5 things to remind you about before we look at what Jesus had to say about prayer in the Sermon on the Mount. All 5 go right together about this fall.
- Starting in 2 weeks, we will have a new check-in system for children. So, if you don’t want to have to get up with your child and go with them to check them into Children’s Church, you can check them in right before the service in the entryway. Again, that’s starting September 4th.
- If you weren’t here last week, Joe got to share how we are hiring a janitorial service to take care of the main floor each week. With the janitorial service, we’re hoping that frees you up to serve in other areas, especially because we do still have a good number of needs for volunteers, which brings up the third reminder:
- Our Fall serve cycle starts in two weeks. So all those volunteer spots back there are only for four months of serving. That’s it! You’re not signing your life away. Many of them are once-a-month spots, which means you’re only signing up for four days to serve all semester. Then there are others that are each week. You heard some info in the video earlier, but I’m praying that all of those spots are filled by next Sunday. Why? Because I believe that God is doing something at Raintree, and I also believe that God wants to use every single person in this room for whatever he’s doing. My hope is that you would consider serving in one area. Just one. If every member and even regular attender served in one area, we’d fill that up really easily. The 4th:
- And if you’d like to serve in the children’s ministry in some capacity but aren’t a member, we will let you serve if you talk with me, and jump into our Raintree 101 class starting in September. We do require that you covenant with the church to serve with children. Why? Because of what covenant membership is. Covenanting with the church is simply saying I’m committed to God and to this local Body in these particular ways. We have 14 articles to our covenant; they’re one sentence each. So, again, if you’re new, we’d love for you to serve, even with Children’s Ministry. Come talk to me, and we can lay out the details. I had a few ask me about that, so I wanted to clarify that. And, we also have copies of our covenant up here, for any of you who want one.
- Last thing: Our Family Meeting that ALL of you are invited to is next Sunday, 5pm right here. Members and guests alike are all invited. We’ll be giving an update on thoughts and plans for the future, including a financial update, and we will have our Volunteer training for ALL volunteers, AND be taking input on ideas that you may have. If you are a volunteer, new or experienced, this training is for you. And if you cannot make this training, please let me or your point person know so we can make sure and meet up with you or at least get on the same page with everything happening starting on September 4th.
I’m excited to see the Fall officially start at Raintree, and so many new little adjustments and big things that we’re changing or adjusting. Please be praying that lives are changed. That we teach all of the Word of God to all ages.
Today, we are looking at a model for prayer that Jesus gave us in the Sermon on the Mount. Now, a bit a tangent that really bears weight when it comes to prayer: I think it’s incredibly important for Christians to be thinking people. That may seem like a given, but what I mean is that Christianity is often portrayed as a bunch of people who are chasing after some overly religious experience, and maybe don’t care too much about knowledge or learning or, for that matter, logic and reason. And honestly, I would say that portrayal is not too off, seeing how many Christians are seeking after an experience so much more than they’re seeking after truth.
At Raintree, we believe strongly that God gave us our minds for a reason. He gave us our minds to be used for the glory of God, to be captivated by the most mind-expanding study there is: that is the study of God, called theology. That’s why we try and focus on the Word of God at Raintree, not just trying to seek an experience, and that’s why we have classes and studies on the Word of God.
But with this really GOOD thing, placing our minds as well as our hearts on truth, and on theology, and on God, can come too much reliance upon our minds and upon our logic. What do I mean by that? What I mean is that we believe that God is sovereign, meaning he reigns supreme. We believe that God, somehow, is in control of all things, not just that he allows things to happen, but that He exists outside of time, and at least in one very really sense, He “brings all things into the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11).
So with believing that, though we may not fully understand it, where does prayer come in, really? Well, we’re supposed to pray because God tells us to pray in His Word. Yes, but why?! If God is truly sovereign, then can our prayers actually have any real effect? And if the answer is yes, then is God truly sovereign? This apparent paradox has caused some to relegate prayer to being something that’s really just for us. It’s doesn’t really change anything that’s happening; it’s really just to teach us to rely on God more. And while I think that that is a huge part of what prayer does, to say that it doesn’t actually have an impact in the world is to ignore the whole of Scripture.
