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The Disciples Prayer

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The Disciple’s Prayer

Luke 11:1-4 and Matthew 6:9-13

February 25, 2007

Focus: When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he instructed them to start with “Father.”

 

Introduction: Prayer Is Crucial

Pastor, Author, and Seminary Professor Haddon Robinson says that “there are times when I feel like Rodney Dangerfield. I don’t get no respect.

 I have a friend who likes to call me in the middle of a weekday morning, when I’m studying at home. He’ll say, “I hope I didn’t get you out of bed. I realize this isn’t a Sunday.”

I have another friend who likes to put in the old needle. He says, “You ministers have it made. If it’s a good day, you can get up and do a little studying and make a few calls. If it’s a bad day, you can just turn over in bed and say your prayers.”

I’m a bit defensive about all of that. I said to my friend, “You’ve told me two things by your comment. First, you don’t know much about the ministry. Second, you know even less about prayer.”

Over the years, my success in prayer has been more intermittent than persistent. There have been times when I have gotten hold of the hem of the garment, but I have not always been able to sustain the grasp. One thing I know for certain: you don’t turn over in bed and say your prayers.

To confess to you that I have had a life-long struggle sitting at the feet of Jesus is something I do with a great deal of embarrassment. Because when I read the New Testament, I discover that in the ministry of our Lord, prayer was absolutely crucial. For me, prayer is preparation for the battle. For Jesus, it seemed to be the battle itself.

Where did he shed great drops of blood? It was not at Pilate’s hall. It was not as he staggered under the load of the cross up Golgotha’s hill. It was in the Garden of Gethsemane. The writer to the Hebrews tells us that with strong cryings and tears Jesus made his petitions to God.

Had I had been there in that hour of his agony and watched the way he suffered, I would have despaired of the future. I think I would have said, “If he’s behaving this way when all he’s doing is praying, what in the world is he going to do when he faces a crisis? It’s too bad he can’t be like his three sleeping friends. They found a spiritual peace in the midst of the storm.” But when the crisis came, Jesus went to the cross in triumph. It was his three friends who fell back and fell away.

That’s why I think it’s significant to turn to Luke 11:1.  We are told that after Jesus completed a period of prayer, one of his disciples, evidently a spokesman for the group, came to him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” Please follow along with me as I read this passage from the New Living Translation: “Once when Jesus had been out praying, one of his disciples came to him as he finished and said, "Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples." He said, "This is how you should pray: "Father, may your name be honored. May your Kingdom come soon. Give us our food day by day. And forgive us our sins— just as we forgive those who have sinned against us. And don't let us yield to temptation."

Now let’s read it again, this time in Matthew. Turn to Matthew  Chapter six and we’ll read verses 9 through 13: “Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be honored. 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.”

 Part of the purpose of this prayer, which we call “The Lord’s Prayer”, is the change it can produce in us. As we pray—and, specifically, as we pray this prayer—we are changed. The prolonged practice of praying this prayer begins to develop in us a certain profile – something we’ll look at more closely later in this message.

In that request, “teach us to pray”, I find at least two things. One is that John, in his discipleship program, put a strong focus on prayer. Second, it was what Jesus’ disciples asked him to do for them.

They had been with him almost two years. They had a front seat when he stood to preach. They had watched him minister. As far as we know they never came to him and said, “Lord, teach us to preach.” They did come and say, “Teach us to pray.”

We usually ask of someone else the best that person can give us. We ask of a banker, “Teach me to invest.” We ask of a professional golfer, “Teach me to putt.” We ask of a scholar, “Teach me to do research.” When Jesus’ disciples came to him, they said, “Lord, teach us to pray.” They recognized Jesus’ strength – this ability to communicate with God the Father.

Because prayer was crucial in Jesus’ ministry, He wanted it to be vital in the disciples lives.

In a way, this prayer is misnamed. It is a prayer that Jesus himself could not have prayed. One of its major petitions is “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” Jesus Christ, Son of God, without sin, could never with integrity have made that request.

Instead, I think we should call it “The Disciple’s Prayer.” It is a model prayer. It serves us in prayer in the same way that an outline serves a preacher as he prepares to preach. It tells us what we are to pray for, and it gives us the order of the requests.

