September 20, 2015

Luke 11: 1-4

More than Matthew, Mark, and John combined, Luke tells us more about the prayer life of Jesus. Out of the first ten chapters, Luke shows us Jesus praying in five of them. So far, the disciples have yet to pray.

However, they have been watching Jesus pray and they know that prayer is important to him. They see that he gets strength from prayer, so finally, one of the disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples” (11:1b).

I imagine Jesus had been waiting for just such a moment – a teachable moment. Sometimes you cannot teach people something until they are ready to learn it.

Now some of you might find it a bit surprising that prayer is something that you learn.   Don’t you just open your mouth and say something, anything, to God, that’s on your mind? Isn’t prayer that easy? Well, yes, and no.

Let’s say you had an opportunity to meet the Queen of England. What would you say as you reached out to shake her hand? Wait, I’m not so sure you are supposed to touch a Royal, are you? So, what would you say? “Oh, look at you. You remind me so much of my grandmother. You know, her name was Queen. I bet y’all have a lot in common, except she’s dead now and you just keep on living. Just how old are you now, anyway?”

Wouldn’t meeting the Queen be that easy? You just open your mouth and say something, anything.   Then again, maybe not. You might need a little coaching.

Now don’t misunderstand, if God hears the prayer of a child, if God hears the prayer of a person spoken from one’s deathbed, if God hears the prayer of someone who has never prayed, we don’t have to be properly schooled in order for God to hear us.

However, to reap the greatest benefits from prayer, to feel most comfortable in our praying, and in order for our prayers in worship to be beneficial to all concerned, we should learn from those who have developed a discipline of prayer.

Jesus was disciplined in his prayer life and he believed we could be taught how to pray; otherwise he would not have taught the disciples a model prayer.

Now many of you will notice that Luke’s model prayer is different from Matthew’s. It’s shorter. I don’t know if Luke didn’t know the rest of the prayer or if he intentionally left out the two parts that Matthew included.

The key is that it is supposed to be a model. It’s not indicative of every prayer we pray, just an example of how we might pray.

Jesus said, when we pray say,

“Father.   This does not mean that God is a male.

John 4:24 says that “God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”

While God is assigned a masculine pronoun, this is done to emphasize that God is relational. God is not an “it.” God is personal, but God is not a male, nor is God a female, but God has as a part of his image those aspects of personhood that give us our distinctive maleness and femaleness.

We know this because the creation story in Genesis tells us that we were created in the image of God, both male and female.

While the dominant language of the Bible is male, that language reflects a culture that is dominated by males and controlled by males. Don’t confuse that with God, who is spirit.

Yet, Jesus said we could call God, “Abba,” which is like “Daddy,” or Father. Jesus wants us to know God as a personal God who knows us in an intimate, personal way.

“Hallowed be your name.”  Jesus included these words of reverence to remind us that we are addressing holiness.

God might know us personally, but don’t forget that God is holy. Just as we wouldn’t come into the presence of the Queen of England or our own President with disrespect, we should honor God with our posture and give God our undivided attention when we pray. Our prayers should be a time we take seriously and they should be given thought and purpose.

Praying is a privilege, so we should treat it like a privilege. We are coming into the presence of the Almighty God.

“Your kingdom come.” This is the most difficult part of the model prayer to pray.   Often our prayers reflect our selfishness. How do you know if your prayers are selfish?

Write out your prayer sometime and then go back and read it. Circle the number of times you used words like “I,” “my,” “mine,” and “me.”   A great deal of our world revolves around our wants and our desires.

Our petitions to God are usually about our families, our jobs, our health, our happiness, our bills, our wants and wishes for life.   We often see God as the Great Santa Claus who is there to grant our wishes.   We sometimes think that the better we are, perhaps the more God might give to us.

However, look closely. Jesus taught the disciples to pray that the kingdom would come. Jesus spent his ministry trying to usher in the kingdom. So, if we are going to learn to pray, what does it mean to pray: “Your kingdom come”?

What exactly are we praying for? What does the kingdom of God look like? If we are praying for it, doesn’t that mean we have a responsibility to help bring it about? Certainly it would be disingenuous on our part to pray for something that we didn’t do our part to bring about.

If you were hungry and prayed for food but did nothing to try to work for it, your prayer would be disingenuous.

If you had poor health and prayed for better health but did nothing to try to maintain it, your prayer would be disingenuous.

If you prayed for a job but never looked for one, your prayer would be disingenuous. So when we pray, we should also be participants in our prayers.

So, why would you pray for the kingdom to come, if you didn’t do anything to help bring it about?

God’s kingdom comes when people love and serve rather than judge and condemn their neighbors.

God’s kingdom comes when believers share with others in pain and pleasure, poverty and wealth, hope and despair.

God’s kingdom comes when believers are not anxious about the future and do not grieve like the rest of men who have no hope.

God’s kingdom comes to us through baptism, preaching, teaching, the Lord’s Supper, prayer, and fellowship.

God’s kingdom comes surprisingly when we join with others in their suffering, providing strength for their journey even if it means suffering ourselves for the sake of others.

