Prayer Part One: The Lords Prayer (Jon Fryer)
Read Matt 6;9-13. Jesus said 'This is how you should pray' In the version in Luke 11;1-4, the disciples come to Jesus and ask him to 'Teach us how we should pray', and Jesus teaches them this prayer. I don't think he meant that it should be repeated off by heart by a million school children everyday - it was never meant to be one of those rote repetition things. The Lord's Prayer was not supposed to be just a 'special' prayer that Jesus taught the disciples to say. Instead, it’s a guide that covers all of the major principles of prayer in one go - this isn't what you should pray, this is how you should pray.
TWO: 'ABBA, FATHER'
The first word of Jesus prayer gets straight to the point. The first word he says is abba, which I’m sure you all know means 'father'. Or does it? 'Father' is such a distant, Victorian relationship. A better translation is 'Daddy' - its baby talk - 'cos that's the closeness of the relationship that God wants with us. Prayer is not a list of 'I wants’ - you may do that to your own Dad I suppose, but it won’t make you very popular! Its not even like a two way telephone call like we're sometimes taught in Sunday school, 'cos again that's a long distance thing. Instead, prayer is supposed to be running up to God and climbing into his lap like a little child and falling asleep. It’s going for walks in the woods with Him. Its going shopping holding His hand. It’s playing toys with Him. In short, its spending all the time and every activity with God, just like a little child with their father. Yes, its asking for stuff, 'cos that is part of the child thing - 'Dad, can I have an ice cream?' - and yes, prayer is listening to God, but most importantly prayer is simply about spending time and building a relationship with God. God, like a father, wants to listen to us - not just a list of requests, but simply everything we've done or are going to do or are feeling.
An important part of any relationship is honesty. We have to be
honest with the Father when we pray. God wants to know everything - if
you're having a crap time of it then tell Him that - He can take it! The
'Abba' relationship isn't an abstract thing, sort of 'Oh yes, you're my
dad', its waking up out of a nightmare at 3 a.m. screaming 'Daddy!'
like a four year old, 'cos this world can be a nightmare, and God wants
to be there for us to make the monsters go away. The Jews have a saying -
'I have a friend to whom you can take all your little problems. My
friend's name is GOD.' – and that's what the 'Abba' relationship is all
about. For some reason some people brought up in church seem to have a
problem with this honesty with God relationship thing - they seem to
think prayer is just standing in church saying 'O Lord, thou art truly
great and we are unworthy to receive the least of thy gifts etc. etc.'
If that’s honest and that is the way you normally speak then cool! If
not, then its not prayer - its showing off to others how holy you are,
and Jesus had something to say about that - “When you pray, do not be
like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues
and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they
have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your
room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your
Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you”. (Matt 6;5-6.)
Although I said prayer is not supposed to be a list of ‘I wants’ God, like any millionaire father, wants to give us loads of presents. Although prayer isn't just a list of 'I wants’, God does want to hear them as well as the other stuff, because he longs to give us good gifts. And when He does, God never does anything by half - when He turns water into wine not only does He transform 180 gallons of the stuff, but He makes it the best vintage anyone has ever tasted (John 2;1-11). When he feeds thousands of people with a packed lunch he makes sure there are a dozen huge baskets of leftovers! (Matt 14;13-21). A three year old believes that their Dad can pretty much do anything. So can ours. We have to trust that God can fix anything if we take it to Him in prayer.
One thing we need to learn from the child/father relationship is simplicity. Read Matt 6;7-8. When you take a broken toy to your dad you don't say 'Put spring A into widget C and wind up with crank F', you just say 'Dad, fix it please'. All too often with our prayers though we think we know best. We say to God 'Do it this way' as if we know better than He does. When we come to pray we have fixed ideas as to what we should ask for, and so we end up praying our own thoughts and preconceptions instead of letting the Holy Spirit move us, and thus we limit God - God is more than willing to act on our behalf, but half the time our prayerlessness is preventing His intervention, and the rest of the time our prayers themselves are placing limits on God.
