Where to Begin (Luke 11:1-4)
|Subject||How do we pray?|
|Object||Begin with the premise that God loves us and invites us to be about His glory|
|Big Idea||Prayer begins with understanding that God loves us and invites us to be about his glory.|
|Purpose||To commit to pray to God about His glory|
This February, our family drove to Boston on a snowy Saturday. I was driving, and I was trying to minimize the number of stops we had to make for gas and breaks. It wasn’t going to be a problem, because gas stations were all over the place.
It was a great plan except for one thing. Just as the fuel light came on, we found ourselves in the middle of nowhere. Do you think we could find a gas station? We eventually did find a gas station, and I didn’t care what the price was – I stopped and filled up and felt very relieved.
Some of you know what it’s like to run out of gas. Some of us also know what it means to run out of gas spiritually. I don’t know of a better way to describe how some of us feel at times as we walk with God, as we follow Jesus. There are days that we feel completely depleted, out of resources, like we need to be refueled before we can go on.
For some of us, the feeling is so common that we’ve become used to it. You feel you haven’t been growing, that your relationship with God has become stale, that you’re missing the dynamism that you long for. It’s a terrible feeling. This can be true for individuals or churches. What do you do when you feel like you’re running out of spiritual fuel?
The answer might surprise you.
Long ago, Jesus gave us a prayer that is designed to fuel our walk with God. He gave it as a model for prayer. If we feel lethargy in our relationship with God, it may be partly because we are not praying the way that Jesus taught us to pray. The solution is going to be relearning how to pray like Jesus taught.
I invite you to look at the prayer that Jesus gave us as a model. It’s found in your Bibles in Luke 11.
A Prayer for People on MIssion
Religious groups in Jesus’ time sometimes had their own prayer. John the Baptist taught his followers a prayer. Each group’s prayer would become something that tied the group together and and expressed the group’s identity.
That’s probably why Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1). They were asking for a prayer for their group. What Jesus gave them is essentially a prayer to characterize those of us who follow him.
This is a prayer for people on mission. When Jesus gave this prayer, he was on mission. This prayer grows out of the mission of Jesus. It is designed for those who are also following Jesus on a kingdom journey.
This isn’t a prayer for just anyone. But if you are serious about living your life on mission, and joining God in what he is doing, this prayer is for you.
The early church actually forbade people from praying this prayer unless they were Christians. They were offended at the thought of anyone praying this prayer who wasn’t on mission with Christ.
This really is the ideal prayer for anyone who wants to join God on mission to change the world. This is the prayer that Jesus has given those of us who want to follow him.
This is a prayer for a group. I’m not saying you shouldn’t pray this prayer by yourself. It’s a great prayer to use in your individual prayer life. But it’s not the primary way this prayer should be used.
If you read this prayer carefully, you see it’s a group prayer. Jesus said in verse 2, “When you [plural] pray, say…” The prayer is written to be spoken by a group (“Give us…”) It’s a prayer for groups of his followers, rather than just individuals.
This excites me. This is a prayer for the church.
We’ve been talking about what it means to be a missional church, a church that is focused on the mission that God has given us together. We’re on this journey to try and figure out what this looks like in our context. God has given us a prayer to pray together that will help us become who we need to be and what we need to do to join him on mission, not just individually but together.
This is a prayer to be used. Sounds obvious, but some people shy away from using it. They don’t want to be guilty of “vain repetition”. I understand the concern, but there’s no reason why you can’t use this prayer as sincerely and meaningfully as any other prayer.
Jesus said, “When you pray, say…” You could translate this, “Whenever you pray…” This is a pattern for all Christian prayer.
Somebody has said, “If the kingdom comes in our lifetime, it will be because the church of Jesus Christ around the world has begun to take seriously the Lord’s prayer” (John Piper). It’s time to take this prayer seriously.
At the end of today’s service, and over the next few weeks, I’m going to invite you to join with me in praying this prayer together.
If you want a prayer that will help us be fueled and transformed to follow Christ together on mission, this prayer is for you!
Where to Begin
One of the most important things we can do to pray is to begin at the right place. We sometimes struggle in our prayer lives because we start out all wrong.
Jesus taught us where to begin. It’s simple but foundational. Begin with the character of God. That’s the foundation to a good prayer life. That’s where we need to start.
Jesus gets more specific. He tells us exactly which part of God’s character to bring into focus when we pray. Let’s look at both of them.
Jesus begins with a simple word: “Father” or Abba. Some say this was a term that young children used for their fathers, like Daddy. Actually, it was also used by older children as well. It was a term of familiarity and intimacy for kids of all ages, sort of like saying Dad.
This was an unusual way to pray. It would have seemed too informal and disrespectful for the average person praying back then. Yet every time Jesus prayed, except for one time on the cross, he called God Abba. This was the signature term of Jesus when he talked to God.
I can understand Jesus talking to God so informally and confidently. But us? Yes, Jesus says, you can too. Jesus invites us to come with confidence and intimacy, and simply begin by calling God, “Dad.”
