corinthians 10:13 says, "The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure." We need to pray for God strength to face whatever comes our way - and believe that He will be there for us.
And then our prayer ends where it began - giving all the power and glory forever and ever to God. We always want to give God the glory and thank Him for what He done, is doing and will do in our lives.
The Lord's Prayer is a great pattern prayer, given to us by Jesus Himself. But I don't believe that Jesus gave us this prayer just for us to memorize and recite back to Him - without thought or heart. Rather I think we are to pray for the things the Lord's Prayer talks about - using our own words and "customizing" it to our own journey with God.
That's how one woman I read about, described her prayer experience. She said, "When I'm struggling for words or feel like my emotions are inappropriate - I say the (Lord's) prayer and add personal things to it. I pause after each sentence to make sure I am thinking about the words and not just rambling like the 'Now I lay me down to sleep' prayer I did when I was a kid."4 You literally can take the Lord's Prayer and make it a framework or a template if you will for your own prayers.
And so that is how I want to end our time of worship today - giving you the opportunity to do just that. When you arrived today you were given a handout with some blanks on it that I want you to get out right now. You will note that all the different parts of the Lord's Prayer are noted there. I want you to take the next 2 minutes to use that as a framework for your own personal prayer. Take this moment to pray - space has been provided where you can write out your thoughts if you'd like.
Let's go to the Lord in prayer - take time to adore Him and grow closer to Him, lay out your requests before Him and find direction for your life.
1Quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. http://www.quotehd.com/quotes/martin-luther-king-jr-leader-to-be-a-christian-without-prayer-is-no-more-possible
2The six categories listed come from Pastor Brian Bill's sermon. http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/learning-how-to-pray-brian-bill-sermon-on-prayer-how-to-134534?page=0
3Chuck Swindoll, as written in October 2000 Insights Newsletter, Vol. 10, No. 10.
4Quote of woman using the Lord's Prayer in her prayer time was found in Brian Bill's sermon. http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/learning-how-to-pray-brian-bill-sermon-on-prayer-how-to-134534?page=0
THE LORD'S PRAYER - A MODEL FOR PRAYER
Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
And forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. AMEN
AFFIRMATION (of God's reign):
ACCEPTANCE (surrender to God's will):
THANKSGIVING AND PRAISE: ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________