[This sermon is one of a series entitled “Sermon on the Mount, Concentrating on the Beatitudes,” which is being preached on Sunday mornings by Pastor Tim Senter.]
I pray that as we have looked at the Lord’s Prayer together you have a fresh understanding of the undertaking of prayer with our Lord and God. I also pray it astonishes you that the Savior would advise us that we go to the Father in such confidence, boldly enough to make demands. This encouragement from the Savior should shed new light on Paul’s teachings in Ephesians 3:11-12. We are to look at our Savior and come to the Father boldly and confidently through faith in Christ. We also see some of what Paul teaches us in Galatians 5:24, in that we should destroy all the passions in our flesh such that we better belong to the Savior. In doing this, we become more spiritual in our life, in our attitude, in our behavior and toward our God. As we grow more spiritually minded and oriented to God, we develop a more perfect relationship with God. In developing this relationship, we are more capable of approaching God with the demands we find in the Lord’s Prayer. Every bit of our spiritual attitude and life is already connected to God (God already knows) therefore we should be willing to approach Him as He would be worshiped – in spirit and truth, recognizing He is God.
I pray we also see Hebrews 4:16 in a different light as we should confidently draw near to the throne of grace in order to receive mercy and find that grace when we need Him most. God’s grace is certainly a subject we will discuss with respect to the Lord’s Prayer. It is the central element of prayer for us. We will discuss this much more when we discuss verse 11 – “Give us this day our daily bread.” We are instructed, not just by Paul, but by our Lord (where Paul received his instruction) on how to pray, how to approach the Father, and how to approach Him with confidence.
Look at Matthew 6:9 please. We now begin a concentrated study on how these verses call upon us to keep our hearts in order to pray. In our first verse, we find once again that God is great, gracious and marvelous. We are to recognize these attributes. The God of our fathers is the God of our future. We must see God as He is, treat Him as He desires, and recognize the holiness of His name alone. Israel did as they replaced His name in the Old Testament with others in order to keep it sacred. We too should respect His perfect glory in our most intimate worship, prayer.
In the next few weeks we will look carefully at the Lord’s Prayer and attempt to discover together how to pray to God. We will be looking at what we should consider when we pray, how our attitude effects our prayers, what we should pray for and how we should pray for those things truly burdening our hearts. This will be an in-depth study. No, we should not expect everyone to spend as much time on each piece of His prayer as we will while studying it over the next weeks. However, we should learn enough from this study to give us a solid understanding of our Lord’s requirements and His expectations concerning our prayers. Then we should implement those things in our prayers on a personal level to worship God as He has instructed us to through His Son. We should, when we are finished have a new appreciation for prayer. Those are the things we should desire.
Not to be flippant, but I rather liken what we are about to undertake with the Lord’s Prayer to understanding a “stay at home mom” or “home maker” or “domestic engineer” (whatever you prefer). Many do not consider being a stay at home parent to be a very difficult job. It is a function that is necessary and quite involved. The job is often far more than it receives credit for in ingenuity to accomplish, strength to achieve, and stamina to sustain. Most of the disrespect and misconception deals with the lack of income in the profession. I believe that issue can be very clearly and effectively contended, as it depends upon the definition, value and importance of income. Regardless, it is a profession and there are very, very competent professionals at work all over our nation that are “home makers” (to be fair to fathers as well as mothers who find themselves in this position). When one lists the duties and responsibilities, the hours, and the overall dedication of these individuals, it should be awe-inspiring. We will just look at one such responsibility – meals. To put together a meal for a family of five might seem rather banal or menial to many. To a home maker, meals are major events that take place twenty-one times a week. Each needs to be interesting and different, appealing and tasty, satisfying and nutritious – for four different individuals not to mention the designer and developer. Planning to feed the home is a monumental task in itself.
Consider that mapping out a menu for 42 meals (supposing the family receives a paycheck twice a month) means planning the grocery list for two weeks of supplies. This means a menu plan for the two weeks at three meals a day must be prepared before grocery day. Vegetables, meats, sauces, pastas, fruits, garnishments and a variety of other miscellaneous items must be planned for and acquired in proper quantities to feed the family. This does not account for other regular supplies a home needs to function (hygienic, medicinal, house cleaning and pet supplies among other things). The makings of the Sunday stew alone involves making and preparing the broth, the meat (first sautéing it then including it in the stew) the vegetables and any additional sauce flavorings (spices and soup mixes). That is one meal, it takes about 30 minutes to prepare, and at minimum 1 hour to stew before serving. We could mention planning the laundry services and executing these duties (30 minutes to wash, one hour to dry, 15 minutes to fold a load). All these timelines must be planned throughout the day to coincide with proper meal times to meet the overall family needs.
Consider just keeping the home clean. Washing dishes for each meal alone happens three times a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. That is a potential 1,095 dish-washings each year.
Instructing the children (for home schoolers) is another function. Planning curriculum, structuring time between the other tasks, and guiding children to specific goals daily, weekly, monthly and annually to coincide with proper academic levels, tailored to the children at varying ages. Then there are the wonderful emergencies like knee scrapes, asthma attacks, and surprise – missed the swim meet on the calendar!
We could discuss for hours the extensive and time absorbing duties of the “home maker.” They are not appreciated, very tedious and many times taken for granted. This is an attitude we frequently have about the Lord’s Prayer. We view it as a pattern or as a prayer in itself that is effectual not wanting to fully appreciate what is involved as a whole in the prayer. It is often not appreciated for what it truly means. We have discovered this prayer is not simply a pattern (honor God, submit to His kingdom, request sustenance, request forgiveness, request protection, and honor God). We should not simply use this as a pattern for every prayer we lift up to our Father in Heaven. We found last week that it is far more than that.
