Over the summer, we’ve traveled with Jesus to different places and found him in different situations. Especially in his relationships with people, he was not one-dimensional. He went to the shore – that was where he called his first disciples and began teaching them how to fish (for people!). He went to parties and we learned that whenever he is around, water might turn to wine – he makes life fulfilling. He took a trip to the mountains, to show us who he is (God), and not to be afraid of the cross – he will overcome and we will overcome the worst things of life with him. All along the way, wherever he goes, Jesus heals – making us whole, and giving us a ministry of healing. Something else that Jesus does, wherever he goes, is pray. All the time. He finds a private place and spends time with God, his father.
It’s not such a silly question; if you can’t see God as a person, which is one of the reasons Jesus came, then your relationship with God isn’t nearly as close as it could be.
One of the most important things that you can do with your life is prayer. Very simply – prayer is relationship with God, and this morning, Jesus will help us know how to think about that relationship. He’s about to give us a prayer tutorial.
Luke 11:1-4. He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”
2 He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come.
3 Give us each day our daily bread.
4 And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.”
Sound familiar? That’s Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer. Just a little simpler, right? (compared to Matthew 6:9-13)
Now Jesus has some more to say about this relationship God wants with us… (listen closely!)
9 ‘So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13If 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!’
I want you to see, one more time, a key part of what Jesus just said:
“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.
…how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’
The Holy Spirit is God living in us, living in you and me. Can’t get much closer than that. That is God’s deepest desire, to be living in us. The most integrated relationship two people could have. That is what God is hoping we ask for.
Let’s think for a minute about what prayer is not:
1. Prayer is not magic. God is not a genie, standing by to grant wishes. God is always paying attention to the circumstances of our lives and either does – or allows – what’s best for us. Prayer does not change other people, although God may choose to get their attention somehow. It’s more likely that God the Spirit will change your own attitude to make you more forgiving and tolerant.
2. Prayer does not make demands. Of course, God wants to know our requests, but it’s important to remember that God is the Creator of the universe and does not take orders from us.
3. Prayer is not a guarantee against suffering. Jesus actually said, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33); and ” do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:12-13).
4. Prayer is not an opportunity for us to show off. Jesus said, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men” (Matthew 6:5). God is not counting the words. Sometimes it’s best to keep it simple.
[Based on http://www.focusonthefamily.com/faith/faith-in-life/prayer/prayer]
When I say, “Our Father…” Your mind starts to make your mouth finish a prayer. You may not know it, but you’re quoting scripture – five verses from the gospel of Matthew (6:9-13). In worship from week to week, we’re quoting the King James version of the Lord’s Prayer. So, Luke’s version might have sounded a little odd. Maybe it should be called “The Disciples’ Prayer,” because the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray. Jesus responds not just by telling them what to say, he teaches them an attitude toward God – and toward each other – through prayer. The attitude is what’s important.
Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Jesus starts by telling them to say “Father…” – a name for God nobody had heard before. This is someone we have an intimate relationship with, not just Almighty God somewhere on the other side of the clouds or locked away in the Temple (or in church). Formal religious ritual has it’s place, but this God the Father reaches out for an embrace. You don’t have to be in church to connect with God the Father. This is someone who knows us, who knows where all our scars are, who knows what our talents are and what we’re good at in school. Someone who accepts us as we are, “warts” and all. Someone who knows what we need and wants to help us get it. Someone who doesn’t expect some sort of flowery, articulate oration when we pray. To make this point, Tony Campolo used to say…
Imagine that you’re sixteen or seventeen and you need the car. You find your dad in the recliner in the living room and you say, “O great owner of the house and the wheels in yon driveway, O great giver of the very breath with which I speak: Surely, you have given me good and wonderful things all the days of my life, especially that computer last Christmas, and for these things I will be thankful forever and ever. I humbly come to you in this time of need asking, nay, beseeching thee for the keys to the Volvo.”