People often make fun of children’s prayers - 'God bless mummy, God bless daddy, God bless Cyril the Hamster, Amen' – but prayers that simply ask a blessing are the most powerful prayers possible if faith is behind them, 'cos they ask God's blessing on a person or situation without placing limits on that blessing – prayers like that leave God in control! Prayers like that are like those home made Christmas cards you make as a child - the glitter sticks to the glue and the rest brushes off. God's blessing sticks to what He wants to bless and the rest brushes off - with such prayers it is left up to God to decide what He can or can not do. I’m not saying don’t ask for specific stuff, I’m saying if you don’t know exactly what to ask for, then ask God what to ask for! In fact, if you have a close, honest relationship with God then our prayers without words can be even more powerful. Some of our most powerful prayers are the ones where we run out of words and our spirit talks to the Spirit of God in words that we can not even understand so that our brains don’t try and get in the way! Some of the times when we worry for hours about a person for no apparent reason, that may be the closest to real intercession that we ever come – “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.” (Rom 8;26-28.)
THREE: 'OUR FATHER'
Notice that Jesus says 'Our Father' - not 'Your
father' or 'My father', but 'Our father'. Prayer was never meant to be a
solo thing; like the rest of the Christian life it is supposed to be
shared with others.
Our prayers are stronger when they are shared - Eccl 4;9-12 says “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
Those verses start off with two
together, but by the end they have become three - the three being you,
me and Jesus, 'cos where two Christians come together in agreement,
Jesus is there too - Matt 18;19-20. The word 'together' there doesn't
just mean being in the same place however - the Greek word is
homothumadon, which means 'total unanimity of thought, will and desire'.
It means all wanting exactly the same thing. When we pray together,
each wanting the same thing, for the same reasons, in the same spirit,
then God will answer us. This is why prayer partnerships are so
important - when we learn to open up to just one person it makes it
easier for us to open up and join together in honest prayer with the
We are also reminded that we are supposed to pray for other people as well as with them, and such prayer is vitally important. One reason why the church leadership struggles so often in so many churches is that the congregation spends more time criticising than it does praying, but read Ex 17;8-13. Often the person in responsibility is the only one who can do their job, but they need support to make it bearable, or even possible. That is what prayer does. When we support those in authority over us in prayer then it enables them to hold up their arms, and that greatly affects the lives of all of us, and powerfully advances the kingdom of God in a sort of prayer chain-reaction - God can turn little prayers for a person into big effects! We need to be praying harder!
FOUR: 'WHO IS IN HEAVEN, HALLOWED BE THY NAME'
So what does 'hallowed' actually mean? Its an Old
English word that means 'blessed and holy'. Jesus' prayer reminds us
that God may be our father, but He is also Almighty God, the Lord Most
High, and when we pray we come into the throne room of Heaven and into
the presence of the Holy One, the sight of whom would strike you dead in
an instant in the Old Testament. We should never forget that prayer is
an immense privilege, brought to us by the Lord Jesus - Read Heb
4;14-16. Jesus' death bought us who love Him the privilege of talking to
God face to face by making us clean and holy and we can therefore ask
Him for anything - ‘In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying
that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves
you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from
God’(John 16;26-27). However, by dying with Christ in baptism we have
also gained certain rights in the throne room of God because we stand
with Jesus as sons of God - See Gal 3;26-4;7. Don't underestimate the
value or power of prayer - when we ask God for anything we ask as sons,
and heirs to the kingdom of Heaven. We have authority not only over this
earth but over the powers of heaven also - ‘I tell you the truth,
whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you
loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, I tell you that if two
of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for
you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my
name, there am I with them.' (Matt 18;18-20). God has given us charge
over everything in His name as His sons, for His glory.
In fact our prayers can actually change God's mind because He actually does listen to us as if we were responsible sons in a family business - Read Amos 7;1-6 and Gen 18;16-33. Abraham is not frightened to bargain with God, and God proves willing to bend a little, or even a lot. Can we reason with God in such a way, to plead mercy for those in danger of well-deserved disaster? Of course we can! More to the point, do we care enough to try? Do we believe we could make any difference? Jude 22 tells us to 'snatch others from the fire and save them' - the most effective way of doing that is prayer. I think Abraham chickened out – what would have happened if he had gone down to five, or even one? Since God has given us the authority he relies on our prayers to take the limits off His activity in the world. We are not called to prayer in order to cater to His vanity, but to make a real difference. Prayer changes things. It can move God's right hand to bring down blessing and it can hold back God's left hand of judgement and stop it from moving. Prayer can stop the sun if necessary - See Josh 10;12-14! Prayer is the power that can move the hand that moves the world to bring salvation down. If you want your friends to be saved then you need to be praying harder – God is waiting for you!
