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Showing posts with label the Lord's Prayer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label the Lord's Prayer. Show all posts

Monday, November 20, 2023

What's the Lord's Prayer?

Last week, we studied Jesus simple instructions on how to pray.  He said don’t try to put a show to impress others when you pray and don’t babble on and on over and over again like heathens.  Instead, he said, “go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private.” (Matthew 6:6)

In today’s message, we’re going to study the example Jesus gave of an appropriate prayer.  The example Jesus gave is what we call “The Lord’s Prayer.”  We say this prayer together in worship almost every week.  Now, Jesus wasn’t saying this is the only prayer you can pray.  Rather, Jesus gave us this prayer as an example of both the attitude and tone we should have when we pray, as well as being an example of some of the things we should pray about.

Let’s first look at the traditional prayer my congregation says each week in worship during the Pastoral Prayer.

The Tradition Words of The Lord’s 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 trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For Thine in the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.  Amen.

Now let’s go through the prayer line by line from Jesus’ sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:9-15.  You’ll notice the words of Scripture are different from what you’re used to.  That’s because I’m reading from the New Living Translation, which puts the Scripture in modern, easier to understand language.

Matthew 6:9
Pray like this:  Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy.

Remember, people who follow Christ Jesus are praying to our Father.  God is Jesus’ Father. 
He is your Father too (if you follow Christ).  A good father cares about his kids.  He loves them unconditionally.  He sacrifices for them.  He provides for them and gives them what they need.  Sometimes a good father withholds things from His children—not because He’s mean or doesn’t care, but precisely because He does care.  He knows what His children really need and also when what they want won’t be good for them   So when we pray, we simply talk to God like He is our Father, because He is.

But God is not just any father, God is our Heavenly Father.  That means God is better than our biological father.  God doesn’t have the character flaws and limitations of you dad.  If you had a issues with your dad, you can be thankful God is the Father you always wish you had.  And even if your earthly father was wonderful, you can marvel in the knowledge God is infinitely better than your earthly father when he was at his very best.

When we recite the traditional prayer, we say “Hallowed be Thy Name”.  Hallowed is a fancy old word we don’t use any more.  The closest we come is Halloween--which means All Hollows Eve.  Hallowed is the old English word for holy and sacred.  But we even take the words holy and sacred for granted in modern times.  We use them in church, but what do they really mean?  To be holy and sacred is to be different and special—set apart from all the other common things.  God is not like all the other common things around us.  He is special and unique.  He’s different.

And it’s not just God’s name that is different.  When we say, “Your name is Holy” or “Hallowed be Thy Name”, were talking about God’s reputation.  That’s what a name is—it’s verbal reputation of who you are.  If you tell someone you go to Pleasant Grove Methodist Church, it says something.  We have a reputation people know us by.  What do they know about us?  What is our reputation?  When I’m out in the community and people find out I pastor Pleasant Grove Methodist Church, they might say things like:

  • "Oh! That’s the church that does trunk or treat every year!  My kids love that!  We can really tell y'all are full of love."
  • "Oh! That’s the church that gave my friend $1,000 to help put a roof on her house!"
  • "Oh!  That’s the church where my friend started going and it turned his life around!"
  • "Oh!  That’s the church where I take all my Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes!"

You see, we have a reputation.  People know our church by our name and what we do.  And when we pray to God our Father, we know Him by what He has done.  When you pray, think of all God has done that is recorded in the Bible.  Remember all God has done for your friends and family or for you personally:  how He has cared for you and put people in your life to love you, how He has forgiven your sins and saved you.  Think of all the ways God has been there for you.

One year ago, my church was following the North Georgia Annual Conference of the UMC's rules for disaffiliation.  On December 28th (while everyone was on vacation and 2 days before Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson was scheduled to leave our conference to be reappointed to Virginia), the bishop “paused” our disaffiliation.  Her “pause” was effectively an edict denying over 186 churches their legitimate right to withdraw from the UMC because of the deadlines involved.  We were at a loss as to what to do.  Thousands of United Methodists across out conference were at a loss.  It caught us all off guard and there seemed to be nothing we could do.

People from my church kept asking, "What can we do?"  I didn't know the answer, but I said, let's pray and be patient and wait on the Lord's direction.  So we prayed.  We prayed to our Father, who is in Heaven and has the power to do anything.  And against all odds, God made a way.  I won't list out all the details and steps that took us from despair in January to victory in November.  However, on November 18th, 2023, our church was granted disaffiliation along with 261 other church.  God used all the extra time to increase the number of churches committed to following His Word.

There were 4 churches who didn’t make it out.  They were not approved.  Was that because they didn't pray hard enough?  No. They are still not defeated.   Either God had other plans for them or God will take their defeat and turn it into a victory!  That is the mysterious way God works sometimes.  SOmetimes He doesn't answer our prayers the way we want, but we have faith He always answers our prayers in the right way.  We will just have to trust God and wait and see what He does.

