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letthewordreveal

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us….

Month

August 2014

Pray Like This – Matthew 6:9-13

When you are in desperate need, what do you do?

Life comes at us with all it’s brokenness, sinfulness, hurts, stresses, pressures. We are so often left feeling helpless at various stages in life.

Who is a helper to you in your need? Do you put your confidence in men? Your possessions? Your morality?

The question of questions that all should ask is, ‘Who is God to me in my need?’.

Asking is a prerequisite for receiving. You have not because you ask not, James said, and also said that we often don’t have because we ask wrongly, looking to only fulfill our desires.

That prayers can be wrongfully offered, of that we are aware. ( Matthew 6:5-8). Barriers to our prayers being answered include self-righteousness and treating God like a genie whose arm can be twisted by our repetitious selfish requests.

Prayers offered from proud hearts don’t go past the roof of our self-righteousness. Happiness for the believer is prayer without that roof, and we get that through honesty in our prayers.

Jesus’ desire for His followers is that they would pray, and the model of prayer He gives the disciples shows us that the key is confession. Confession about Who God really is, and how needy we are.

1 – Hallowed be Your Name: Seeing God As Father

Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and you’ve spent the whole time trying to remember their name? It gets so awkward that you bluff your way to a quick goodbye? Situations like that rightly may leave the other person think you don’t know them as well as you act like you do.

To know someone’s name is to know them. The name and the person cannot be separated.

How well do you know God? Are you acquainted with Him to the extent you can call Him Father?

God as our Father gives us a vivid picture of intimacy,dependence,vulnerability, condescension, humility. We might say we have to give up a lot to become children of God, but the truth is, it is He Who had given up much so we can become His children. We come to Him through the very life of His Only Begotten Son, Who died in our place to make us adopted into God’s family.

God is Father. God is also Holy. If God is holy and perfect, than it follows that we would rightly reverence His name above all others.

You can’t reverence what you don’t value, so if God’s name means nothing to you. If God means nothing to you, than you won’t get far in trying to address Him, you won’t get past the first statement.

Your needs will never be met if you don’t see that God can meet them.

Where is our Father? In Heaven. Transcendent, above all, over all. Eternal. But still Father. His position shows us His beauty and holiness. His name shows us His grace and love, and none cancel out the others. He is not so far removed from us by His position that we cannot call upon Him.Our Father in Heaven = tenderness with all power.

2 – Your Kingdom Come: God as King
We are to eagerly anticipate the return of Christ to set up His Kingdom. The kingdom that He has established was, as He told Pilate, not of this world ( John 18:36), but we know also there is a kingdom to come that will be unlike any the world has ever seen. Christ will reign, and all will be set right.

We await the day when sin’s presence is eliminated.

We should not pray for His kingdom to come unless we are prepared for Him to reign over us.

We should not pray for it while holding out hope that He will wait just a little until we get married. Get that job. Get that home. Have our family. Live our life. It’s His kingdom that is to come, our’s is fading and will fade. Let’s ask for something far grander than our weak and foolish desires.

3 – Your Will be Done, on Earth as it is in Heaven: God as Sovereign

What is the will of God? The Will of God is ultimately that all things would glorify and praise His name.

Heaven is perfect. There is never any doubt that God’s will is carried out in Heaven.

Earth on the other hand, and us in particular, are not nearly as obedient as we should be. We are still under the influence of sin’s presence, and so we are still prone to following our own desires, seeking our own glory.

The only thing that can fix this is for the whole world to pass away. Heaven as it is, will have to pass too, as it isn’t compatible with our earth.

All things will be made new ( Revelation 21:4), and then God’s Will will be done on earth as it is in Heaven, because then, life will be eternal and the curse will be no more.

4 – Give us our Daily Bread: God as Provider

We move from the Heavenly realm to the earthly, as Christ goes from explaining the purpose of life is that God’s name is hallowed by showing us how we must ask God to meet our needs.

That God provides all our needs is something we know academically. In our hearts though, the story we tell ourselves more often is full of anxiety, distrust and fear.

Daily bread sounds awfully boring, but no one could ever accuse God of meeting our daily needs in a boring way.

