The Who, Where & What

  • The Who, Where & What
  • Matthew 6:5-15
  • Lyndol Loyd
  • January 7, 2018
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1-7-18 sermon from LakeRidge UMC on Vimeo.

Imagine that you love to cook. I know for some of you that’s a big leap, but work with me here. Imagine that you love to cook. You watch the Food Network and you own countless cookbooks. Cooking is your passion. Then one day, you receive an unexpected phone call from the Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond, inviting you to come to her ranch and television studio for the weekend. She’s offering to cook with you and give you some tips. She’s offering to spend the weekend with you and help improve your skills in the kitchen.

 

Do you think you would take her up on her offer? That’s a no brainer. Of course you’d say yes.

 

Or imagine that you like to play golf and one day when you are at a local course, Phil Mickelson happens to be in the clubhouse. You meet him and get his autograph. While talking he says that his party is short a person to make their foursome. He wants to know if you would like to play the round with them. He even says that he would be willing to give you a few tips on how to improve your golf game.

 

Do you think you would take him up on his offer? That’s a no brainer. Of course you would say yes.

 

Or let’s say you are obsessed with the stock market. You wake up in the morning ready to see what stocks are on the rise and at the end of the day you follow where the DOW is at the closing bell. Then you get an opportunity to have dinner with Warren Buffet. You have the opportunity to sit at his feet and ask him whatever you want about his investment advice.

 

Do you think you would take him up on his offer? Seems like a no brainer to me. Of course you would take him up on his offer.

 

Whatever your area of deepest passion, all of us would jump at the chance to learn from someone who is known as the best. It would be a delight to “sit at that person’s feet” and receive instruction from a master.

 

That same excitement and anticipation should fill our hearts when we think about learning from Jesus Himself about how to pray. He was not just a master; He was the Master. At the feet of Jesus we can learn to pray with a new depth, passion and fruitfulness.

 

I think that if we were to ask Jesus’ disciples, “What was the secret of Jesus’ life? What enabled Him to live with such extraordinary joy, clear direction, and amazing wisdom?” I believe that they would have answered with one word: prayer. No one has ever prayed like Jesus; prayer was the core of His being.

 

Look throughout the gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and you see Jesus continually creating space for prayer in his life. In Luke’s gospel alone we see these examples:

 

-Luke 3:21-22           Jesus is baptized and immediately begins forty days of fasting,                                            solitude and prayer.

 

-Luke 5:16                 We see Jesus withdrawing to pray in the midst of His

busyness.

 

-Luke 22:32               Jesus prays for His friend Peter.

 

-Luke 22:39-44         Jesus prays as He knows the cross is before Him.

 

From the beginning to the end of Jesus’ ministry, His disciples had a front row seat to watch the greatest prayer who ever prayed. As they watched, they noticed that when Jesus prayed things happened.

 

At one point, the disciples come to Jesus and they say, “Teach us to pray.” Jesus shares with them a model of prayer that many of us know as “The Lord’s Prayer.”

 

Just like Jesus’ followers asked him to teach them to pray two thousand years ago, we can make the same request today. As a matter of fact, that’s exactly what I want to invite each of us to do this morning. Let’s quiet our hearts and minds and speak to Jesus.

 

Lord, just as the disciples asked You, we ask this morning, Lord, teach us to pray. We pray this with the confidence that this is a prayer You would love to answer. Amen.

 

Matthew 6:5-15: “5When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. 6But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

7 “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. 8Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!  9Pray like this:

Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. 10May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. 11Give us today the food we need, 12and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. 13And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.

14“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. 15But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Has your mind ever wandered while you were praying? You want to be focused and engaged in the experience, but the next thing you  know you are wondering if you remembered to close the garage door or if you remembered to make the house payment. A wandering mind is something we all face as we seek to become people of prayer. Can anyone else relate?

Psychologists talk about a condition they call “mindlessness.” For some of us, mindlessness is a problem we suffer occasionally in prayer and in life. For others, mindlessness is a way of life. We can be physically present, but our minds are floating off somewhere in space on autopilot.

 

Jesus taught that mindlessness is one of the biggest obstacles to prayer. Remember what we just read together, “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again.”

 

I don’t know what your experience of the Lord’s Prayer has been in the past. I realize that many, many people have it memorized and find great comfort in knowing the prayer. I can certainly appreciate that.

 

However, I grew up in a church that said the Lord’s Prayer each and every Sunday like we do in the sanctuary services here at LakeRidge. If I’m being completely candid with you, I would have to confess that for me, I allowed it to run on auto pilot. I would say the words on Sunday mornings, but I didn’t really think about them. My heart wasn’t in it. For me, they became a metaphorical hoop to jump through that got us on to the next thing in the worship service. Some of you know what I’m talking about because you’ve been there too.

 

Jesus gave the prayer recorded for us in Matthew 6 as a tool to help us get beyond mindlessness. I don’t know that it was ever intended to become a rote memory prayer like it has become. There is nothing wrong with saying the Lord’s Prayer. But I do feel that Jesus certainly meant for the disciples to receive a simple structure and some helpful themes to focus on so that we could remain mindful as we pray.

 

Jesus wanted His prayer to become a springboard for us into deep conversation with God the Father. So what I want us to do this morning with the time we have left is to look at the beginning of the prayer model that Jesus taught. Let’s begin by thinking about the Who, where and what of this prayer.