If you ever depsair because God doesn't answer your prayers the way you want, think of Jesus.  Jesus did not want to die on the cross.  What did He pray?  He prayed, "Lord, if there's any way it's possible, let this cup of suffering pass from me."  You see, Jesus didn't want to endure the agony and shame of dying on the cross.  He prayed for the cup to pass from Him.  But He also prayed, "But not my will, but Yours be done."  And Jesus died on the cross.  But God also took Jesus death and turned it into the greatest victory that's ever been one.  Jesus died on the cross but rose on the third day.  And through His ressurection, the whole world can be saved!  So if you ever despair because God doesn't answer your prayers, you are in good company--the company of God's own Son.  And God will turn your unanswered prayer into a victory.  Have faith!

Matthew 6:10
May your Kingdom come soon.  May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.

This should be a Christians number one hope and number one prayer.  It’s not about us.  Ultimately, we want God’s to come and His will to be done because our faith says that’s what we really need.  Yes, we have our own hopes and dreams about how we want our lives to turn out.  But our faith tells us loud and clear, God’s plans are always better than our hopes and dreams.  Therefore, we must be like the heroes of faith in the Bible who were always willing to turn their backs on everything they’d ever known and to go where God led them.

Are you ready and willing to surrender your hopes and dreams and truly ask God our Father, “May Your will (not mine) be done on earth, as it is in heaven”?  When you are ready to surrender completely to the will of God, then you are ready to pray about your basic needs.

Matthew 6:11
“Give us today the food we need,”

We have basic needs.  We ask God to take care of them.  The struggles of daily life and prayer are opportunities to practice trusting God.  We sinful humans are incredibly prone to think we can take care of ourselves.  Do we really need God?  Oh sure, we realize we need God at certain moments in our lives—like when we get diagnosed with cancer, or when the church we’ve grown up in and love is in jeopardy.  When we are scared or at our wits end, we go to God and beg for help.  And that’s fine.  God hears us.  But it is far better for our spiritual health if we recognize every day, every moment we desperately need God.  We cannot do life on our own.  We cannot even tie our shoelaces whithout God's help!  We need God even for something as basic as food.  So we ask, “Give us this day our daily bread.”

Just like the Israelites who wandered in the wilderness, who God gave manna from heaven.  God gave them enough for one day.  He said, “Don’t collect more than one day’s supply.  Trust me.  I’ll give you more tomorrow.”  So we ask God to give us the food and basic needs we need today.  And we trust Him.  God will take care of us.

Matthew 6:12
...and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.

Isn’t it interesting that right next to Jesus instruction to pray for daily bread is His instruction about praying for forgiveness?  Don’t miss this.  Forgiveness is as important to your health and wellbeing as is the basic necessity of food.  Let me say that again:  Forgiveness is as important to your health and wellbeing as is the basic necessity of food.  

This is something our church needs to remember and practice very intentionally during this season.  We have been in a hard and bitter fight.  The Lord has brought us through.  We have won the right to disaffiliate from the UMC and pursue the future we believe God wants our church to work for.  But we also still feel the pain and anxiety from the long fight.  There may even be hard feelings between some in our community—Dalton/Whitfield County—or even in our own church.  And we need to forgive one another so we can move on and heal.  And we need to pray, “Father, forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.”

Matthew 6:13
And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.

Here is the reminder of who the enemy really is.  Who is the enemy?  It is the evil one, the Devil.  The enemy is not the Bishop or conference leaders who tried to sidetrack our church.  The enemy is not that person at work who told lies about you and hurt your reputation.  You see, you real enemy is not the people or things of this world.  We are engaged in a spiritual battle.  Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”

So don’t give into the temptation to blame your problems on God, thinking He doesn’t care.  And don’t give into the temptation to blame people on earth who oppress you.  It is the Evil One and the forces of darkness in an unseen world who are twisting things up against you.  Therefore, turn away from temptation and not feed the Devil’s influence in your life.  Turn to God in prayer.

Matthew 6:14-15
“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. 15 But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.

I don’t know how Jesus can make it any more plain than this.  We must forgive or we cannot be forgiven.  Forgiveness is hard.  It’s not some glib thing.  But it is essential.  We must forgive.  Forgiveness is what God has done for us.  And it cost Jesus His life.  Jesus died cruelly on the cross so we can be forgiven and so we can forgive others.  

We all need forgiveness and God is gracious to forgive.  But we in turn must forgive others.  So when you pray, pray like this.  

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 trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For Thine in the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.  Amen.

Monday, December 3, 2018

The Lord's (Simple) Prayer

Preface - I highly recommend Richard Foster's book, Prayer, as a resource as you study prayer.  Foster's book has been a valuable resource to me as I've developed this series on prayer and in my own efforts to deepen my prayer life.