Life lived in daily reliance on God is exciting, and fulfilling. As a child of God, you will never lack. You may lack property, health, food. But you will never lack Him. In every situation in life, Paul says, we can have contentment and even joy. It is in Christ, He is all we need.

When God is in charge of our provision, not only will our daily physical needs be met, but we will find ourselves worrying about them less and less.

Instead of just asking the Provider for bread, the greater request is to ask for the Provider to be your provision.Let the Bread of Life fulfill all your needs.

Only when we truly see what He provides will we give up pursuing what we want.

5 – Forgive us: God as Saviour.

While relying on God for physical needs is important, spiritual needs are far more significant. The lesson is clear, don’t get caught up in yourself. Don’t get caught up in what you think you need. Don’t get stuck in asking for your physical comforts alone. For that hardship to end. For that person to love and accept you. For that amount to appear in your bank account every week. God cares for your needs, He cares about your cares, but He cares for you soul far more. He cares for what is eternal about you.

Forgiveness is the key to all prayer. We have no access to God without forgiveness, and Christ enjoins us to not only ask forgiveness, but to pass it on to others.

Unforgiving people will go into eternity unforgiven. ( v14&15).

If God has removed our guilt, atoned for our sin, redeemed us, acquitted us, and paid the debt we owed to Him, Himself, who are we to say He did all that only for our name? God’s forgiveness of us is for His name, not our own.

To not forgive others is to say Jesus’ death wasn’t enough for their sin, for our hurt.

We have been restored to fellowship with God. He is our Father. We have a deeply personal relationship with Him. To be bitter towards others while being in this relationship is disobedience. Our renewed fellowship with God means we must go after a renewed relationship with those who have hurt us.

A vital part of this prayer is that we pray in community. OUR Father, OUR daily bread, OUR debts, deliver US. Prayer is the great leveler. All are equal before God, and prayer brings us all to our knees, together.

Do we move towards others with a community approach, saying “we”? Or are we more exclusive, creating distinctions where forgiveness should be applied, or our own sin should be confessed? When we are exclusive in our interactions, chances are much higher that we have unforgiveness in our hearts. Are we grace hunters or sin hunters?

There is no greater self-righteous act than to be unforgiving.

We make our friends. We make our enemies. God makes our neighbors. – Chesterton

6 – Deliver us from evil: God as Rescuer.

We may be confused at asking God to not lead us into temptation. God doesn’t tempt us, does He? James 1:13-15 clearly says no, He doesn’t. Temptation comes from following our own sinful desires.

So why pray this way? For the same reason we would ask for His name to be hallowed – it already is. Or for His kingdom will come – it will. All God’s purposes will be carried out, but our responsibility is to seek His face, especially in our deepest need, the need to be free of sin’s hold on us.

Deliverance from evil will come only when we ask God to give us new desires so that we would no longer be tempted to the sins we used to commit in our ignorance. ( 1 Peter 1:14,15).

God rescues us in our deepest distress, and hearts that are willing to be conformed to His goodness by obedience in faith in Christ, will be delivered from evil.

Evil has no hold on those who want God’s name to be glorified.

Acting out the Lord’s Prayer:
This prayer has two parts to it.

The first is where God’s power, sanctity and glory are clearly presented.

The second is where our needs are laid bare in light of God’s power, sanctity and glory.

We live in the second part. When we are honest, we know our needs. They are basic. We need daily physical needs met. We want relationships restored through forgiveness, and we want to be free of evil in our lives.

The call we are being given though is to live in the first part, to come up, and be caught up in God’s glory and power of sufficiency, most of all that we would not be obsessed with our own comfort and glory, but that we would fully hallow His name.

There is nothing higher than God’s name. That is why we are to hallow it above all other names, all other things. We hallow HIS name. All that proceeds after this proviso in the prayer is done in, by and for HIS name, HIS glory.

We pray like this so that we would not focus on our need, but on Him and what He provides.

So often we come to God with “I need, I need, I need”. But God made you to be a part of something far greater than your problems.

When you lose sight of Who God is, where He is, what He had done, His purposes for you, life will overwhelm you. Your needs will overcome you.

The question you must ask yourself is:

Are my needs greater than God?

Can He not meet you needs, or is it that your needs come from a heart that does not belong to Him?

