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The Lord's Prayer - Introduction

by John Edmiston


Matthew 6:7-15 (Lord's Prayer Version 1)

7 And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.
8 “Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. 9 In this manner, therefore, pray:

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10 Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On 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 do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.

For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
14 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Luke 11:1-13 (Lord's Prayer Version 2)

1 Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” 2 So He said to them, “When you pray, say:

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us day by day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.”

5 And He said to them, “Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; 6 for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 and he will answer from within and say, ‘Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you’? 8 I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs. 9 “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 11 If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? 13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

Introduction

Last week we saw that God is watching us, and taking note of our quiet Christian lives in order to reward us. This week we will find that God is listening to us, and hears us and answers us in prayer.

We will spend the next three weeks looking at the Lord's Prayer and encouraging your understanding of prayer and your practice of prayer. This week we will do an overview of prayer as it is taught and practiced by Jesus and then next week we will do the first five phrases of the prayer, and finish it off in week 3 with the last six phrases from the Lord's Prayer. And because the Lord's prayer is in both Matthew and Luke we will look at both versions and the little bits of extra teaching that Luke throws in because they are also most valuable.

Firstly a few words about the importance of prayer. If any activity is absolutely essential to the Christian life it is prayer. Prayer is the means God gives us to communicate with Him. The Bible is God's Word to us, and prayers are our words back to God. Ideally they should be connected, so that it as we always pray in the light of the Word of God. Prayer is not magic, but prayer is essential.

Guy H. King No one is a firmer believer in the power of prayer than the devil; not that he practices it, but he suffers from it.  ~

Matilda Andross - "Prayer is more powerful than habits, heredity, and natural tendencies. It can overcome all these. It is more powerful than the forces that hold the planets in place. Prayer, though it comes from the heart of an unlearned child of God, can suspend the laws of the universe, if such be God's will, just as the sun stood still when Joshua prayed. There is no other power on earth that the enemy of souls hates and fears as he does prayer. We are told that 'Satan trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees.' "

E.M. Bounds - "God has of his own motion placed himself under the law of prayer, and has obligated himself to answer the prayers of men. He has ordained prayer as a means whereby he will do things through men as they pray, which he would not otherwise do. If prayer puts God to work on earth, then, by the same token, prayerlessness rules God out of the world's affairs, and prevents him from working. The driving power, the conquering force in God's cause is God himself. 'Call on me and I will answer thee and who thee great and mighty things which though knowest not,' is God's challenge to prayer. Prayer puts God in full force into God's work."

John Calvin - "To know God as the sovereign disposer of all good, inviting us to present our requests, and yet not to approach or ask of him, were so far from availing us, that it were just as if one told of a treasure were to allow it to remain buried in the ground."

Oswald Chambers - "Prayer is not an exercise. It is the life of the saint."
"Prayer does not equip us for the greater work, Prayer is the greater work."

A.J. Gordon - "You can do more than pray, after you have prayed, but you can never do more than pray until you have prayed."

J. Vernon McGee - "According to my humble judgment, the greatest need of the present-day church is prayer. Prayer should be the vital breath of the church, but right now it is gasping for air. One of the great Bible teachers of the past said that the church goes forward on its knees. Maybe one of the reasons the church is not going forward today is because it's not in a position to go forward --- we are not on our knees in prayer.

We seek out panaceas to resolve the conflicts of the world and to heal our own personal and private wounds. Many are consulting the psychiatrist, the doctor, the minister, and anyone else who will listen. But we do not seem to recognize that the great need in our own personal lives is prayer. Prayer is the greatest neglected resource that we have; it's a power that we simply are not using today.

The disciples went to our Lord and said, 'Lord, teach us to pray' (Luke 11:1). They did not ask Him how to pray; they weren't looking for lessons on technique or an outline for ritualistic prayer. They had obviously heard our Lord pray, and they wanted to learn how to pray on the same high level as He did. This is a request many of us today need to make: 'Lord, teach us to pray.'"

