How to Pray

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Sunday, October 9, 2016 - 11:00am
Luke 11:1-4
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“Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. Guide me through the long, dark night and wake me with the morning light. Bless mommy and daddy, grand mom and grand pop, Kenny and everybody in the whole world. In Jesus name. Amen.”

Did anybody ever hear that prayer before? Did any of you grow up praying, “Now I lay me down to sleep?” I did. That was my first experience with prayer. For many years as a kid I can remember mom coming into my room at night, sitting down on the bed and reciting that prayer with me before I drifted off to sleep. And if you were alive back then, you were prayed for because I included “everybody in the whole world!” I had you covered.

Now I realize there are many different versions of that prayer. I can remember going to a sleep over at my friend’s house when I was young and hearing him pray, “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” And when I heard him pray that I thought, “Whoa! I don’t have the guts to pray that. I don’t want to die before I wake. I don’t even want to suggest it or God might take me up on it!”

Then, of course, there’s the version that goes, “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If he hollers let him go, eeny, menny, minny, mo!”

How did you learn to pray? Who taught you? Or maybe you didn’t learn how to pray growing up which is why we’re doing this series called Teach Us to Pray. We all need to learn how to pray or, in my case, to unlearn how to pray.

You see for a long time I thought prayer was a nursery rhyme to be recited every night. And I got pretty good at rattling it off without much thought, on auto pilot. Prayer is not a nursery rhyme. I also thought that prayer was some kind of magic formula that guaranteed God’s blessing and protection. Prayer is not a magic formula or a genie in a bottle that gives me everything I want. If it were then I’m in control, not God.

Instead, prayer is a real, live, two-way conversation that we can have anytime, anywhere with the God of the universe. Matt did a wonderful job last week introducing the series and describing prayer as a two-way conversation between a child and his or her heavenly Father. That’s prayer. We talk to God and we listen to God as well.

But there’s a premise behind prayer that we all need to buy into if we’re going to have an ongoing dialogue with our heavenly Father. And that premise is this. There is a God who knows us, who loves us, and who is actively involved in our lives. Do you believe that? If you don’t, it will be difficult to enjoy a robust prayer life. But if you do, you’ll find yourself talking to God all the time and being tuned in to his presence in your day to day life.

There’s a lot about prayer that’s a mystery and will remain a mystery even after this series. But there’s also a lot about prayer that we can understand and experience ourselves. So let’s see how Jesus responded to the disciple’s request, teach us to pray. If you have a Bible meet me at Luke 11.

Luke 11:1, One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

The disciples had been following Jesus for a while now and they had been watching him pray from a distance. Jesus would often get up early and slip away to a quiet place to be alone with his heavenly Father. Sometimes he would stay up late and wander off to pray. In Luke 6, we read that Jesus stayed up all night and prayed before he chose the Twelve.

Some of Jesus’ disciples had followed John the Baptist before Jesus arrived on the scene. And John the Baptist had taught his disciples to pray. So now they want to hear from Jesus. “Teach us to pray,” they ask. And Jesus responds with what’s often called the Lord’s Prayer. It’s found both here and in Matthew 6. And it’s not long or wordy. In fact, it’s only 38 Greek words in Luke 11 and 57 in Matthew 6. So let’s unpack it one phrase at a time.

Look at verse 2, Jesus said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Matthew adds, Our Father in heaven.

Right away we have a departure from what the disciples were used to growing up. Jesus said, “Father not Yahweh. Call God your Dad. That’s how he wants to be known.” That was unheard of by the Jews in Jesus’ day. To them God was Jehovah, King of the universe, the Most High God. They were afraid to even speak his name lest he strike them dead. But Jesus comes along and says, “When you pray I want you to come to God as a trusting child comes to an attentive father who knows you and loves you and is actively involved in your life.”

Jen and I have three children. The oldest is 27 and the youngest is 19. And as they’ve gotten older they’ve started to call me Bruce. What? Really? I don’t like it and they know that. I think they do it because it makes them feel older and more mature … and to bug me. But often I’ll say, “Listen. I know my name is Bruce. But I want you to call me Dad. Everybody else on the planet calls me Bruce, but only 3 people out of 7 billion can call me Dad.” And they roll their eyes!

I like Dad because it emphasizes the relationship. God wants us to call him Dad, Father, because that’s the relationship we have with him as sons and daughters. He’s our Father and we’re his kids and he loves to hear us say Dad.

And he’s a holy Father. The word holy means “separate.” Some us didn’t have the best fathers growing up. They may have been distant or absent, unapproachable or even abusive. And we may struggle transferring the image of our biological father onto our heavenly Father. But God is different. God is separate from every one. Holy is his name. And he loves us like one else loves us. So Jesus says, “When you pray, remember that you are praying to a Dad who knows you and loves you and is actively involved in your life.”

Look again at verse 2, Your kingdom come. Matthew adds, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

When we embrace the truth that God is our Father who loves us more than we can ever know that helps us submit ourselves to him because we know that he wants what’s best for us and for this world. It’s his kingdom come, not my kingdom come. It’s his will be done, not my will be done.

