THE PRACTICE OF PRAYER
THE PRACTICE OF PRAYER
By Mark E. Hardgrove, D.Min.
Text: Luke 11:1-4
11:1 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.
3 Give us day by day our daily bread.
4 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."
How many times do you think you've prayed the Lord's Prayer? Some folk quote it religiously. I remember a lady visiting our church in Suwanee and she never came back. When I followed up with her, she said the reason she didn't come back was because we didn't pray the Lord's Prayer. Her response, I think, reflects a misunderstanding about the prayer. This wasn't a prayer that Jesus gave us to mindlessly quote over and over again. After all Jesus Himself said that we are not to pray using vain repetitions (Mat. 6:7). He said this is what the heathen do.
So if this isn't some sort of magical prayer, some sort of incantation that we repeat over and over, what it is? Jesus was giving his disciples a model, a template if you will, a pattern that they and we could use. It is a skeleton upon which we are to add meaningful content. It is also, a guide for our Christians walk.
I) THE PATTERN PRAYER
Look at the prayer with me. Notice that the prayer begins by recognizing that God is our Father in heaven and that His very name is to be hallowed. Hallowed means to venerate or to make holy. It is closely related to the concept of glorifying His name. As the Psalmist said, "I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart: and I will glorify thy name for evermore" (Ps 86:12). So in this pattern, we open our prayers by hallowing the name of the Father in praise and glory.
The second movement in the prayer is an expression of our desire to see His kingdom come. That's important. Too many people are looking for and building their own kingdom, but the prayer of the believer is that God's kingdom come, and that begins when we recognize Him as King in our own lives. We live in the "already, but not yet." The kingdom of God is among those who surrender to God as the ruler of their lives, but our prayer is also that His kingdom come in all of its fullness and glory.
Next, Jesus tells us to pray in a way where we are to be willing to surrender our will to His will. Prayer isn't about telling God what to do, as much as it is about learning to accept and to embrace His will in our life and on this earth, as much as if we were already in heaven standing in front of His throne.
The fourth movement of the prayer is a request for God's daily provision in our lives. Notice that Jesus instructs us to pray a prayer in which we are dependent upon God day by day. He doesn't tell us to pray for a storehouse of bread, but like the Israelites in the wilderness, we must learn to trust Him each day to meet our needs. Whether we have much, or whether we have meager fare, we must daily learn to depend upon the Lord as our Jehovah-Jirah, our provider Whose grace is sufficient in good times and bad.
The fifth movement of this prayer is for forgiveness of sins. In Matthew's Gospel it reads, "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us." There is a reciprocal connection between receiving forgiveness and giving forgiveness. If we won't forgive, then we can't be forgiven. That's blunt, but that's what the Word tells us. "Forgive us, as we forgive others" is basically what Jesus tells us to pray. Being forgiven and being forgiving are intrinsically bound together.
Finally, Jesus tells us to pray that we overcome temptation and overcome the tempter. We are praying for God to lead us away from temptation and to deliver us from Satan. We can live a victorious life, but we must learn to lean on Jesus and allow the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth. We cannot walk in the Spirit and at the same time be walking in defeat. The apostle Paul said, "Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ" (2 Cor 2:14).
So what we have here is an outline for prayer. I often use the Lord's prayer as the pattern for my own prayers. I basically go through all the movements of this prayer as a guide for my prayers.
II) THE PRAYER IN THE PASSION OF CHRIST
The point is that we don't have to repeat this prayer over and over, word for word. In fact, if we limit our prayer life to that, then we are doing nothing but engaging in vain, or empty repetition, even if we are repeating the Lord's Prayer over and over. What Jesus gives us here is an outline that we can use as a guide for our prayers. In fact, I believe Jesus uses this very model during His Passion.
