The Lord’s Prayer for His Disciples
Introductory Message; reading-Luke 11:1-4
“Lord, teach us to pray.”
There was a program on British television about the state of religious experience among children. It told about a young boy whose parents suffered a very serious accident. The boy told the police, “I wanted to pray but didn’t know any prayers.” Alfred Lord Tennyson stated, “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.” Prayer sustains society more than any other factor.
Do we know how to pray as we should? Prayer is a spiritual discipline. It can be strenuous and frustrating, mentally and physically demanding. I think the disciples may have been struggling with the art of prayer. They didn’t ask Jesus how to preach or teach, but they recognized how they needed help with prayer.
Luke mentions that Jesus was “praying in a certain place” (11:1), when the disciples approached Him concerning prayer. It may be that our Lord’s example of prayer brought into contrast their lack of an effective prayer-life. Seeing the deficiency of their prayers, they asked for help. Although the need to pray is natural for believers, human weakness calls for Jesus to teach us to pray.
When we pray, we receive the gift of God Himself-Prayer is communion with God. He wants us to know Him. As we grow in prayer we discover that prayer is more than simply asking God for things, a selfish means to an end. Prayer is not an attempt to force the hand of God, but an act of submission to Him, with the understanding that God’s answers are wiser than our prayers. Prayer is to impress us with God more than it is to impress God with us or our needs. If we never gain anything from prayer but the opportunity to commune with God, that should be sufficient for us.
For many people, the Lord’s Prayer is simply a prayer to recite. But as we discover this prayer, we can find this model prayer to be a life-changing experience. There is no magic in a prayer, and mechanical recitation is empty and meaningless. Jesus discourages us to “not keep babbling like pagans who think they will be heard because of their repetitive prayers” (Mt 6:7). But as we truly pray this prayer-with understanding-we may find it changes our lives. All the petitions in this prayer are in the imperative mode in the original Greek, which indicates there is an intensity to prayer. Prayer is social action, economic force, and political might-there is more power in prayer than all the armies of the world.
Some people think of prayer as a parachute-they’re glad it’s there, but they hope they never have to use it. In prayer we rely on God; prayer is our steering wheel, not our spare tire! Those who don’t pray are trusting in their own, limited resources. Some people turn to God only when their fragile foundations are shaking, and they discover it is God who is doing the shaking.
We sometimes also struggle with how God answers our prayers. C.S. Lewis once confessed that he was grateful God hadn’t given him everything he wanted: “I don’t know where I’d be if I’d gotten all I asked for!” Prayer may not change our situation, but it changes us. If our request is wrong, God says “No.” If our timing is wrong, God says “Slow”. If we are wrong, God says “Grow”, and if our request is right, our timing is right, and we are right, God (usually) says “Go!” In John’s first epistle he cautions that our prayers need to be “according to God’s will” (5:14).
There’s no “spiritual frosting” in the Lord’s Prayer. It avoids pompous, high-sounding phrases, sticking to simple, meaningful concepts. As our outline indicates, we begin with God’s glory, and then we bring up our needs. It’s been said, “When God is first, prayer makes sense.” The Lord’s Prayer is God-centered, not me-centered. It highlights the primacy of God.
Notice that Jesus doesn’t discuss the posture of prayer-in the Bible, people prayed kneeling, sitting, standing and laying face down. He doesn’t dictate the place of prayer-we can pray anywhere; the whole world is a Temple. He does not discuss the manner of prayer-prayer isn’t getting a serious look on our faces or adopting a certain tone of voice. Nor does Jesus specify the time of prayer-some people organize their lives in such a way that they have very specific times of prayer-that’s fine, but prayer is fitting any time, under any circumstance. We can go pray in church, but we can also find that church within ourselves-we are called to be portable sanctuaries. Is it OK to pray while driving? As long as your eyes are open! -And it’s a good idea if you’re on Route 1 or 128! Paul instructs us to “pray without ceasing”. Author Matthew Henry wrote, “Prayer is the key to the am, and the bolt to the pm.” When we live in a God-conscious state, we begin to recognize the presence of God around us, which opens up the channel of communication with our Lord.
Some Christians don’t pray the Lord’s Prayer because they want to avoid empty religious ritual. I agree that we don’t have to pray these exact words. Even Jesus doesn’t use the exact words on another occasion, His sermon on the mount (Mt 6:9-13). There He introduces this prayer, not by saying “pray this”, but “pray like this”. The Lord’s Prayer is a blueprint for prayer-a flexible model, not a rigid formula. Yet it is appropriate to pray these words because in them we unfold the entire message of the Bible and a summary of our relationship to God.
There’s another reason people avoid this prayer. Praying this prayer places some demands on ourselves… it is a risky prayer:
I cannot say “our” if I’m living only for myself.
I cannot say “Father” if I don’t try to act like His child.
I cannot say “Who art in Heaven” if I am laying up no treasure there.
I cannot say “hallowed be Thy Name” if I am not striving for holiness.
I cannot say “Thy Kingdom come” if I’m not doing my part to hasten that day.
I cannot say “Thy will be done” if I am disobedient to His word.
I cannot say “in earth as it is in Heaven” if I’m unwilling to serve Him here and now.
I cannot say “give us this day our daily bread” if I’m not relying on Him to provide.
I cannot say “forgive us our debts” if I harbor a grudge against someone.
I cannot say “lead us not into temptation” if I deliberately place myself in its path.
I cannot say “deliver us from evil” if I haven’t put on the whole armor of God.
I cannot say “Thine is the Kingdom” If I am not loyal to the King as His faithful subject.
I cannot attribute to Him “the power” if I fear what people may do.
I cannot ascribe to Him “the glory” if I am seeking honor only for myself.
I cannot say “forever” if my life is bounded completely by the things of time (JohnMacArthur)
Puritan minister William Gurnall observed, “When people do not care what God speaks to them in His word, God does as little mind what they say to Him in prayer.”
The question for us all is this-what are we relying on?
-When we rely upon education, we get what education can do;
-When we rely upon skill, we get what skill can do;
-When we rely upon technology, we get what technology can do;
-When we rely upon organization, we get what organization can do;
-When we rely upon prayer, we get what God can do.
Russian reformer and Nobel laureate Alexander Solzhenitsyn said in an address to Harvard University: “We have placed too much hope in politics and social reforms, only to find out that we were being deprived of our most precious possession-our spiritual life.”
Those devoted to prayer do things by prayer-they begin with prayer, not tacking prayer on as an afterthought, after decisions are made. When faced with a challenge, the first thing to do is to go into prayer, not action. Those devoted to prayer give priority to prayer, and are never too busy to pray. Our level of Christian commitment is gauged by the character of our prayer-life.
Prayer is not a special gift for a select few. All who have trusted Jesus for salvation can pray as He taught. True prayer will not be achieved by human effort; it is a gift of God. Prayer is grace. If we are followers of Christ and we want to learn to pray, He stands ready to teach us.