This is a pattern for prayer predicated on and deeply involved in your relationship with Him. The question is not, have you prayed the Lord’s prayer, or prayed in the Lord’s pattern of prayer. The question instead is, are you worthy of praying it? Much in the tone of Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:27 we might ask the question, Are you partaking of the Lord’s Prayer worthily? Now, we should not assume we cannot go before the Lord at any time: however, you cannot presume to make demands upon the Lord while you are unworthy to do so. That is the Lord’s Prayer – not a simple pattern. It is a pattern for the heart. The Lord’s Prayer is a pattern of prayer fit for those who are fit for God.
The Lord’s Prayer is not what you think; it involves first a heart purified by God. It is not simply repeating the Lord’s words – for, if we did, we might be surprised what happens. The question and lesson we should face is, “Believers and unbelievers alike pray this prayer, or do they?” If we truly understood what it was we were saying with these words, how many would truly ask for it, really pray it, and be confident enough spiritually to do so?
We will now turn our attention to the specific verse, verse 9, that we should study today. First we look at what we are directed to do – we are commanded to pray.
I. Commanded to pray (Verse 9a)
Prayer. What exactly is prayer? I looked it up in an Oxford Dictionary and found entries for prayer beads, prayer books, prayer flags, prayer plants, prayer rugs, prayer shawls, prayer sticks and prayer wheels. All seem to have their own functions and place. To the world, prayer is “a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or an object of worship.” The definitions include “a religious service especially a regular one at which people gather in order to pray together.” Also prayer is recognized as “an earnest hope or wish.” To some religions, it is a formality and nothing more than a display of submission or existential religious exhibitionism (Pharisees). To others it is a way to express ourselves spiritually (Buddhist). To yet others, it is an act of submission to a set of rituals which gains merit or favor with a god (Islam, Judaism). What does the scripture say about prayer though? What should it really be?
The English word for “pray” is recorded in the scriptures over 540 times. The big prayer book is, believe it or not, 2 Chronicles where we find prayer mentioned 8.9 times in every 100 words. Prayer was very important in the Old Testament as it is to us today. It brings us to salvation in Christ (Rom 10:9&13). We find prayer is communication with God, it is confession (1 Jn 1:9–sermon on this text here). Prayer shows obedience and adoration (Jas 5:16; 1 Cor 10:31). Through prayer, we grow as Christians gathering faith (Lk 11:9-13). We also see recognition of God’s providence, dependence and recognition of effectiveness and that it changes God. As sinners, we are destined to incur God’s wrath. When we pray accepting the Son’s salvation, we are no longer destined for death and destruction but life and Heaven. Prayer is possible only through Christ (1 Tim 2:5). We are to have a persistent and submissive attitude in prayer.
This is only the short list of the benefits, advantages and guidelines of prayer. When we consider all that prayer is and recognize the personal relationship we can have with an all-powerful God through prayer, it is no wonder we see a command to pray here. When we look at this verse then, we find all of these elements converging first in the command to pray, then to whom we are to direct those prayers. The command “pray ye” is exactly that – a command from our Lord to pray. Jesus is telling those present at His sermon to pray, and He makes it personal. This is a middle voice word – the activity is reflected back to oneself – we are to pray. It is as though Jesus is saying, “you, yourself pray” or because of the emphatic in the sentence, “You – you pray.” We are to pray individually and purposefully in the Lord. Our prayers are also privately and personally ours. They are representative of no one or nothing else. We are to be the ones who pray this way. When we see Moses or Abraham (our examples from last week) praying, or really talking to God, do we see them in a group, in a think tank setting trying to figure out what best to say to God? They are individuals. Both Abraham and Moses poured out their hearts to God. They bear their souls and tell God He is just, He is righteous and both these men call upon God to be perfectly just and righteous. They are not challenging God as much as they are stating facts and demanding His perfection for their own faith. They want to keep their faith in the perfect judge of all the earth, so He must do right (Gen 18:25).
Do not misunderstand or misconstrue what I am saying. Corporate public and group prayers are also mentioned in scripture. We are concentrating on personal prayer; this is prayer between only you and God. This pattern, the Lord’s Prayer specifically, addresses your personal prayer life with the great and only God of the Universe. How shall you pray? The Lord says, “Pray this way…”
We find prayer is a very important and vibrant thing that is active and conversational in the life of a Christian. When we read these discussions between men and God (prayers) one must ask how often we find the repetition of “O Lord” or the written, memorized or repeated prayer as an attempt to best persuade God. The answer is seldom. The prayers directly addressing God are normally conversational and personal in fashion. In every instance where you find man challenging God during prayer, they are talking to Him as if He is sitting at the table with them, standing next to them or they are before Him. All you need to do is talk to God. Just talk to Him. He will answer.
The Lord does not just tell us to pray personally, but to pray to the one true God of all creation. This is Jehovah God. This is God the Father. We pray through the Son and in the Holy Spirit within us. This is worship that is truly triune.
II. Triune Worship (Verse 9b)
In the words “Our Father,” Jesus includes Himself as well. This recognizes the deity of God and His sinless location (“which art in heaven”) as compared to man on earth. Jesus recognizes the perfection of the heavenly Father as well as His location in this simple opening. Our Father – yours and mine. Remembering our Lord’s audience at the Sermon on the Mount, we have to recognize there was hardly a believer among them. These same people would usher Jesus into Jerusalem over palm fronds and three days later call for His crucifixion over that of the common thief and murderer, Barabbas. Jesus knew the hearts of these people sitting before Him. He could see the blackness in their souls. His gaze would sear the spirit (Matt 8:29). Demons knew Him just to see Him. People knew that there was uniqueness to this man when they talked with Him. Jesus tells the people to recognize the same Father that He recognizes, prays to and seeks. The difference? