Renewal of Baptismal Vows 07/24/16—Highland—Meute
“Lord, Teach Us to Pray”
Psalm 85; Colossians 2: 6-19; Luke 11: 1-13
Pearl: Persisting in prayer.
Function: To move worshipers to persist in prayer not because God needs such persistence but because of its important effects upon those who pray.
Jesus’ followers did not ask him, “Lord, teach us to preach;” they did not ask him, “Lord, teach us to worship;” nor did they ask him, “Lord, teach us wisdom.” No, Jesus’ followers asked him, “Lord, teach us to pray.”
1. That is interesting because God’s people always prayed.
a. The “Shema” is the most frequently prayed prayer of our Judeo-Christian heritage. It is found in Deuteronomy 6: 4-5: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”
b. This prayer was repeated throughout the day; it is still repeatedly prayed by devout Jews today. This short prayer was worn on the body, nailed on the door jams of houses.
c. Prayer was very much a part of the fabric of worshipping and following God on the part of our spiritual ancestors.
2. And yet, Jesus’ followers asked him one day, among all of the things he could teach them, they asked him to teach them to pray.
Why did Jesus’ followers ask him to teach them to pray? Perhaps they saw the effects that it had upon him.
1. They recognized that it had a powerful effect upon him. He spent significant and intentional time with God in prayer. It must have had an obvious impact upon him.
2. What did they notice that it did for our Lord?
a. He must have seemed calmer and more at peace.
b. He must have come back from prayer and showed confidence and clarity about his next moves that day and beyond.
c. He demonstrated God’s love…mercy…justice…and wholeness.
d. He showed strength in the midst of adversity, challenge, prejudice, and misunderstanding.
e. After prayer, Jesus always seemed better…different…moved and changed…by God.
3. So they asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray” like you and like your cousin John. While they knew prayer and prayed often, they still asked Jesus to teach them to pray!
4. They saw and noticed the results upon a person with a robust prayer life!
Jesus taught them more than simply the words which we now refer to as the much beloved “Lord’s Prayer.” We pray this prayer and we love this prayer. It is so well-known, like the shema, that people who are deep into dementia will tune in and join in when it is said.
This prayer is a partial outline of some of the ways in which prayer changes us!
1. When you pray you become aware that you are relating to a God who relates. The Lord becomes known to you in a personal way. Whether you pray as an individual or as a group, you become aware that the Lord listens and attends to you, as a parent, as a father…”Our Father,” “Our Mother.”
2. Spending time listening for God and being quiet with God in prayer brings you into the presence of God. You become aware of the weightiness, the gravity, the holiness of God…”Hallowed by thy name.”
3. When your life is filled with the frequent awareness of God and almost a continuing conversation with the Almighty you find an almost carefree attitude and confidence that God will provide for your needs and that you can depend upon the Lord…”Give us this day our daily bread.”
4. Praying the way that Jesus prayed, relating to God through prayer, changes you so that you live and move in the grace, mercy, and forgiveness of God.
a. Consider this prayer that was found written by an unknown prisoner at Ravensbruck concentration camp next to the body of a dead child in the time of World War II:
i. O Lord, remember not only the men and women of good will, but also those of ill will. But do not remember all the suffering they have inflicted on us; remember the fruits we have bought, thanks to this suffering—our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, our courage, our generosity, the greatness of heart which has grown out of all this, and when they come to judgment let all the fruits which we have borne be their forgiveness.” This prayer represents the Spirit of our Lord fully and completely!
ii. People of prayer in the way of Jesus and in the way of God’s Holy Spirit are full of grace and forgiveness…”Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”
5. The prayerful life strengthens us for the living of life and for enduring temptation. It gives us the power to prevail over the spirit of the age, the principalities and the powers…”Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”
6. Prayer changes us by making us better listeners for the voice of God, for the nudge of the Spirit, for seeing the hand of God in life…
a. C.S. Lewis wrote in The Efficacy of Prayer about having this sensitivity to the Lord:
i. Some years ago I got up one morning intending to have my hair cut in preparation for a visit to London, and the first letter I opened made it clear I need not go to London. So I decided to put off the haircut too. But then there was the most unaccountable little nagging in my mind, almost like a voice saying, “Get it cut all the same. Go and get it cut.” In the end I could stand it no longer. I went. Now my barber at that time was a fellow Christian and a man of many troubles whom my brother and I had sometimes been able to help.
ii. The moment I opened his shop door he said, ‘Oh, I was praying you might come today.’ And in fact if I had come a day or so later I should have been no use to him.
iii. It awed me; it awes me still.
So you should persist in prayer!
You should persist in prayer not so much in order to move the hand of God to do this or to do that but to mold you and to shape you such that you will grow and mature in order to endure whatever may come…for Jesus it was the Cross.
Prayer changes you…prayer makes a difference—mostly in you!
Pray persistently like Jesus!
Pray and grow!
Mother Theresa said: “If we pray we will believe. If we believe we will love. If we love we will serve.”
Pray and grow…into “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 3:19; 4:13).