Throughout the Bible we see God changing his actions as a direct result of prayer. In Exodus 32, God declared that he would destroy the Israelites because of their sin, but then relented, why? Because Moses prayed and asked Him to. Praying doesn’t always change what happens, as it’s not always God’s will to answer prayers the way the one praying wants Him to. But, there is no doubt that God hears the prayers of the repentant and the humble. And, he often does change things due to prayer. How does this work with God’s sovereignty? Well, it’s not as if He didn’t plan for you to pray and thus for Him to change things. How does that work? This is how one of my favorite authors puts it: “God has ordained that prayers cause things to happen that would not happen if we didn’t pray.”
That may not explain all the complexities of God’s sovereignty and prayer, but it does help us to understand how they work, and how big of a deal it is that God has availed to us direct access to communing with Him! It’s only through Christ that we can come to the Father, unhindered by sin (because Jesus took that sin upon Himself on the Cross), and commune with Him! And present requests and petitions and desires and our hearts before Him!
And yet I know that we struggle with prayer. Historically, for me, this is one of my greatest weaknesses, especially the first several years of my Christian faith, but even now I struggle with understanding prayer as such an incredibly important thing. An Oswald Chambers quote that sticks with me: “Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work.” We have our reasons, more fitting probably to call them excuses: we’re too busy, we just don’t think about it, we have so many things that distract us. And yet it might be worth thinking of Christ, who changed the course of human history in less than three years of ministry, and yet found the time to pray to the Father for extended periods of time. How? Because He knew how important it was.
My goal in what we’ve already talked about with prayer and over the next few minutes as we look at the model Jesus gave us for prayer, my goal is not for us to walk out of here knowing we should pray more. That seems like the go-to application for Christians nowadays: pray more, read the Bible more, be better more, be more more. My goal is that we understand prayer differently, and so see the incredible importance of it, and, particularly, how to pray.
If you’ve been with us, you know that we have been looking at the greatest sermon ever preached, which was preached by Jesus Himself. And today, in the midst of Jesus clarifying that prayer isn’t to be a performance, nor some overly ritualistic thing that we do, we come to what is commonly known as the Lord’s Prayer. Let’s read together Matthew 6:9-15.
Pray then like this:
“Our Father 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 lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
I’m sure most of you recognize at least parts of this prayer from reciting it on a high school sports team or in any of all the other circumstances in which this prayer is often recited. Because this is a model prayer, we know that it wasn’t Jesus’ goal for us to recite this verbatim, though there’s nothing wrong with that. His whole point, however, is to give us an example of how to pray, and things to pray for. So, what I’d to do is look at “6 Ways to Partake in Kingdom Praying.” We’ll move rather quickly through these seven, and I hope they help to change the way we think about prayer.
- Remember to whom you’re praying (vs. 9).
He’s God. He knows. In verse 9, Jesus starts by saying, “Pray, then like this.” That word, “then”, gives us a hint that he wants us to pray like this because of what we see in verse 8. Verse 8, if you look there, says, “Your Father knows what you need before you even ask Him.” Sometimes it’s easy to think that when we’re praying, we’re letting God know something He doesn’t know. Or at least maybe it feels that way: “Does God even know what’s happening to me? Or what I’m going through?” I hope it’s not a frustrating thing, but instead a comforting thing to hear me say that He does know. He’s God. He knows. He’s not blind to your pain or suffering or anything. He does know.
