Monday, March 20, 2017

prayer 101

(by Pastor Joe)
The Word for Today: Luke 11:1-13
mark this: Luke 11:2-4
He said to them, "When you pray, say:
'Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation. ' "
Let's face the fact that prayer often is a struggle for us. We struggle with the time, with the words, with the place, with our hearts. We don't even know what to pray for. We need help in our prayer life.
This struggle is nothing new. The disciples, themselves strugglers, come to Jesus with a request. They ask for help, not on what to pray for or how to pray, they are asking for basic motivation to pray. We likewise need this kind of help, we need to be taught prayer. It does not come naturally, and every single one of us has felt that frustration.
So in today's passage, Jesus is giving us a primer on prayer. He's teaching us not only the whats of prayer, He's also teaching the whys. There is nothing magical or formulaic about this prayer. This prayer is not something just to be repeated mindlessly. Instead, Jesus models for all of us the very essence of what it means to pray.
1. Prayer means relationship.
Christ calls us to address God as our "Father." That was unheard of for Jews of His day, and it caused a great deal of scandal (1). Nonetheless, it is now the basis on which we approach God. We have been given this privilege only because of the work of Jesus Christ (2). We come before God, not as strangers, but as His children. We're not in line with a number at a deli, we're not cowering before a principal or judge, we're not speaking through an interpreter to a foreign dignitary.
2. Prayer means putting God in His place.
Jesus also calls us to remember just who it is we are praying to. He reminds that God is holy because we need that reminder. We are to thank and worship God, not because He is vain and needs us to say nice things about Him, but because we are so quick to forget just how great He really is. If I refuse to acknowledge God's great love and justice and faithfulness and purity, that takes away nothing from God, but it definitely diminishes me. We are to worship and praise God regularly so that we don't forget just who we are addressing.
3. Prayer means putting yourself in your place.
Jesus told us to ask for God's kingdom to come. I often don't know what that means in certain contexts, but one thing I always know that it always means, is that's its not about my will, but His. We are told not to seek our own little kingdoms and our own petty plans, but instead to ask for God to have his way in us: in our lives, our homes, our churches, our communities, our world. Sadly, this is often the last thing we ask for; Jesus says it should be the first.
4. Prayer means trusting God with you needs.
For far too many of us the phrase "daily bread" means nothing more than a trip to Aldi or a little devotional booklet. But to the hearers of Jesus time, it meant so much. Many in our country live in relative security concerning food, but for so many now, as well as back then, there was no guarantee that there would be available food the next day. Jesus reminds us that God cares about our needs and that we can trust Him to take care of us. Prayer is depending upon God for what we cannot control (which is more than we care to admit).
5. Prayer means confession and forgiveness.
There is no such thing as a dishonest prayer. Since God knows everything, all our prayer is honest or else it isn't prayer at all. Jesus reminds us of that here- the need to be right with God and the need to be right with others, hence the need to confess our sins and also forgive those who have sinned against us. I don't know about you, but for me, this is a daily battle.
6. Prayer means seeking God's protection.
And how we need it! We live our lives in a world that has turned its back upon God and instead chosen to follow its own way. We live in a world that is not even neutral towards the things of God, but rather openly hostile. We live in a world where we have an enemy who seeks to "steal and kill and destroy (3)." We need God's protection and deliverance- from evil, from temptation, from sin, from everything that might ruin us.
So if you find yourself in a place where your prayer has grown stale or repetitive, if you feel like nothing's being heard or you're distant from God, come right back here. There's no formula or magic words, but simply the basic heart of prayer. Your perfect, holy, heavenly Father is present, wanting to have His way in your life, meet all your needs, forgive your sins, help you to likewise forgive, and protect you from all evil. Great place to start- I think I'll stay here awhile.
(1) John 5:18
(2) Galatians 4:4-7
(3) John 10:10

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