 

Have you ever felt guilty about your prayer life? Most of us have. The reason for this low-grade guilt is what I call a “Who” problem. We get confused about the nature of the person to Whom we are praying. We start to think that God is angry with us, or at least disappointed. This “Who” problem can keep us from growing more passionate, intimate and effective in prayer.

Jesus begins this prayer with the words, “Our Father.” When we begin praying, it is important to stop our hurried minds and acknowledge the fact that we are speaking to someone. God is personal. When Jesus taught His followers to say “Our Father,” he introduced the most unique opening line in the history of prayer.

 

Every time we use a name, we make a statement about the nature of the relationship. That’s why names are so powerful. In formal relationships, we might say “Mr.” or “Mrs.” If we are talking to a friend, we usually call them by their first name. If it’s a real close friend, sometimes we use a nickname. When we say “Father” or “Daddy”, we are expressing that we are in an intimate family relationship.

 

The Old Testament records people using the image of a father to describe God. But there is no record of anyone ever coming  to God in prayer and addressing him as Father until Jesus did. Jesus even used the Aramaic word “Abba”. It’s not exactly like our word “daddy” because it was an adult word as well as a child’s  word, but its meaning is very tender and intimate nonetheless.

 

Jesus not only used this intimate name for God, but he invites us to use it too. That’s unbelievable. We are not approaching some distant deity with fear in our hearts. Rather, we come confidently as we approach our “Father,” our “Dad” our “Papa.”

 

When we come to God as Father, His heart says, “This is My son. This is My daughter. I love it when you call Me Father. I love it when you set aside time to speak with Me about whatever is on your heart.”

 

Jesus teaches us to pray, “Our Father in Heaven.” Now how far away is Heaven? We tend to think of Heaven as someplace in outer space. As a result, we can image that God is remote, distant, and hard to access.

 

To correct this misconception it helps to know a little background on the grammar of the phrase “Our Father in Heaven.” The Greek word for Heaven is “uranos,” from which we get the word for the planet, Uranus. In the Lord’s Prayer, it is the plural form of the word. Literally the prayer is, “Our Father, the one in the heavens.” This phrase is used a variety of ways in the New Testament: for the atmosphere, for the sky, and also for the air we breathe.

 

It is this final sense of the word that Jesus intends in the prayer. When you pray, “Our Father who is in the heavens,” you are saying,

“Our Father who is all around me.”

“Our Father who is closer than the air I breathe.”

“Our Father who is here right now.”

 

Some of us struggle to understand where God is. I want you imagine that you were to leave this place today and go out and do something that you love to do, something that brings you great joy.

 

Now consider what that activity would be like if you invited Jesus to do that very activity with you? What would it be like to know that Jesus is right there by your side in whatever it is? What if you spoke to Him as a matter of normal conversation as you do this activity?

 

My point is that prayer can become a normal expression of communication in  a real relationship. I began to experience God with me, in the normal rhythm of my life. Jesus said, “I’m with you always, even to the ends of the earth.” The issue isn’t God coming to join us; it is recognizing that he is already here.

 

Many of us have times when we are not exactly sure what we ought to pray about. This “What” problem can get in our way. We’re not sure what God might be interested in. Does He really care about the little stuff of life? Is He all that interested in the things that matter to me?

 

The truth is that there is no concern, no matter how small, that God does not care about. There is no request, no matter how silly or trivial it may seem, that God doesn’t want to hear. He wants us to talk with him about everything, even our “daily bread.” God cares about the little and big things of life.

 

However, at this point I want to note the very first request noted in the Lord’s Prayer. Do you remember what it is? “Hallowed by your name.”

 

A name in the Bible is never just a label. It’s a reflection of the person, his or her character and identity. We are to “hallow” or give the honor that is due to the name of God. We are to praise, revere and exalt the name of God.

 

Some of you know that my dad is an auctioneer by trade. He’s auctioned off everything from tractors to houses, from antiques to boxes of junk. I’m not really sure if there is anything he hasn’t auctioned off. One of the things I learned by being around my father’s auction business is that an item is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it on the day of the auction.

 

He’s had old baseball cards that the owner values to be worth thousands of dollars because of what it says in some collectors book, but if serious baseball collectors aren’t in the room it doesn’t seem to matter. I’ve also seen people pay way too much for an item just because they don’t want someone else to get it. Once I watched a woman pay $75 for an old, used box fan because she got caught up in a bidding war and didn’t want to lose out. She could have easily gone to a big box store and picked a brand new fan for $25. It becomes about what someone thinks the object is worth.

 

All of us, especially in financial terms, are used to attaching value to things. Sometimes we’ll see something of great worth, but appropriate value isn’t attached to it because people don’t realize what it is. Maybe there is an antique piece of crystal worth a great price, but everyone passes it by at the auction because they think it’s just some old glass.

This can be true of how people value God’s name as well. We live in a world where His name gets routinely used as a curse word, or spoken casually, at best, millions of times per day all around the world.

 

It is time for God’s people to ascribe to God the worth He deserves. That’s why Jesus says, “Make the first request in your prayer, ‘Hallowed be your name.’”

 

You might have noticed that we didn’t say the Lord’s Prayer in the place that we usually include it on Sunday mornings. That was intentional. Today I want us to respond to God’s word by meditating on the words of the prayer Jesus said when teaching His disciples to pray. I’ll say a phrase from the prayer and then I will ask for you to contemplate how that particular phrase intersects with your life.

 

Our Father who art in heaven,

hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come.

Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread,

and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us,

and lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil.

For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.