Sunday, February 21, 2010
Lord Teach us to Pray
My sermon series through Lent is on prayer. We began at the beginning, how do we pray. The disciples also really didn't know how to pray. In Matthew 6, Jesus teaches them about praying with the right heart and spirit.
Verses 9-14 tell us:
‘Pray then in this way:
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 do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one.
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
In Luke, the disciples ask Jesus to teach them. Neither scripture reading presupposes that we just know how to communicate with God. We are taught by those who have learned before us.
How did you learn to pray? Were you taught by a parent or grandparent? Were you taught by a Sunday school teacher? Were you young or older? Most of us learn to pray through rote prayers. Many of us teach our children prayers for specific situations. If you having them praying at mealtime, then they may pray, "God is great, God is good, let us thank him for our food. Amen." Perhaps praying before tucking them into bed, you might teach them "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. God bless..." and then they list the family members, friends, and others they wish God to bless. We do not simply know how to pray. It is important that we are given an example. Not only the example of witnessing those pray who guide us in our faith, but also in the example of a prayer we can memorize.
We learn the Lord's prayer, but we do not stop to think about what we are really praying. We say the words, but don't give much thought as to what we are really praying for. Jesus' disciples were familiar with the rites and rituals of the synagogue, but still they wanted to learn how to pray. Jesus not only taught them how to pray, but also taught them something about relationship.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Do we really praise God's name? Do we really realize that our prayer brings us into the presence of God, and in that brings us a little closer to the holiness we are called to?
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. God's kingdom isn't a someday, faraway thing that is not relevant in our lives today. We pray for God's kingdom to be in our midst and for God's will to be done in the world around us, just like in heaven. But God's kingdom starts in the lives of God's people, and God's will is first carried out in the hearts of God's people. Do we really try to bring the kingdom of God with us everywhere we go? Do we really seek to have God's will control our lives and our decisions?
Give us this day our daily bread. This involves not worrying about tomorrow. Not worrying about whether or not we have saved enough money or hoarded enough stuff. This is trusting that God will provide what you need today...tomorrow...and always. If we are living in the moment with God being our guide, we will not worry about tomorrow's bread today. Do we trust God with our future?
Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. Do we really forgive? We say we do, but then we get to talking about someone else and pretty soon our speech betrays our true feelings. If we live a life of forgiveness constantly, we do not need to worry about if we forgive people for the things they do which offend us, because we never hold these things against them in the first place. Sometimes we have grievous crimes committed against us, but even then forgiveness brings healing and wholeness to the forgiver and opens the door for God to bring the offender to a place of repentance. Is there someone you need to forgive, so that God can bring the full effect of God's forgiveness for you to your life?
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. We want God to rescue us from the messes we end up in. We think we can dance near the fire and not get burned. If there is something in our lives that is a temptation for us, we need to remove ourselves from that temptation. If we have friends who are a poor influence on us, and lead us away from God, then we need to rethink that friendship. Often, we rationalize we hang around them so we can be an example of Christ for them, but we are not really staying away from temptation. We aren't living the example of Christ in their midst.
If we are struggling with something, and God knows what you struggle with, then we need to make sure we do not place ourselves in situations that will bring us temptation. And we shouldn't want to direct our own lives and ask God to bless it. We need to be able to follow God as God leads us away from those things that interfere in our relationships with God and God's people. Do you allow God to change you?
For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. This is not in the original prayer of Jesus, but was added later. In this phrase we are turning over our control to God. Whatever we have prayed before this, and however it will change us, we are placing ourselves in God's hands to be used for God's glory. In this we are affirming that we are small by comparison to God's greatness, and it is arrogance on our part to think we are in control. Do you snatch control of your life from God? Have you considered that it is arrogance to think we should decide what we want and ask God to bless it?
If we pray and our hearts are in the right place, then prayer doesn't change God, or even the situations around us, but prayer changes us. I want us all to be changed this Lenten season as we learn to pray.
Pray for something you want God to change in you this Lenten season. Pray for someone who needs to be included in the community of faith, someone you might invite to church on Easter Sunday.