What's happened in your life this past week? Was there a pressing task or issue that left you feeling overwhelmed or worn out? Did you want to pray for help
This past week did you see something special or experience something wonderful? Did you want to say a prayer of thanks?
During the last few days did you offend a friend, a co-worker, or someone you love? Did you want to make amends or offer a prayer of repentance?
Everyday there's something that reminds us of God, or our need for God. We may blow off this need for God, rather than welcoming God into our lives, but
nonetheless there will always be this nagging feeling of emptiness in our lives until we invite and receive God into our hearts. You see there's a place in our lives only God can
fill, and until we allow God to fill this void we won't be whole, and our relationship with God will be incomplete.
Now what I've found, through personal experience, is that this emptiness or void can be filled by connecting or re-connecting with God through prayer.
But I also know first hand that sometimes prayer itself can be overwhelming as we worry about what we're saying, when we're saying it, where we're saying it,
and how we're saying it. I confess there have been times when I've wondered if my prayer has fallen on deaf ears, or if there was perhaps a better way to express my thoughts so I
would get the results I wanted, or at least the affirmation the prayer was heard. I've even fallen asleep while I was praying. And there have been times I've been so frustrated I've
cried out "O Lord please teach me to pray!"
Now you can buy book shelves and book shelves of books on prayer, but you don't have to, to be an effective prayer warrior. God through the example of Jesus
Christ has provided instruction and a model for prayer in our scripture reading this morning. Now one of the things we certainly know about Jesus is that when he prayed things
happened: " The sick were healed " The spiritually broken were liberated " Sins were forgiven " Many people were fed " The dead were raised to life " And lives were changed.
You see prayer was at the top of Jesus' "to do list." He got up early to pray and stayed up late to pray. Prayer was a priority for him. And because of his
discipline of prayer, and the results he experienced, the disciples wanted Jesus to teach them how to pray the way he did.
Now most of the disciples had grown up in the Jewish faith tradition and had been taught how to pray in the customary manner of their faith. But what they
were saying to Jesus was, "Look, teach us how to pray the way you do, you know with enthusiasm and passion, so we can achieve the remarkable results you seem to get when you pray."
So Jesus began by telling them they had to first relate to God as their heavenly Father, and then closed by telling them that the greatest gift God could give
those who seek to pray was the gift of the Holy Spirit. You see when we struggle to pray we can always turn to the Holy Spirit for help, because it's the Spirit that helps us know
how to pray. (Romans 8:26)
Now our scripture reading this morning includes many familiar words, words we've come to call the Lord's Prayer. In these few verses Jesus provides us with a
model for prayer. This doesn't mean other models or patterns of prayer aren't appropriate, nor does it mean this is the best prayer ever written. But it's a prayer Jesus taught, so
we ought to pay close attention to it.
Now there's also something very ironic about the Lord's Prayer. Most Christians learn this prayer very early in their faith walk, for some this means as early
as pre-school. Many Christians recite this prayer every Sunday, as we do, and others recite this prayer on a daily basis, as I know some of you do.
Many of us know the prayer so well we can recite it without even thinking about the words anymore. And there in lies the irony. In Matthews writing of this
same event, just a few moments before giving his disciples this prayer, Jesus counseled the disciples about avoiding the mistakes of "the Gentiles" who "heap up empty phrases,
because they think they'll be heard because of their many words." (Matthew 6:7)
And regrettably some of us have turned the Lord's Prayer into exactly that: empty phrases or meaningless words. We sometimes treat this prayer like magic
words hoping it will get us what we want, when we want it, and how we want it. Well, that's certainly not what Jesus intended.
So does this mean we should never recite the Lord's Prayeror recite it more frequently? Of course not, but it does mean we ought to know what we're praying
for, why we're praying for it, how we're praying for it, and really meaning, from the heart, what we're praying.
Let's take a look at some of the phrases used in this prayer so we can better understand what we're praying for when we recite it.
Jesus prayer begins by praising God with the word "Father." Right off the bat we're reminded of our relationship with God, that being a relationship that's
akin to the relationship between a parent and a child.
Now other Jewish prayers of the time proclaimed God as the King of the universe, the Creator of all, and certainly these statements are true and very
appropriate. But what's new about Jesus' teaching is the relationship aspect of God to creation. God loves every single person, just as a parent loves each of his or her children.
And praising God first puts us in the right spiritual posture to tell God about our concerns and needs. Too often our prayers tend to be more like shopping
lists rather than heart-generated conversations. And more than anything else God cares about the motivation of our heart, not the words we use.
Hallowed be Your Name Now what in the world does "hallowed be your name mean?" Well the word hallowed, simply means holy or blessed.
As we read the Old Testament, which contains many of the scriptures the people of Jesus time were familiar with, we see people and things becoming holy or
blessed as they connect with God. So holiness seems to be the same as godliness, and it goes without saying God is godly, and God is holy.
In English the word holy (h-o-l-y) is related to the word whole (w-h-o-l-e), meaning complete. Well when we connect with God, God makes us complete, God makes
us whole. God is the essence of wholeness, and we find our wholeness in God. So by saying "hallowed be your name," we're saying God is holy or blessed.