One day an atheist who didn’t believe in God was walking through the woods admiring the beauty of nature and thinking how amazing it was the “big bang” created the whole universe and this marvelous forest.  Suddenly, a grizzly bear jumped from behind a tree and knocked the atheist to the ground.  Just as the bear’s jaws closed in to finish the atheist off, the man cried out, “God help me!” 

Everything in the world around him froze.  Even the wind stopped blowing and the birds ceased their chirping.  And then from Heaven a booming voice spoke.  “I am God.  And even though you don’t believe in me, I love you and want to help you.  What do you want me to do?”

The atheist thought for a moment and said, “I’m not a religious person and I don’t want to become one.  But if you could just give this bear some religion that should do the trick.”

God spoke with a voice of thunder, “So be it!  It is done!”  And then the forest came back to life again and everything returned to normal.  The atheist looked up hopefully at the massive grizzly bear standing over him.  The bear clasped its paws together and began to pray very religiously:

“Thank You, O God, for this meal I am about to receive...”

It seems almost everyone believes in prayer.  Of course, most people who go to church believe in prayer.  However, even people who don’t go to church will ask you to pray for them when they need help; or they will tell you they will pray for you if they hear you are having trouble.  Even atheists often pray for divine help when they are in big trouble!  (I guess it’s hard not to hope for a divine God when you desperately need supernatural help!)

Prayer is essential.  It’s not just something religious people do or something for those who desperately need help.  Prayer is a living relationship with our Creator.  Prayer is what we were made for.  But who really knows how to pray?

Jesus’ disciples asked, “Lord, teach us to pray.”  And Jesus gave them a simple prayer to model how to pray.  Today, I want to look at that simple prayer we commonly call “The Lord’s Prayer”.  Now, most of us have heard this prayer and recited it again and again ourselves until it’s so familiar we take it for granted.  That can hinder our ability to understand it.  So I encourage you to try to listen to the Lord’s Prayer with fresh ears this morning--like you are hearing it for the very first time.

Matthew 6:9-13
Our Father in heaven,
    may your name be kept holy.
10 May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth,
    as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today the food we need,
12 and forgive us our sins,
    as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
13 And don’t let us yield to temptation,
    but rescue us from the evil one.

A Simple Prayer
Christians often enshrine The Lord’s Prayer as the holiest of holy prayers.  It’s been part of religious tradition for so long and often linked to some of the holiest religious experiences of our lives; we can’t help but think of it as a sacred prayer.  However, Jesus never meant for the Lord’s Prayer to be some super fancy sacred ritual.  When he told his disciples, “Pray like this…” he was actually teaching them how simple and ordinary our prayers ought to be.  In fact, the language he uses in the Lord’s prayer was so common, many of the religious leaders of his day would have considered it sacrilegious.  It was blasphemy for Jews of Jesus’ day to even say the name of God—for His name was thought to be too holy to be spoken by human lips.  To them, Jesus went completely overboard by calling God “Father”.  People thought, “How can any sinful human mortal presume to call the God of the universe, Daddy?”  But Jesus is the Son of God.  And when we trust Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we are adopted into the family.  God is our Father too!

A Daddy Prayer
Calling God “Our Father in Heaven” (or “Our Daddy up in the Sky”) is precisely the point Jesus wants to make.  You see, praying really is very simple.  Now, I know not everyone has had a good relationship with their father here on earth.  However, if you did have a good father you trusted, you knew loved you, who you also loved, a father you felt very comfortable being with and talking to, you would know you could just go to your dad and talk about anything.  It’s what your dad wants you do because your dad loves you and loves to spend time with you.  And Jesus is saying, that’s our relationship with God and that’s what prayer is! 

Prayer is not some highfalutin religious ritual.  Prayer is us talking to our Daddy--our true Dad, our perfect Dad, our Daddy in the Sky, our Heavenly Father.  And that sets the tone for everything about simple, authentic prayer.  We can and should go to God in prayer like a child goes into the arms of a loving, welcoming father.  And God receives us in prayer like a loving, welcoming dad embraces a little child. 

I think we really ought to change the name of this prayer.  Instead of calling it the Lord’s Prayer, we ought to call it the Daddy prayer.  That’s the heart of what it really is.  We are simply talking to our Daddy, who also happens to be the God of the Universe.  What a blessing!