A) Hallowed Be Your Name
In the model prayer Jesus opens with, "Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name," and as He moved toward the cross Jesus prayed in John's Gospel:
1 Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, 2 as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. 4 I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. 5 And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. (John 17:1-5)
B) Your Will Be Done
In the model prayer Jesus said to pray, "Your kingdom come, your will be done." In Luke's Gospel Jesus prayed, "Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will , but Yours, be done" (Luke 22:42).
C) Give Us Today Our Daily Bread
Though Jesus doesn't pray for daily bread during the Passion, He did break bread with his apostles shortly before His passion and He instructs believer to continue to eat the bread and drink the cup until He comes (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
D) For We Also Forgive Everyone
In the model prayer Jesus tells us ask to for forgiveness and to forgive others. From the cross Jesus prays, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do" (Luke 23:34). Wow! If Jesus could pray that prayer, under those circumstances, who are we to refuse to forgive anyone?
E) Deliver Us from the Evil One
In the model prayer Jesus tells us to pray for deliverance from the evil one. At the crucifixion the enemy tried to kill Jesus and keep Him bound in death and the grave. But on the third day, Jesus came up out of the grave. Jesus overcame death, hell, and the grave. Jesus took the enemy's best shot and came out of the grave victorious. He shows us that not even death can defeat the child of God.
III) THE PRACTICE OF THE PRAYER
So Jesus not only gives us the model prayer, but then Jesus models the prayer. He gives us an example that we should do, even as He has done. Understand this, that when Jesus gives the disciples the model prayer, Jesus already knows that His Passion is going to require that He be to live what He tells us to pray. In fact, all of us should learn to live what we pray. It's easy to mouth the words. It's easy to say, "Hallowed be thy name," but it's something else altogether to live our lives in such a way that even in the face of death we hallow the Father's name, we glorify the Father, we honor and praise His holy name.
It's one thing to pray for God's kingdom to come, but it's something else to live our lives as if this could be the day when His kingdom comes.
It's one thing to pray, "Thy will be done," but it requires more than words for us to actually live our lives in submission to the will of God, so much so, that we respond as readily and as willingly as if we are the angels standing in His presence, ready to do whatever He tells us, whenever He tells us to do it. (Illustration: Kae and the ball.)
It's one thing to pray, "Forgive us our sins as we forgive others," but it's something else all together to do it. On one occasion Peter asked Jesus, "How many times do I forgive my brother who sins against me?" Jesus said, "Seventy times seven . . . in one day." Do you know what the apostles said to that? They said, "Lord, increase our faith." This is the only time in the entire Bible where anyone asks for their faith to be increased. It's easy to pray, "Forgive us as we forgive others," but it takes faith and obedience to actually forgive others and in so doing, avail ourselves to being forgiven.
It's one thing to pray, "And do not lead us into temptation," and it's another thing to turn off that television when something comes on that we should not watch, or to refuse to go to that webpage that we know we should not look at, or refuse to engage in that gossip that we know we should not engage in. It's easy to say it and to pray it as vain repetition, but we have to live our prayer, even as Jesus did in the shadow of the cross.
It's one thing to pray, "Deliver us from the evil one," but it's something else altogether to make up in our mind that we are no longer going to be the victim, but we are going to be the victor, that we are going to put our foot on the serpent's head and start walking in victory. We are coming up out of the death grip of the devil and start living the abundant life in Christ Jesus.
We can repeat the words of this prayer until we are blue in the face (and some people do), but Jesus show us that until we are ready to practice our prayer, until we are ready to live the words we speak, then the words don't mean anything. We must be doers of the Word, and not hearers or speakers only, if we are going to walk and live in victory.
The Lord's Prayer is not just a pattern for prayer, it is a pattern for living the Christian life and Jesus Himself shows us how to do it, even in the face of death. It calls for extreme faith and trust. It requires a commitment to God and to His will and His way for our life. Are you ready to be that extreme? Are you prepared to live your prayers? If you are, then join me in prayer as we dismiss and then when you leave this campus today, walk it out, live your prayer.