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Sermon - June 21, 2015

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC)                                                           Sermon # 1217

June 21, 2015                                                                                                  Luke 11:1-13

Dr. Ed Pettus

 

“Abba, Father”

 

            On this Father’s Day I thought we might take a look at the prayer Jesus gave us where he instructed that we address God as Father.  God is our Heavenly Father, the One all earthly fathers seek to follow and exemplify in our lives, but we know we fall far short of God’s glory as our Father.  He is the only true loving Father.  So, let’s take a look at Jesus’ prayer for us.

 

  1. Jesus at Prayer
    1. Typical day – Mark 1:35

 

Jesus was a passionate and disciplined man of prayer.  We suspect that Mark 1 was a typical start to Jesus’ day.

 

35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”

 

I imagine the disciples woke up many mornings thinking, “Man, where is he now?”  The same scenario plays out in Luke 11, “Jesus was praying in a certain place…”  We know from these stories in the gospels that the disciples observed Jesus at prayer.  They saw that often Jesus would go off to a deserted place and pray.  Sometimes Peter, James and John were invited to go with Jesus.  We do not know specifics about what they may have seen or heard, but what we do know is the disciples wanted to know how Jesus prayed.  They desired to know how to pray.  We also want to know how to pray and how to read the Bible and how to serve and how to worship and so forth.  The disciples learned by watching Jesus and listening to him. 

 

  1. At prayer – John 17

 

We do have a few places in scripture where we have Jesus praying and we know what he prayed.  One of the largest texts we have of actual prayer from Jesus is John 17. 

After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you…, 

Jesus addresses God as Father, respectfully and intimately.  Skip to verse 15…as he prays for the disciples…

15I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. 16They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 17Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.

20 ‘I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21that they may all be one.

Jesus prays for the disciples themselves and then for all who would believe through their word.  That is you and me.  Jesus prays for all who have believed and specifically that we be united as one body.  He finishes his prayer…

25 ‘Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. 26I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.’ 

God loved Jesus and God loves us and one thing about prayer is we always know we are going to the God who loves us!

 

 

  1. Teach us to Pray
    1. Luke 11:1

 

The disciples came to Jesus and said, “Lord, teach us to pray…”  They saw Jesus praying and they saw something that they knew they did not know.  We see this word as a request of the disciples as they simply talked to Jesus, but it is also in the form of a prayer.  They address Jesus and then ask something of him.  “Lord, teach us to pray…”  This line alone is a great prayer! 

 

  1. Learning to Pray

 

This one request implies that prayer is something we learn!  Prayer is a constant learning experience.  Richard Foster has written a book on prayer that offers 21 different ways to pray.  Even his book does not exhaust the vast depth of prayer.  We can learn a great deal from reading about prayer but the best way to learn is to do it!  Praying is the best way to learn how to pray.  All the philosophies in the world do not do us a bit of good unless we do it.  We have been studying a book about prayer by Tim Keller in our Sunday School class.  It is an excellent resource to teach what scripture says, what great teachers in the church tradition have taught, and what Keller sees as aides in teaching us to pray. 

Prayer is the only topic we have in the gospels that the disciples sought to learn by asking directly.  Of course, they saw Jesus heal and worship and preach and interact with people and they learned about those things as well.  But we have no account of the disciples asking Jesus to teach them to preach or teach them to study.  Personally, I think two things are possible, probably more, but at least two things.  First, the disciples saw Jesus praying and saw other things he did and sensed the power of Christ that could only come through prayer.  Or, on the other hand, they may not have seen and heard enough and still felt ill equipped to pray.  Have you ever felt like you did not know how to pray, or did not have the words, or felt unworthy?  Prayer can be intimidating for us when we feel inadequate to pray and maybe even more if we feel unworthy to approach God. 

            Prayer, at its basic level, is just talking to God.  That is where we start.  We do not have to start in the middle or somewhere further along the journey of prayer.  I have read some of the writings of great pray-ers and I am intimidated by the time involved, the depth involved, and the insights gained in prayer.  But we are going to stay simple today – just talk to God!

 

            Prayer is both simple and complex.  Prayer is odd yet familiar.  Prayer is larger than the time we can give to it today in one sermon, but Jesus response to the request of the disciples and teaches them (and us) to pray.

 

  1. When you pray…not if

 

Jesus first says, “When you pray”…  Jesus assumes prayer.  He did not say “if you pray”, but when.  When you pray…say.  He tells us what to say.  He gives us some indication of how to go about the discipline of prayer.  Basically he says, when you pray…give God reverence, ask God for daily needs, forgiveness, and protection from trials.  I believe Jesus would also say, when you pray…or before you pray…study the prayers of the Bible, especially the Psalms.  Use those prayers when appropriate for your circumstance.  I don’t know how many times I might use a prayer from 2 Chronicles 20:5-12 as Jehoshaphat’s prays, “[I] do not know what to do, but [my] eyes are on you”. 

When you pray…pray as much to God when you do not know what to do as when you do!  When you pray…praise, give thanks, bless, exalt, confess, lament, complain, rejoice, hope, dream, ask, seek, and knock.  When you pray…be present with God.  When you pray…have fun!  When you pray…be yourself.  When you pray…listen for God to speak.  Jesus assumed you would pray.  When you pray…say.  Just talk to God.   