Background

Jesus was serious when he taught us to use the Lord's Prayer as a model for our prayers. He wants this prayer to be prayed from our hearts rather than simply from our lips or to have it be appreciated on a kitchen plaque.

I. “Father”

Jesus says when you come to pray you are to say, “Father.” That single word sums up the entire basic relationship of the Christian faith: When we say “Father,” we are affirming that the Creator of the universe is not only ultimate power, but  ultimate love. Jesus assures us that there is a Father and that we can come to him as a child comes to a father in the family.

In the Old Testament, God is addressed as Father only seven times. In every case, it is the entire nation of Israel speaking to God that way. As far as we know, there was never a time when Abraham or Moses or David or Daniel went to the quietness of their room, fell on their knees, and dared to speak to God that way. When you turn to the New Testament, however, 275 times or more we are told directly or indirectly that when we bow before the sovereign Majesty of the universe the word that should come easily to our lips is Father.

 A few years ago, the world’s most complicated clock was displayed for the first time in the town hall in Copenhagen, Denmark. It took forty years and a million dollars to build. The clock was accurate to two-fifths of a second every three hundred years. The ten faces of that clock told the time of the day, the day of the week, week of the month, the month of the year, the year of the century, and tracked the movements of planets and suns for 2,500 years. There are parts in the clock that will not move for 2,500 years.

But there was something disturbing about the clock: it is not accurate. It loses two-fifths of a second every three hundred years. How do they know that? That clock in the town hall in Copenhagen, Denmark was measured against the clock of the universe, with all of its myriad parts, from atoms to suns to planets to stars. But that clock is so accurate that every clock on earth is measured against it.

Three hundred years ago the deists looked up at the universe and were overwhelmed by what they saw. They were so in awe of the mechanism, they lost sight of the God who put it together.

Jesus says that in prayer the word that should come easily to our lips is Father, because we have been adopted as His children and have been ingrafted into His body, literally becoming part of His family.

II. “Hallowed Be Your Name”

As you address the heavenly Father, you will notice that the prayer divides into two parts. First, Jesus says when we talk to the Father, we ought to talk to the Father about the Father and then talk to him about the family.

We are to say, “Father, hallowed be your name.”

In the Near East, names have a great deal of significance. When a parent names his child, he doesn’t name the child after a rich Aunt Agnes or wonder if the initials will look good on the luggage or whether the first name rhymes with the last name. Usually a child is named after a virtue with the hope that the child will grow into the name.

When we pray, “Hallowed (or Holy) be thy name,” we are speaking about God’s character. God is holy, and we are asking that in our lives God will be God to us. We will not try to whittle him down to our size. Why would you want to worship a man-sized God? We will not try to manipulate him. He is not Daddy Warbucks, the benefactor of Little Orphan Annie.  God’s name will be honored in the way we pray and the way we live. He will not be belittled.

At the back of the Experiencing God study manual there is a list of 145 names, titles, and attributes of God found in the Bible. Let me read the first ten: faithful God, forgiving Father, fortress of our salvation, glorious crown, jealous and avenging God, Master of heaven, a refuge for His people, for the oppressed, for the poor, our Sanctuary. What a great way to come into the presence of the Father – by praising Him by name – many names, names which speak of His character. In fact, the hallowing of God’s name is the basis for His kingdom coming and His will being done on earth as it is in heaven. The Father’s realm will not come in its fullness wherever His name is not regarded as holy. When the kingdom comes in all its glory at the consummation of time, the Almighty’s name will be set apart as holy by all men when they bow to honor King Jesus according to Philippians 2:9-11 which says: “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

If the Lord’s Prayer is to be an outline of prayer, of the things we are to pray, it’s significant that you realize there is no prayer request here for our own personal needs. The focus is on the Creator of our souls!

The focus is God. When it is the desire of your life that God really be God then He must be honored, reverenced, respected. The spiritual life begins when we say, “Lord, in my prayers and in my life, may you be God.” – Hallowed be Your Name! Holy is Your name!

III. “Your Kingdom Come”

Jesus says, having talked to the Father about his person, speak to him about his program. Pray, “Father, your kingdom come.”

Someone once said that if you are writing a biography, you really ought to start with a person’s death, not a person’s birth. The question is not how you began; the question is how you end. That’s your history.

