This morning, we come to the chapter in the Story which contains the Lord’s Prayer. I agree with N.T. Wright, prayer is one of life’s great mysteries. I don’t expect in this sermon to solve the mystery of prayer. All I hope is that we can put a few pieces in the puzzle together. We are going to be pouring the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle of prayer out on the table. Then, sort through them to see if some of the pieces of prayer fit together. You might call the sermon, this morning, “A Few Random Theological Pieces from the Lord’s Prayer, Put Together”... or not.
The Lord’s Prayer begins with a warning…
Matthew 6:6-8 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
Prayer is not a... formula. There is something in us that wants a formula. We want to know, if we say it in the right way, if we have the right motivation, and if we say it enough times; then God will answer our prayers... every time. The pagans of Jesus day worked hard at this. They believed the gods were obligated to grant their requests if they could badger their gods with the right chants long enough. Prayer is not incantations spoken over and over in an attempt to manipulate God.
Rather, prayer is meaningful. After all, our Father knows what we need… already. Harassing him with the same prayer constantly is not going to manipulate him into answering. Rather, our words are real. Our words simply express what is in our hearts. Prayer is words from our heart connecting to the Father. We use words, not chants, to connect to God.
We don’t need many words because God already knows what we need. Long prayers are not necessary. The Lord’s Prayer is under 60 words. What we need, are meaningful words.
This is good news. You don’t have to know how to pray. It is what you would tell a two-year-old, “Use your words. What do you want?”
So, we have two puzzle pieces fitting together… meaning/words.
With this warning, out of the way, we are ready to read the Lord’s Prayer. Watch for the six petitions. There are three are more about God. The last three are more about us.
Matthew 6:9-13 “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.”
The first half of the prayer is about God. The second half of the prayer is about us. This is significant. Prayer which doesn’t start with God, is in danger of being all about us. Here are another two pieces in the jigsaw puzzle of prayer that fit together. “God first” in my prayers / “Me second” in my prayers. Focus on God. Give it to God. Realize you are praying to God. God first.
Let’s begin to sort the “God” pieces of the puzzle.
“Our Father in heaven,”
Stop with these opening words. We are praying to Our Father. We are not praying to an abstract force. It is not, “May the force be with you”. We are not praying to the universe or Mother Nature or a “higher power”. We pray to a Father.
Jesus pioneered the idea of God as Father. Before Jesus, it is rare that YHWH was ever mentioned as a Father to pray to. These words of address in the Lord’s prayer changed everything!
God is Abba. God is our Abba. God is our Father! That changes everything. We are not praying to an impartial deity. We don’t pray attempting to please God. We pray to our Father! God is our Father... in heaven. This is a God who is for us... graceful toward us!
As I said last week, heaven is not a place we are going to when we die. Rather, heaven is a place where Jesus is coming from. The English word, “heaven” is used in three different ways in the New Testament... sky... space... and the throne room of God. But never as a place we are going. Our Father is the almighty. The king on the throne of power. The controller of the Universe... Our Father who sits on the throne of the Universe is the one we bring our prayers!
We have the grace of our father connected to the power of in heaven. “Our Father in heaven” fits two puzzle pieces together… grace and power.
Which leads to… his name...
“hallowed be your name,”
The first petition is a prayer for God to make his name holy; to demonstrate to the world that he is the God of the universe. He is the God of purity. He is the God that is flawless. This first petition acknowledges who God is. God’s name is who he is, not who we want him to be. God is hallowed!
We must fit “holy” into the puzzle pieces of grace and power. Yes, God is our Father who is grace toward us. Yes, God is in heaven; full of power. But our God is also holy; the God who is just, the God who makes all things right. The God who does what is perfect.
Our prayer is for God to be hallowed. Prayer is not demands. Prayer is not ultimatums to God. We bring our prayers before him as offerings. We bring our hearts to the God who is hallowed! We acknowledge the One who is holy! Who will do what is right. Who sees the big picture...
Three pieces are together: grace, power, and holy, which leads to the point of the Lord’s Prayer.
“your kingdom come,”
We come to the central point of the prayer. The Lord’s Prayer is, at its heart, a prayer for the advance of the kingdom of heaven. God’s name will be hallowed as the kingdom advances. God will be the Father of all, who allow the kingdom to rule in their hearts. God’s grace presses the kingdom forward. It is in the advance of the kingdom that’s is the point of the prayer.
Jesus came to begin the restoration of the world. Jesus came to defeat our four enemies!
The four enemies of humanity...
