We’re in a series called ‘Our Disciplined Response’ where we’re going over some of the basic spiritual disciplines that make us who we are.
Prayer is an intimidating topic for lots of people. It’s something we like we talk about, it’s one of the things many of us pretend we do more than we do. When someone’s going through a challenge what do we say ‘I’ll pray for you.’ But the truth is, prayer is an absolutely foundational part of what it means to be a Christian.
A spiritual life without prayer is like the Gospel without Christ. (Henri Nouwen)
Prayer changes things in the world. But also (and this is a big deal) – Prayer changes you.
(Prayer Diagram. (What people say)- Lifeway Research 2014 – Protestants)
Some of you are amazing prayer warriors. There’s a great couple in the church that when they see me, they say ‘Pastor David, we pray for you every day.’ And I believe them.
So some of you are amazing at prayer already, but tonight we’re going to approach this from the perspective of someone who is a prayer dummy.
So we’re gonna do a short bible study and then I have for you 4 tips on how to pray.
This is an amazing piece of scripture, here Jesus is personally teaching his disciples how to pray.
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.” (Luke 11:1)
So Jesus’s disciples are asking him to teach them how to pray. Just like John taught his disciples how to pray. Part of being mentored by a rabbi or a teacher is not just to be taught theology, but to be taught HOW to pray. So that’s part of the responsibility of the pastors at this church. This teaching is a part of that effort.
Also notice that their interest in prayer CAME FROM seeing Jesus pray.
He said to them, “When you pray, (so notice the assumption, WHEN you pray. Not if you decide to pray, but WHEN you pray) say (Luke 11:2a)
And he continues with a version of what’s known in Protestant circles as the Lords prayer. Our catholic brothers and sisters call it the ‘Our Father’ because that’s the first lines in the prayer.
There’s one version in Luke and one version in Matthew and they’re slightly different.
“So wait!!! Is the Bible contradicting itself?!” – No. Think about someone preaching a sermon, if I’m preaching a sermon in 2 different services I’m going to say the same thing in essence, but there’s going to be lots of little variations. Jesus was an itinerant teacher, so he traveled around and spoke on similar things many times. And one of the things the Lords prayer is is a model for prayer.
It’s not a mantra, it’s a model.
So praying the Lords prayer word for word is great. No problem at all with that. I DO that. But I also understand that’s it’s not some spell to invoke where it’s about every word and every syllable, it’s Jesus TEACHING how to pray.
So there’s 2 records of this prayer that he would travel and teach and he doesn’t use the exact same words either time.
The more famous version is in Matthew 6, so that’s why we’re doing Luke 11. To keep you on your toes.
Here’s the prayer:
He said to them, “When you pray, say: “ ‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. (Luke 11:2)
Give us each day our daily bread. (Luke 11:3)
Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.’ ” (Luke 11:4)
This prayer WAS and IS an act of rebellion against modern culture.
‘Father, hallowed be your name,
We live in a culture that celebrates the secular, and this prayer highlights the holy, the holiness of God and letting that shift how we see the world.
So this prayer begins in worship. And lots and lots of Christians myself included use this model OFTEN (I guess not every time) when we pray. We start out our prayer by worshipping and honoring God.
So let’s say I was at home and I was gonna pray for a couple minutes for my wife and daughter let’s say. Well I might say something like this: “God, I love you. You’re so good to me. You’re generous, you’re kind, you’re patient. I pray for my wife that….” whatever.
“Your kingdom come.”
We live in a culture that’s about ME ME ME, but we pray for the Kingdom to come, b/c we want to be ambassadors for his kingdom.
We don’t need to spend a lot of time here, this is something we talk about a lot. But we as kingdom people, are constantly looking to partner with God to bring his kingdom to earth. What does that mean? That means we see what God’s perfect world will look like, and we strive to live like that now. In God’s future kingdom there won’t be any hatred, so our prayer and our life is to fight against it now.
