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Interviewing "Prayer" - How Do We Pray, Part 2
This week is the last week of our interview of prayer. We have spent the last 7 weeks "interviewing" the Bible asking questions about prayer. We have asked Who, What, Where, When, and Why. Last week, we started asking the question, "How do we pray?" and we looked at the Lord's Prayer in Matthew chapter 6 as our model of prayer.
Matthew 6:9b-13 KJV Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. (10) Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. (11) Give us this day our daily bread. (12) And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. (13) And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
We only looked at the first two verses last week. What we found when we looked at them is that the prayer Jesus gave us as a model starts with a declaration and praise of the One we are praying to, God. It does not start with us, but by acknowledging to Whom we are praying, why we we are praying to Him (indicated by the praise of His name), and an admission that we are submitting ourselves to His will here on earth as His will is done in heaven. I find it very telling that before we even begin to bring our own requests to Him, that Jesus taught His disciples (and us through the Bible) that prayer is first and foremost about God, whom we are praying to, not us. There is a song I like where the chorus of the song says, "I'm coming back to the Heart of Worship, And it's all about You, it's all about You, Jesus. I'm sorry Lord for the thing I made it, And it's all about You, it's all about You, Jesus."
We need to remember that in our prayer time. This is first and foremost time for God and what He wants to do in our lives. Yes, it is time for us to bring our needs to Him, but remember, He already knows our needs, better than we know them ourselves. We need to understand that when we go to God in prayer it's serious business with God. Sure, we can enjoy the time in prayer, we can dance and sing praises to Him. Serious does not have to mean solemn, but it should not be treated lightly.
My daughter likes to pray over the meals. She even gets upset when I pray instead of letting her do it. Her prayers are always the same. "Lord thank you for this food, amen." Short and sweet. I have to wonder though, are those just words to her? Are sometimes our prayers just words to us? Not just the ones over our meals, but our "private times" of prayers? Are your prayers nothing more than recited words? If so, then make a tape of them and just play it every night as you go to sleep.
Focus on "Who" first
It is important that we remember Who we are praying to. So let's review the first two verses of the Lord's Prayer before we get into the last three.
Remember we looked last week that God is our Father, our Abba, Father, or Daddy in heaven. He a father to those who don't have a father (or who had a bad father); He is also the a father to those who had a good father. He loved us before the creation of the world, and created a universe for us so we could know His love. Jesus even gave up his position as God and came to earth to live as one of us so that He could be our sin offering, our way to be forgiven. He loved us enough to suffer and die so that we could have eternal life! Would you willing sacrifice your child for the world? That's that "Our Father in heaven" to whom we pray.
"Hallowed be thy name"
We looked at the many names of God Many of these names were related to God's demostration of His love for His people. Just look at the names and how they describe a God who loves His children.
- Jehovah-Jireh: The Lord will Provide (Genesis 22:14 NIV So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, "On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.")
- Jehovah-Rophe: The Lord who heals (Exodus 15:22-26 NIV Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. (23) When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.) (24) So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, "What are we to drink?" (25) Then Moses cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. There the LORD made a decree and a law for them, and there he tested them. (26) He said, "If you listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you.", Jeremiah 30:17 NIV But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,' declares the LORD, 'because you are called an outcast, Zion for whom no one cares.', Jeremiah 3:22 NIV "Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding." "Yes, we will come to you, for you are the LORD our God.)
- Jehovah-M'Kaddesh: The Lord who Sanctifies (Leviticus 20:8 NIV Keep my decrees and follow them. I am the LORD, who makes you holy.)
- Jehovah-Shalom: The Lord our Peace (Judges 6:24 NIV So Gideon built an altar to the LORD there and called it The LORD is Peace. To this day it stands in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.)
- Jehovah-Tsidkunu: The Lord our Righteousness (Jeremiah 23:5-6 NIV "The days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. (6) In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.)
- Jehovah-Rohi: The Lord our Shepherd (Psalms 23:1 NIV A psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.)
"Thy kingdom come..."