‘ God will make His holiness manifest throughout the world, and we will honor His name in all we do.’ – Osborne

Let Him be your Father. He has come down to you. Look up to Him. Be in need of Him.

Do you know His name & can you say it without contempt? Can you call upon Him to meet your needs where other people & things have failed? Would you call upon Him to replace you needs, your desires, with greater ones, the greatest one? Himself. His name. Anything else, anyone else, will lead you to destroy yourself. His name will lead you to fulfillment of your purpose, to glorify God & honor His name.

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More & More….1 Thessalonians 4

What do you do more than others? This was a challenge Jesus laid out for His followers in the sermon on the mount ( Matthew 5:47) in the area especially of loving others.Paul in speaking the Thessalonians to walk after the things of God more and more ( 1 Thess 4:1,10).

It is a very challenging thought, that we would love God (4:1) and others (4:10) more and more, because if we base our Christian lives on only what we do, we will either become self-righteous and proud, or exhausted and overwhelmed, because ‘more and more’ sounds a lot like rules about prohibitions and exhibitions!

1 Thessalonians 4:1 gives us a major turning point in the epistle. Paul had been describing already what kind of people they were, and should be, and that they would continue in the gospel they had been entrusted with. He now moves on to directly exhorting them to do and not do certain things. In essence, he says, “ Keep doing what you are doing, but do it more, don’t become complacent.” .

Paul doesn’t give us rules about how to make ourselves look good though. He is far more concerned, just as Christ was in the sermon on the mount, with our hearts and what Christians should desire above all.

1- To be MORE holy v 1-8

Paul’s first call is for believers to consider the what the will of God is for their lives, and it’s not as complicated as we might be inclined to think!

the will of God for us is our sanctification ( being set apart and holy).v1- 3
Paul’s call is that they would continue to walk in what they had received and to do things that please God rather than themselves.
That is the essence of being holy. In trusting in God’s grace, and Christ’s finished work, we are found in Christ, set apart, holy and called out, sanctified.

God’s explicit will for us in our salvation is that we would be made holy before Him without blame, in love ( Ephesians 1:4). We have been purchased with the blood of Christ, redeemed from the slavery of sin to serve the living and true God, who now wants our bodies, minds, and hearts to be conformed to be like Jesus.

this means that we would abstain from sexual immorality( sex outside marriage) and to know how to be self-controlled v 3b – 4
The definition of holiness and our being set apart is that we would not serve our desires, but follow after God’s.

There is no greater example of this than in our sexuality. We have been made holy vessels for God’s service, so why would defile ourselves by disobeying God’s good design for our bodies or our minds?

Self-control in this area would mean we are seen not to go along with what everyone else is doing. We don’t accept immorality. We stand against it, especially in our own lives. Just because ‘everyone else is doing it’ doesn’t mean we must resign ourselves to accepting defeat in this area. If Paul said it was possible to self-controlled, than we can be. If God’s Word says it is possible to abstain from sexual immorality in thought ( Matthew 5:27-30) or deed, than it is. We may never be free from the temptation, but we can certainly be free of the power of it. The best weapon that we have, and so often underplay or overlook as being irrelevant, is abstinence. Abstaining from sexual immorality is not rocket science, but it can be hard, especially when we have wired ourselves to excuse or justify our wrongful thoughts and actions, and even blame others when we do sin in this area, but the truth is we have no one to blame for our sinful actions but ourselves.

so that we wouldn’t be like those who don’t know God. v 5
The obvious danger of not obeying God in this is that we would be like the unbelievers, who spend their lives just doing whatever feels good to them, without considering other’s sacredness or their own.

so that we would not set a bad example to our fellow believers or cause them to sin by sinning against them.v 6
Living in this kind of destructive sin will have consequences. You may cause another person to sin in the same way, or by sinning against someone else in this way, you may cause them to sin in their reaction to your sin. This is a vicious cycle that can only be stopped when we consider the will of God for us, and for those around us. To cause another person to sin is a great offense before God, and we will be held accountable for that if we remain unrepentant.