Enemy #1... Satan... with all his cohorts
Enemy #2... Sin... with all its flavors
Enemy #3... Illness... physical, mental, social
Enemy #4... Death... the last enemy
When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we are committing to the intentional spread of the kingdom. That is what we are to be about. Our purpose in this world is to connect to the advance of the kingdom. We live our lives in connection to the kingdom come. The prayer is not may your kingdom come into my heart. It is a bigger prayer. It is… bring my heart into the world where I can be your kingdom.
I bring grace and mercy and power and the hallowedness of his name to advance the kingdom of heaven on earth!
Two more puzzle pieces fit together; my life and your kingdom.
Which brings us to the next petition…
“your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
This is not a safe prayer. This petition is not about the status quo. This petition is audacious. This petition is asking God to take control of the world. It is asking God to restore his world.
He was inviting us to pray for the perfect, beautiful, restorative will of God to cover the earth-families, neighborhoods and nations; film festivals, universities and hospitals; cancer wards, slums and strip clubs; parks, forests and oceans. You can't pray this simple prayer without asking God and trusting God to change the world and the way you look at the world. -- Matt Woodley
Do we believe God will intervene in our world to bring his will from heaven to earth? If we do, this means we must connect God’s will to our lives?
Two more puzzle pieces… my faith – in action to advance the kingdom!
The second half of the prayer turns from God to US... more. The prayer moves to our petitions, but let’s not divorce the two sections completely. Let’s keep putting the pieces together.
“Give us today our daily bread.”
The God who is our Father, who is grace and power and hallowedness is also concerned with the small. The prayer moves from the heavens and doing the will of God on earth and spreading the kingdom… to concern for my bread. This petition is based upon the assumption that God cares about me.
We are free to ask him of any our concerns. It is simple prayer. Give us today the food we need. It is a daily thing. God is willing to listen and answer the most mundane prayers. We bring it all to him in prayer. Our Father is not offended by the rinky-dink.
But are these small prayers rinky-dink? I think “Give us today our daily bread” is still about the kingdom. It is how we live in the kingdom. It is our faith which manifests itself in the mundane; in the real, that allows us to be the grace and mercy and hallowedness of the kingdom.
In our connection to others we live our faith. Two more puzzle pieces; bread and kingdom.
The 5th petition moves from the mundane back to the heavens.
“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
The kingdom is all about forgiveness. The restoration of the world through the will of God is accomplished by forgiveness. Last week, we saw how baptism, moves us from the kingdom of Satan, of sin, of brokenness of death into a kingdom of forgiveness, where sin has been gutted and we receive diplomatic immunity. Our debts are forgiven... as we...
But we must demonstrate that forgiveness to others… continually. There is a connection.
Matthew 6:14-15 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Two more pieces… my forgiveness and your forgiveness… the spread of the kingdom.
“And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.”
God does not tempt us. God does not lead us to the evil one. The thought here is that of I Corinthians 10:13.
1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
Our prayer is for God’s deliverance when we are hurt. Our prayer is for wisdom when we are in a situation. Our prayer is for the evil one not to win.
We are constantly attacked by the evil one. The advance of the kingdom is opposed by the evil one. The four enemies of humanity resist the advancement of the kingdom of heaven. It is dishonoring God’s name in the world. It is hatred and lack of grace and unforgiveness which stand in the way of the kingdom.
I don’t suppose we can dodge all the stuff Satan throws at us, but our prayer is that we will be able to be delivered. Our prayer is to be able to handle the stuff in such a way as to be victorious in advancing the kingdom.
Two more pieces… temptation and deliverance.
We have connected several pieces about prayer together. There is one more connection I would like to make. The words leading into the Lord’s Prayer!
“This, then, is how you should pray:”
I don’t think Jesus intended for us to use the exact words of the Lord’s Prayer. Although, I think it is beautiful to memorize and recite these words. Historically, this has been a powerful tool for prayer. I think Jesus is rather giving us a framework for prayer. Keeping with our puzzle metaphor, this would be the borders of our prayers; which hold the whole thing together.
Here is the framework:
Praise of who God is to us: Our, Father, Hallowed.
Kingdom – advance of the kingdom is central. In world/In my life.
Will in our lives as we advance the kingdom. We pray for insight into how to do it.
Bread – Give me the stuff I need today to do your will and advance the kingdom. What do I need today?
Forgiveness – my sins and the hardness of my heart for forgiveness – restoration of world as I forgive others. Where do I need to confess?
Deliverance – Where is the evil one working and where does God need to deliver me.
Close by praying the Prayer together...
Matthew 6:9-13 This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.”
July 8, 2018
Los Alamos Church of Christ