And of course, the prayer demonstrates that we need to willing submit to God's will here on earth. We looked in Romans for verses about submission.
Romans 12:1-2 NIV Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. (2) Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Submission is hard though! We want our way, and our rights, but Jesus came to take our wrongs. He gave up His rights as God to take all our wrongs to the cross for us. Romans 12:1 in the NKJV reads:
Romans 12:1 NKJV I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
The word that is translated "reasonable" in the Greek is logikos (λογικός). What does that sound like? Logical. It means rational. The only rational thing we can do, given the mercies God has shown us, is to present our bodies as a living sacrifice that is acceptable to God.
Only after, bring your requests
So let's move on the the remaining three verses. As we looked at last week, verses 9 and 10 focus on God while verses 11, 12 and 13 focus on us. I think it is important to note that we are to pray for our needs, but that our needs are secondary to God's will. The model prayer Jesus gave us seems to indicate this in how the focus starts with God then moves to us. So let's look at the next verse.
Give us this day...
Matthew 6:11 NIV Give us today our daily bread.
When you look at the original Greek here, this verse translates very cleanly into English. The verse is actually saying bread as in a loaf of bread. I believe though that we are safe to look at this verse not just as an indication of "bread" or food but also as all things that we need to live. Notice in the verse that the request is for today's bread. Not tomorrows or next weeks, but just today. This reminds me of the Manna God feed the Isrealites with in the dessert. They were instructed to only gather what they needed for the day (excluding day before the Sabbath). Anything extra they gathered was rotten in the morning. We'll come back to this in a minute.
Let's talk about whether my statement that this is not just about bread is accurate. Is this verse only about our physical sustenance needs? Why? If we look back in Matthew a couple of chapters, we find a time when Jesus was hungry. He had been fasting for 40 days when He was tempted to satisfy that physical need. His response gives us an answer to the prior question.
Matthew 4:4 NIV Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"
So is Jesus saying we can live only on the words that come from God's mouth? Of course not. Our flesh needs to be feed, but what He is saying is that it is more important to feed the Spirit than it is the flesh. God's word is our spiritual bread that we are suppose to consume. Jesus was quoting from Deuteronomy when He said this.
Deuteronomy 8:3 NIV He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.
Notice it says here that God humbled them through their hunger. Why did God do that? To teach them that they also need God's word to live. When we take the time in our prayers, we need to remember that our spiritual needs should come before our physical needs. God knows what we need for living. He knows that we need food, clothing, shelter, a job, etc., but He also knows that living without life in the spirit isn't really living. It's an empty life without purpose, direction or a future. So when we pray for our needs, pray for what you need for true life along with the needs for life in this world.
Forgive us as we Forgive
So we now come to every one's favorite verse, right? We all love this verse. Have you ever had someone through this verse back into your face? You know, they just keep doing the same things over and over again, and they know you're a Christian, so anytime you try to deal with the problem, they through this verse back at you. "You'll just have to deal with it and forgive me. Your God says you have to." Anyone? Does that make it easier or harder to forgive them? So what do you do in those cases? What about if they are not "throwing" this in your face, they just don't care that they are doing something wrong to you? What do you do?
I find the Greek word for "debts" here interesting. It means something owed? It made me think of another word, wages, which are something owed for the work you have done. It made me think, God, forgive us the wages we have earned by our choices.... That's really what we are asking when we ask for forgiveness. Lord, please don't give me what I deserve. How many parents here have had (or currently have ) driving age children? Have you eve told them that driving is a privilege not a right? People, adults also, seem to forget that driving is not a right we are granted, but a privilege. If you don't live up to your responsibilities as a driver, you can loose your privilege to drive.
We have a responsibility here, it is to represent Jesus Christ to everyone around us. Even those that make our lives miserable. If we refuse to live up to that responsibility, we loose the privilege of having our own debts forgiven. How many people want that? If you think I am being harsh about how I am saying this, look at how Jesus said it.
Matthew 6:14-15 NIV For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. (15) But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
How about these verses.
