Pray Like This: Matthew 6:9-15
Background: Last week we looked at 6:1-18 and saw that disciples are to pursue holiness for the sight of and reward of God alone. This week we will zero in specifically on how to do that in terms of prayer.
Main Idea: God's Son teaches us to pray prioritizing the Father’s glorious reign in childlike dependence for all things.
Outline: Our outline for today will examine the seven parts of the Lord’s Prayer/model prayer. First we will see who we are to address prayer to and then the six petitions in the prayer.
Address: Pray to Our Father (7-9a)
Not formulaic manipulation of a distant deity (7) “do not heap up empty phrases” The Gentiles thought of their deities as distant gods who had to be coerced into activity because they were often uncaring about what was happening in the human world. But the God we address is not distant and cold, nor does he have to be manipulated into caring about the events of our world. God not only created the world, but is actively working to sustain the world. He did not wind up the watch he created and lay it down to wind down, he is each second of each day holding the universe in continued existence.
Childlike dependence (8) “for your Father knows what you need” Fatherhood caveat: I know that some listening today struggle with the concept of God as Father because the father examples in your life have been terrible. Many of them have sinned against you and cause you irreparable harm. But the answer to that is not to run away from the NT emphasis of God as Father of all of Jesus disciples. Instead the answer is to press into what a good father is and does for their children realizing that may cause you to grieve the loss of your earthly father. But you Christian are not void of a good Father. In fact you through Christ are sons and daughters of the absolutely perfect loving Father who always does what is best for his children. Fathers are intimately involved with their children and often know what their children need before they even know to ask. Children are not afraid to make petition of their fathers, they boldly ask for the things they want. Further children know their fathers will protect them even from themselves including their bad requests.
Revolutionary connection to Jesus & One Another (9a) When Jesus tells us to pray “Our Father” it is revolutionary in many ways. Such intimacy and personal connection to God was absent from Jewish prayers of the day. Recall that the Jewish people would not address God by his revealed name in the OT, Yahweh for fear of misusing the name. While the OT has some shadows that point forward at God as Father, this concept cannot truly be taught until Christ the beloved Son has arrived on the scene. So the address of the Lord’s Prayer ought to flabbergast you, because Jesus is telling you to address the Creator and Sustainer of the universe as “Father”. It is also quite important that we understand that we address him as Father by our union with Christ the True Son. So Jesus says “Our Father” because God is only my Father because I am united to Christ the Son. “Our Father” also points out to the corporate nature of our prayer. We are part of a larger family than just the Father and the Son we are adopted sons and daughters together. All Christians from all places and times come together making these requests of our Good Father!
So we pray to God as Father, here is what we pray
Petition #1: Pray that Father would be Magnified (9b)
Already/Not Yet-Earth & Heaven: So the first three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer are directed at God and his purposes in the world. In many ways the three petitions are three ways of saying the same thing. Basically they are all saying, “May what is already true in Heaven, be growingly true on earth.” The Lord’s prayer intentionally gets our head focused on eternity. You may have heard the old saying that someone is “so heavenly minded they are no earthly good.” But Jesus teaches his disciples that the only way they can be any earthly good is to be heavenly minded. Our hope and sanctification for today is rooted in the sure future we are promised by our heavenly Father.
Holy Name made Holy: “hallowed be your name,” is not a phrase we use except when we cite the Lord’s prayer. The only other place I can recall it being used in our culture is the “hallowed halls of academia” or something of that nature. The word means “sanctify or make holy” so how in the world can God’s perfectly holy name be made holier? I believe the point especially when you look at the other two petitions are connected to this is that God’s name would be growingly made holy among the human race. Because even though God’s name is already infinitely holy, his name is not treated as holy by billions in our world. Furthermore even those who do recognize God’s name as holy like you and I, we do not fully recognize his holiness or rightly reverence his name. So the prayer is that I and all other rebellious men and women would ascribe to God the Worship he is worthy of!
So pray God’s name would be worshiped more and more, and
Petition #2: Pray that Father would Rule Completely (10a)
Kingdom at Hand and Kingdom keep coming: If you recall the introductory message of Jesus ministry in Mt 4:17, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” You may then be confused by why Jesus tells us to pray for the kingdom to come. God’s kingdom represents the place where his rule is complete. Now there is clearly a sense where God the Father reigns completely over all the universe. Nevertheless God has allowed his reign to be challenged on earth. Satan is said to be the ruler of the kingdoms of the world. We saw that in Mt 4 when he offered them to Jesus if Jesus would worship him. Now the reality is God can squash Satan whenever he chooses, but God’s plan is that his kingdom would grow from a small seed and spread and take over the world until the day that Christ returns to make his rule complete. So praying for the Father’s kingdom to come is a prayer of submission to God’s reign in our own hearts and lives and a desire for the expansion of God’s reign through gospel witness in the world we live, and ultimately is a hope for Christ to come and bring about the final stage of the new creation!
So pray God’s reign would expand more and more, and
Petition #3: Pray that Father’s Purposes are fulfilled (10b)
Not my will, but yours be done: This petition of the prayer is saying that regardless of what my will is, please Good Father make sure that your will is done. Jesus models this prayer for us in the Garden of Gethsemane where he faces in prayer what is coming on him the cup of God’s judgment, and of course he does not want to experience the separation that is coming because he will drink that cup. (Mt 26:39) "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.” All of our prayers must face this hard reality! Are we seeking our wills to be done or do we genuinely want the will of the Father to be done, even if that is in direct contradiction to what we want!