He’s our Father. He cares. In fact, He’s not just God in some abstract or distant sense. He’s our Father. That’s why the prayer starts in verse 9: “Our Father in Heaven.” This word for “Father” is a well-known word, pronounced “Abba” in Aramaic, which was the common language spoken by Jesus. This is the title that Jewish children used for their earthly fathers, both young children as well as adult children, all of them called their fathers “abba.” And this is why, for me, personally, I don’t like calling God “daddy.” There’s nothing wrong with that necessarily if you do that, don’t feel bad. But, for me, if we’re trying to remember as clearly as possibly to whom we’re praying, “Father” is one of the best ways to think of Him. There’s just this incredible warmth, knowing He’s our Father. But there’s also this reverence for God’s authority, especially because it says right there, “Our Father in Heaven.” This isn’t some man that we’re praying to. He’s our Father, but he’s also in Heaven.
He’s holy. Honor Him. The next part goes right along with this. “Hallowed be your name.” “Hallowed” basically means set apart as holy, or treated with the highest respect and honor. He’s in heaven, he’s separate, totally holy and different from us in that sense, He’s God! He is worthy of our honor and our praise.
This is why, if you don’t know where to start with praying, this is a GREAT place to start. In fact, I’d say EVERY prayer could start out with recognizing who it is we’re talking with. What’s the best way to do that? Honor Him! Just start your prayers with worship. No matter the reason you’re praying, it would never be a bad idea to start out with just a few words of adoration. God, you are good. You are holy. You are not like man. Saying a few things about who God is at the beginning of your prayer might go a long way in putting your heart in the right place before Him. Because I can’t tell you how many times I’ve jumped into praying with a totally irreverent and flippant attitude, not recognizing that I’m talking with the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords and that I actually have His attention!
I mean, imagine THE person in the world that you respect most or esteem most highly just walking in the door right now and sitting beside you. Whoever that person is, Simon Biles or Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump (maybe I should stop giving examples), whoever it is. You probably would not take their presence lightly. You probably wouldn’t jump into conversation with them without really even thinking about who they were! How much more should it be for the God of the universe, the Creator and the Sustainer? Remember to whom you’re praying. The 2nd Way:
- Pray for the Advance of God’s Kingdom (vs. 10).
Verse 10- “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” We’re to pray for the advance of God’s kingdom. What does that mean? Well, God’s kingdom in this age is the reign of Christ in our hearts and lives. All believers all over the world have Christ reigning in their hearts and minds, and we’re to pray that that be increasingly so! We’re to pray that other believers would increasingly obey God’s laws and reflect his love, and ultimately, share the good news about the Kingdom. That’s also what is meant here by “your will be done.” Yes, that does mean in a broad sense, as in His will all over the world with all things, but specifically, that refers to human obedience! In heaven, there is no sin, all people and beings follow God’s will. And we’re to pray the same for those on earth. Ultimately, God’s kingdom will be fully established with Jesus ushering in the new heavens and the new earth.
That’s also a really good mindset to have in prayer. If we pray as if this life is our kingdom, then we’re missing the point not only of prayer, but of our lives as Christians. My life is no longer about me. Your life is no longer about you. This is about the Kingdom! This is why we must pray for the advance of God’s kingdom, believers in this church as well as outside this church. The 3rd:
- Pray for and Trust in God’s provision (vs. 11).
Verse 11: “Give us this day our daily bread.” This is really referring to all of our daily physical needs: food, shelter, clothing, things like this. We’re to pray for and trust that he will provide these things. I’ve seen a bit of a movement against praying for yourself. I guess this is in response to the habit of praying nothing but for yourself. This shows, yet again, how reactionary we are as human beings. Everyone does one thing, then certain people are rebels and decide to do it totally different, even if it’s not the best way, at least it’s different from the other way. I digress.
My point is that the Bible does tell us to pray for our own needs! There’s nothing wrong with this. Now sure, if that’s all you’re ever doing when you’re praying, then you might want to think about that. But we see here, “Give us this day our daily bread.” We see in Philippians 4:6, “In everything, with prayer and petition, present your requests to God.” There is nothing wrong with asking for things you need, and even things you want, as long as you don’t come to God with any sort of entitlement or expectation that He needs to do what you ask. Again, that goes back to praying realizing that your life is part of God’s Kingdom, and no longer part of your own. The 4th way to partake in Kingdom Praying:
- Confess, be forgiven, and forgive others (vs. 12, 14-15).