Jesus' prayer now reminds us of what should be our real reasons
for asking anything of God. If we are truly heirs and sons with Jesus
then this is what we should be desiring - God's will being done on earth
- 'cos that was His first concern whilst He was here before He left the
job to us. John 16;23-24 says ‘I tell you the truth, my Father will
give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for
anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be
complete.’Jesus says that whatever we ask 'in his name' will be given to
us. That doesn't mean the phrase 'in Jesus' name' should become a magic
spell tacked onto the end of every prayer in order to force God to come
up with the goods. If you ask for a new BMW 'in Jesus' name', you still
won't get it, unless God is feeling particularly generous. We seem to
treat the phrase 'in Jesus' name' as if it were 'Abracadabra' all too
often however. In Biblical times a person's name sums up their essential
nature - the Name of God, the 'I AM', is therefore too holy to speak,
and Jesus means 'He saves' etc. Therefore, to truly pray something 'in
Jesus' name' means to ask 'according to His essential nature'. To pray
'In Jesus' Name' is to ask for what Jesus would ask for, in accordance
with God's will.
A lot of our prayers are weak and unanswered because our 'Abba' relationship is weak. When that relationship is weak we don't spend enough time learning what God is actually like, and therefore have trouble knowing what to ask for in His will. For example, take healing.
We spend a lot of time waffling 'Lord, if it is your will, blah, blah, blah'. The disciples just said 'In Jesus' name, be healed'. They knew God's will, because through spending time with Jesus they knew that God is Jehovah Raphe, God the Healer. Healing is part of His nature. When sick people asked if Jesus would heal them He always said 'I am willing', because it is God's will to heal. We can expect to see people healed by our prayers because we know it is God's will to heal, because it is part of who He is. We would all see much bigger answers to prayer if we stopped asking rubbish and spent time simply talking with God and learning who He is and what He is like. St. Paul thought that this was very important - when he prays for churches in his epistles he doesn't ask for anything for them other than that God will show them His nature - he knew that if you seek first the kingdom of God then everything else will sort itself out - for examples, read Eph 3;14-21 and Phil 1;9-11. These are the prayers we need to be praying for ourselves and for each other, and everything else will follow on.
SIX: 'GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD'
Jesus' next prayer follows on from the last one - Jesus himself is
the Bread of Life, and He says ‘He who comes to me will never go
hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty’ (John 6;32-35)
and as long as we seek him everyday then everything else is given to us
as well. We know that God is Jehovah Jireh, God who Provides. It is
God's nature and God's will to provide for all he has created – its Who
He IS. Therefore we don’t need to worry about it – Read Luke 12;22-31.
Jesus' prayer also reminds us not be greedy in our prayers for ourselves since He is quoting Prov 30;8-9 – ‘Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the LORD ?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonour the name of my God.’ Greed is one of our biggest problems when it comes to not getting our prayers answered - James 4;2-8 says ‘You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.’
If we get rid of selfishness, greed and even worry from our prayers then I would guess that for most of us our prayer lists would become a hell of a lot shorter, giving us more time to simply seek God's face, which in turn would allow Him to use us to pray His kingdom into existence as we learn more of His nature and will.
SEVEN: ‘FORGIVE US OUR SINS, AS WE FORGIVE THOSE WHO SIN AGAINST US’
I’m not going to write much about this one, since ‘forgiveness’ is a couple of sermons all on its own, and i have written about it in detail elsewhere. One thing I will say, is that this is the first time that Jesus puts a condition onto prayer. Forgive us, in the same way that we forgive others. And presumably, if we don’t forgive others, don’t forgive us either. I won’t go into why God makes this the case here and now, but it is an important principle to remember – if you really want God to listen to you, make sure that you are right with everyone else first. Its part of that praying ‘together’ that I was talking about earlier – how can you pray ‘together’, how can you agree totally in spirit, if you are holding a grudge against someone? In fact, Jesus goes one further than that – how can you pray ‘together’ if your brother is holding a grudge against you? Jesus says ‘If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.’ (Matt 5;23-24). The principle here is that you can not worship, you can not pray, you can not be in right relationship with God if you can’t even get your relationships in order with people on earth. Unforgiveness and bitterness is utter poison because it cuts you off from God, and if you can pray nothing else, pray that God will teach you how to forgive other people.
EIGHT: ‘LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION, BUT DELIVER US FROM THE EVIL ONE’
Again, I’m not going to write much about this one, since
‘temptation’ also deserves to be covered in its own right as a major
subject, and I want to draw this section to a close. What I will say is
remind you that ‘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.’ (1 Cor 10;13) – that way out is
to pray. As we have already said, prayer is about right relationship
with God, about knowing what He wants. What He wants is to show you how
to avoid sin. What He wants, if you will let Him, is to lead you to run
rings around the Devil – real spiritual warfare is about prayer only
because prayer is about being hand in hand with God, and when you are
hand in hand with God you can give the bad guys a right kicking!