And as we strive to be more like Christ we are in affect trying to become more holy. Our acknowledgement that God is holy is indicating we haven't yet reached
The next phrase is "Your Kingdom Come." Throughout his life on earth Jesus spent a lot of time preaching about God's kingdom. He told stories about the
kingdom using comparisons people could relate to. Jesus said, "the kingdom of God is like a pearl that's so amazing a merchant could trade everything else he has to possess it"
(Matt. 13:45-46). Jesus also compared the kingdom to a mustard seed: "the smallest of all the seeds, but when it's grown, it's the greatest of shrubs" (Matt. 13:32).
People of the time were anticipating a future time when God would set up his kingdom on earth, reigning over all the nations. But Jesus stressed that God's
kingdom is whatever and whenever people honor him as their king. When we pray for God's kingdom to come, we raise God's flag in our hearts right now, not in some future time. And
here's the dichotomy: God's kingdom has come to those who believe and follow, and yet it is still too come in fullness when Christ returns.
The next phrase I want to mention isn't found in our scripture this morning but is an important part of the Lord's Prayer today, so I want to mention it: Your
Will be Done.
Now some people are confused by the phrase "your will be done." Doesn't God do what God wants to anyway, so why bother praying for God's will to be done? Well
as we pray for God's will to be done we're communicating our compliance to God's will. What we're saying is, "We want what you want, Lord." It's a commitment to live the way God
wants us to live.
The next phrase is "Give Us Each Day Our Daily Bread." As the Israelites wandered the desert in the time of Moses, they knew all about daily bread. God sent
manna from heaven each and every day to nourish them. But if someone tried to hoard any of the manna, it quickly spoiled.
The point was folks had to trust God to provide for them each day. God's provision is a daily occurrence, not something that happens all at once. We can't
store up provisions and then cut off communication with God until we need or want something else.
Nowadays, if we're thoroughly insured and wisely invested, we might feel we're well provided for. Not only is this misguided thinking, we also miss out on the
joy of realizing God's daily provision, whatever that provision might be. And as we know, know matter how much we plan and prepare problems still arise, which reminds us again and
again that we need God in our lives every day, not just from time to time.
Jesus goes on to say later in our pericope we should ask God for what we need; and notice I said "need" not "want."
And I suggest whenever we feel as if we're running on empty, we're at our wits end and lack daily provision, whatever that provision might be, we ought to ask
ourselves, "How long have I been away from the source of my daily provisions?" One of the reasons we ought to worship every week, if not more frequently, is to ensure we remain
connected to the Source.
Next we pray "Forgive us Our Sins" Confession is also an important part of this model prayer, but there's a catch. As part of the Lord's Prayer we ask God to
forgive our sins, which means we're asking God to forgive our debts or trespasses, but in return we're also expected to offer forgiveness to others. "Forgive us our sins as we
forgive those who sin against us."
Jesus told a story about a servant whose debt of millions of dollars was forgiven, but then this guy turned around and demanded payment of a few dollars from
someone who owed him money (Matt. 18:21-35). That's not the way it's supposed to work. Simply stated forgiven people are to forgive others.
Through forgiveness we experience a change of heart, which in turn motivates us to forgive those who have wronged us in some way. You see once we truly
understand how much God has forgiven us; our heart melts in love and mercy towards others.
And then the last phrase spoken is, "Lead us Not into Temptation." The Lord's Prayer concludes with a request for deliverance from temptation. Truth be told
we don't want to face trials or temptations, and if we do, we don't want evil to triumph over us.
The request to not be led into temptation is often denied by God. As followers of Christ we will face temptations, we will face trials. Now there's no
disgrace in praying that we avoid difficult times, but we must recognize that often times God uses the temptations and difficult times we face in our lives to help us grow.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed that the time of trial he was about to face be removed. But it wasn't, so he invoked another part of the Lord's
Prayer when he said, "Your will be done" (Mark 14:36). When we face trials, we can be assured, just as Jesus was, that God is right there with us, we're not alone.
Now consider our order of worship for just a moment. I see our worship celebration, among other things, as an hour or so long prayer. " We begin by praising
God, lifting up God's name above all names. " We offer a confession, which again is the cornerstone of our relationship with God. " We listen to God's Word and God's Word proclaimed
to learn and to grow in our relationship with God. " Then out of concern for people we pray for them and share our joys and concerns with one another. " We give thanks to God by
offering ourselves and our gifts to the Lord and the work of Christ's church. " When we celebrate Holy Communion, as we will next Sunday, we experience our relationship with God, not
through the bread and wine specifically, but through the real presence of Jesus Christ as we gather at his table. " We then sing of the victory and hope of following Christ. " And we
conclude with a blessing on our lives as we prepare to go about our week. As the hymn writer writes, "It's a Sweet Hour of Prayer."
You see more than anything God desires to be close to us, to be in a parent-child relationship with us, and to be part of our lives. God wants us to turn to
God whenever we feel weak, scared, or alone and need someone who can help us.
Prayers don't have to be special, use fancy religious words, or be said in a place full of the symbols of our faith. The only requirement for prayer is that
it comes from the heart.
Prayer is really just talking and listening to God. Prayer is about sharing our hopes and dreams, our fears, and our heartaches with the only One who
understands us completely. And prayer is a means to grow in our relationship with the one who created us, the one who saves us, and the one who sustains us. Amen
So now please join me in the Lord's Prayer as it's printed in the hymnal # 894.