A Model Prayer
The Lord’s Prayer (or the Daddy Prayer) is a model for how we can pray.  Jesus didn’t intend us to have to recite it by wrote—like this was the only words you can pray.  (You can recite it.  I have heard people say sometimes when they don’t know what to say in prayer, they will recite the Lord’s Prayer.  And that works too.  It’s always good to have a few prayers memorized for when you just don’t know what to pray.)  But the Lord’s Prayer (the Daddy Prayer), is really meant to be an outline 
of the kinds of things you could pray about. So what’s in the outline?
  • Address God – Our Spiritual Dad 
  • Praise Him 
  • Pray about our purpose 
  • Ask for our basic needs 
  • Pray about forgiveness 
  • Ask for spiritual guidance 
A Prayer of Praise
In the King James Version, the version we recite on Sunday mornings, we say, “Hallowed be thy name…”  What does that even mean?  It means, “Daddy God, we want You to be revered and honored.”  God is perfect and holy and good and loving and powerful and we were created to love and honor and adore Him.  We want the whole world to honor and adore Him too.  So we praise Him in our prayers.  And in doing so, we lift up our own hearts.  Our spirits soar out of darkness and gloom as we reconnect with our created purpose—to honor and glorify our Holy God.  Every problem, worry, concern seem smaller when placed beside our praise of the One True God.

A Prayer for Purpose
Thy Kingdom Come…  Prayer helps us name and ask God to help us align our purpose with His divine purpose.  Prayer changes things.  And the most important thing prayer changes is us.  We might ask God to change our situations (and sometimes He does), but the most important thing God changes in prayer is our will and our desires.  The greatest blessing in life is to discover what God wants you to do with your life and the joy of living on purpose.  Those who follow Christ ask God to help us discover His will, to help the whole world discover and do God’s will until we realize His Kingdom’s goals on the earth as much as they are a reality in Heaven.

A Prayer about Basic Needs
Our Daddy God cares about our needs.  Jesus said that God knows and cares about every single bird that dies (Matthew 10:29).  You are way more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows (Matthew 10:31).  So we can ask Him to take care of our basic needs.  And doing so reminds us of our complete dependence on God.  Food seems pretty easy to come by for most people today.  But the reality is, every one of us is only a few hours away from being very hungry.  (Some of you are pretty hungry right now and really want me to wrap up this message so you can go have lunch!)  All of us are only a day away from being famished or a few days away from starving if there were no food to eat.  Do you think you are the one who puts food on your table?  “Well, yes.  I have a job and I buy my food.”  But the Christian is one who recognizes it all really comes from God.  Without His provision, we could not survive.  And we ought not ever forget that the simple and basic blessings of having enough to eat could be taken away in a heartbeat.  Some do not enjoy that blessing—maybe by no fault of their own. 
And so we pray, “Give us the food we need.”  And not just the food; what about all the other basic things we need?  We can and should ask our Daddy God for them.  He’s our Daddy and we need Him.  And our Daddy God loves us and will take care of us.  Pray about it.

A Prayer of Forgiveness
If food is our basic physical need, forgiveness is our basic spiritual need.  Without it, we cannot live.  Sin separates us from our Creator, who is the source of life.  And yet “all of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  And “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).  “All who call on the name of the Lord [Jesus Christ] shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).  “If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness” (1 John 1:9).  But Jesus also said, “If you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:15).
Forgiveness can be very hard.  I don’t have time today to really address forgiveness.  All I have time to say is this:  we desperately need God’s forgiveness and we desperately need to forgive others.  And forgiveness—real, godly, divine forgiveness—is a miracle that is beyond our ability.  And so we need to pray about it and ask God’s help.
A Pray for Spiritual Guidance
"Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil..."  This life is a battle ground.  We don’t often realize it as we are driving around in our comfortable Toyata Camrys and SUV’s.  But while we are enjoying our homes—with their thermostatically heated and air conditioned environments—a spiritual war is waging for our souls just beyond the grasp of our physical eyes.  The Devil and His demons wants nothing more than to see you’re soul distracted, disarmed, and destroyed.  He is OK with you living a life of comfort and ease, with few serious problems—so long as that ultimately leads you to join him in hell for the rest of eternity.  Thankfully, God has not left us unprotected in this battle.  The Holy Spirit is available to show you the way of Christ that leads to eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven.  The stakes are high.  We desperately need to pray for God to guide us to walk in the light.  “Daddy in Heaven, lead us not into temptation, but deliver from evil.”

A Word About Amen
It has become an almost universal practice to end prayers with the word “Amen”.  The word means “so be it”, and it’s a way of affirming what we’ve just prayed.  For most people, it’s just a way to signify we’re done praying.  Although almost everyone says amen, it’s not really necessary—especially when you are praying by yourself and you don’t need to let anyone else know your done.  You can say it or not say it, whatever you want to do.

Holy Communion
Prayer is communion with God.  Whenever, we have the privilege of sharing the sacrament of Holy Communion, it is also a kind of prayer—a prayer we act out as we take the bread and grape juice and remember the love of God that was so strong it left the glory of Heaven to come down to our broken world to save us from our sins by dying on a cross.  

I hope you will focus on prayer as much as you can.  It is the life blood of our relationship with God.