Jesus, Teach Us to Pray

Matthew 6:5-13

When I was boy growing up in Belmond, Iowa, one of my best friends was Billy Walrod. Our yards connected to an alleyway, and in the summer time we’d run barefoot every day, swim in the pool, play ball, and ride his go kart. We had a blast!

One morning Billy was sleeping in and I was impatient, so I picked up some pebbles and began throwing them at his bedroom window. Billy didn’t wake up, but his mother came out the door. That is when the trouble started.

A man named R. S. Thomas once said, “Prayers are like gravel flung at the sky’s window hoping to attract the loved one’s attention.”

Is that how you think about prayer? Like we are flinging some words up, hoping someone is listening?

Do you remember the Gospel song,

♬”It’s me, it’s me, O Lord,
standing in the need of prayer.
Not my mother, not my brother, but it’s me, O Lord,
standing in the need of prayer.”♪

Each of us needs prayer. We need to connect from our heart to God’s heart in a relationship and believe we are loved, our lives matter, and we have a purpose. But we don’t always know how to pray. We don’t know what words to say. We don’t know who God is in order to talk with Him. No wonder the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Lord, teach us to pray.” And Jesus did just that.

Our Father . . . Jesus gives us a beautiful acknowledgment that God is not only the source of all life, the designer of the beauty in this world, and the designer of our physical bodies, but He is also our Father. Galatians 4 tells us that we have the spirit of adoption as His children. So we can call Him “Abba” – daddy – a term of endearment, affection, and intimacy of relationship. Scripture tells us in John chapter 1, “As many as receive Him (Jesus), to them God gives the power (the authority) to become the children of God who were born not of the will of blood or of man but the will of God.” Just think of it – you and I, by faith, are children of God! Jesus says we can call God, our Father.

Notice also, Jesus uses the plural pronoun our. Whatever church family you belong to, the family of God is much bigger than your individual congregation. Denominations of every church body in America? Yes! On Easter Sunday morning at the resurrection celebration, as Christians all over the world celebrate and worship God in the name of Jesus, we are all the family of God. We all call God, our Father. Whatever your vision of God’s family, it’s simply not big enough.

My grandmother used to say in Norwegian, “God has many strange children,” and then she would turn to me and say, “You are a funny boy!” God has many children in the family and we need to be welcoming of all of them. So when we pray, we pray “Our Father.” This means that, in relation to our Father, our spiritual status might be in one of three categories:

• We are prodigals, far from God and running from Him.
• We are more like the older brother – doing things out of religious duty instead of love. We do things out of obligation, not out of gratitude.
• We are fully aware of how blessed we are, privileged to trust the God of all things as our dear Father. We live in a sense of loyalty and joy because we know we are His children through Jesus Christ.

Who art in heaven . . . God is both our heavenly and our holy Father. He is heavenly not so much by location, for God is everywhere present, but because He is above us. He is distinguished from our earthly father. When dads and grandpas put on their “Best Dad Ever” shirt on Father’s Day, no matter how good they are, they are not perfect. God is our heavenly Father. He is perfect. His love for us is unconditional, and He is not limited in His reach to come to where we are, provide for us, and care for us.

Oftentimes I visit with those who had a difficult childhood due to having an unhealthy father. Perhaps their father abandoned them totally. It is good, therefore, to remember that whatever the limits or difficulties of our earthly father, our heavenly Father is perfect. He is the opposite in an ideal sense of a beautiful love dedicated to bless all his children.

Hallowed be thy name . . . Our Father is holy. He is set apart, totally different from any other being in all of reality. Therefore, God is to be glorified in our lives. We are to exalt His name, meaning we are to lift up His name and honor Him with our lives. I think it’s a good ethical filter, at the end of each day when you lay your head on the pillow, to ask, Have I carried myself as a man, as a woman, in a way that glorified the name of our Father in heaven?

Thy kingdom come . . . We can welcome God’s kingdom and surrender to His will in this prayer.

