Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Prayer of Jesus

In the year 2000 a little book came out by Bruce Wilkinson called the Prayer of Jabez. It has been really popular with over 17 million in print based on 1 Chronicles 4:10. The promise is that readers who commit to offering the same prayer on a regular basis will find themselves extravagantly blessed by God, and agents of His miraculous power, in everyday life. Unfortunately the prayer has become something of a magical cant that people think that it all is going to fall into their lap when they keep repeating it. It reminds of the prayer of St. Jude that you often see advertised in the local prayer…just pray this prayer for 30 days…

In fairness to Bruce, I believe it was his heart’s desire that we are blessed to be a blessing. We are a conduit not a tank or well…

Jesus knew how much we liked the sound of our own voices and how easily we could get fixated on short cuts so by teaching the perfect prayer so he prefaced it with a clear directive. He did not want his prayer to be a formula to recite nor a short cut to getting things from God. He wanted it to teach prayer in all its fullness.

1. No yada, yada yada v7,8

If there is one thing that most people are good at, it’s talking. Most can go on for quite some time talking often about a lot of stuff but really nothing of real importance. Jesus knew that and He also knew that we like shortcuts. So with all that in mind, He wanted to make sure neither one of things would happen when He taught about prayer. He taught that words alone are not enough. He also warned about asking over and over for earthly things because “your Father knows what you need before you ask him” v8

It isn’t about how eloquent and how often you pray you prayers. We don’t have to make a lot of noise to get God’s attention. He knows the thoughts and intents of our hearts. He longs to connect with us and He wants it heartfelt and intent on really being in communion with Him.

If we are just mumbling memorized words or listing our laundry line of requests and think, great that’s done, than you’re done. He wants more of you, He wants to hear whatever you have to say. It is in this way that friendship grows. Prayer is meant to be a really great conversation!

  1. God is your Papa – Daddy Father v9

Could there be a more gentle way to approach God? Jesus wanted to know that He is that close, He is that personal, He is that interested. I think we often overlook just how significant that is. Jesus could have opened with O thou eternal and infinite God of wonders, the great I AM, the mighty and glorious One among the heavenly hosts… But HE didn’t! For the disciples it was nothing short of shocking to address God in this way. The name of God was so sacred to the Jewish people that they were not permitted to even speak it out loud.

You may have heard the acronym for prayer as ACTS, but we are missing the most important aspect FAITH. It is the FACTS of prayer. It is in faith that we address God as our Father and realize we are His children.

Jesus then goes on to say “Our Father in heaven” to remind us that God is beyond all space and time. Words of faith build on our relationship with God and words of reverence to make us aware of our place in that relationship

If you like acronyms, here is one from Larry Crabb on PAPA

P present yourself to God without pretense

A attend to how you are thinking of God

P purge yourself of anything that is blocking your relationship with God

A approach God as the first thing in your life

Hallowed be your name.

To pray ‘hallowed be your name’ means first things first. It places the emphasis on God first. We begin prayer by not emphasizing the situation but the God in all situations. It is significant to take time to hallow His name and that our lives are committed to His amazing nature and holiness rather than being all about my needs.

It is our prayer that His name will be respected by those who proclaim it. We pray that His Word will be spoken with clarity and authority and everything else needs to fall in line with that. In a sense our hallowing of His name is that we might be a living song of praise to God in everything that we place our mind, heart and hands to.

It was Augustine who said of hallowing His Name that it is a prayer that His Name would be held holy by men.

It is a celebration of our right through Jesus to adore God’s Holy Name.

Your Kingdom Come, Your Will Be Done!

Your kingdom come resonates with gold and glory. Imagine God’s kingdom reigning on earth, every moment filled with the joy of His unending Presence and perfection. Who wouldn’t want heaven on earth? Artists sing about it, but here’s a news flash. We did have it, although short-lived, it was here and sin plunged us into darkness.

Ever since we have been in the throes of a fight between two kingdoms as Ephesians 2 so accurately puts it.

Jesus said His kingdom is not of this world. John 18:36 and the shouts of Hosanna and Blessed be the King of Israel turned to Crucify Him and we have no king but Caesar (John 19:15)

Are we intent on seeing His kingdom come? Do we want more of heaven on earth, being part of bringing His presence to your world? It’s going to cost you!

It is a prayer request to let the kingdom of God invade our hearts and to bring Christ into every part of our lives. It is a prayer of allegiance and it is saying God, I am on your team, every part of me - I throw myself into it heart and soul

It calls us to love extravagantly, give generously with a heart completely filled with the joy of the Lord!