I firmly believe in prayer, and of the absolute necessity of prayer for every Christian. It is not as if some were called to do all the praying while the others did all the doing. We must do both, and praying is doing! After 25 years of ministry I can tell you the results of my ministry are exactly in proportion to the intensity and faithfulness of the prayers being offered. For me prayer is not mystical, it is practical and it works far more often than not. Unanswered prayers are the distinct exception not the rule.

Vain Repetition, Being Heard For Many Words – Attempting To Flatter God

The first thing that Jesus says is that we are not to babble on in vain repetition. God wants us to get to the point and The Lord's Prayer is a model of conciseness. It lists a bunch of highly important points, listed in order of priority and which addresses each priority in the fewest possible words. In fact it is a very business-like prayer, and prayer has even been called “doing business with God”. God is a judge and a king and when one goes before a judge or a king it is right and proper to be brief and to the point or you will not be heard.

Ecclesiastes 5:2 MKJV Do not be rash with your mouth, and do not let your heart be hasty to say a word before God. For God is in Heaven, and you are on earth; therefore let your words be few.

Indeed most of the prayers in the Bible take less than one minute to pray and not one of them waffles on and on.

It is not the quantity of our praying but the quality of our praying that God notices. A sincere heartfelt “Lord, help me” is more likely to be answered than a long, eloquent but insincere performance. That is why prayer has to be a lot more than just “dabbing at God” in a half-hearted and lackluster fashion. God wants real prayer, straight from the heart, prayer with strong spirit and deep feeling and living intelligence and great depth.

f the request is good and worthy then God hears it. So you are not more likely to be heard by God for a three hour prayer than a three minute prayer.

1 John 5:14-15 MKJV And this is the confidence that we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. (15) And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him.

God hears us because of the purity of our request, not because of our “many words”. Just ask God plainly in a straightforward fashion without trying to butter Him up or impress Him. You do not have to make God hear you, His ears are perfect, nor do you have to twist His arm since from beginning to end the Bible tells us He wants to grant us what we ask for.

Mark 11:23-24 MKJV For truly I say to you that whoever shall say to this mountain, Be moved and be cast into the sea, and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that what he said shall occur, he shall have whatever he said. (24) Therefore I say to you, All things, whatever you ask, praying, believe that you shall receive them, and it will be to you.

God is watching you and listens to you and knows all that you need and wants you to ask Him for things in a concise and respectful way. There are no tricks to prayer, but there are better and worse ways of praying and the worst way of praying is “the way the heathens do”.

Do Not Be Like The Heathens

Jesus tells us NOT to pray like the other religions, like the Muslims bowed to Mecca, or the Dervishes in a trance, or the Indians smoking peyote, or the Buddhists who have prayer wheels that repeat the same prayer mechanically so as to influence God or accumulate karma. Such prayer may seem impressive but they all treat God as either very stupid like a dottery old man who is easily flattered and needs to be constantly reminded or as very impersonal and mechanical like a force that can be harnessed.

The plain fact of the matter is that God is infinite love and infinite wisdom. In His infinite wisdom God can tell what is in your heart and so cannot be tricked or flattered or cajoled or manipulated in any way whatsoever. It is like trying to charm your way past a totally objective traffic policeman who has very good evidence of your speeding. Flattering God in order to get something from Him is quite simply a waste of your breath. Secondly because God is infinite love and infinite Personhood He relates to you and desires relationship from you. God does not respond to being treated like a force or even like an object. God's decisions are personal and qualitative not impersonal and quantitative. If god's decisions were impersonal and quantitative a dictator like Hitler could have forced millions of people to pray simultaneously and win any war on earth.

A good example of the difference between godly prayer and heathen pray is found in the confrontation between Elijah and the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings chapter 18:

1 Kings 18:22-39 MKJV (26) And they took the bull which was given them, and they dressed, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any who answered. And they leaped on the altar which was made. (27) And it happened at noon Elijah mocked them and said, Cry with a great voice, for he is a god. Either he is meditating, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey; perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened! (28) And they cried with a loud voice and cut themselves with knives and spears until the blood gushed out on them, as is their way. (29) And it happened when midday was past, and when they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor anyone who paid attention.

