The Lord's Prayer as a Pattern for the Prayer Life of the Believer
As Christians we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart and mind and soul and strength - which means we will pray to him regularly as the one we love. We are also called to love our neighbour as ourselves - which means, in part, that we will be regularly praying because we love our neighbours and bring the needs of our fellow man to God. So prayer is essential to our relationship to God and part of our duty toward our neighbour. While there is no command in the Bible "thou shalt have a daily quiet time" it is fairly obvious that prayer is to have a large part of the Christians life. Commands such as "pray without ceasing", "pray at all times in the Spirit" indicate regular times of prayer which were meant to be kept up. People who are on fire for God are people who pray regularly. However prayer is an art form and a bit of a struggle at first. Many people give up on prayer because they expect it to come easily and spontaneously. It doesn't - you have to be taught how to pray.
One of the first things you need is a simple flexible structure to direct your praying. If you don't at least have some idea of a structure then daydreams and distractions take over. Our minds tend to run away from prayer. Structure in prayer trains us to be successful in prayer.
Next we need help expressing our thoughts and emotions to God - at least to start with. Praise is a fairly unnatural activity for Australians and we are not much given to outbursts of passion. Our hearts and minds need to be directed upward.
Thirdly we need open-endedness so we can keep on growing in God.
Fourthly our prayer style should guide us into the will of God and the realm of answered prayer.
The Lord's Prayer does all these things when it is used as the structure behind your prayer life. The first five minutes of your quiet time can be spent hallowing God's name, the next five minutes praying for "Thy Kingdom come , thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven..." touching on everything from missionaries to wise decisions.
Then on to your needs "give us this day our daily bread", another few minutes asking for forgiveness of self and forgiving the hurts others have done to you, finally asking for protection from the evil one and perceived threats and temptations ending the eyes being raised to God in praise. If only five minutes is given to each section - you can easily pray for half an hour. Without that structure most of us are flat out praying for ten minutes. This sermon will simply teach you how to use the Lord's Prayer as the backbone of your prayer life.
The Lord's Prayer Explained
The "Lord's Prayer" breaks a few of the conventional rules of prayer. For instance confession is one of the last activities, not one of the first. There is much praise and intercession before there is any confession. There is no grovelling in sin. The cross of Christ is foreshadowed in this prayer in that for the Christian sin is not a catastrophe. All your sins past present and future have been dealt with by Christ according to the kindness and grace of God. Sin should never be treated lightly and confession is important to your spiritual health. However its place is last not first. We can come boldly into the presence of God and find grace and help in time of need.
The next unusual thing about the Lord's Prayer is its apparent brevity. It takes only 30 seconds or so to say. It is almost disappointingly short. There are I think two reasons for this - firstly it was meant to be memorised. Secondly it had two uses 1. As a guide to praying 2. As a model prayer. In both uses Jesus wanted His Kingdom prayer to contrast with the "meaningless babble of the pagans", or the extended vain-glorying of the scribes and Pharisees. So His ideal prayer was to the point and focused on the glory of God.
Thirdly the prayer at no points attempts to persuade God. God is presented as a loving Father who knows our needs and is willing to answer them. He is not abstract or far removed but close and personal.
Fourthly it is unusual in that there is only one condition for it being answered - and it is not that we be good boys and girls. The condition is that we forgive those who have been bad boys and girls.
Self-righteousness is the only thing that can stop the Lord's Prayer being answered.
We are all seen as in need of forgiveness. We are all called sinners in need of grace by the Lord's Prayer and we are to extend grace. Softness of heart will overflow with blessings from God.
Some verses I often come back to on this topic are found in Luke 6:35-38.
Luke 6:35-38 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. 37 "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."
Fifthly and perhaps most startling, the Lord's prayer invites us into the very counsels of God. His name, His Kingdom and the doing of His will are now our concerns. We are allowed to call Him Father and ask for heavenly things that are "too high for us". I cannot think of anyone in the Old Testament who called YHWH Father . up until the Lord's prayer and the resurrection and ascenscion of Christ, the business of heaven was in general, the business of the Lord alone. Now we are invited in. You and I in our quiet time can pray that the angels in heaven may praise and serve God more faithfully, we can pray that nations may bend to the will of God, we direct some of the resources of heaven to places of need in the Kingdom of God. We can pray for the salvation of souls. We can influence angels, men and nations.
Getting Inside The Lord's Prayer
So far we have had a few brief glances at the Lord's prayer and what it means to us. Whole books have been written on that topic and we have to leave that section behind to move on to the "how to " bit. How can we change the Lord's Prayer from a boring ritual into the living backbone of our quiet time? We need to "get inside" the Lord's Prayer and picture what it is about. This is best done one phrase at a time.
Firstly repeat the phrase in your mind, or even aloud until it starts to click - maybe two, three or four times.
"Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed be your name.." Let the picture build in your mind , see god on his throne, see the angels praising Him. Maybe you feel like singing a chorus ......
As you do this a picture may form of a need "Lord help our church to really worship you.." or "Lord make my heart holy, teach me to praise you...As the though fades come back to the Lord's Prayer and the phrase Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed be your name...let it soak in a new w picture might come to mind, pray for that, just keep the thought of hallowing God's name before you, treating him with respect, seeing him as Holy, Beautiful, wonderful, Almighty, worthy of praise.
Then move on to "Your kingdom come, Your will be done , on earth as it is in heaven." Focus on the battle, on God moving forward, on God overcoming, on the wonderful return of the Lord Jesus to judge the living and the dead. Picture what it would be like if God's will was done on earth as it is in heaven. Picture everyone healthy, picture all tears wiped away, picture all wickedness banished forever, picture total love, picture families together, picture glory covering the earth. Picture God's perfect will done in every single life and pray for it.
Give us this day our daily bread. The bills on the fridge spring to mind. Pray for your neighbours needs as well. Pray for the needs of the church. Remind God we need to function. Put down your self-sufficiency and admit to God that you really need His blessing. Grab hold of God and don't let Him go until you are blessed.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those that sin against us. Confess pride, greed, bitterness, self-centredness, desire for glory. Forgive the annoying, the ungrateful, the jealous, the backbiting. picture your sins being put on the cross and nailed there out of the way. Or picture them as balloons that pop when you confess them. Picture your most unfavourite person and then picture Jesus forgiving that person just as Jesus forgave you. Ask God to forgive them of their sins, their failures, forgive them for disappointing you, forgive them for not loving you. Take all your anger towards that person and drop it over the side of a boat travelling over the sea, watch all your anger float away then sink down, turn around feeling lighter. Bless the person you just forgave in the Spirit.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. Think of the tough situations you are going through. Ask God to reduce the testing, to have mercy on you, to take Satan out of the way if the evil one is involved.
Think of a temptation. Picture the fridge door with your temptation written in big letters across it. Pray for self-control. See yourself doing the right thing over and over. Picture yourself winning in the strength Christ supplies. Praise God that He will lift you above it. Rehearse in your mind and your Spirit how you will overcome your temptations and tests. Do it until you are sure of God's strength helping you through. Commit your life to Him.
For Yours is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory. Raise yours eyes to God again. See His greatness. See Him in control of the Universe, see Him hearing and answering your prayers. Give Him praise and perhaps sing a hymn or chorus. Rest in God. Finish your prayer time.
God has given us the ability to dwell on His word vividly and to "get inside" Scripture and experience it. We do not do this to empty our minds like in New Age meditation, rather we do it to fill our minds with the truth of God's word. We always come back to the Scripture properly interpreted as the basis for our thinking and picturing. I want you to get inside the Lord's prayer in anyway you can and turn it from a boring ritual into the exciting backbone of your prayer life.
Believing The Lord's Prayer
One of the great advantages of the Lord's prayer is that it leads you to pray in the will of God. Therefore when you use it as a structure for your quiet time you are quite likely to have your prayers answered. It is easier to have faith when you are sure what you are doing and saying is in the will of God. How then can we have faith-filled Spirit filled quiet times?
1. Remind yourself of your position in Christ and of the great grace of God.
2. Open the Word of God and think on it , ask God to allow His word to come alive to you and bring response from the Holy Spirit who dwells in all who believe.
3. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you pray.
4. Turn to the Lord's prayer, taking one phrase at a time.
Think on and repeat each phrase. Make requests on the same theme as that phrase. Picture the things happening.
5. Be confident that Jesus taught us to pray that way because it is in the will of God and because it leads to answered prayer. Thank God He has answered your prayers and rejoice.
Lets go over those steps again.
Awareness of Position and Grace
Faith and Thanksgiving
Because we must love God and our neighbour we must pray and pray regularly. However we need a way of overcoming boredom and distraction. I suggest the Lord's Prayer to you as God's Model Quiet Time.
Tonight I want you to go back committed to renewing your times with God, to improving both the quality and quantity of your praying and to learn how to dwell in the Spirit and to walk with God. You and I were made for prayer - let's get on with it.
Some of you may have been touched by tonight's sermon and want to do business with God. Bring the burdens of your heart down the front and set them before God. There will be elders here to talk to you if you want someone. While the front is open to any and every need some of you may want to take this moment to promise God that you will renew your prayer life and ask Him to teach you how to pray.
Come down the front and let it al be dealt with and make a fresh start for God.
Jesus said, "Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek and you shall find; knock and it will be opened to you." May the Lord teach you to ask seek and knock, and may you see His grace and kindness to in open and obvious ways . May you grow in the love of God and may the peace of God surround your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.