Matthew 18:21-35 NIV Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" (22) Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. (23) "Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. (24) As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. (25) Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. (26) "The servant fell on his knees before him. 'Be patient with me,' he begged, 'and I will pay back everything.' (27) The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. (28) "But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. 'Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded. (29) "His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.' (30) "But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. (31) When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. (32) "Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. (33) Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' (34) In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. (35) "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."
Seems pretty clear to me. Anyone doubt what is said here? If you were asked, deal or no-deal for this, what would you say?
Lead us not into temptation
Have you ever been confused by this verse? "Lead us not into temptation..." All major translation say "temptation," so who believes God leads us into temptation? Isn't that what is implied here? It appears to be so, but James 1:13 says "When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;", so that can't be the full meaning of this verse. So as I always do when in doubt, I go to the original language first. In this case, Strong's concordance was not very helpful, so I looked in another source, Thayer's Greek Definitions. What I found was this word, peirasmos (πειρασμός), can also be translated as trials or to be tested. That changes the meaning a bit there. If we render the translation using this it says, "Lead me not into trials." That makes more sense to me. We saw demostrated in the book of Job that God controls all the trials that come our way. We also see this in the New Testament.
1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV (13) No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
Does that make sense to you? It is clear that God is not the tempter, nor does He lead us to temptation. But it is also clear that the temptation we face, God does allow to happen. We also need to remember though, that Satan is not behind every temptation you face. In fact, I would dare say it is rare that he is involved directly. Would you agree? Let me show you why I say this.
James 1:14 NIV but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.
So, when and why does this verse say we are tempted? When he is dragged away and enticed, by his own evil desire. Whose evil desire? Mine and yours. Satan's not even around in this. That's not to say he doesn't entice once in a while. We can look to Genesis to see this.
Genesis 3:1-7 NIV Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?" (2) The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, (3) but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.'" (4) "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. (5) "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (6) When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. (7) Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
Here is a clear case where Satan is directly involved in tempting Eve to disobey God, but let me ask a question, who reached out and plucked the fruit from the Tree? Eve. Why? She saw it was pleasing to the eye, desirable for gaining wisdom, and good for food, all of which were true. What did she forget? God said don't eat from this tree. Sin looks and feels fun, and let's be honest, we enjoy it. There is pleasure in sin. If sin was painful, we wouldn't want to do it. Even the Bible says so.
Proverbs 9:17 NIV "Stolen water is sweet; food eaten in secret is delicious!"
In a way, we are asking God to protect us from ourselves! Let's be honest with ourselves, think about that one (or maybe it is more than one) thing you know you struggle with? Is it lying? Is it gossip? Is it selfishness? Is it some addictive behavior? Something that you know you will never overcome on your own. That is what we are praying about here. "Lord, protect me from myself, from my own evil desires. Deliver me and give me a way out when they come." That requires also that when the way out is revealed that you actually take that escape route. An escape route is not very useful if you never take it.
So where does that leave us? For me, I like to put things in order, so let's do that with the Lord's Prayer. Let's break it down, verse by verse, to build a model of prayer.
- Matthew 6:9 NIV "'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
- Acknowledge God, to whom you are praying, in whatever words help you focus on Him.
- Take some time to praise, worship and I will add thank Him in your prayers.
- Matthew 6:10 NIV your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
- Renew your commitment to submit your will to His. It is a good reminder for you and good practice.
- Matthew 6:11 NIV Give us today our daily bread.
- Let God know what your needs are, but remember to include not just the physical things you need but the spiritual things also.
- Matthew 6:12 NIV Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
- Confess your sins and ask for forgiveness,
- Ask for help forgiving others, by name if needed.
- Matthew 6:13 NIV And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.'
- Now that you've confessed your sins, ask for help, a plan of action for the next time your flesh rises up with it's own will.
- Matthew 6:13 KJV For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
- End with more praise and worship. We were created to worship God after all.
- Affirm your prayer at the end. Amen means, truly, or surely. For those Star Trek fans, you could think of the line, "Make it so!"