“Give us each day our daily bread.”
2 things I want to highlight here.
Not MINE. OUR. We live in a culture that’s all about individuality, but this prayer is not individual, it’s communal. To meet OUR needs, not just MY needs.
2. DAILY Bread
We live in a culture driven by greed and the need for more. Instead when Jesus teaches us to pray, he prays for his bread for today. Not enough bread to be in the billionaires club, enough for today. “When do you pray about tomorrow’s bread?” – Tomorrow.
I love that Jesus even in this prayer is pulling us to live in the present. And to not spend too much time worrying about the future that’s still in God’s hands. Just worry about what you’re doing today, and let tomorrow handle itself. This will probably remind some of you of Matthew 6:34 where Jesus says “Don’t worry about tomorrow, tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
“Forgive our sins”
We live in a culture that never calls anything sin. And part of that is a reaction from a religious culture that spends too much time pointing the finger at “you disgusting sinners”. So now sin is something to almost celebrate.
Jesus gives us this beautiful model of being able to be open and honest about our failures. Without having to hide them or justify, b/c God loves us regardless.
“for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.”
This is a beautiful way of seeing the world. Understanding that we’re all imperfect people who will mess up and hurt each other, and act selfishly. And knowing all that’s true, we’re still about receiving and giving forgiveness.
“And lead us not into temptation.”
Again, so counter-cultural. We live in a culture that celebrates temptation. People on instagram showing just enough skin to be desired. Temptation is a good thing in the world.
I love this prayer “God, lead me in the other way. I don’t want to ride the line. I want to live a life that’s honoring of you. God help me go in another direction.”
Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; (Luke 11:5)
a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ (Luke 11:6)
And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ (Luke 11:7)
Ok so these people are separated by closed door. The neighbor is knocking on the door and the family says “Buzz off man! It’s the middle of the night!” But the neighbor is persistent…
I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need. (Luke 11:8)
So the guy won’t stop knocking and the neighbor isn’t going to get up b/c they’re friends, he’s gonna get up b/c the neighbor is so dad-gum persistent.
So listen, Jesus is not saying ‘That’s what God is like. He really doesn’t care if you get the food you need, but if you bug the tarnation out of him, he’ll give you what you want.’ – No he’s making a contrast. He’s saying ‘If even this worldly neighbor will get up and give this man food. HOW MUCH MORE will a loving father give to those who ask.
One thing to notice about this parable. This man needs bread, but WHY does he need bread? Did you notice? B/C a friend of his had come in from a long journey. So the bread he was asking for wasn’t even for him, it was for someone else.
So then prayer isn’t just for ME, it’s to equip me to serve others. Remember, just like “OUR daily bread.
Shows us 2 very important things about prayer.
1. We don’t pray just for ourselves.
Just ask for bread for yourself.
No this man went to his neighbor for food, not for himself, but for his friend. So the prayer is not “Give me today my daily bread.” – No even in the request “Give US”, it’s communal.
2. We don’t just pray and then consider our job done. We remember there’s still work to do.
“God please bring about peace.”
“God please feed the hungry people of the world”
“God please bring reconciliation to the world.”
In other words “God can you go feed my friend?” No, this shows us a partnership between us and God to meet the needs of people.
“Give US this day OUR daily bread.”
“Equip me so I can be an ambassador on your behalf to share with people in need.”
“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. (Luke 11:9)
For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. (Luke 11:10)
“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? (Luke 11:11)
Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? (Luke 11:12)
If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more (See – pattern?) will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13)
You see the same pattern? If you who are evil would never do that to your son, HOW MUCH MORE will our loving Father give to those who ask.
Give WHAT to those who ask? “The Holy Spirit” Very interesting twist in the prayer teaching. That ultimately our prayer isn’t God give me more and more and more stuff, no the prayer is for more of the Holy Spirit. This is where Jesus has been heading the whole time.