(30) And Elijah said to all the people, Come near to me. And all the people came near him. And he repaired the broken down altar of Jehovah. (31) And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the Word of Jehovah came, saying, Israel shall be your name. (32) And with stones he built an altar in the name of Jehovah. And he made a trench around the altar big enough to contain two measures of seed. (33) And he arranged the wood, and cut the bull in pieces, and placed it on the wood, and said, Fill four water jars with water and pour on the burnt sacrifice and on the wood. (34) And he said, Do it the second time. And they did it the second time. And he said, Do it the third time. And they did it the third time. (35) And the water ran all around the altar. And he filled the trench also with water. (36) And it happened at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet came near and said, Jehovah, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel, and that I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your Word. (37) Hear me, O Jehovah, hear me, that this people may know that You are Jehovah God, and that You have turned their heart back again.

(38) And the fire of Jehovah fell and burned up the burnt sacrifice and the wood, and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. (39) And when all the people saw, they fell on their faces. And they said, Jehovah, He is the God! Jehovah, He is the God!

The heathens pray all day in an extreme manner and get zero result. Elijah prays just 60 words, (about a 30 second prayer) and fire comes down from heaven! Let see how the heathen prayed:

  1. They dressed up

  2. They made a loud noise

  3. They 'leaped on the altar” and were very energetic

  4. They prayed for a long time

  5. They cut themselves and carried on as if pain impressed God.

  6. They were trying to get Baal to hear them.

By contrast Elijah:

  1. Connected with the history and worship of the Jewish people.

  2. Presumed God would hear and prayed sure of his relationship with God.

  3. Prayed out of a concern for God's glory and name.

  4. Staked himself on his obedience, not on his psychological intensity.

  5. Prayed briefly and concisely suing no special words or manner of dress.

  6. Actually doused the sacrifice with water! He did not try to replace God's actions or substitute for them.

God is personal and wise and good and cannot be manipulated by human religious antics. God is spirit and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth. That means that we do not come mechanically or in the flesh, but in the spirit; and that we do not come falsely and manipulatively - but in sincerity and truth.

Your Father Knows What You Need

God is all-knowing and very smart, and is all-seeing and knows what we need before we ask. Therefore God does not need a million emails on the same topic! God is personally paying attention to your life and my life and arranging the worm for the sparrow and the mate for the screech owls and vultures in Babylon.

Isaiah 34:14-17 MKJV The wild beasts of the desert shall also meet with the howling beasts; and the shaggy goat shall cry to his fellow. The screech owl also shall rest there, and find for herself a place of rest. (15) There the snake shall nest, and lay, and hatch, and gather under her shadow; there shall the vultures also be gathered, every one with her mate. (16) Seek out of the book of Jehovah, and read; not one of these shall fail, none shall lack its mate; for My mouth has commanded, and His Spirit has gathered them. (17) And He has cast the lot for them, and His hand has divided it to them by line; they shall possess it forever, from generation to generation they shall dwell in it.

If God cares about screech-owls, then He certainly cares about you! So pray to God assuming that He knows what is going on.

Praying For The Big Issues That Include All The Little Issues

The Lord's Prayer is an example of praying for the big high-level issues that include all the other issues by default. When you pray “give us this day our daily bread” you include everything from the electricity bill to the groceries. When you pray forgive us our trespasses that includes all the sins of the day and you do not have to go around listing them in some tedious process of self-reckoning. God knows all the details! In fact New testament praying is almost always the high-level prayers – prayers for wisdom or enlightenment or courage or for the filling of the Holy Spirit and the knowledge of God.

In the following weeks we will look at each of these high-level prayers and see how powerful they are. To pray “They will be done on earth as it is in heaven” is asking for a world full of love and obedience and righteousness and truth and mercy. It is asking for the world “in which righteousness dwells” which will be ours after the Return of the Lord.

Jesus is trying to get us to move out of our preoccupation with ourselves and the “small stuff” and to see the big picture, in spiritual terms, and to pray powerful strategic level prayers. The other thing that Jesus teaches us to pray for ends not means. Jesus prays for “our daily bread” not the means of getting it – a ob, winning the lottery etc. Or Jesus prays “thy Kingdom come” and leaves the method up to the Lord.

