Saturday, July 15, 2023

Lord, Teach Us to Pray - Luke 11:1-4 - July 16, 2023

 Luke 11:1-4 Lord, Teach Us to Pray

Good morning! Turn with me in your Bibles to Luke 11:1-4, and that’s on page 869 in the pew Bibles.

This morning we are going to turn our attention to some of the most well known words of Jesus, or at least a version of them in Luke 11, a passage known as the Lord’s Prayer.

Matthew records these words and includes them during the Sermon on the Mount, Luke, includes it more thematically in this section on prayer not chronologically.

There are actually two prayers in our text this morning, one from the disciples and one for the disciples, let’s look at the text and see.

Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.”

Now it’s our turn, let’s pray.

Did you see the two prayers in the text?

The first prayer is from the disciples: “Lord teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”

This is a good prayer, there is wisdom in that prayer.

John the Baptist taught his disciples how to pray, and now One far greater than John is here, Lord teach us how we ought to pray.

Matthew excludes this first prayer, instead he records Jesus saying in Matthew 6:7-9, “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. Pray then like this:

This is a good reminder to start out with, don’t heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think they will be heard for their many words…

This is an echo of something we talked about last week, performance based Christianity. Our prayers are not more effective if they’re longer. They are not more effective if they are more eloquent. They are not more effective if we say “Father,” or, “Lord,” every other word.

There is also a key difference between Matthew’s record and Luke’s.

Matthew records Jesus saying, “Pray then like this,” and Luke records Jesus saying, “When you pray, say…”

This is not a contradiction, it’s not a restrictor, it’s a broadener of our understanding of prayer. The fact that the Holy Spirit included both in His Word means that this prayer of Jesus is good for us to use in its very words as well as in its formula for prayer, its categories.

What I mean to say is that if you want to memorize the Lord’s Prayer and recite it daily, go for it, if you want to use the Lord’s Prayer as a framework for how you pray and what you pray for, go for it, these are its intended purpose, provided you aren’t just heaping up empty words, rather praying from your heart.

I’d like to give our time this morning to examining the categories and formula of the Lord’s Prayer.

Because, as John Calvin wrote, “It was not the intention of the Son of God to prescribe the words which we must use, so as not to leave us at liberty to depart from the form which He has dictated. His intention rather was, to guide and restrain our wishes, that they might not go beyond those limits: and hence we infer, that the rule which He has given us for praying aright relates not to the words, but to the things themselves.”

Just like the Ten Commandments have two distinct tables within them, one table concerned with loving the Lord your God and the other with loving your neighbor, the Lord’s Prayer had two distinct sections even within Luke’s abbreviated version.

And Just like the Ten Commandments the first portion of this prayer is concerned with the glory of God and second with the good of the person praying. So let’s look at those component parts one at a time.

The first part, the first word, is the most important and, in that day, the most controversial: “Father.”

What made praying to God and calling Him, “Father,” controversial? It’s not at all controversial today. It’s a popular notion that God is Father of all people ever; that we are all children of God because He is the Creator. And while it’s true that everyone was created by God we are not His natural children, merely His creation. The only way to become a child of God is through adoption.

When Jesus called God, “Father,” the First Century Jewish understanding was that Jesus was Himself claiming to be God, to be equal with God. This is exactly what the Pharisees charged Him with that led to His crucifixion.

John 5:18 says, This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

Jesus refers to God as His Father in all His recorded prayers except His prayer from the cross where He quoted Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

But as controversial as it was for Jesus to call God, “Father,” it is beneficial for us, His disciples, to call Him, “Father.” In fact, it is only because we are His disciples that we are able to call God Father, because it is only by faith in Jesus Christ that we are adopted as God’s children.

We can’t call on God as Father without faith in Christ that makes us His children – there is no other way of praying rightly without dependence on the Mediator, Jesus.

As Romans 8:14-16 says,

14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ…

Abba, Father, hallowed be your Name.

What does that mean, hallowed be your Name? It means that the Name of God is to be revered as holy, that the Father deserves all the glory, weight, and worth that we could ascribe to Him, that the glory of the Lord would shine in the world and be duly acknowledged by all mankind. His Name should never be used as a curse word, nor should His Name be thrown around and slandered. 

His Name is holy and as such we should regard what He says to be right, no matter what. We must embrace His Word with the obedience of faith because He stands completely apart as something wholly other and completely higher than us.

Your kingdom come.

I used to think that this meant the return of Christ, that we were instructed to pray for the coming of God’s eternal kingdom. The truth is, the date for that is already set and the Father is the only One who knows it.

In reality, in praying for the Father’s kingdom to come we are praying for His reign in the hearts of mankind through faith in Jesus through the preaching of His Word and the work of the Holy Spirit.

We are praying that He would subdue the desires of the flesh. Really, what is prayer other than an admission of our powerlessness and His almightiness? When we pray rightly we submit to the power and will of the Father in our lives and in the lives of those around us.

We ought to check our prayers and see if they sound different from that.

The first half of this prayer is the same as the first table of the Law, loving the Lord your God, your Father through faith in Jesus with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.

And what about the second half? In the second half we can see Jesus’ concern for our present, our past, and our future.

Give us each day our daily bread… Here we pray for the present.

Is it wrong to pray that the Father would provide temporal necessities for daily living? Obviously not!

But there is a restraint built in for us, to restrain our desires and to teach us that we depend every moment on the goodness and kindness of God. Not to teach us to depend on God but to teach us that we depend on God whether we realize it or not.

And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us… Here we pray about our past, even if it is very recent past.

First of all let me say that Jesus is not saying that our forgiveness is based on our forgiveness of others, rather, that He is implying that we ought not be so bold as to ask forgiveness for sins without the willingness to forgive others.

Sin is a moral debt, a debt that we can never repay. When Jesus died on the cross one of His last words was, “tetelestai,” “it is finished.” This word literally means, “the debt is paid,” the moral debt that we owed God has been paid by the blood of Christ and only by faith in Him can we receive the credit for that payment into our moral bank account.

And finally, lead us not into temptation… This is prayer for our future.

James 1:13-15 says,

13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

It is not God that leads us into temptation, in fact, unless God Himself delivers us we will constantly and consistently fail. We have no strength for living a holy life except that we obtain it from the Father.

Our prayer is that the Father will lead us away from the situations and circumstances that will test our resolve against both the inward and outward pressure and desire to sin.

The devil wants to tempt us, he wants us to fail, he wants us to be destroyed. But look at your flesh, your carnal desires, are they any different? If left on our own we would destroy ourselves for sure, without the Father’s intervention we are done for.

John Calvin again wrote, “Whenever we engage in prayer, there are two things to be considered, both that we may have access to God, and that we may rely on Him with full and unshaken confidence.”

The Lord’s Payer give us a framework for prayer, a framework for worship and submission, or dependence and forgiveness. As Martin Luther put it, “The Christian prays a never-ending Lord’s prayer.”