Matthew 6:1-21. Notice what Jesus says:
1. Do not pray like the Pharisees public display, to show their own piety and (self ) righteousness
2. Do not pray like Pagans who babble on in an attempt to get what they want. God actually knows what we need before we pray (so whats the point of praying?) Pray like this ...
The Lords Prayer at its heart is the phrase Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. This phrase reflects what is different about this prayer and the prayer of Pharisees and Pagans.
Praying Like Pagans
New Prayer Sending Prayers to the Last Known Location of God. What is interesting is their assumptions about God and prayer:
How can we know that our prayers are heard and that we are clearly sending our message to God? What do we know for sure about the location of God?
So, the inventors of the New Prayer website have a radio transmitter aimed at the center of the universe. They assume that if God created the universe with a Big Bang, then God had to be there, so they beam prayers to Gods last known location. If your prayers havent been answered (they claim) you just havent been facing the right direction or you dont have enough wattage.
The website is now defunct, but there is a report about it at www.religioustolerance.org/tnews_01oct.htm
2001-OCT-24 (approx): Pay-2-Pray: Send prayer to God. A new service is being provided by a web site at www.NewPrayer.com. At no cost, you can compose a prayer to God and send it to this web site. They have designed and built a directional radio transmitter which will then transmit your prayers to the last known location of God. They state: "We know that GOD was at the birth of His universe. We know how the universe began - with a 'Big Bang'. We know where the oldest part of the universe is located. We can transmit radio messages to this precise location."
They don't guarantee a reply. One thing that they forgot to mention is that it will take billions of years for the message to travel from Earth to the oldest part of the universe.
We can easily reject their assumptions about the Big Bang and the last known location of God. We believe that God is with us not away out in space. But the assumptions about prayer are not so easy to dismiss because we share in many of these assumptions.
1) The assumption that prayer is all about asking and getting.
2) The assumption that prayers done right get answered and prayers not done right fail to transmit
3) The assumption that prayer is our technique to change God.
Haddon Robinson tells a story that illustrates our tendency to pray for what we want. He says that when his children were small he played a game. Hed take coins in his fist and his children would sit in his lap work to open his fingers. Once a finger was opened it had to stay opened. They would work at this until they got all the pennies in his hand. Then they would jump down and run away giggling and happy. Sometimes we come to God and all we want are the pennies in his hand. Lord I need, ... I need We reach for the pennies and when God grants the request, we push away his hand. More important than the pennies in Gods hand is the hand of God himself.
Praying Like Pharisees
Many Pharisees were well-intentioned, but misguided. They thought that prayer was all about them. Sometimes we turn prayer into a chore and we forget the one to whom we pray. It sounds quite good to dedicate ourselves to more prayer (and perhaps fasting and contribution) but if the focus is not on the one to whom we pray, then the pbject of our prayers become our own special interest the righteousness we seek is our own self-righteouness. Self-serving prayer becomes out divine sanction for our self-serving status quo but what if that status needs to be changed? When this is the case, prayer does not put us in touch with Gods presence.
Isaiah 58:3 The Lord desires mercy, not sacrifice. Our prayers and fasting and religious observance do not earn Gods favor. We can prayer without ceasing but if our prayers are inconsistent with our life, then we are not in step with God.
We have become self-righteous if our prayers express and reinforce our own interests rather than glorifying God and inviting submission to Gods will. If our prayers mirror our self-centered culture and are simply an expressing of our interest that it is no wonder that our ministries suffer, that we ache over conflicts in the church, that we divide into camps and our worship becomes the focus of offense and argument.
The language THY will be done and the admission that we need forgiveness and need to forgive others, the dependence on God for daily food assumes an attitude of repentance, not arrogance. Let us no longer focus on our will being done and attempt to impose our will upon the whole church or accuse others of trying to do so when we are frustrated.
Praying Like Jesus
The agenda for the Lords Prayer is not a formula that commands the God in the sky to give us what weve always wanted. The agenda for the Lords kind of praying is not to appease the Almighty with the right kind of religious talk or to demonstrate our religious ability.
The agenda of the prayer Jesus taught his disciples is to welcome God to reveal his will on earth to make known his power and transform people and society. It anticipates God revealing his hand and making his power known over all the world. It longs for a spiritual shockwave that turns our world inside out and makes everything new and holy. Of course the epicenter of that shockwave is the church and the hearts of those faithful in prayer.
Now God will enact his will whether we invite or not, he doesnt need our prayers to make it happen. So, our prayers must have something to do with us entering into that kingdom agenda! Prayer changes us.
Prayer that glorifies God is transforming. Why? Because we are not focused on our needs, but the one who meets those needs. Why? Because we are not focused on the healing, but the healer. Why? Because we are not focused on the gifts, but the gift-giver.
Prayer properly involves the profession that God rules the world, that God claims our individual and communal lives. Gods rule is characterized by attributes such as righteousness, mercy, and justice. So, those who acknowledge Gods claim to rule the world in such a way will also have to be righteous, merciful and just. One cannot pray Thy will be done with no intention of ever wanting to be like God. When Gods people acknowledge that he rules the world, they will become like God! It is an invitation to set aside our own interest and to offer ourselves and our church for the sake of the world just as God offers himself for the sake of the world.
Challenge: Faithful in Prayer
Internet and TV offers promise diets and fitness that can change your body and health in less than 6 weeks. 10 weeks to this, 12 weeks to that. New life and new opportunities are just a few weeks away.
Prayer is not a technique that manipulates God, and prayer is something we are always supposed to do not just at special times. But how many of us have daily routines of prayer? Jesus set aside 40 days to pray and fast so that he might be prepared for his mission. Prayer was not optional, it was transformational and essential.
Now just imagine what YOU might be like if you prayed for 40 days. How different would you be? How differently would you come to God? Who would you forgive? How would your relationships change?
Now imagine what WE might be like if we prayed like this for 40 days. How would the church be changed if some of us prayed for one another for 40 days? How would our focus change? How different would our worship and fellowship change if we prayed for one another often? How would our ministry and mission be different? How would the world change if a church prayed for 40 days? How would they impact their community? Who would be affected?
The answer to all these is what could God do with a people who are humble and submissive to him for 40 days? What could Gods spirit do with a people who for just five weeks were faithful in prayer?
How would Gods kingdom come? How might his will be done on earth as it is in heaven?
Link to next sermon
Link to other sermons of Chris Benjamin