If you are on Facebook, you have probably noticed that from time to time people use it as a platform to ask for universal prayer; for a sickness, a friend who is suffering, a dying family member, a test, a job interview, things that are creating stress in their life.
I think that’s great and often, I’ll stop what I’m doing and say a short prayer for that person or situation.
But where I get a little confused, is in the comments section because honestly, I have no idea what people are talking about or even how to do what they are offering . . . I’m sending positive thoughts your way, I’m sending you light and love, or I’m sending you energy . . . I mean, those all sound great but what does that even mean?
So, what I’ve been wondering is . . . when somebody asks for prayer and what they get in response is thoughts, light and energy . . . does that mean that people are opposed to prayer, or that it’s not socially or politically correct to pray, or maybe people just don’t know how to do it?
I’m not exactly sure but over the next few weeks, we’re going to be talking about prayer and as we head into the season on Lent in a couple of weeks, I’m going to be challenging us to pray.
Now, when I say the word prayer, probably a lot of things come to mind; Perhaps kneeling, hands clasped in a church, or a pastor saying, “Every head bowed and every eye closed”, or maybe the words you say before eating meal or before bedtime.
I don’t know what each of you think about when you hear the word prayer, but I know how most of you feel when asked to pray . . . VIDEO
So, what is prayer? Well, put very simply, prayer is talking to God. It’s about relationship. And like any good relationship, you talk to one another; you talk about your thoughts, feelings, emotions, or ideas. It doesn’t have to be formal. It doesn’t have to be long and dry. It doesn’t haven’t to be weird.
Prayer is simply talking to God. That’s what this series is all about.
But I recognize that some of us struggle with how to pray and if that’s you, I want you to know that you are not alone. All of us in this room, I would imagine, have struggled at some point with how to pray. Even the disciples struggled with how to pray.
Let’s listen to our text: READ Luke 11:1-4
One day, Jesus is praying, and His disciples are watching Him. And when He finishes, one of the disciples says, “Hey Jesus. Will you teach us how to do that?”
Now, these were Jewish boys who grew up praying. It wasn’t like they had never heard of prayer. And it wasn’t like they had never prayed. But there was something about Jesus’ prayer that got their attention.
What’s interesting is that of all the stuff Jesus did that was remarkable that the thing that His friends asked Jesus to teach them was to pray?
I mean, it seems to me that they should be asking Jesus, “Could you teach me how to do that walking on water thing? Could you teach me how to calm a storm with a word? “Can you teach me how I could have unlimited food, so I could feed thousands and end world hunger?”
But they didn’t ask any of those things. The thing that impressed them the most was how He talked to God. The one thing that the disciples asked Jesus was, “Teach us to pray because we don’t think we’re doing it right”
And so, Jesus teaches them how to pray. Not what to pray but how to pray. He is giving them a model; he is giving them a pattern for prayer.
He says, pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy.
That is very different than, “God, thank you for this day. Now that we got that out of the way, let’s get to my list” Jesus is saying, “I want you to pause when you pray, and think about who you’re talking to.
- “Our Father” This an intimate, relational name.
- “Your name is Holy.” I want you to think about how big God is. He is the Creator of all things. He created you. He created me. He created the universe—there are more than 170 billion galaxies, stretching out into a region of space 13.8 billion light-years away from us in all directions.
This great big eternal God—who was here long before you came on the scene and who will be here long after you pass on—this great big eternal God has invited me to have an intimate conversation with Him.
Then Jesus gets to the part where we so easily skip over, but we need to pause and hit the brakes here.
“May your Kingdom come. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”
This is what Jesus is teaching: That before we get to ourselves; our needs and our desires, we must first surrender to Him. Because you have a kingdom and I have a kingdom. You have a will and I have a will. You have an agenda and I have an agenda.
Jesus says, “Before we get to your agenda before we get to your kingdom—can you get to a place where you are willing to declare, “It’s about God’s kingdom—regardless of what happens in my kingdom, Your kingdom come, your will be done.”
“God, before we go any further, I want you to know that I am more committed to your will than I am to my own. I am not here to convince you to bend to my direction. I am here to make sure that I am bent towards yours.”
This whole idea— Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done—that’s what should determine how long you should pray. Soren Kierkegaard said, “The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”
And sometimes that might take a while because there are struggles. There are bumps. There are times where we are so distraught because of the pain and agony that it’s hard to get there. Remember, Jesus spent the entire night before he was arrested, in the Garden praying.