I think God is happy when we pray, but how would your dad feel if you talked to him like this all the time? The most effective prayers come from the depths of our souls when words don’t come easily. “…the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” (Romans 8:26) These prayers are not scripted.
The very first word is a breakthrough, straight from Jesus. Abba. Jews never call God by name. God’s name is too holy to speak. But Jesus teaches his people to name God by relationship. Abba, Father. Personal, but with the authority of a good parent. They had never heard you could be personal with God, and a lot of us might have that impression too. Some people have trouble with the “Father” word, for different reasons, that often miss the point of God’s deep wish to be close and personal: relationship of love and care and forgiveness. If that does not describe the relationship you had with your earthly father, don’t let it keep you from this Father we’re praying to.
This Father has great power. Abba, your name is hallowed, or holy. The name of God has power. That’s why we don’t use it carelessly. That’s why the commandment says, “do not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.”
This Father has the power to bring a kingdom, or bring us into a kingdom.
Jesus talks about the kingdom more than anything else, and in Luke’s gospel, the kingdom is the circle of relationships made up of God and all the believers. The kingdom is inside and outside these believers. Because of their relationship with God, these are people who see the world in a different way, and the world is changing because of them. The kingdom has come and the kingdom is coming, and every week we keep praying for it to come. God’s kingdom is always coming and growing around us. God needs us to be a partner in growing the kingdom.
Each of us, and all of us, have prayed countless times for God’s kingdom to come. And I believe God answers prayer. So let’s stop and think about whether that’s happened. Has God’s kingdom come – for you, for us? Has faith increased for you, has your relationship with other believers grown? Because we pray this, God is changing you and me, and changing our world.
Think about the ancient meaning of kingdom. The purpose of a kingdom was power, but for the common person, it was also protection. If Christ is your Lord, your king, you have the ultimate protector. You have a safe place to be when trouble comes.
Give us each day our daily bread. (Luke 11:3) God wants to give us a kingdom, and Jesus expects us to pray for it, but God also wants us to be thankful for something as simple as “daily bread.”
Literally a gut instinct; you eat, you pray. The more thankful you are, the more praying is as natural as eating. I think that’s the attitude God wants us to have about “our daily bread.” But most of us have such a surplus of food (and other things), so there is a natural diminishing of being thankful to God that we have something to eat.
And it’s more than just being thankful about the food that happens to be in front of us at any particular time.
It’s a trust thing. It’s understanding that life is fragile, and that at every moment we are breathing, and even if we are not breathing, our lives are in God’s hands. God will take care of us. God, we trust you to give us daily bread. Not something we think about until bread is hard to find. And if we have enough bread, I believe that God needs us to find those who are praying for daily bread, and be and answer to this prayer for them.
And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. (Luke 11:4) The last part of the prayer is about relationship and about reconciliation. We are less than perfect, and we live in an imperfect world. We wish we could be better people, better husbands and wives, better children, better parents, better friends. But we fall short of God’s standards and short of our own standards. So we have something to say to God and to each other: “…forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.”
Let that sink in for a moment. The least we can do is accept that everyone around us is imperfect too, and struggling with the same sin we are.
And do not bring us to the time of trial. (Luke 11:4) It could also be called a time of testing – God’s judgment day. You might be used to saying, “Lead us not into temptation,” but the original words are the same. We are praying, “Help us live in a way that doesn’t call us into your judgment.” It’s no coincidence that this part of the prayer comes right after the prayers for forgiveness. If we expect God to forgive us, then we need to forgive and accept others. God expects this from us.
This prayer was just four sentences long, and it’s an invitation to have an honest, open, trusting relationship with God, a lifestyle of sharing and forgiveness, and a new way to live.
Father, we love you and trust you. We know you are with us, taking care of us even when we’re not thinking about it. You are with all of us. We know we’re not everything we should be, we accept that about ourselves and others. Help us live in ways that change our world – for your glory. We pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.