We are in a series on identity in Christ. It follows a discipleship curriculum that we have been working on. Today we are talking about identifying as prayers. We have talked about being worshipers, followers, stewards, family members, witnesses and now prayers.
I know this is a little confusing because prayers are what we pray, right? And I am telling you to identify as a prayer. English word means something you pray or it can be a person who prays. We thought about pray-ers. We thought about intercessors (something in an unknown room). The word that means a person who prays and would clarify the whole situation is the word precants. We felt that didn’t help.
So we are prayers. If you run you are a runner. If you swim you are a swimmer. If you pray you are a prayer. I know this is confusing. Prayers are the things we say to God. Prayers are also people who pray.
Do you know most people pray? Even deliberately non-religious people pray.
- One study found that 30% of atheists admitted they prayed “sometimes.”
- Another found 17% of nonbelievers in God pray regularly.
- “In virtually all studies of the sociology of religious behavior it is clearly apparent that a very high percentage of people declare they pray every day, and many even say many times a day.” Keller
If we all pray. If we desire to know God more and to have help from him, then is there anything Scripture says to us about how we should pray and what we should pray? Well, there are many places we could go to better understand prayer. We are going to look at how Jesus taught his disciples to pray.
Notice in this passage that Jesus says there is a right and wrong way to pray. Just because you pray, does not mean a whole lot. Jesus says there are people who you should not be like. There are hypocrites who pray just to be seen by people. There are people who pray thinking their many words will bring about what they want. There are people whose prayer for forgiveness won't be heard because they are unwilling to forgive those who offended them.
Prayer is an expression of our relationship with God, so how can we pray the right way? This is why we are turning to Jesus’s teaching on how to pray. Jesus here instructs his disciples how to pray.
How do you address God? Ever struggle with how to address an email. Hi, hey, hello. How do you greet your CEO: your honor, ’Sup dude? Titles are important and convey intimacy, knowledge, and relationship. So how do we address God?
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
One of the great teachings of the Christian faith is that we know God as a Father. He is sovereign, he is omnipotent, he is omniscient, omnipresent, and yet he is a father. Not just a God who is great and powerful; and distant and indifferent. But a God who is near and who cares about his children. This forms the whole basis of prayer.
He knows what you want and need before you even ask. Why bother to pray? Because he wants a relationship with his people.
He is our father. Not just a father, or some father. But he is our Father. As you read the Bible, you see people who are brought into relationship with the living God. They relate to him, want to know and honor him. He wants them to seek after him. They pray to him, they converse with him.
Is he your father? Do you look to him? Do you know him? Have you read the word to discover who he is, what he has done, what he is doing, what he will do?
Pray is conversing with God. Job cried out to God when disaster struck. Moses prayed to God when the Egyptians pressed down upon them. Jacob prayed to God for his children.
Our Father in heaven. There is a relationship between God and his people. God accommodates us and our needs. He takes an interest, but we cannot let that lead to irreverence. Our Father in heaven. He oversees all things in heaven and on earth. His throne is in the heavens. A child running to his Father in the board meeting.
How can you call on him as Father? How can you call on him who is in heaven? The work of Jesus Christ reveals God as father, his death atones for all our sin. Spirit, he is everywhere all the time.
“The vitality of prayer lies in the vision of God that prompts it. Drab thoughts of God make prayer dull.” Luther
Prayer is not rubbing a genie in a bottle and hoping we get our wishes.
Prayer is not a mindless incantation in which we say the right words in the right way and the combination unlocks the safe that holds our dreams. These would lead to manipulating God for our own interests.
Prayer is talking to our heavenly Father. Just as we go to earthly fathers for help, for understanding, for thanking, for being with, so also we go to our heavenly father. We go to him with reverence, respect, and relationship.
Loneliness. People feel all alone because they are. They are missing a relationship with God. They don't know him. They don't have the assurance that he is there. Their conversation is only one way. They are not listening to him or for him. Christians may feel isolated in the world, but the one we most need is with us.
Jesus says they will be rewarded for prayer. It will be beneficial. It doesn’t not clarify what the reward is: will I get what I asked for? Maybe. He will reward you. So then what should we ask for?
The Bible is a story about God bringing his kingdom rule on earth. It involves the eradication of evil in the world and the establishment of God’s peace. In the Old Testament you see a focus on the geopolitical kingdom. Geographically in the land of Israel and politically in the nation of Israel. But in the New Testament we see the kingdom of God is coming in the heart of people. The kingdom of God comes when God is on the throne of a person’s heart. In the end of the Bible we see God establishing his kingdom on Earth in all its fullness for those who have trusted Jesus as their Lord. It is the reward. The kingdom is twofold, in the hearts of people and outside people in the entirety of the world.
If you know this then you want to see his kingdom come. We pray for this. It's right to pray for his kingdom to come. We pray for righteousness and justice. We pray for people to surrender their lives to Jesus.
It's not about me and my kingdom. It is about God and his kingdom. And if God uses my prosperity or adversity to bring his kingdom to bear in the lives of others then I am good. Life is not about me. “Perfect world begins and ends with me.”