My daughter, Christina, was away this week. It was fun to go and pick her up after I hadn’t seen her in a week. When I did, I hugged her. She didn’t have to say much. I would have been offended if she had to approach me formally. She was welcome to come and run to me and embrace me and call me Dad, because I love her.
Jesus teaches us that there is something about the love of a good father that teaches us how God sees us. I think the quality that Jesus is pointing to here is God’s love. God loves us like a good Dad does his kids. He welcomes us to approach him with confidence and intimacy.
This isn’t just any Dad. Matthew’s version says, “Our Father in heaven.” Jesus takes us straight to the high King in heaven and says, “This is your Dad!” We can begin our prayers in the security of his love, knowing that God welcomes us.
Here’s how to begin in building a prayer life: Begin with the premise that God loves us. Jesus has made this possible. Don’t approach God with the formality of religion. Approach him with the intimacy of a child. Come simply to the one who invites you to come and call him Dad.
The thing to avoid here is formality. Formality will kill your prayer life. Jesus invites us to base our prayer on God’s love rather than the formality of religion. Just like a Dad loves to hear from his kids, God loves to hear from us.
Jesus gives us a second quality of God’s character upon which we can base our prayers. Jesus invites us to call God our Dad, and then pray this: “Hallowed be your name.”
This may seem a bit ironic at first. Jesus tells us to call God our Dad, and then he asks us to pray that God’s name be respected. There’s no contradiction, though. We should pray informally and intimately with God who loves to hear about us. That’s all about God’s love. But we also pray with a second quality: God’s glory.
When we pray, “Hallowed be your name,” we are essentially praying for God’s glory. In Jewish thought, the name represented the whole person. Another way of saying, “Hallowed be your name” is to say, “May God be glorified.” We are praying for that in the future, as we’ll see in a second. We’re also praying for it here and now.
God’s love and God’s glory are the two qualities that form the basis of our prayers as his followers.
I always enjoy meeting kids and their parents. When I meet kids first, I sometimes begin to piece together what their parents were like. You can’t underestimate the power of our families of origin. We are all shaped by the our parents. What was important to them becomes important to us.
The same is true with God as our Dad. Part of our relationship with him as our Dad is that the things that are important to him, become important to us. The most important thing to God is his glory. That’s why we pray, “Hallowed be your name.” We are praying for the thing that God wants most.
This week, they have these furry little toys called Neopets as the kid’s meal at McDonalds. We took Josiah the other day, and he got one of them. A couple of days later, he began talking about his Neopet being lonely. He couldn’t imagine going another day without going back to McDonalds to get another one. It became the biggest priority in his life.
One of the jobs of a father is to help a child learn – gently – that the things that seem important when you’re a kid really aren’t all that important. What seemed so important to Josiah this week, he won’t even remember next week.
That’s exactly what God is doing in this prayer. If we didn’t have a Father to tell us what’s important, we would end up focusing on lesser things, thinking they are the reason that we are here. God lifts our perspective to see what is important from the ultimate perspective. It’s all about his glory.
It’s all about God’s glory. Long after we’ve forgotten everything that we think is important, everything will continue to exist for God’s glory. It is God’s consuming passion. It’s the only thing that will last through eternity.
God’s glory is even a way for us to see past our difficulties. Even in our most trying circumstances, we can see past them to God’s glory. Jesus once looked ahead to his death and became upset:
“Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”
Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” (John 12:27-28)
Jesus never asked for the trial to be taken away. He asked instead that God would be glorified in the trial. This is a prayer that we can pray no matter what we go through.
Jesus isn’t telling us we can’t pray for ourselves. That is coming later. He is saying that we should begin by praying for God’s glory above all. This prayer will keep us on mission, and keep us away from living a life that is satisfied with smaller things. You will never live for anything better than God’s glory.
God will ultimately be glorified when his Kingdom fully arrives. That is what this prayer looks forward to. But it’s also a prayer about here and now. It’s a prayer that in the present, God’s people will glorify him by acting rightly. It’s a prayer that God’s name would be hallowed, his words believed, his displeasure feared, his commandments obeyed, and his cause glorified (Piper).
Our Dad wants us to be concerned with the things that concern him most. “Dad, glorify your name!”
Prayer is a tough thing for a lot of us. Jesus has given us a prayer to help us on our mission. This is a prayer that we can pray together as a church. It is a prayer that should shape all of our prayers.
This is a prayer that God answers, because we already know that this prayer is God’s will. When we pray this prayer, we are praying exactly how God intends us to pray.
God is not reluctant for us to come to him. He welcomes us to come confidently and intimately – to call him Dad.
He calls us to learn to pray about what is important to him. If we as a church begin to pray for God’s glory to show up around us, that is a prayer that God wants to answer. That is a prayer that could lead to some exciting things.
Should we pray? Absolutely. You wouldn’t dare to try to follow Christ without praying. Where should we start then? Prayer begins with understanding that God loves us and invites us to be about his glory.
In Jesus’ time, they prayed three times a day: morning, noon, and night. I invite you to follow their example this week. Join with me praying this week, at least once a day, maybe up to three, this prayer for your life and for Richview: “Dad, glorify your name.”
Father in heaven (Dad)
Hallowed be your name
Your kingdom come
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we have also forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not to temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.