That is why ‘Your will be done’ so naturally follows in the prayer. He is calling the shots, He is setting the agenda. We submit ourselves to God’s will. It doesn’t always turn out the way that you like it and we can pray with confidence, “No matter what Lord I accept whatever you choose to send me” Its not as much about the destination as it is about the journey along the way.

On earth as it is in heaven...

Jesus lived it, He modeled it, He empowered us to live the same way as He expressed not my will but yours be done in the Garden of Gethsemane. I don’t know about you, but it is a lot easier for me to follow someone who is leading by example and Jesus did that for me. It is easier for me to get up in the morning, it is easier for me to dig in and go the distance when I set my sights on Him. I will give my all for Him, I will put everything into what I do. His life is all the motivation in the world to me.

Give Us Today Our Daily Bread

He could have modeled a prayer for wisdom, for courage, for strength, but NO, He goes back to the most basic need.

I remind you of a great quote from a well known preacher, Howard Hendricks…75% of spirituality is a good night’s rest.

Get back to basics in your prayer life. Bread is the very foundation of our life and in many parts of the world, people don’t know where their next crust of bread is coming from. He was teaching that God can provide the most basic necessities of life and preparing His disciples for a gift way beyond any price…look at Luke 11:11-13 The answer to our prayers is the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is the ultimate “good gift” that God gives in response to our asking, seeking, and knocking. So, too, prayer is about our relationship with God. The more we grow in our relationship with God, the more we’ll want of God.God promises to give us more of the Holy Spirit--in and through all the circumstances of life--as the deepest answer to our prayers.

Ask, and the Holy Spirit will be given to you. Seek, and you will find the Holy Spirit with you. Knock, and the door of God’s kingdom will be opened to you. For how much more will our heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit, to those who ask?

One pastor and writer, Craig Barnes states “Sometimes life gets overwhelming, and we realize we could use a little help. So we pray for our health to get better, for our marriage to work out, for success in our work that has taken a turn for the worse. There is nothing wrong in praying for these things, but they are not what our salvation is about. Don’t expect Jesus to save us by teaching us to depend on the things we are afraid of losing! He loves us too much to let our health, marriage, or work become the savior of our lives. He will abandon every crusade that searches for salvation from anything or anyone other than God. So he delays, he watches as we race down dead-end streets, he lets our mission du jour crash and burn. To receive Jesus as Savior means recognizing him as our only help. Not our only help for getting what we want. But our only true help

We can absolutely trust God with every detail of our life.

Bread stands for everything necessary for our life. Notice Jesus didn’t say me or mine. He said us and our’s! He is telling us to look outside of ourselves and to see the needs of others. It is not enough to count our blessings…we must make our blessing COUNT! We need to throw ourselves into every part of it and give where God shows us – nothing more, nothing less.

Forgive us our debts

The first step on the road to forgiveness is taking an honest look at our faults, our sins and short comings. We need to see this very clearly and it is a very necessary element of prayer. God doesn’t need a list of our sins but we do in order that we seriously own up to what we have done.

In forgiving others we release them from the obligation they owe to us and really place them in much better hands, God’s hands. Shall not the judge of all the earth do right? Genesis 18:25

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one

Well why does God allow us to be tempted in the first place anyways? Its called free will and once again and it has been debated by philosophers and theologians for centuries! However, the Bible answer man, Hank Hanegraaff has a two word answer – free will.

God has given us the opportunity to choose and that is no better illustrated than in 1 Corinthians 10:13. He is always ready to give us strength to make the best choice and He provides us with the spiritual armor to face whatever comes our way. This is especially true as it relates to the devil’s onslaughts. When you battle him, you battle a fallen angel with all of his strength, intelligence and will. He once walked with God but his pride caused his fall. Never underestimate his power, ‘your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

However he is a lion on a leash. So, remember don’t overestimate either and remember that as you submit to God, resist the devil and stand up to his lies, he will flee. 1 Peter 5:8,9

The Takeaway

Keep repeating the Lord’s prayer enough so it becomes a living reality in your life.

It has been said we need to be reminded more than we need to be educated. My prayer is that as I have expanded on this prayer that it has become more precious, more empowering, more fulfilling in your life.

“Finish the sentence” for Discussion and Small Groups:

  1. When ______________________ happened, I felt as if…
  2. Me?! Have a part in bringing God’s kingdom to earth? Well that’s pretty…
  3. It never occurred to me that Jesus expects me to…
  4. Being ‘in debt’ means that I….
  5. Temptation was tapping me on the shoulder when… next thing I knew, I…

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