(An Ikthus East Sermon – July 2015)
TEXT: Matthew 6:9-15
INTRODUCTION: Prayer is supposed to be as natural as breathing for Christians, but for many of us prayer is difficult. We do not know how to pray as we ought (Romans 8:26). That is why we need to be taught how to pray, and this is precisely what the Lord did for his disciples. He gave them and us what is known as the Lord’s Prayer, or better yet, the Model Prayer. The Lord’s Prayer contains a number of petitions, six in all. The first three have to do with God and his glory; after that, the next three petitions have to do with us and our needs. I want us to study this passage in terms not only of the kinds of petitions we ought to bring before God’s throne, but also in terms of the attitudes we ought to have when we pray. And to do that, here are a number of keywords that all begin with the letter “R”.
1. RELATIONSHIP – “Our Father…” (v. 9) When we pray we should remind ourselves that the one to whom we pray is our loving Father who cares for us and who is in fact eager to answer our prayers.
Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:32 ESV) What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:11-13 ESV)
As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. (Psalm 103:13-14 ESV) But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God… (John 1:12)
2. REVERENCE – “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” (v. 9) Indeed, God is our Father, and we should be intimate with him. But it does not mean we should take him for granted or treat him irreverently.
Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. (Ecclesiastes 5:2 ESV)
Let us not rush to the presence of God and blurt out our requests. Let us take time to meditate on his greatness and to adore him. This alone might be enough to dispel our worries.
And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:3-5 ESV)
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness. (Psalm 29:2 ESV)
When we pray let us remember that we are approaching a holy God. There can be no room here for irreverence and flippancy.
“Hallowed be your name.”
“Christ’s followers are asking their heavenly Father to act in such a way that they and an increasing number of others will reverence God, glorify him, consider him holy, and acknowledge him.” (D.A. Carson)
3. RESIGNATION – “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (v. 10)
When we pray we do so not in order to twist God’s arm so that he may do our bidding, but in order to align our wills with his.
“Your kingdom come…”
We pray rightly when we prioritize the interests of God’s kingdom in our requests.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” (Matthew 6:33)
“Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39 ESV)
But if we really want God’s will to be done then we will study the Scriptures diligently to find out what God’s will is.
Next, prayer is not about self-gratification; it is about self-denial.
Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’” (Hebrews 10:5-7 ESV)
The three petitions (hallowing of God’s name, the coming of the Kingdom, the doing of God’s will on earth as it is in heaven) probably refer to one and the same thing: the completion of God’s plan of salvation, i.e., the saving of God’s people and the renewal of heaven and earth, where sin and the devastation it has caused will be no more; instead, God’s redeemed shall forever be praising and hallowing the name of their Savior. But in that case, it is implied that we should make it a priority to pray for Christ’s soon coming, for it is only when the King arrives that the Kingdom will be fully established. But even now the Kingdom is being established even as we pray for people to receive the King into their hearts as their Lord and Savior. Therefore, we should make it a priority to pray for evangelism, for missions, for the church, for the spread of the gospel, etc.
4. REQUESTS – “Give us this day our daily bread…” (v. 11)
Only after we have prayed for Kingdom priorities do we come now to our own needs, especially for material provisions. And the fact that the Lord teaches us to pray for our daily bread means that we ought to acknowledge our absolute dependence on God for our daily sustenance and provisions.
The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing. (Psalm 145:15-16 ESV)
It is interesting that the Lord teaches us to pray for today’s bread and not for next year’s or even tomorrow’s bread. He is here teaching us that we ought not to worry about tomorrow’s bread; it is enough that we ask for today’s bread. The God who provides for today will surely provide for tomorrow. And daily he will do so. When tomorrow comes then that is the time to ask.
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:34 ESV)
5. REPENTANCE – “… and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (v. 12)
Prayer also involves confession and repentance. It is important that we ask God to cleanse us of our daily sins; otherwise, our prayers will be hindered.
But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. (Isaiah 59:2 ESV)
Let us not be afraid to come to God for forgiveness. As long as we sincerely repent he will forgive us. “If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) But let us also be willing to forgive others. He who has no heart to extend forgiveness to those who have sinned against him is a person who does not realize how much he has sinned against God. God will not forgive him for the simple reason that he is not truly repentant; for if he were, he would be willing to forgive others.
6. RESCUE – “And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” (v. 13)
“Lead us not into temptation” means “Lead us far away from temptation.” The reason why we succumb to temptation is because we fail to pray in advance against it. This only goes to show how important prayer is in our fight against sin. A Christian who does not pray is powerless against sin. Do you want to be victorious against sin? Then pray and pray and pray again. The Lord Jesus himself said, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41 ESV)
“Deliver us from evil or from the evil one.” The Bible describes the devil as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. He is the thief who has come to kill and destroy. In and of ourselves we are no match for him. We can only stand up against him if the Lord, in answer to our prayers, were to fight by our side and deliver us. So once again, prayer is crucial. It is one of the most important weapons of spiritual warfare. The Bible says we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places. In our fight against the enemy we are commanded to “take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit with all prayer and supplication.” (Ephesians 6:17-18)
Brothers and sisters, we are at war. Pray or perish!