And here Jesus is teaching that you need to get to the place where you could sincerely say, “God, you know what I’m about to ask You to do. You know what I want to see happen in my kingdom. But before we get to my kingdom, I want You to know . . . Your kingdom come. Your will be done. And I mean it!”
Do you know what happens when you pray like that? You are rewarded. Do you know what you’re rewarded with? (sigh—deep breath). Peace.
But Jesus knows us. So, He moves on to the part that we’re most interested in. The “Gimme” me.
“Give us each day, our daily bread.”
Now for those disciples, this reminded them of when their ancestors were led by Moses out of Egypt to the Holy Land. But while they were wandering around the desert for 40 years, they got hungry and their kids were getting cranky and there wasn’t a McDonalds drive thru.
So, God provided them with daily bread. Manna that came from heaven and he gave them just enough for each day.
This was awesome, but Moses warned them, “You’re just getting enough for today, but there will come a time when you’re a wealthy nation. You going to have a lot.”
This is all about Provision
“You’re going to have so much provision that other nations are going to come to you and buy bread from you. But on that day, don’t you forget that it came from Me.”
Give us this day our daily bread. This isn’t so much about a request, as it is recognition.
In other words, when you say “Gimme” and God does, we must recognize where it came from. Or if you say, “Gimme” and God doesn’t you need to remember that God gives you the provisions you need, which might be different from what you want.
And then Jesus says this . . . “and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.”
This is a recognition that we have all messed up. We have all done things that have broken relationships with God and with each other. But I can ask forgiveness because you sent your Son into this world. And because You sent Your son into this world, I can call You Father.”
“And as I am asking You for forgiveness, I am going to extend it to the people around me. I am not going to get up off my knees until everyone is forgiven in the same way You have forgiven me.”
For some of us, that will force you to pray a little longer, won’t it? Because it is easy to ask for forgiveness, it’s not so easy to forgive. And as we start asking God to forgive us, God brings to our mind people’s faces that you and I need to forgive.
Every single time you pray, you should be reminded that you are a forgiven person who has been asked to forgive the people around you. What if we just got that part right?
Then Jesus finishes . . . “And lead us not into temptation”
This is huge. It is an acknowledgement of your dependence on God. Not only are we sinners, people who make a mess of things . . . we do it over and over and over, even if we don’t intend to.
Jesus is teaching us, that prayer is saying, “God, I want you to forgive me and I don’t plan to make a bigger mess of things but I recognize, I acknowledge, that I am weak and there are so many temptations around me that I keep getting drawn towards and when I try to fix things myself, it doesn’t work, so I’m asking you for protection from those things that so easily lead me away from you.”
That is what Jesus said when He taught us to pray. This is how we pray . . . this is the pattern.
Our father, creator of all things, blessed and holy is your Name . . . wow, I get to talk to you.
I’ve got this agenda, but you know what . . . Your kingdom come, your will be done
God, I constantly mess things up so please forgive me and bring to mind the faces of those that I also need to forgive. And God I recognize that this is going to be difficult, so please lead me away from temptation, lead me away from those things that break the relationship I have with you and with those you have placed in my path.
Here’s the thing—the longer you declare God’s greatness, and the longer you acknowledge your dependence on God, the less time you’re going to spend with the gimme list.
What you ask for is important. Because you love the people that are suffering. And you need a job. And you are worried about your prodigal son or daughter. It’s not that those things aren’t important.
But somehow, what happens is, the things we want and the things that we need, and the things that we can’t live without begin to shrink within the context of an Almighty God Who has invited you to call Him Father and have a conversation with Him.
And by the way, God says, “I know. I know about your family. I know about your friend who is sick. I know you need a job. I know the friction in your relationships . . . but I want you to know that before you knelt to pray, before you got alone and started bowing your head— I already knew what you needed. But I am honored you would bring it to Me.”
So, before you get to you . . .
Are you willing to hear, ‘No’ for an answer? Are you willing to allow God to use the chaos and even the painful parts of your life to do something that maybe you don’t even know God is doing?
If so, then Ask God for provision, forgiveness, and protection.
This kind of prayer works every single time. Not because it moves God. But because it moves you. It’s not about my will, but thy will.
As I mentioned at the beginning of the sermon, I am going to challenge us to begin to pray daily during the Lenten season. And this morning, I wanted to introduce you to a pretty cool tool to help.