 

 

  1. Father!
    1. Abba

 

Jesus addressed God in a very intimate way.  Abba is like our expression of “daddy” or “papa”.  Of course, Jesus is God’s only begotten son.  He is worthy to address God as Abba, Father.  But He also teaches us to address God as Father, because we have become God’s adopted children

 

  1. OUR Father – public,

 

Before we make this an individualistic prayer with our Heavenly Dad, we might notice that this is a community prayer.  “Give us bread, forgive us, do not bring us…”  In the version we pray in worship we begin with “Our Father.”  This is not a selfish prayer but one for all of us.  It is not my shopping list of needs, but a prayer to God for God’s will among all of God’s people.  It calls for the blessing of food, for instance, to come upon us, not just me.  Sometimes I find myself praying in homes with people using plural pronouns and I wonder if folks are paying attention to that, for one thing, but I do it as a learned practice of being a part of a larger community of faith.  There are, of course, opportunities for us to pray the “I” “me” prayers, but the Lord’s prayer teaches us that such self-centered prayers should not dominate our prayer life.  And what does it mean to pray for our daily bread when some are well fed and others struggle to find their next meal?  They may not be our next door neighbors, but we live in a world of plenty for some and extreme scarcity for others.  To pray for our daily bread is to pray for better distribution of bread, with the hope that all may have daily bread.  It is to remind us to better distribute what we have, to give to others who have been included in the “us” of “give us our daily bread.” 

            Or take the forgiving of sins or debts or trespasses…this is also a community prayer.  Forgive us for we have forgiven others, or as we say it in worship, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”  It sounds like our sins will be forgiven only in so far as we forgive others!  And it is not just me forgiving my debtors, but it is us, all of us forgive our debtors!   If you have had a chance to read or hear the families of those killed in Charleston SC, you heard them forgiving the person who shot and killed nine brothers and sisters in Christ.  In the Lord’s prayer we are asking God to enable us to live out the Christian life, reflecting the glory of God.  This might help bring the Lord’s prayer back to life for us.  We take it for granted so only.  This prayer brings all of us closer together.  It certainly makes the prayer much more serious for us this morning.  It brings us together in community as one body sharing in the adoration of God, sharing in the distribution of blessing, sharing in the forgiveness of sin, sharing in the openness to God’s will being done. 

  1. The Lord’s Prayer (with Matt. 6:9-13)
    1. First about God

 

Let’s consider the structure of this prayer.  The first part of the prayer is all about God.  We address the Father.  We hallow, or revere, His name.  We seek His kingdom.  We pray for His will.  What that teaches is that we might consider beginning with God when we pray.  Certainly we begin with an address.  “Oh God”  “Jesus”  “Lord”  That is our first place – to address the One to whom we pray.  But when I speak about beginning with God I also mean to give the honor and praise that is due to our God.  Sometimes we go to God with our needs or desires from the beginning.  But praise and adoration sets the pray-er in the proper position of humility before the throne of God. 

 

  1. Second about Us

 

The second part of the prayer is about us and others.  Give us daily bread, forgive us, lead us not.  Once we have given praise and adoration to God, we begin to consider our needs and the needs of others.  But that is only after we have placed ourselves in proper position of humble devotion to the One we address as Father. 

 

  1. Lessons in Prayer
    1. Prayer as a Response to God

 

One of the lessons we have learned in our Sunday school class is prayer as a response to God.  God has spoken His word to us.  He has taken the initiative to us.  From His revealed word, we approach God as a response to what He has said to us.  In essence, we listen to God’s word (first part of our prayer) and then we respond to that word through our own words. 

 

b.     Prayer as a Request of God

 

Our words may eventually lead us to make our requests known to God.  This is the one of the lessons of Luke 11 – persistence.  Jesus teaches us through a prayer and he goes on in Luke 11 to teach persistence through a story about a man who goes to his neighbor for bread at midnight.  Perhaps that says something to the persistence of praying the Lord’s Prayer Sunday after Sunday.  Perhaps that speaks to what we might learn by praying with perseverance, to learn by doing, to grow by turning our attention to God, each day, and every moment of our lives. 

            Jesus says to ask, seek, and knock.  Prayer is an act of persistence, and learning to prayer is an act of persistence.  There is much more to learn than just Luke 11.  Psalms, prayers throughout the Bible all give us lessons for prayer.  Books, experiences, and other resources give us insight into an ever-deepening life of prayer. 

We pray because we believe prayer is real and powerful.  To the unbeliever who sees or hears us pray the Lord’s Prayer, we might as well be telling our cars to “Stay!”  But to the believer, it is power, it is communion, it is hope, it is faith in action.  The Lord’s Prayer carries powerful meaning and powerful lessons that we can carry with us in all our prayers. 

 

Jesus also compares our ability to give gifts with God’s ability, which is way beyond anything we could do.  We know how bad we can be and yet we don’t give someone a pickle when they ask for a candy bar.  If we know how to give good gifts, how much more…what a great phrase…how much more will God give the Holy Spirit – how much more!

 

 

  1. Pray, Pray, Pray

 

Pray without ceasing and pray about everything!  If we take anything away from today, let it be that we focus more attention to praying.  Pray like you mean it!  Pray like you believe it!  Pray with passion and if you do not feel like praying sometime, pray til you do!  It’s like the basketball playing who misses the first few shots and he just shots until he starts making them.  Let us envelop our church with prayer.  Let us make one of the testimonies about us, that they sure do pray a lot!  Amen.