God has called us not to impurity, but holiness.v 7
“ Holiness in the realm of of sexuality is not just some admirable virtue; rather,it proceeds from the person of God Himself.” – Gary Shogren

if we ignore this, we wouldn’t be ignoring the command of Paul or other human authority, but God Himself, who has given us His Spirit.v 8

2- To be MORE loving v 9,10
Paul turns to another theme about which he knew the believers already knew about, but it’s one of those things that bears repeating. Like instructions from your mother or wife. It’s not because they don’t think you heard, but because it’s really important!

Why the repetition? We forget the things we should not, and tend to remember the things we should forget.

We have been taught by God how to love one another, but how far does our love go? Can we ever reach a stage where we can safely say we love someone else perfectly? Paul clearly thinks thats not possible. Love more and more.

3- To be MORE diligent v 11,12

Living quietly appeals to some more than others.

Paul’s instruction here has been misconstrued and twisted into a separation doctrine that instead of keeping out the influence of sin, we see evil as being more powerful than He that lives within us.

Christians are not to use their call to holiness as an excuse from being in the world. When we focus too much on our separation from others, we tend to lose sight of the most important commandments and the great commission.

Live with quiet integrity. Be known to be diligent, and busy with the right things. The Thessalonians were known for being busy about loving others ( 1 Thess 1:3, 4:9&10). What are we known for? Looking for reasons not to associate with certain people, or looking for opportunities to love with God’s love?

4- To be MORE hopeful v 13-18

In v1-12, Paul has laid out some ethics for how believers should live in practical ways. In v 13-18 he gives us an excellent motivation for living like this, but also a great call to hope in a world that can seem to be overwhelming in it’s attacks on our purity, holiness, integrity, patience, and of course, on life itself.

It is the return of Jesus Christ to the world that will not only give us vindication over the evil and evil one who attack us in this life, but the mere fact He is coming back is meant to give us hope NOW, especially in our loss.

Paul turns his attention to give more detail about Christ’s return, and we hunger for it. We want to know what we don’t know. We want to know what happens next. We get obsessed with it actually.We love fine print, even when there isn’t any. But Paul doesn’t give us times, dates, places, names. He gives us hope and comfort, so we can encourage one another, not to scare one another with speculations, conspiracies and divisive applications.

We mourn for the loss of those we love, but Paul says although we mourn, we shouldn’t mourn like people without hope. We have sorrow, we have sadness in our lives, it is in our nature and we shouldn’t disregard it’s place. Christ Himself those who mourn will be comforted ( Matthew 5:4). But our mourning is not like the world’s mourning. We have hope, and we should have. Not as a distant, “Maybe”, but a certainty, a surety. This will happen! It is a desire we should have if we truly belong to the returning, conquering, redeeming King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Our hope, Paul says, is that they get to see Him first! We should not be sad for them, they are closer to Christ than we can presently be, and though we may be left here on earth when our loved ones die, but the day is coming when we will be reunited with them.

What proof do we have that this will happen?

Jesus’ Second Coming hinges on what He did at His first. If we don’t believe that, if that doesn’t give us hope, then this certainly will be meaningless to us also.

He died and rose again, if that is true ( 1 Thess 4:14), then it follows that His Word is true about this also, that we who die will also rise again, and those who haven’t died at His returning, will be caught up to meet Him in the air at a gathering unlike any other the world has ever or will ever see, and from then on, we will be with Him forever.

What does that mean for us?

We will not just see our loved ones, but the greater hope and desire is that we will see Him.

The hope of seeing Him purifies us, John says. ( 1 John 1:2,3) That encourages us in all that has gone before in Paul’s instructions and calls to holiness and purity and love, that these are not only possible, but for believers, gloriously already within our grasp. If Christ died, rose, and is coming again, then we can surely live for Him in such a way that when He comes, not only will we see Him, He will see us, and we will be fully glorified in Him, and fully free from all the griefs of this world.

If we die in this world, when He comes back, there’s no grave that can hold us down! Life conquers death, and at His appearing, there will be no doubt that death is defeated.

This is should be an encouragement.

When was the last time you were encouraged or encouraged others in the fact of The Lord’s return? Maybe we need to remind one another of what it’s really about, not what we would like it to be about. It’s not about our predictions, interpretations, guesses, wishes, or deepest desires. If our desire isn’t to see Him and be with Him forever, then our situation is far worse then just being ‘left behind’. We were never truly caught up with Him to begin with.