A theologian said years ago, “God will be God, though all men be dead.” In America, we have the privilege of voting in our political leaders, but we don’t vote on whether God is King. You don’t have the authority to determine whether God has the right to rule over all things as King. God is King, whether I acknowledge it or not. St. Augustine once said, “God is reigning now. But just as a light is absent to those who refuse to open their eyes, so it is possible to refuse or reject God’s rule.” Luther said, “God’s kingdom indeed comes without our praise, but in this petition we pray that God’s kingdom would come for us and to us.”

Every heart possesses a yearning for eternity. One biblical scholar said, “When we pray ‘Thy kingdom come,’ it must also simultaneously mean, my kingdom go.” We give up self rule.

Why does God have the right to reign as King?

1. He created all things. In the fall of humanity recorded in the story of Genesis 3 (Adam and Eve), we pull God down from His rightful position to rule over all things.

I don’t just blame Adam and Eve, I myself, many times, have asserted my independence of God in rebellion. In this prayer, I acknowledge the need to invite God to reign over me.

2. He sent Jesus, His Son, to die for me and redeem me by His blood shed on the cross of Calvary.

3. Jesus, by the power of God, was resurrected from the dead! He, in His living state, forgives your sin. He redeems our life and reconciles us in relationship with Himself. He has overcome even death and promises us that, when we breathe our last in this world, we will live forever in His glorious presence.

God has right to reign over us. Indeed, thy kingdom come!

Thy will be done . . . St. Ignatius once said, “Jesus Christ is the great physician.” He went on to explain that, when we pray for God’s will to come in this world, we’re really praying, by the power of Jesus Christ, for a total reversal of all the negative effects of human rebellion and all of the brokenness because of sin in the world. When the fullness of Jesus’ power ushers in His kingdom and we surrender to His will, we become partners with God in bringing the reign of God. God gives to us a kingdom of love. We are in a kingdom of forgiveness and reconciliation. We are part of the healing all things and restoring all things in the blessed name of the Lord Jesus.

Give us this day our daily bread . . . This prayer acknowledges our dependency upon God as the provider of all things. It stirs an attitude of gratitude.

Notice, Jesus uses the word, our daily bread. Our big egos should not hoard things in selfish stinginess. We share our daily bread with others.

Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us . . . Every time we approach God the Father in prayer, we are prodigals asking for His forgiveness. Like Jesus in His parable of the tax collector, we are in the corner of the temple, flat on our faces saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”

We swim in grace as we gladly receive God’s unmerited favor, which empowers us to freely give grace to all people we meet. Forgiveness is the essential key to us being peacemakers in this world.

Deliver us from evil . . . The devil is clever, isn’t he? He is a deceiver. In this prayer, we ask God to awaken our spiritual eyes so we might have insight to see the full, true consequences of every temptation the devil would throw at us. We pray we would keep vigilance in watching so we will persevere in the battle of our spirit united with God’s Spirit against the flesh.

But remember, as you live your journey of faith every day, we live from victory, not in order to gain victory. We are more than conquerors through Christ who loves us. The Word tells us, “Greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world” (I John 4:4).

I recently heard a story about a soldier serving in the Army during the Civil War who received a telegram from home telling him they had tremendous problems and trouble. His camp was just outside Washington, D.C. So the soldier journeyed to the White House to see President Lincoln and ask for a leave from his service to tend to the problems at home. When he came to the White House, however, he was told in no uncertain terms, “No, the President is too busy to visit with you.” “No, you are not going to see the President today.” Despondent, miserable, and sad, he sat down on a bench on the White House lawn.

After a few minutes, a young boy sat down on the bench beside him. “What’s the matter, mister?” he asked.

“Well, I need to see President Lincoln, but I’m not able to today.”

The boy thought a minute and said, “Come with me, mister.” The boy led him – not to the front door – but to the back door of the White House. When they entered the house, the staff straightened and addressed the young man with formality and respect. The little boy journeyed through the White House until he came to the President’s office. He didn’t knock; he just opened the door, went right in, and said, “Hey dad, there’s a man here who needs to talk to you.”

We thank God that He has sent Jesus, His Son. In the name of Jesus, God gives us access to His very presence in prayer. We can pray with confidence, as Jesus said, knowing God will hear us.

Keep praying. God hears you. Amen.

Pastor Lee Laaveg