To summarise, I guess what I’ve been trying to say
is that when we pray we need to remember that 'His is the Kingdom, the
Power and the Glory', and we can ask for anything in Him. An old hymn
says that 'Satan trembles when He sees / the weakest saint upon their
knees' That's because he understands how powerful prayer is. He knows
that a single prayer of 'Dad, fix it please' can wreck years of his work
in seconds. God is waiting to hear our prayers. God is waiting to
change the world for us. We just can't see the huge effects our smallest
prayers have, but if we could I think we'd be amazed, and shocked at
how much more we could have done.
'Be joyful always; pray continually, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus’ (1 Thes 5;16-17)
What was Jesus like?
The Character of God
How do we know what God is like?
The Authority of Scripture
How should we obey what the Bible teaches us?
The Wise Mans Tragedy
What can we learn from Solomon?
What can we learn from the mother of Jesus?
Cain and Abel
What can we learn from the first murderer?
Who is Aslan? Who is Jesus?
When the Fire Burns Low
How do we cope when we have grown tired of God's way?
Fix Your Eyes
How do we look for God?
Why should we look after the world God has given us?
How do we know who we are in God?
Lent - Pride, Doubt and Jealousy
What is the period of Lent all about?
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the House of God than dwell in the tents of the wicked...
How do get to have intimacy with God?
Can we feel the breath of God?
Hearing From God
How can I hear what God wants to say to me?
The Story We Find Ourselves In
The Bible tells the story of all creation - what is my part in that story?
What does Passover mean to us as Christians?
What does it mean to say that Jesus is alive?
What is the Fruit of the Holy Spirit?
Teaching for Christmas Eve...
What does it mean to have authority?
What can we do when it all seems like too much?
I Will Be With You
What does it mean to say "God is with us"?
What are angels, and what can we learn from what the Bible says about them?
A contemplative service for Pentecost
A creative/contemplative baptism service
How do we know what we should do?
A creative prayer/worship service
The Holy Spirit
Who is the Holy Spirit, and what does (s)he do?
A Relationship With Jesus
What does it mean to have a 'relationship' with the Son of God?
The Pilgrim's Progress
If we keep our eyes on the prize, what a journey it could be!
Heroes, Promises and Trust
How does our relationship with Jesus realy work?
A liturgy for masculine prayer
Living Life to the Full
How do we get the most out of life?
What is so speacial about the faith of Abraham?
The Presence of God
What does it mean to say God is present?
How Do I Know My Faith is Real?
We all wrestle with doubt, so how can we cope?
Who is Jesus?
...and what does he want from you?
To Act Justly Every Day...
What does the Lord your God require of you?
Sex and Self Image
Don't you know how beautiful you are?
Will you let Jesus be in charge?
Would you know him if he met you on the road?
The Person of the Holy Spirit
Who is the Holy Spirit, and what does (s)he do?
The Passion of the King
What does Jesus really want?
How can we really 'count it all joy'?
More Than Words
"... but words can never hurt me"?
The Armour of God
What tools does God give us to protect us from the Enemy?
The Heart of the Gospel
The Kingdom of Heaven has drawn near to you, therefore...
Do you really want to follow him?
How should I prepare to give a sermon?
The gift of healing comes from the Holy Spirit, but how does it work?
The People of God
What does it mean when we say that the Bible is the Word of God?
Jesus Part 2: The Deity of Christ
How can Jesus be God and Man at the same time?
Jesus Part 1: Who Do You Say I Am?
Who is Jesus, and why does He matter?
How do we resist?
What is holiness and how do we try to achieve it?
The Art of Spiritual Warfare
We're in a constant battle, so how do we try and prepare to fight?
Forgiveness Part Two: Forgiving Others
What is forgiveness and why do we need to forgive others?
Forgiveness Part One: Forgiven by God
Why does it seem so often that God is a million miles away?
Prayer Part Two: Receiving From God
Why does it seem so often that God is a million miles away?
Prayer Part One: The Lords Prayer
We look in detail at the Lords Prayer
It's one of the spiritual gifts, but what exactly is it, how does it happen?
Becoming a Christian
What is a Christian, how do you become one?
Basics of Christianity
Here we delve into the Nicene Creed