A member of the congregation recently told me that they would like to know more about prayer. The English Evangelist Leonard Ravenhill said “The self-sufficient do not pray, the self-satisfied will not pray, the self-righteous cannot pray. No man is greater than his prayer life.”
Prayer is something that is so important and so vital for us both individually and collectively, especially as we as a Church seek to discern God’s plan and purpose for us. I thought it would be appropriate to spend some time over the course of the next 3 weeks in our services sharing some teaching with you on the subject of prayer. In this time, we’ll have an opportunity to explore together some of the inspiring prayers that feature in the Bible which give us some real insights into what prayer is all about.
Today, we are going to begin by looking together at the Lord’s prayer. But before we look at that specifically I thought it might be helpful to begin by inviting you to turn to your neighbour and in 2s or 3s try answering this question…what is prayer?
Prayer is many things:
- Chatting with God from our heart
- At the heart of relationship and intimacy, in which we draw close to God’s heart
- A declaration of truth
- A lifeline to the Lord
- A vehicle for confession
- Worship & praise
- A way of asking God to intercede in a situation that troubles us
- A request for God to act from an open hand of need and hope
- An expression of faith, hope and love
- A recognition of the need for God in our lives, so an act of humility
- Prayer can often be joyful and should be continuous, as natural as breathing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
We may ask ourselves if God knows what we need, and knows our thoughts before we even think them, why bother praying? The answer is simple. Prayer transforms us and helps us to develop an intimate, trusting and personal relationship with an abundantly loving God, who also happens to know us deeply. His knowledge of us should encourage us toward confident and focused prayer.
We know that Jesus is the corner stone or heart of how we are called to be as disciples. He is the “pioneer and perfecter of our faith.” His practice in prayer was:
- in secret, away from the crowds (Luke 5:15-16)
- in conflict, anticipating his death (John 12:27-28)
- in thanksgiving, upon return of the 72 (Luke 10:21)
- in intercession, for the disciples (John 17:6-19)
- in communion, at the transfiguration (Luke 9:28)
- in choices, choosing the disciples (Luke 6:12-16).
So let us consider the Lord’s prayer. It is one of the most beautiful, complete and balanced prayers that we find in Scripture. Imagine the tense expectation and excitement when one of the disciples said to Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” (Luke 11: 1b).
The first ‘half’ of the Lord’s prayer is centred on the glorification of God. The second ‘half’ covers the physical and spiritual well-being of believers. There is probably a reason for this. The priority is clear and matches Jesus’ prioritizing of the Law elsewhere: “The first of all the commandments is: Hear, Israel. The Lord our God is one Lord, and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” (Mark 12: 29, 30).
Jesus did not give this prayer as an incantation to be recited over and over—that would render it as ineffective as the “babblings” of the pagans (6:7). Jesus said, “in this manner, therefore, pray.” In other words, this is how I want you to pray—praise God (6:9), intercede for his work in the world (6:10), ask for provision of individual daily needs (6:11), and request help in daily struggles (6:12-13). It is a pattern of praise, intercession, and request that helps believers understand the nature and purpose of prayer in their relationship with their Father.
Prayer can transform our lives, transform the lives of the people we pray for and bring us into a deeper relationship with God and with one another. Let us pray…