A good prayer envisions the high-level, strategic, God-honoring end state and desires it and pictures it and asks God for it and believes it has received it. Lets look at Elijah's prayer again:

Jehovah, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel, and that I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your Word. (37) Hear me, O Jehovah, hear me, that this people may know that You are Jehovah God, and that You have turned their heart back again.

Elijah does not say anything about the means – sending fire. In fact Elijah does not as for fire! Elijah asks for God to honor His own name and that of His servant! There are no details at all in this prayer! Just a strategic, high-level, God honoring request – which God answers in spectacular fashion. Another famous prayer is that of the fiery Presbyterian reformer John Knox who prayed “Lord. Give me Scotland or I die!' God answered with a mighty revival. What mattered was a God-honoring, high level strategic request stated concisely to a God whom he knew would hear him!

Persistent Prayer

In the parable of the persistent pal, Jesus makes a difference between personal persistence and impersonal mechanical repetition:

Luke 11: 5 And He said to them, “Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; 6 for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 and he will answer from within and say, ‘Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you’? 8 I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs.

The persistent pal keeps knocking because he has a relationship and is acting within that relationship to get what he needs. There is a reality to what is going on here, its personal, real and neighborly, the two people know each other and annoy each other as only friends can. Pagan repetition does not relate to God as a true friend but as a blind mechanical force to be harnessed for one's own ends. But lets not miss the main point – Jesus wants us to to pester Him as a friend, to get on our knees and beg Him and cajole Him as only close friends do. Jesus wants a real solid persistent relationship with us in prayer and invites us to press into God for that which we truly need.

Ask, Seek, Knock

Jesus reinforces this with His famous saying about asking, seeking and knocking:

Luke 11:9,10 - “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.

In combination with the statement about persistence this means – ask and keep on asking, seek and keep on seeking, knock and keep on knocking, and it is full of deep reassurances that our personal relationship with God will be deeply rewarded – It will be given, you will find, it will be opened to you, and “everyone who ask receives”. There is no messing around here, everything you do in persistent faith, living out of your personal relationship with God, is rewarded.

Prayer Is Safe- Praying For The Holy Spirit

Jesus then goes on to tell us that prayer is safe, because it is not an impersonal force that can be wrongly wielded or go astray, but is in fact mediated by a good and loving Heavenly Father.

Luke 11:11-13 If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? 13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!

You may have heard people say “You had better watch out what you pray for” as if a simple slip of the tongue in prayer could result in catastrophe. As if someone could accidentally leave the “not” out of “Lord lead us not into temptation” so it became “Lord lead us into temptation”, and that would happen! Of course it would not because God knows what we really wanted to say and also does not tempt anyone to their destruction. God is safe, God is the loving father hearing the request of the child. He is wise and good and only gives that child what is best. And this includes spiritual experiences and spiritual gifts.

If we want to go deeper in God and have more of the Holy Spirit then God is not going to send us a demon because of our presumptuousness. God is note evil and does not give us a snake instead of fish or a stone instead of bread, or a scorpion instead of an egg! Stones may look like bread, and a curled up scorpion can look like an egg, and a dangerous snake can look like an edible eel. But God does NOT give us such things! God does Not deceive His children! God does Not give us evil when we seek good! In fact God's answer is positive and affirming: How much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!

God is safe and it is safe to ask God for the bread of a deeper understanding of God's word, or for the fish of a deeper understanding of Christ Himself, or for the egg of Holy Spirit wisdom and creativity.

Conclusion

Ok what have we learned about prayer today!

  1. Prayer is essential to the Christian life

  2. Prayer is not pagan

  3. Prayer is concise – it is not the quantity but the quality

  4. Prayer is focused on the ends and leaves the means to God.

  5. Prayer is to a God who knows what we need before we ask.

  6. Prayer asks for the big issues that include all the little issues

  7. Prayer is the language of a persistent pal

  8. Prayer is answered out of the faith relationship we have with God

  9. Prayer is safe because it is a personal interaction with a good and wise Heavenly Father who decides the answers to our prayers

 

This article may be freely reproduced for non-profit ministry purposes but may not be sold in any way. For permission to use articles in your ministry, e-mail the editor, John Edmiston at johned@aibi.ph.