Damariscotta Baptist Church
Monday, May 21, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

09/09/12 Sermon (Art Conley)

Sermon On The Lord’s Prayer
Art Conley on September 9, 2012 

Why do Christians Pray?

The purpose of prayer is to communicate with God as we show our dependence on him. Through the personal experience of prayer, we gain clarity of vision, understanding of reality, strength for action and courage for living.

At the same time that Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he told them: “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:20-21 (NIV). Christians pray to God to build a relationship with him and store their real treasures in heaven.

It is like having a bank account, where you put away savings for future use. If you don’t put savings into the account, they won’t be there when you need to use them. Good intentions don’t count. In the same way, if you don’t build your relationship with God, you will have no spiritual strength to draw on in times of trouble.

Introduction

In a world of many gods, there is only one living God. The Israelites were unique in their worship of only one God. Moses wrote, “Listen, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (NLT). Devout Jews reminded themselves of this every day in their prayers. This much, the disciples knew. But, they also knew that they needed to develop a closer relationship with God. They just didn’t know how. One day, when they observed Jesus praying, they approached him after his prayer and asked him to teach them how to pray. Because they were now mature enough, they were ready to learn the principles of prayer and Jesus could teach them how to approach God.

The prayer Jesus taught his disciples is known as “The Lord’s Prayer” and we are all familiar with it. We recite it in times of personal need and we also say it together in community worship, as we try to get closer to our spiritual Father. Unfortunately, as with many things that are very familiar to us, we are so use to saying the prayer that we take it for granted. We lose the meaning and don’t appreciate the depth of the words we are repeating. We should make it a habit to periodically review the meaning of the Lord’s Prayer in detail.

Honoring God

God comes first in the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus starts with, “Our Father”, not “my father” because God is the God of all people. Jesus uses the term “father” to explain the close relationship of God to his people. Christianity is the only religion that has this relationship. The pagan gods are arbitrary and demanding and pagans are outside of a caring relationship with their false gods. Believing that God is the father of us all automatically makes us brothers to all people. We have a God who has called us friend and wants us to be friends with everyone.

The next four words of the prayer tell us about God, “which art in heaven.” While God is our friend, we mustn’t forget that he is a holy God who is far above us. His holiness means that we are to approach him in wonder and with adoration. We have a loving God, but one who is to be treated with awe and reverence.

The prayer continues honoring God with, “Hallowed be thy name.” The name of God been held in honor and respect by all believers throughout history. In Biblical thought, a name is more than a way of referring to someone; a name reveals a person’s character and nature. In the Bible, we find many occasions when a person changed their character or nature and they also changed their names. Abram (exalted father) becomes Abraham (father of many nations) and Jacob (he deceives) becomes Israel (he won his struggle with God). This means, that to know the name of God is to know God as he has revealed himself to us. Or, as the Interpreter’s Bible states, “The full disclosure of God’s nature and character are given in Jesus Christ, who manifested his name.” Stated another way, if you know Jesus, you also know the Father.

 Eugene Peterson managed to capture the name of God in his translation of John 17: 26. In the words of Jesus, “I have made your very being known to them— Who you are and what you do— And continue to make it known...” John 17:26 (MSG). “Who God is and what he does,” is still being made known to Jesus’ disciples through the words of the Bible and by the Holy Spirit.

Today, we find the name of God being used frivolously by many people of the world and this disrespect is even being used by church people. How many times have I heard some one say, “Oh, My God”, in a trivial unconscious way. Hearing this is like feeling a spider crawling up my arm. The name of God should always be used in the reverend and respectful way his nature and character command. God is Father and is also Supreme Being; he is always near us and always to be held in reverence. 

Thy Kingdom Come

“Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” This couplet requests God’s Kingdom to come so that our lives on earth will be like the life we will experience in heaven. There is so much confusion over the meaning of the Kingdom of Heaven, also called the Kingdom of God, that I need to pause and say a little about it. The Kingdom is God’s rule that Jesus brought into the world and it will continue to grow until the consummation at Jesus second coming.

The world we live in is not what God intended for his people. Over the centuries, we the people have made the world of today what it is by abusing our free will with bad decisions.

What God created was the Garden of Eden. That was a beautiful and ideal place to live as described in the Book of Genesis. From the time of the Fall of Adam and Eve, and their expulsion from the Garden of Eden, God has been preparing his people to live in his Kingdom that is defined in the Book of Revelation. John tells us:

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." Revelation 21:3-4 (NIV).

The importance of the Kingdom of God can not be over-emphasized, for it is clear that the Kingdom of God was the central message for Jesus. He opened his ministry by saying, "The time has come." … "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" Mark 1:14-15 (NIV). Jesus also said, "I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent." Luke 4:43 (NIV).

Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of Heaven as a past event, as a present event and as a future event. Jesus said that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, as well as all the prophets were already in the Kingdom. He said, “the kingdom of God is within you," which is in the present tense. Jesus also taught that the Kingdom was to be prayed for as something to come.

To understand the Kingdom in terms of past, present and future, we need to think of it as a personal submission to the will of God. William Barclay states that, “It is only when each one of us makes the personal decision and submission that the Kingdom comes. … To pray for the Kingdom of Heaven is to pray that we may submit our wills entirely to the will of God.” We must each receive the gift of the Kingdom on an individual basis.

 Our Daily Bread

The petition, “Give us this day our daily bread,” seems straight forward, but there are many ways that this verse is interpreted. Some theologians look at this verse as related to spiritual bread, with some Biblical support for this stand. The Word of God is often referred to as “the bread of life”, meaning spiritual food. At the Last Supper, Jesus called himself the “bread of life.” To be spiritually fed on the “bread of life” every day, Roman Catholics celebrate the Lord’s Supper on a daily basis. You would certainly be in good company if you agree with this interpretation.  

However, William Barclay points out several truths that become apparent when we look at the simple explanation. The first is that God cares about our bodies. Since Jesus spent much of his ministry healing diseases and caring for the physically hungry, his actions dispel the heresies that belittle and despise the body. God created and cares for the entire person.

The next truth is that we are praying for our physical needs one day at a time and we are not to worry or be anxious about the uncertain future. Just as the Israelites wandering in the wilderness were instructed to gather only enough manna for that day, we are to work for today and trust God for tomorrow. The lesson for us to learn is that we need to be dependent on God for supplying our needs. Don’t take this to mean that we are not to plan and prepare for the future.

As the verse implies, our food is a direct gift from God. It is from God that we receive the food necessary to sustain life. Only God can create life. Man can repair, modify and tend, but he can not create life.

This verse reminds us how prayer and works go together. While it is true that a living seed can only come from God, it is also true that it is man’s task to plant and cultivate the seed. Barclay states that, “When we pray this petition we are recognizing two basic truths – that without God we can do nothing, and that without our effort and co-operation God can do nothing for us.”

A final note on this passage is that Jesus did not say, “Give me”. Jesus did say, “Give us”. We are in this world to take care of each other and if we did, there would be no hunger any where in the world. God has provided more than enough food to feed the world – that was his part. It is our task to provide the distribution system. Were to busy distributing weapons to take the time to distribute the food.

Forgive

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Some denominations use a different word for “debts”, like “trespass” or “sin”. The Greek word used by Matthew for “debts” means “a failure to pay that which is due,” and is rendered as “debts” in all major translations. However, Luke uses the Greek word that means, “sin” in his account of the prayer. It is best not to get hung up on a particular translation, but concentrate on the point of forgiveness.

Some people find it very hard to forgive a person that has hurt them. But, when we stop to think that God forgives and forgets our many major failings, it makes sense that we should forgive others. Jesus is very serious about forgiveness and clarifies this in verse 15 by letting us know that “if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

It is not that God does not want to forgive, but, when we don’t forgive, we block ourselves from accepting God’s forgiveness. It is not always easy to forgive and that is why we need to ask for help from God. He can help us find the resources to forgive and forget what others have done to us, just as he freely forgives us for our sins. 

Temptation

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:” God does not tempt us, although he may test us as a way to help us mature in our spiritual lives. Satan does tempt us, so we petition God to keep us from the clutches of Satan.

If you wonder what is the difference between testing and temptation. There is purpose in testing. When God tests us, he gives us a challenge to overcome. As we struggle with the challenge, we mature and grow in developing character and perseverance.

In temptation, Satan is trying to persuade us to defy God by doing that which we know as being against God’s will. This destroys character and turns us away from God.

We can resist temptations by praying to God for help, which he will gladly supply. Of coarse, we are expected to do our part, too. If we are tempted by overeating, it is not wise to go to buffets. If we are tempted to misuse of alcohol, we should stay away from cocktail parties and bars.

Doxology

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.” This is a Doxology and a Doxology is an expression of praise to God. This verse is not in modern translations of the Bible because it was not in the original texts. It showed up in primitive form sometime late in the second century and was adopted by the King James translators as a fitting ending to the Lord’s Prayer. Some think that a transcriber was overcome with awe and added the words in the margin of his copy. It was so appropriate that it became part of the text. This is a fitting end to the prayer in that it acknowledges God’s primacy in the Kingdom and his power and glory, which are forever.

Prayer

Father, thank you for the gift of Jesus, who showed us how to relate to you through prayer and by the way we treat others. Teach us not only how to pray but especially what prayer means. Send your Holy Spirit to guide us and keep us in your way.

 Amen.