Let Him be our goal. Let His coming in glory and with justice be our only source of hope and encouragement as we desire to live for Him until that day.

The Suffering But Victorious Jesus. 1 Peter 3:18-22

We have all heard the question, WWJD?. It is meant to challenge us to be more like Him in our lives, especially in areas where we need to submit to God’s Will in our lives and be less self-serving.

The question on our minds in this passage though is WDJD? What exactly did Jesus do?

What on earth was Peter thinking when he wrote this section? Did he know what confusion it would cause us?!

Hearing phrases that have inspired creeds to say, “ He descended into hell…” , may well make us say, just like in common vernacular, “ You say what?”. If that isn’t confusing enough, he will go on to say, “ Baptism now saves you!”.

It sounds like we are getting impossible information, contradictory information compared to what we know the rest of scripture says.If you haven’t learnt the valuable lesson “ context is everything”, then this passage is the perfect example! Peter’s context of course, is that he is preparing believers for suffering innocently, wrongfully. He has just stated that it is better if we suffer for doing good, than for evil, and he then gives us the ultimate example of innocent suffering in Christ, Who seemed to be defeated by evil, but yet, was victorious over it all.

So what did Jesus actually do, and Who is He for us in His suffering that we could have hope, purpose, and a reason in our’s?

1 – The Sinless Jesus (v 18a): He defeated sin and brought us to God.

What is ultimate cause of offense in this world for you?

One thing we may list is seeing innocent people suffer. We hate injustice. We should hate injustice.

What causes injustice though? Is it just corruption in the minds and hearts of “those” people?

As believer, we know that all injustice comes from something we have in our own hearts. Sin causes us to sin and we see the effects of sin throughout the whole world.

Innocent people who suffer wrongfully have our respect, our love even. We see no point to any of it, and sometimes, no end to it either.

Peter says that Christ suffered, once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, and we would do very well to pay attention to this if we truly want answers to the suffering in our world.

Christ’s suffering FOR sins, not in sins, shows us just how much He as willing to take on Himself for our sakes. He, the just and righteous one, died for us, the unjust and unrighteous.

For what purpose did He do this? To bring us to God.

Our attention may then turn to God, to say to Him, as we do so often with all unjust suffering, “Why?”.

But we cannot go too far with that question in accusation against God, when we see that it was Himself on the Cross. It was the Son of God that died in our place, showing us the great love and grace of God.

Because it was the only way for sin and evil to be defeated, was by letting the Ultimate Innocent suffer for all of sin and evil’s consequences. If Christ had not suffered once for all sins, then we could truly say that all suffering truly is meaningless, and we would all be without hope. ( 1 Corinthians 15).

Christ’s suffering FOR sins, while sinless Himself, frees us from the greatest curse of sin, separation from God. It brings us back to God, where we have the peace of belonging to God.

If you do not have peace about Christ’s suffering for your sin, chances are, you don’t have peace with God. If you think Christ’s death is foolish, you would not be alone either. But the weakness, foolishness and seeming defeat of Jesus, actually is part of the greatest victory that we can ever know.

2 – The Eternal Jesus (v 18b-21): He defeated death and proclaimed life.

What happened to Jesus between His death and resurrection?

There are many views on what the text could mean, but lets look at what it says first:

He was put to death in the flesh. v18b
He was made alive in the spirit. v 18b
In the spirit, He went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison. v19
He was then resurrected. v21b
He then went to heaven, where He is at the right hand of God. v22

Now, the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Jesus are what we should focus on, and that is actually Peter’s whole point – what do they mean for us? – but we seem to want to draw conclusions about what we don’t know about these verses, rather than what we do know! We would rather make doctrines out of interpretations of what it all MIGHT mean rather than glorify God for what they DO mean!

Who were the spirits Jesus preached to? Where is the prison? What did He say to them? How long was He there? What’s Noah got to do with it? What’s baptism got to do with our salvation?

What we know about the spirits is that they were disobedient in the days of Noah, and spurned God’s grace, and in doing so, condemned themselves to being destroyed by the flood of God’s judgement on the world.

As to where they are now, it would seem that they are in prison, bound until the final judgement. ( 2 Peter 2:4-5;Jude 6). It would seem that if they are awaiting judgement, had already been disobedient to God’s call, them being in prison would indicate their guilt has already been declared.