I am second. LIfe is not about me. Your will be done. What you want and what pleases you. Pray for others to do your will. Pray that I do your will. I have limited sight and perspective. God, I don't understand. Your will be done. An expression of dependence.
Jesus prayed, "Father, take this cup from me, yet not my will but yours be done.”
God is doing something in the world that is so deep, so profound, so all-encompassing. My kids don't understand the effects of 9/11. They don't understand ….
The coming of Jesus changes the way we think about everything. You don't fully understand what God is doing in the world.
When you are mad and depressed that you don't like things, that you want something different, rest in the fact that God is doing something much greater than you could imagine.
*If our goal is not to get what we want, but to see God’s will done, then we want to bring our thoughts and desires into line with God’s will and desires.*
*If God has given his word to us to know him and his will, then Scripture is our guide to prayer.* Pray what Scripture guides you to pray. Bring your heart and mind into what God is doing. How you should think, desire, long, and create peace.
- Instruction. As you read the word, think “what does this teach me about God, myself, and the world we live in”?
- Thanksgiving. How does this guide me in giving thanks?
- Confession. How have I fallen short in this? What might I need to confess?
- Prayer. How might I pray? Help me …
Gets us out of the perfunctory routine. In children's ministry. Who died for our sins? Jesus! Who threw a silver dollar across the potomac? Jesus!
Many people get so focused on a couple things that there becomes a thoughtless response to prayer. All Joe ever talks about is his business and all he ever prays about is his business. Does your group feel stagnated? Reflect more on the Scripture. How does the passage we just studied call us to pray? Hyper focused on a few things: job, health, kids.
If God answered your prayers, would eternity be any different?
“It is remarkable that in all of his writings Paul’s prayers for his friends contain no appeals for changes in their circumstances.” Keller, 20.
We want his will. We want our will to align with God’s will. This is why when all these books come out, “I prayed this and God answered,” I just kind of shrugged my shoulders. OK. I think you might be missing something. You are so focused on getting what you want. What is God teaching you in this?
People who left the faith. Struggled mightily because they didn't get their way. Want to be like Jesus? Then you will have to defer your will to the will of the father. That is what it means to be a Christian. Stop depending on yourself, your plans, your ability to achieve things and trust in what Jesus has achieved for you.
We are on the third point before we get to praying for needs. This tells us God cares for our needs. We ought to pray for them. Praying for bread is extremely ordinary. Not just any bread. Our daily bread. We ask him to provide for us. Most of us are not concerned with bread, but what goes on the bread; apple butter, but not just any apple butter. I want the maple brown sugar cinnamon twist apple butter.
I jest. But it does show our society. We have so much stuff, so much material goods, will we ever have enough. Balance of expressing needs.
Poles are established. We pray for God’s kingdom, we pray for his will, we pray for our needs. Don't forget the more important things. Don't miss the little things, either. Pray for traveling mercies. But are you also praying for the kingdom to come into the hearts of people? Are you so busy praying for people to be saved that you miss that your friend next to you is lonely and depressed?
Forgiveness with God. Forgive us for our debt. A debt is something you owe someone. People borrow money from a bank. They owe the bank a debt of money. What do we owe God? We owe him our obedience and devotion. We owe him our lives, our everything. We sin constantly in thought, word, and deed.
Pride is a dark cloud that hides the sun of God’s face and mercy. It leads us to think God ought to do more for us. It judges him as an insufficient provider for what we think we should have. We expect and demand more of God, not realizing how much he has done for us. As we realize how far short we have fallen.
When we realize how much God has done for us, how much he has forgiven us, then we become more likely to show others grace and mercy. One way to cultivate this is to read God’s word, reflect on what you have fallen short on. You begin to see his mercy. His grace. His love. His help. It changes us.
We pray for forgiveness. I'm not the judge, he is. I put myself in the position of one who needs forgiveness. We also thank him for forgiving us in Christ. Please forgive me. Thank you for forgiving me. In rehab many people simply have not been able to forgive themselves. So part of prayer involves asking God for forgiveness. It involves the confession of sin. Owning our failings, mistakes, wondering, and refusals. Forgive us for what we have done. Forgive us for what we have not done.
Forgiveness of others. This is such a big thing. Forgive others. It means you stop trying to punish people for the wrongs they have done. Want to ruin relationships? Don't forgive people. Harbor bitterness.
Pray as a family. In an argument with a spouse. Work through it. Take time to pray and confess your sins to God.
One of the best things you can do. Pray and forgive people. You can go and broadcast your hurt and offenses on social media. That is one way to deal with the problem. You would present your case well, the other person would have no way to defend themselves, people would view you as in the right, and you would probably double down on your pride and resentment. But you still won't feel resolved. Or you can forgive them. Realize their offense is first and foremost against God. Yes, they hurt you. And your Father in Heaven saw it, knows it all. And he will bring them to justice. But he is giving them time to own their stuff now. For God to have mercy on people, means you don't get immediate resolution.
Praying for forgiveness, or expressing forgiveness is how you give God the jurisdiction over the offense and the hurt.
- God forgive me for the things I have done.
- Forgive me for the things that I have left undone.
- Forgive me for being angry and bitter at….
- Forgive me for getting mad and yelling at…
- Forgive me for withdrawing and being bitter.