But isn’t it interesting that Jesus calls himself “The Bread from Heaven”? And that all of our longings really come down to desiring more of God.
4 Prayer Tips
1. PLACE – Find a comfortable, quiet, private place.
Jesus calls it a “prayer closet. A place where no one can hear you and you can’t hear anybody else.
2 reason this is important:
- many of us feel self-conscious if we were asked to pray where someone could overhear them. – We’d be thinking ‘Oh man, how am I sounding? Are people looking at me?’
- Many of us are so distractible that having people around to watch would constantly be getting us sidetracked.
That’s all taken care of if you find a private place. Does ALL prayer take place in a quiet, private place? No. But remember we’re talking to someone who’s just trying to develop a prayer life.
Your phone Also let me say that for most of us, it would be a good idea to eliminate the distraction of our phone. Turn it off, or put it on silent and put it on the other side of the room. I know some of you do your bible reading on your phone, and that’s totally cool, just don’t kid yourself if your phone is a distraction to you in your prayer time.
2. BODY – Sit or stand or kneel or walk. However you feel comfortable and can stay alert.
I think of near the end of Jesus’s life, when they’re in the garden of gethsemane, where the disciples were praying while sitting down, then praying while laying down, then eventually fell asleep (That’s how imagine it happening).
And he gives this instruction “Rise up.” – Literally in the greek – stand up. If sitting leads to lying and lying leads to sleeping, then stand up while you pray.
Resting my eyes Especially if you’re a man over the age of 35, like me, I find myself sitting in my recliner and out of nowhere I’m asleep. “Just resting my eyes” is the biggest lie on the planet.
Do whatever you have to do to be comfortable, but stay alert.
3. TIME – Aim for 5 minutes or more per day.
“Pray 1 hour” that’s intimidating. Prayer is intimidating enough, it’s even worse when you feel like you have to do it for an hour. BUT I will say, that for lots of people you set out to pray for 5 minutes and you’re amazed how fast 20 minutes goes by. But it’s not an endurance competition to see how long you can pray. Longer isn’t always better.
(Prepare 4 communion)
4. VOICE – Pray out loud, even if under your breath.
CAN you pray in your head? yes. But for the beginner, it’s almost definitely not the best way. Pray out loud. Even if you’re by yourself.
You’re not as good at praying in your head as you think you are.
If you’re like me, I’m by myself so I think, ‘Ok I’m gonna pray in my head, here we go.’ – And so I pray for let’s say my daughter, which leads to thinking about my daughter and what are we gonna do this weekend with my daughter, which eventually turns into “I would give anything for some pizza right now.” – It always turns back into pizza for me.
Jesus says when teaching the lords prayer “Say these words” – Say them.
When you pray out loud, you’re using this beautiful gift called your body to help your mind focus. It’s a lot harder to get distracted when you’re praying out loud because you’re engaging your mouth, you’re engaging your vocal chords, you’re engaging your ears.
Louise Our finance lady here at the church, some of you know her is named Louise. And Louise talks to herself, full volume, all day. No she’s not crazy, she’s actually incredibly intelligent. So this past week I was in her office working on her computer and she was just talking to herself, clear as day as if she was having a conversation with someone. And I just had to laugh because I was thinking about this point. And so I talked to her about it and just like this ‘pray out loud’ advice, so she says when she talks out loud, she’s able to stay focused and more clear than if she’s talking in her head, which is what the rest of us do all day.
As you go about your day, and you pray something in your head, totally fine. But if you’re deliberately setting aside a few minutes to pray, pray of loud.
Challenge: Pray for 5 minutes straight one time this week.
(FU Question : Where & when?)
‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’ (Jeremiah 33:3)
This speaks of the 2 way conversation that is prayer. And as you call out to God, the promise is that you will grow in wisdom and understanding about God, the world, and even yourself.
So as they pass, spend just a minute reconnecting with God and laying before him this subject of prayer, and let him speak into that.