If their guilt has been declared, and they already await judgement, what could Jesus possibly proclaim to them? The word used for ‘proclaimed’ was ‘the pronouncement of an edict”. It could be said then, that Jesus went to the spirits in prison and announced His defeat of evil, His defeat of the evil one who they had been obedient to and followed instead of God.

Peter likes using Noah and his family as a type of Jesus and salvation, he uses them again in 2 Peter 2:4&5.

Peter is speaking of the death of Christ, and how it defeated sin and death. The flood of Noah’s day destroyed all who were disobedient to God’s call to salvation that came through Noah’s ark. The flood destroyed the world, but saved the world at the same time. The flood came because of the wickedness of mankind, it came so God could start again with Noah, who had found grace in God’s sight because of his faith and righteousness. God was redeeming the world through judgement.

Noah and his family were saved through the waters ( v20b). They were saved because of the judgement of God on the world.What was their salvation, was the judgement of those who refused to obey God.

Christ’s death proclaims to us several things, and the most important of course is that salvation is available. Cleansing is available. You can be made right with God through Christ’s death. You can have life instead of death.

God is in the business of saving people from their own destructive ways of sin. He wants to give life, not death. He has done all that needs to be done in order for us to have life, eternal life. But we must obey the Gospel. If we do not, we condemn ourselves to the very judgement that Christ bore for us, separation from God. If we don’t believe, if we don’t obey, if we don’t die to ourselves, we will be judged by the perfect and holy God. Water can cleanse, or it can destroy.

Baptism signifies all these things to us the same way Noah’s flood does. Water cleanses our outward body, and in baptism, we are identifying with Jesus in His death, we are saying, “This outward act of washing symbolizes the cleansing Christ has done in my inner life”.

Baptism, when done from a pure conscience towards God, shows that we belong to God, through what Christ has done for us. The act of baptism does not save us, but shows that we have been saved, because of Christ.

How are we declared to have a good conscience before God? Not just in Christ’s death, but also in His resurrection, we are justified before God. ( Romans 4:24,25).

“Jesus Christ did not just defeat death. He did not just deny death. He destroyed death.” – Keller

In the cross, He defeats evil by dying in our place, the just for the unjust.

In the grave, He defeats death by rising again, proclaiming life.

In taking on Himself God’s judgement for us, He satisfies the wrath of God, and sets us free from condemnation.

3 – The Vindicated Jesus ( v22): He ascended to heaven, to power, to authority.

Jesus stands alone as the only Savior of mankind, not just in His sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection, but also because one His actions that we so often overlook, His ascension.

If Christ had not ascended to heaven after His earthly ministry, we would not have access to Him with the ministry He has to us now. If Christ was still on earth, although He would have a fully resurrected and glorified body, He would still be limited.

He had to ascend to heaven, not only so the Spirit could come and dwell with every believer, but so He could take His place at God’s right hand to rule over angels, authorities and powers, but also to intercede for us before God as our great High Priest. ( Hebrews 4:14-16).

His ascension to this position shows us that He has been completely vindicated. Not only has He defeated death by dying, the grave by rising, but now He sits in all authority, having everything subject to Him, waiting for the day when every knew will bow and call Him Lord, when final judgement and perfect justice is served to those who have not obeyed the Gospel.

His death, burial, and resurrection make Him our Savior. His ascension makes Him our Lord and King, we have so much to hope in!

“ On the cross, Jesus wins by losing. Triumphs through defeat. Achieves power through weakness. Comes to wealth by giving all away.” – Keller

No other leader of any other religion has suffered or died for sins. Many have suffered and died because of their own sins, but never for the sins of others. Absolutely none.

None have risen again from the dead either.

Only Jesus Christ is the suffering victor. Only in His death do we have life. Only in His life, power, and victory do we have hope in this world despite our own defeats, trials, and persecutions. All the injustice of the world is meets its Champion in the Cross, its justification in the Resurrection, and it’s end at the Judgement throne of Christ. All is redeemed in Jesus’s work.

The question that remains is, what will you do with Jesus did for you?