Verse 12: “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” This word for “debt” is the common-used term in Aramaic for “sin.” But this isn’t referring to the forgiveness of all sins that we receive when we repent and believe in Jesus. At the moment that we truly turn and place our faith in Christ, we are saved from all past, present, and future sin. BUT, that doesn’t mean that we don’t sin, does it? Of course not. This is referring to the restoration of your relationship with Christ after you sin. We all mess up. And when we do, God wants us to come to him in confession and with contrite heart, realizing we did something that doesn’t fit our new identities in Christ. And of course, we are forgiven, we are restored to our relationship with God.
And it’s because of that remarkable truth, that God forgives us for our sins, that we too should feel compelled to forgive others for theirs! And this is where verses 14-15 come in, though they definitely seem a bit random, after the actual model for prayer that Jesus gives us; it’s kind of like a side-note on verse 12. But vv. 14-15, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Whoa! Jesus isn’t messing around, is he? What does he mean here? Well, for clarity, he doesn’t mean that somehow we earn our forgiveness by forgiving others. He’s making the really strong point that, like, “How can we ask God for forgiveness when we’re not even willing to forgive another human being?” It’s pretty insincere to come to God, this holy perfect being whom we have offended more than anyone can possibly offend someone, asking for forgiveness, while not offering it to a fellow human being. This is why a major way that we pray is to confess our sin, be forgiven, but then also to forgive others. The 5th way to partake in Kingdom Praying:
- Pray for protection (vs. 13).
Verse 13: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” God doesn’t tempt us directly, ever. But, he may lead us into circumstances that “test” or “tempt” us. We’re to pray for less of this. Lord, lead us not into temptation. We should never pray for God to bring us temptation so that we can grow stronger. I remember doing that when I was a new Christian, thinking that that would be the best way for me to grow. God, bring me things to test me and even tempt me. Look, we don’t need to pray for that, because it’s going to happen whether we ask for it or not!
We will face hardship. We will face temptation. But to seek it and ask for it, makes no sense. Lead us NOT into temptation, but deliver us from evil. When the temptation does come, deliver us, O God. Help us to be victorious over it. Praying for protection from sin is HUGE. In fact, it’s also a great way to see it coming. If you’ve been praying proactively for God protect you from what may come, not only will He do it, but your mind will be more ready when it does come. Pray for protection. And the last way to partake in Kingdom Praying:
- Recognize God’s Supremacy.
Now this goes right along with the first way to pray that we mentioned, which was “Remember to whom you’re praying.” But, I thought it worth bringing up again, especially because of the common way of ending this prayer. If you’ve recited it before, or had it memorized, the last part you said was probably something like, “For Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.”
That part is maybe in a few of your translations, and some of yours it isn’t. But this is likely an addition put in by a scribe, probably thinking Jesus’ prayer needed a better ending, or a proper ending of any kind. But the most reliable, earliest manuscripts that we have do not include this. That’s why most of your translations don’t have it, or they have it in brackets. It’s not wrong to include it if you recite this prayer at all, and it’s certainly true, which is why I went ahead and added this sixth way to partake in Kingdom Praying. “Yours is the Kingdom, the Power, and the glory!”
My summary of that: You are supreme! To me, if you truly recognize that God is supreme, that He is superior to everything else in the universe, that He is absolutely unmatched in power and majesty and glory and splendor, and you realize you have direct access to Him through prayer…. If you realize those two things, TRULY, no amount of busyness or distraction will keep you from communing with Him through prayer. It won’t happen. We make time for what we consider most important. That’s not meant to be a guilt-trip; it’s meant to be an encouragement: Recognize first His supremacy, then recognize you have direct access to Him because Christ has dealt with your sin, and prayer will become second-nature for you.