Emerson said history is just the biography of a few well-known men. Is that what history means to you?

The answer of the Bible is that “history” is His story - God’s story, and it is moving towards that great, far-off event, that great messianic kingdom that has been promised throughout the Old and New Testament. It is that kingdom where Christ will come back and rule. It is that kingdom that shall move on to eternity. It is Thy kingdom come! At that time men and angels will join to sing his praises, and every knee on earth shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. That’s history.

All of the Bible points forward to that great, far-off event. You open the pages of Scripture and read that the evening and the morning were the first day. Out of the darkness there comes the light. Out of the wanderings comes the promised land. Out of a bad Friday comes resurrection Sunday. After the tribulation comes millennium. Often in the darkness. when we are most filled with fear, we look forward to that day. We pray, “Your kingdom come.” Revelation ends, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”

What use is it to pray about God’s glorious kingdom if today in the small, two-feet of earth I occupy, Jesus Christ does not rule in my life? If I am really sincere about wanting God’s kingdom to come, then it seems to me that I will do everything I can to bring everyone I touch into glad anticipation of his rule and reign. And I’ll be willing, if necessary, that all these little kingdoms that mean so much to me will be torn down, so that Jesus Christ shall reign, so that His kingdom will come!

So, before you pray for anything, Jesus said, talk to the Father about His person, His holiness and His kingdom on earth. Focus your attention first on your Father in heaven, then you are ready to ask for your needs and the needs of others.

Whenever we go before God in Prayer, we have to remember to whom we are speaking. In other words, we have to remember that we are addressing the Lord. We are not His equal. He knows  our need before we ask. Still, He gives us the unspeakable privilege of coming into the heavenly throne room and offering petitions that He uses to bring His will to pass. May we therefore eagerly and reverently come before Him.

The next phrase in the Disciple’s Prayer is inward focused.

IV. “Give Us Each Day Our Daily Bread” (Provision)

Having spoken to the Father about the Father, Jesus says we can now talk to the Father about ourselves, our family, and all of us together.

He says we can pray, “Give us each day our daily bread.” We can ask him for His provision.

Obviously, when Jesus talks about daily bread, he’s talking about the basic necessities of life. If Jesus had been speaking to a group of people in the Orient, he probably would have said, “Give us this day our bowl of rice.” In talking to Italians it would have been  “Give us this day our pasta.”

It’s interesting that the word translated “daily” or “each day” is a word that is used in the Bible only in connection with the Lord’s Prayer. It is not used outside the Scriptures, in classical Greek literature. The word was a mystery, and translators guessed at it, and guessed right. For several years ago on a piece of papyri they found a woman’s grocery list out of the ancient world. On that list there were several things that were perishable. And next to each item she had epiousios—enough for the day.

In our culture, where we have freezers full of food, we hardly take this seriously, but in most of the world, it’s a basic request. If we pray this prayer, we are asking God to provide our immediate needs as we serve his kingdom. We are acknowledging that for our bread, our threads, the things we need, we will turn to God, and he will supply.

Notice that the request is in the plural. “Give us this day our daily bread.” Canadian culture puts a great emphasis on individualism. When we pray, we often pray for ourselves, my wife or husband, my son John, his wife, “us four, no more.” If you pray this in the community of Christians and God gives you two loaves and your brother none, you have you have one for eating and the other for sharing. Think not only of yourself.  “Give us this day our daily bread.”

Jesus calls Himself the “Bread of Life” in John 6:35, revealing how He satisfies our spiritual need as well as our physical. Pray to Jehovah Jireh, our Provider. Then pray.

V. “Forgive Us Our Sins” (Pardon)

We must ask the Father for pardon: “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.”

I think those two requests are linked: give us and forgive us. I don’t have any problem remembering to pray for daily bread. My stomach rumbles; I know I’m hungry. It is easily forgotten that I also need daily pardon. When I think of hunger, I ought to think of forgiveness – mine and others.