Praying Like God is Listening…Matthew 6:5-8

There is a story told of a couple of brothers who were getting competitive with each other, and going back and forth with they could outdo one another on, ‘Anything you can do, I can do better’ .The topic of God came up, and one said, “ I bet you don’t even know the Lord’s Prayer!”. To which, the other responded, “ Of course I do! It goes like this….now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, and if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul take…”

We may not be sure why, but it seems spiritual disciplines can almost bring out something competitive in us if we are not careful.

Giving.Fasting. Attending church. Reading our bibles. Things we can be seen to be doing, that make us seem to have an ‘edge’ over others.

Prayer is another of course.Public prayer especially.

But yet, prayer, when it is done in the ‘right way’, is the most affirming part of our Christian life.

Yet so often, we “do” our prayer. Or, we can also make another mistake of praying like God isn’t even listening.

In our lives, we say we rely on God. We say we follow Christ, and love The Word. We even obey it by living holy lives, doing good works to glorify Him. But often, there is something missing. Often,our prayer life is empty. We are Christians by profession, but if we were to truly examine the content, frequency, and genuineness of our prayers, or the reason for our prayers, especially public ones, you would think we were practically atheists.

Through prayer, we can come before the very throne of God and ask His help in our need, and find mercy. In prayer, we surrender ourselves completely to God and His sovereignty, so we would do very well to pay attention to what Jesus had to say about our prayer life.

WHEN YOU PRAY:

** DO NOT BE LIKE THE HYPOCRITES ( 6:5)**
They love to stand and pray to be seen

Prayer can be one of the most hypocritical things we do at times.

The world says the church is full of hypocrites because we do not care for the poor, or that we do the very things we tell the world they will be condemned for doing, but hypocrisy for Jesus was about having the ‘right’ actions and the wrong heart.

To pray to be noticed by men is not just prideful, but it’s very shortsighted. It’s praying for praise, just like the paying for praise of 6:1-4.

Have you ever felt like getting a theological dictionary out when you are listening to someone pray? There are a lot of prayers offered in public that unfortunately sound like the speaker ate a thesaurus before getting up to pray.

It is easy to succumb to the temptation of ‘praying up’ to the congregation.
The acceptable cliches, the appropriate sentiments, the sonorous tones, the well-pitched fervency, all become tools to win approval, and perhaps, to compete with the chap who led in prayer last week. – DA Carson

What is the point of praying this way? Only to be seen by men. God sees it too, but He doesn’t answer it. There is usually no work left for Him to do anyway! Our self-righteous credits make us think we’re ok.

“Lord, I thank thee that I am not like other men…” , what exactly is God supposed to do with that prayer?! Could our ‘unanswered’ prayers be a result of the fact that the majority of the time, we spend more time ‘performing’ our prayers, than actually praying to God like He is listening?

If we pray to be seen ( and heard) by men, we will get what we want ( 6:5b). We will get our reward we most long for, but we will not be in the throne room of God as we do so.

Prayers that are offered for our own benefit, or more pointedly, for our own glory may just benefit us. We may just get the glory our hearts are after. But we will miss out on the real answers to our innermost needs.

One thing is for certain, if we pray like only men are listening, and for that cause alone:
We will act like men are watching, and only them alone.
We will become the answers to our own prayers.
We may get the glory. We might become highly exalted among men.
But we will not know God, and He will not know us. ( Matt 7:21-23)
Our hearts will not change, and that is what prayer should do for us most of all.

God is not known better by us pretending to speak to Him in a holy and self-righteous way either.God is not to be mocked like that. There is no place for your righteousness in your prayers to God. There is no place for your pride in your prayers, because there is no place for pride in God’s throne room.

DO PRAY….IN SECRET 6:6 :

When you pray, go into your room, shut the door, and pray to your Father. He is unseen, and does His work in unseen hearts, so why would you think shouting at Him from the street corner would make Him pay any more attention to you than if you had asked Him behind closed doors where no one else could hear you?

God does not shout out His answers to us. He is not deaf that we would need to shout at Him.The work of God is a whisper in our hearts, and we must be in a quiet place to hear it. None of our own noise, our own justifications,just the facts. Tell Him all you want to tell Him if as if He was right there with you, which He is. Tell Him all you want to tell Him, like He is your loving, Heavenly Father who cares deeply for you as His child.