His concerns become our concerns. His passions become our passions. His dreams become our dreams. And his dream is for his kingdom to come to this earth and for his will to be done down here as it is up there.

In heaven there’s no hatred, there’s no prejudice, there’s no injustice, no poverty, no hunger, no conflict, no war, no sickness, no evil, no darkness, only light and goodness and health and peace and justice and unity and love. And when we’re about those things we’re bringing a little bit of God’s kingdom to this world right now. Around Valley View we call that impacting our world through life in Jesus.

And so we celebrate what Temwa and Pamoza are doing in Malawi and what the Hospitality Center and the Laurel House are doing in Norristown and what the Daily Bread Food Pantry is doing in Montgomery County. These are tangible expressions of God’s kingdom in this world. Right here. Right now.

But not only do we want God’s will to be done in this world, we want God’s will to be done in our lives. And in the lives of those we pray for. And so as we make our requests we submit our will to God’s will because it’s not about us. It’s about him. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

So the first half of the Lord’s Prayer is about God and his work and his will. That’s what’s most important when you pray, Jesus says. God comes first. But the second half is about us. Our heavenly Dad wants to hear from us.

Look at verse 3, Give us each day our daily bread.

Our Father wants to hear our needs. He knows we have them even before we voice them. But in voicing them we’re saying that you are the giver of all good things and we know that.

Sometimes people ask me, “Is there anything too small to pray about?” I don’t think so. In fact, I like what Rick Warren says, “If it’s big enough to worry about, it’s big enough to pray about.”

Church, that’s why we offer so many opportunities to pray around here. Please take advantage of them. Bring your requests to God with others who will join you in praying. I love to see little groups huddled in prayer after a worship gathering.

Curtis and Kimberly Hannah are in the lounge early every Sunday morning to pray for our worship gatherings. They would love to have you join them.

Ben and Charity Robinson lead a Prayer Ministry on Tuesday nights called Elijah House that equips people to pray. Bud Donatelli leads our Prayer Team which has over 60 men and women who regularly receive our Prayer Updates and are praying for those in our Valley View community. If you’d like to be a part of the team, please talk to Bud or contact the church office.

Our groups and hubs and Bible studies support each other in prayer because no one can follow Jesus alone. Prayer is a priority in our Transformation Groups as 2 or 3 meet together to pray with and for each other.

Every Tuesday morning we gather as a staff to pray for the needs of the church and the world. Every other Thursday morning we pray with area pastors with Netzer.

Prayer is the air we breathe around here. God wants to hear our prayers. He wants us to bring him our needs. If it’s big enough to worry about, it’s big enough to pray about. Give us each day our daily bread.

Look at verse 4, Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.

God wants us to be real with him in prayer. Jesus knows that we’re broken and we’ll need to ask for forgiveness often. Our heavenly Father doesn’t expect his kids to be perfect. God wants us to come clean with him in prayer. And he wants us to forgive others with the same lavish grace with which he forgives us.

The other day I took a prayer walk as I often do at local park and spent time alone just confessing my sins, my fears, my failures, my insecurities, my lack of faith, my lack of prayer, my busyness. And then I claimed the cross because Jesus died for every one of those sins and a whole lot more. And it was so freeing. It felt so cleansing. It was so good to know that my heavenly Father doesn’t hold my sins against me. He doesn’t love me any less because of my sin.

And then I asked God to show me if there’s anyone I need to forgive. Not to let them off the hook, but to let me off the hook. Because that’s what forgiveness does. It sets us free. It keeps the past from controlling our present. It’s the medicine that keeps us from becoming bitter and cynical through life’s bumps and bruises. Forgive us as we forgive others.

And then he closes with lead us not into temptation. God doesn’t lead us into temptation. I think a better translation is keep us clear of temptation. Matthew adds, but deliver us from the evil one for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

No one knew more about spiritual warfare than Jesus. He went toe to toe with the evil one throughout his lifetime and he knew we would too. So we need to pray for protection for ourselves and our families, for our friends and for our church. My mother-in-law Buz loves to pray, “Protect us from the fiery darts of the enemy and cover us with the blood of Jesus.”

Life is tough. Life is filled with hurts and disappointments. Things don’t always go the way we hoped. There will be times of testing in our lives, just like there were for Jesus. We can’t follow a crucified leader and expect to be spared from pain. We’ll experience our share of it, but we can pray that God will protect us from the worst of it while we keep in mind that one day the evil one will be totally destroyed and all that will be left is God’s kingdom and power and glory forever. Amen.

That’s the Lord’s Prayer, perhaps the most recited words in human history. But I don’t believe Jesus gave us the prayer to be recited over and over again like now I lay me down to sleep. I believe he gave us the prayer as a pattern, as a template, as scaffolding that can help us all better communicate as kids with our heavenly Father. And when we come back next week we’ll talk about how the heavenly Father wants to communicate with us.

But right now, if there’s something that we can pray for you, members of our Prayer Team will be up front to help bear any burden you may be carrying. Please don’t walk out of here weighed down by life. Take advantage of this opportunity if you need to. We’d love to pray with you and for you before you leave. 

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