So pray God’s purposes would be fulfilled more and more, and
Petition #4: Pray that Father Provides Material Needs (11)
Order of petitions important: Now I do not want to press this point too far, because the prayer is meant as a model not a formula. But did you notice how the prayer begins with three petitions that focus on the glory of God before it makes the first petition for something we need for ourselves. I believe there are at least two important reasons for this ordering: 1st prayer is to be an activity of relational formation with God not simply asking for stuff. We all have people in our lives who only want us for what we can do for them. Those people do not love us they love themselves and/or the provisions we offer them. True disciples want relationship with the Father and the Son not simply what God can do for them. So if your prayer is only ever a laundry list of what you want from God, maybe you need to spend some time in reflection on whether you have a relationship with God or if you are just attempting to use God! 2nd right prayer shapes our heart and our desires. What I mean is if we begin asking our Father to be glorified in this world and we pray genuinely, then it will be hard for us to ask for things that we know would not bring the Father glory. So prior to our petitions for ourselves our mind is prepared for right asking. It is hard to imagine how God would be glorified by me getting a Maclaren, or in the words of a popular country song, “I pray your brakes go out runnin’ down a hill.”
Daily Bread: While some have spiritualized this request, it is quite clear that God is concerned to provide for the essential needs of his children. Consider Israel in the wilderness they were given daily bread in the form of manna from the sky. But they were not to gather for multiple days except preparing for Sabbath or God’s good gift of bread would spoil. Notice however the request is for daily bread which is the essentials of life. Most of us need to realize that with the prosperity of our culture, it has driven us more and more to self-reliance. Further self-reliance is one of the prized character traits of our self-centered culture. Yet biblically we must recognizes that self-reliance will take us straight to hell. We are not able to pull ourselves up by our boot straps and provide everything we need. Furthermore everything we have, whether earned by the sweat of our brow or handed to us as an inheritance is ultimately a good gift from God’s hands. So the prayer for daily bread is a prayer that recognizes our total and utter dependence on the Father who gives and takes away at his good pleasure.
So pray for material needs and
Petition #5: Pray that Father Forgives Spiritual Debt (12, 14-15)
Praying for actual forgiveness (12a) After praying for the oft most visible material needs of our life the final two petitions move to needs of greater significance for our eternity. We are told to pray that the Father would “forgive our debts.” The debt being alluded too is not a financial one, but instead the debt that our sins have put us in. “The wages of sin is death,” so every sin we commit earns a wage of death and it is compounded over and over again. So if you are listening to this today and have ever sinned you have earned before God the Creator and Judge of the world the sentence of death. But wait there is great news, (Col 2:13–14) "And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, "by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” So if you trust in Christ who died in the place of sinners, your debt is nailed to the cross and marked fully paid. Your debt is forgiven and you are welcomed into the now and forever family of God.
Necessary attitude of Forgiven (12b, 14-15) Nevertheless Jesus makes clear here what he has said before many times in many ways. Simple saying of words like “forgive me” have zero meaning and effect if they are not genuinely from the heart. It seems Jesus is saying like many of the other warning passages of Scripture that a person who has truly been forgiven of the enormous debt that God had to forgive of all his children, will be willing to forgive any debt against them. The parable of the unforgiving servant in Mt 18:23-35 gives us a story form to these words. But I want you to see that an attitude of forgiveness displays a relationship with God who has forgiven, and an attitude of bitterness that will not forgive displays a lack of understanding of how merciful and gracious God has been in the offer of forgiveness for you!
So pray for forgiveness and
Petition #6: Pray that Father Protects from Evil (13)
Pray that the Father would spare you from Desert Testing: The final petition of the Jesus’ model prayer for his disciples is integrally linked to Jesus personal experience in (Mt 4:1) "Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” Jesus is teaching his disciples to pray to the Father that they would not experience the same kind of brutal testing that Jesus experienced. Instead of that kind of extreme spiritual testing they asked to be “delivered from evil” or the “evil one” which is probably the correct translation here because of the contextual connection to Mt 4. There are at a couple of applications from this final petition that really jump out to me. 1st is that just because we pray for something does not mean that we get it. Sometimes other of Jesus words are misinterpreted to mean that if we ask for anything in faith that we will get it. But the clear intention of Scripture is that if we ask for anything in faith and it is in God’s providential will then we will get it. Sometimes God wills the testing and suffering of his saints which means we do not always get what ask for, or at least not the way we ask for it. On January 8, 1956 five missionaries who had been praying for the evangelization of a tribe of South American Indians that were at that time completely unreached with the gospel landed a plane expecting to build further relationships with that tribe. These missionaries led by Jim Eliot had been fiercely praying that God would save this people for years. But on that day a group of 10 warriors from the tribe came out and killed all five missionaries. If you don’t know the story the families of the missionaries, their wives and children went back to the tribe and the forgiveness they offered to the tribe who killed their husbands and fathers led to the salvation of many in the tribe. Mincaye was one of the warriors who killed those missionaries who was converted to Christ he died this last week and entered into glory where I am confident he was greeted by his Savior and the five men he killed. The suffering of those missionaries and their families led to the salvation of untold numbers of people in this generation and the generations to come. The 2nd application that jumps out at me is that we need to wake up from the spiritual haze that we are in and realize there is a much greater spiritual battle that is raging around us. I would assume the first two personal petitions are things you and I pray for regularly. It is quite easy for us to pray for the material needs we have. They press in on us and we feel their weight easily. Also for most of us we know we are sinners in need of God’s grace so we pray regularly for God’s forgiveness as we repent of sins we continue to commit that dishonor God. However when is the last time you prayed that God would not allow you to enter the desert of testing or that God would keep you safe from the evil one? (1 Pe 5:8) "Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Heed Jesus warning to his disciples from Gethsemane where Jesus had his most difficult hour of prayer, (Mt 26:41) "Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."
Let us Pray