When I think about the times when prayer has ‘worked’ for me, it certainly wasn’t because I had managed to manufacture enough faith, or that something miraculous happened in the moment. It was effectual in my life because it was real, honest and genuine. The hard thing is, you don’t get that way ‘easily’. It usually has to be your ‘last resort’. You have to be desperate to be brutally honest with God in what you trust Him for and I’m not sure we can be entirely honest with God when we pray like only men are listening.

DON’T BE LIKE THE HEATHEN/GENTILES 6:7-8:

They heap up empty phrases and vain repetitions – They mistakenly think God hears quantity over quality

How often have we sat through some prayers and wondered if God was still awake?

Prayer should not consist of heaped-up phrases, idle repetitions, and the ridiculous assumption that the probability of an answer is in proportion to the total number of words in the prayer…It is shameful to think we can wrest favors from God by the sheer volume of prayer.. – DA Carson

There is nothing wrong at all with repeating the same prayer to God. Paul asked for the same thing at least three times ( 2 Cor 12:8). Many of the Psalms are echoing the same themes of either praises or requests. It’s not so much the words that are repeated, or even the amount of times they are repeated, but it’s the heart behind the prayer.

The hypocrites were treating God as if they didn’t actually need Him, and that they can accomplish their own purpose in life. The heathen, on the other hand, treat God like a genie in a bottle, or someone who can be pressured into giving you whatever you want.

There is no quick fix prayer formula you can use to make God not only listen to you, but answer you in the way you want Him to. God is no man’s debtor. His arm can’t be twisted.

-Don’t use empty phrases that are meaningless to you in your everyday speech.

-Don’t repeat things thinking God hasn’t heard, He always hears.

-Don’t ask for something you know is empty and vain to begin with.

God will not give you THAT car. That girl. That boy. That house. That life. He wants to give you Himself. Do not ask for things that will leave you empty, ask for the things that will fill you with praise for Him, things that will be done in you and by you for His glory.

DO PRAY:

like God already knows what your needs ( 6:7-8)

Doesn’t God want us to be consistent? Fervent? Effectual in our prayers? Aren’t any repetitions allowed? Absolutely. Passages like Luke 18:1-8, and James 5:13-18 enjoin us to pray in this sustained way as signs of faithfulness to the justice and goodness of God.

Pray to Him as your Father. What is a Father’s role? Provision. Protection. Unconditional love. Father knows best. Well, you don’t know MY father you may say. No, but I do know your Heavenly Father.

Our Heavenly Father gives us good things. ( Matt 7:11, James 1:17).

He’s already given us His best. Why would we think He would withhold anything from us? ( Romans 8:31-39).

pray how Jesus taught His disciples to pray

It seems ironic that in the passage that warns us against repetition of prayer, we are given a prayer that itself has been the most repeated and publicly used prayer throughout all history!

But Jesus’ aim in giving His disciples this prayer was not that they would never pray anything else, but when they prayed, they would follow this model of prayer He outlines.

He said to pray ‘like this’ not “PRAY THIS!”.

1)Reverence God as Father

2)Recognize and submit to His rule and authority

Submit to His will

Ask for your daily bread

Ask for forgiveness

Ask to be lead away from temptation

Ask for deliverance from evil

8) Finish how you started!

……………………………….

We must have private prayer. There is no missing that. We are to pray unseen,to the unseen God, being sure that He sees and will answer us.

So far as our public prayers go. We’d better keep them genuine,humble, honest, heartfelt, and shy.

God is not to be manipulated by our requests that are void of faith and full of self.

Questions for reflection:
Do I pray more and more earnestly when I am alone, or when I am in public?
Do I prefer others to hear my prayers?
When I pray in public, do I morph into someone else?

The best way to avoid any traps in our prayer life is to spend time in secret prayer. When we pray secretly, this will work over into our public prayer, which will not only have a genuineness, and a true boldness, but also winsome shyness about them also. It will also, most importantly, work over into our everyday life. When you pray this way in private, it’s not your circumstances that change so much as you change. We do not pray to change God’s mind. We pray so He will change us. We want to be like more like His Son.

When in doubt, follow Jesus’ example in prayer. He prayed far more often in private than He did in public.He also had no reservations about full surrender in His prayer or His life.

Above all, pray like God is listening.

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