God’s kingdom comes when we love our neighbors as we love ourselves and it comes when our definition of neighbor has become so broad as to include anyone that God would love himself.

God’s kingdom comes when we are willing to forgive and to offer grace.

God’s kingdom comes when we are able to set aside our agenda and become lost in the agenda of God, regardless of the cost.

To be honest, we cannot pray these words and fully understand and embrace all that they mean. We can pray them with enough knowledge of what they mean to realize that they are words of a disciple. We can pray them with honesty, asking God to show us where He wants to use us to bring the kingdom about in our lives, in church, and in our community.

As you pray them, as you understand what they mean, God will work in your life to see that you get opportunities to live out those words.

“Give us each day our daily brea

It is so easy for us to believe that we are the captains of our own ship, the masters of our own destiny.   We can move through days, and weeks, and months and believing or being tempted to believe that every provision of our lives has come from our own hard work and intellect—the food we eat, the house we live in, the car we drive, and the clothes we wear.

The Hebrews began to feel this way and Moses had to set them straight: He said, “16He gave you manna to eat in the wilderness, something your ancestors had never known, to humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you. 17 You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me. 18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today. Deuteronomy 8:16-18

In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus reminds us to be constantly aware that God is our daily source of blessings. Each day the provisions of the day have come from the hands of God.

There is an emphasis on the word “daily.” We are a people that like to have security. We like 401K’s, Roth IRA’s and Social Security, and Trust Funds –anything that might indicate that our future is secure

While the Lord isn’t against any of these, the emphasis here is that our prayer life should not be stymied because we believe our security is secure, because as we have seen in the previous decade, savings can dissipate overnight.

Daily bread then is not just the physical nourishment we depend on God to supply each day, like He supplied the manna in the wilderness for the Hebrews. It is also the supplying of the spiritual manna God gives us to feed our souls.

“Forgive us our sins.”

Jesus continues this model prayer by focusing on the relationship we have with the Heavenly Father, specifically in areas where we have sinned. He says that we should pray for God to forgive our sins. This is similar to the request to provide our daily bread in that the verb form for “forgive” means to keep on forgiving. It’s an ongoing request.

Jesus is saying that we should ask God often to do this.

1 John 1:8-10 says:  “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”

It is safe to say then, that without prayer, we cannot have our sins forgiven. Prayer is fundamental to salvation because we must voice and acknowledge to God that we are not perfect, that we make mistakes, and that we need God to forgive us of those times when we come up short of God’s standards.

“For we also forgive everyone who sins against us.”

Here to some degree, Jesus is linking our receiving of forgiveness of sins from God with our forgiveness of those who have sinned against us.

Theologically, I believe it is true to say that the Lord forgave us before we forgave anyone, or made amends with anyone that we might have sinned against. Otherwise, our salvation would be works based and not grace based.

Paul said to the church of Ephesus: 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you (4:32).

Here is it clear that Christ forgave them before they forgave each other, yet it is still clear in the Lord’s Prayer model that forgiving each other is an expectation that Jesus has of us because we have been forgiven. Therefore, we too must forgive.

Many times in prayer, if we dig deep enough, we will find someone we’ve yet to forgive, which is the point Jesus is making here.

We learn to forgive because Christ has forgiven us.

Finally, there is this puzzling petition: And lead us not into temptation.

Would God lead anyone into temptation? If so why?

Perhaps thinking of his brother’s words and wishing to add clarity, James wrote: When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone. (James 1:13).

Yet we read in Luke’s gospel where Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness and there he is tempted while he is fasting during that 40-day period.

Of course, God wasn’t the one doing the tempting, but rather Satan.

The great difference between Jesus and us is that while Jesus was tempted by Satan, he did not succumb to his temptations.

What I get out of Jesus’ words after my study is that Jesus wants us to acknowledge our weaknesses. He wants us to pray and be on guard against those areas where we are prone to wander, prone to fail, prone to slip, prone to move off the narrow way, and in our praying we are asking God to help build a hedge around our lives to help keep us out of trouble.

If we do not make these areas a part of our prayer lives, it’s like allowing a wolf in the hen house. If you allow a wolf in the hen house, eventually you are going to lose some chickens.  If you are led enough times into temptation, eventually you will be overcome by sin.

Prayer is a hedge of protection and if we pray without ceasing as Paul suggested we do, we stand an even greater chance of standing strong against the evils of the day and being blessed because we made the best decisions for others and ourselves.

So now, with greater understanding and commitment, let us say the model prayer of Jesus as recorded by Luke together:

‘“Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.

Give us each day our daily bread.4

Forgive us our sins,

for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.

And lead us not into temptation.”’ Luke 11:1-4

What part of this prayer is your weakest area of your prayer life? Is it being in relationship with God? Honoring God with your reverence when you pray? Is it seeking kingdom living in your life? Do you fail to acknowledge God as the source of all that you have? Do you fail to ask for forgiveness of sins or fail to forgive others who sin against you? Do you fail to ask God to keep you away from tempting areas and issues?

I’d like for you to identify one or more of these and talk to God about them. How are you going to make changes going forward so that you will be a better disciple of Christ?