Friday, May 2, 2014

Teach Us To Pray (Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:1-4)

“Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’” (Matthew 6:9–13, NASB95) 

This prayer is commonly known as “The Lord’s Prayer” which in some ways may be misnamed, not because it isn’t His prayer, but because it is a sample prayer given to us as a model. After speaking to His audience about not making their prayers loud and empty shows given for the recognition they would receive, but quiet and directed prayers to the only true God, Jesus gives them a sample of how they should pray. This prayer is the Lord’s example for us of how we should pray to our Father in heaven.

This is not the only place in Scripture where we have a model given to us. On another occasion His disciples had observed Him in prayer, and after He had finished praying they asked Him to teach them how to pray. Luke 11:2-4 gives us the words of this briefer instructional prayer, words that closely parallel those of Matthew 6, but are not exact. “And He said to them, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.’ ”” (Luke 11:2–4, NASB95)

From these prayers we can be instructed both of the attitude in which to approach our Father, the general content of our prayers, and the realization in their differences that prayer is not a pat set of words to be repeated.

Jesus had just finished telling His listeners that they were to pray to their Father who would hear them not because of their loudness or their abundance of words, but because they came to Him recognizing that He is God. He is the only One we are to pray to. We may like to talk to those who have gone before us, and the Scriptures do seem to indicate that they may very well be witnesses to our actions, but they are not to be the object of our prayers. Jesus, being fully God, knew the reality of God the Father and the ultimate position of God the Father, and He tells us to pray to our Father who is in heaven even pointing to His supremely sovereign high place.

In both prayers we also have the phrase, “hallowed be Your name.” In this Jesus points to God the Father as one who is set apart like no other. As such even His name is to be highly reverenced. In Psalm 8:1 we read, “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.” (Psalm 8:1, ESV) In this verse we find “Lord” twice, and in most translations the first mention is written in small caps. It is this first “Lord” that is the specific name of God “Yahweh” given to the Jews.

In Exodus 3:13-15, “Then Moses said to God, “Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?” “God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ” God, furthermore, said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.” (Exodus 3:13–15, NASB95)

With the Israelites coming out of captivity God had begun again to speak to His people. When Moses asked God what name He is to give to the people for Him, God responded with the simple and profound words, “I AM.” There is no one else—God is. Then He followed it with, "he Lord [Yhwh or Yahweh], the God [Elohim] of, of, of, of … has sent me to you." He further declared that this is His name forever—His memorial name, and it is this name YHWH of the Father which the Son told the people to set apart as holy and highly respected.

In the words that follow Jesus pointed to the sovereign will of God—that we should be seeking to align ourselves with His good and perfect will. The Bible clearly declares that the plans of God will not be thwarted, and it teaches us that we are to seek His will and follow it in all areas of our lives. As we looked at even yesterday, Jesus the Son on the night He was betrayed re-declared His submission to the will of God the Father. Most of the world does not seek God nor do they know His ways. Jesus tells us that discerning His will is to be a priority in our prayers. David wrote, “Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.” (Psalm 25:4–5, ESV) And Solomon wrote, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear [revere, awe] the LORD and turn away from evil.” (Proverbs 3:5–7, NASB95)

Jesus next instructed us to seek God’s provision for our lives with the words, “Give us this day our daily bread.” With this prayer came the recognition that God’s provision is for what we need as we need it. He demonstrated this to the people of Israel when He supplied them with their daily manna. And later in this chapter of Matthew Jesus said, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:34, ESV) As a people we tend to worry about what comes next. Jesus instructs us that what comes today and what comes after today all come through the wise and sovereign hand of God.

The next aspect of this model of prayer has to do with our relationship with God and our relationships with others. All of our sins were forgiven through Jesus’ shed blood for us on the cross, but it does not mean that we ignore God’s will and continue in sin following our salvation. We are to deal with our sins as they come up. We are to admit them to God, thanking Him for His forgiveness and committing before Him to walk right even as He has made us righteous with the righteousness of His Son. In 1 John 1:9 we read, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9, ESV) Jesus also includes in this model prayer a reminder that we are to live this same way with others, forgiving them just as our Father in heaven has forgiven us. And should we not practice this then we also read in the Bible that when He brings a situation to our minds that we are even to get up from our prayers and deal with the issue with others. Jesus gave us two great commandments: the first is to love God, and the second is to love one another. Both of these are reflected in this instructive portion of Jesus’ prayer.

The next part of the prayer has to do with us walking right before Him and keeping our eyes straight ahead, seeking His help in the continual battle to become distracted with the things and desires of the world. The prayer asks that He not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. In James we read, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:12–17, ESV)

James clearly states that God does not tempt us to evil. In fact, it is contrary to His character to do so. Rather, God is the one who delivers us and makes it such that we can stand and come through these trials or temptations victoriously. In 1 Corinthians 10:13 we read, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13, NASB95) In these verses in Matthew, Luke, James and 1 Corinthians the words translated “temptation” and “trials” are the same Greek word and they point to the fact that God is sovereign over these things which are allowed into our lives and He even limits their intensity. Where we struggle is when we take our eyes off of Him in trials and we are tempted to look to ourselves or somewhere else for relief or satisfaction. The Bible makes it clear that God is our protector, sustainer, and our deliverer. It is in Him that we are to trust.

These prayer examples of Jesus are pretty simple, but they cover so much. For a more in depth prayer of His you might want to turn to John 17, and read how our Lord spoke in detail to His Father. This might more appropriately be Our Lord’s Prayer as it is His High Priestly prayer in preparation of His going to the cross and returning to glory with the Father.

It is truly amazing to be able to talk to our God, knowing that He desires to fellowship with us, and that He indeed will hear and answer. Prayer doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does need to be real.

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