Augustine called this the terrible petition. For it’s not just forgive us our sins, but forgive us our sins for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. There is a link between the way I am willing to forgive others and the forgiveness I ask of the Father in heaven. Ephesians 4:32 says “…..forgiving one another, just as God thru Christ has forgiven you”

If we really pray for forgiveness in sincerity, then we are revising our estimate of ourselves downward and admitting that we are sinful persons. We’re admitting that there is a pollution in our lives. When we admit that about ourselves, we’re better able to understand the foibles of others. Also, admitting that we are flawed is humbling and God loves a humble heart.  James 4:10 says, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He wil lift you up.” Asking forgiveness of your sins is humbling. But first, also humbling, you must forgive others.

You see how close to blasphemy it is to come to God and say, “You who are holiness, forgive me my sins. But this person has offended me, and I am so holy, and I am so righteous that it is unthinkable that I will extend forgiveness to that person.” People who do that are self-righteous.

Instead, we must be praying, “Lord, deal with me as I have dealt with others. She has offended me, has hurt me badly. And, Lord, I just don’t want to put up with it. Lord, deal with me as I dealt with her.” By the measure I mete out will I be measured says Luke 6:38 ”Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you."

Or we might be saying, “Lord, he’s betrayed my trust. He’s gone back on a commitment he made, and I’m wounded by that.” But the Lord says, “I will deal with you as you deal with him.”

It’s not saying that God forgives us because we forgive. He forgives as we forgive. Part of being in the family is that we are part of a forgiven fellowship. Knowing the forgiveness of God gives us an opportunity and a motivation to forgive others. God forgives us and puts our sin so far away from Himself it is forgotten! Can we do that? We must forgive up to seventy times seven for our own good – for our relationship with God. Otherwise we cherish sin and our prayers will not be heard.

 And, finally ,

VI. “Lead Us Not Into Temptation”

Jesus says when we talk to the Father about the family, ask him for provision, pardon and protection. “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”

If we don’t ask for this, is God going to lead us into temptation? The Bible says in James 1:13 that God does not tempt us. He is not the leader into temptation. James goes on to say in verse 14 “each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires” Satan plays on our evil desires. He is the temptor!

Go to the New Testament. “He who comes to me I will in no wise cast out” it says in John 6:3. The New Living says “….I will never reject them.” The negative is stated to emphasize the positive. When we pray, “Lead us not into temptation,” we are saying, “Lord, you have the power to take us past the traps that Satan has placed in our way. We depend upon you to do that.” We stand on the promise of 1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. “

But, let’s face it, if we don’t pray the Lord’s Prayer, very few of us would pray “Lead us not into temptation.” A young woman walking through a shopping mall in Edmonton wore a sweatshirt that said, “Lead me not into temptation. I can find the way myself.”  We like temptation. We fantasize about it. That’s why we read certain books and watch certain films. What we would like is to not pay the consequences when we slip into temptation, isn’t it?

This is not just a prayer, “Lord, keep us from being naughty girls and boys.” This is to recognize that the enemy of our souls would destroy us if he could. And what he wants to do is to separate us from God and from our brothers and sisters in Christ. Our little kingdoms matter to us don’t they? Our names have to be established. Our daily bread has to be provided —and we forget about temptation. In doing that, the enemy separates us from God and from others.

When we pray to the Father that we will be delivered from temptation, what we’re really praying is, “Lord, when I’ve got the inclination to sin, keep me from the opportunity; when I have the opportunity to sin, keep me from the inclination.” Behind the temptation is the tempter, a grim and evil force, a personality whose aim is to destroy us. That is why Ephesians 6 tells us to “put on the full armor of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” Verse 12 says we are not fighting against flesh and blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in the dark world, and against evil spirits in heavenly places We have a real enemy, the enemy of our souls. Need protection. We need to pray for provision, pardon, and protection.

He follows “lead us not into temptation” with “deliver us from evil” (or more accurately, “from the evil one.” Jesus therefore tells us that we should pray for protection against Satan. We may thus pray: “Lord, please do not let me be exposed to a time of testing in which I will face the full fury of the Devil’s assault. Protect me from the enemy and deliver me from his hands.

As those totally dependent on the Spirit, we should pray daily to be delivered from Satan’s assault. The Father may allow testing to come our way, but He promises to sustain us and help us be faithful to Him. All we have to do, this prayer shows, is ask Him for help. When we are faced with the onslaught of temptation and evil, let us implore the Lord for rescue.

Let’s pray:  “Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
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.”


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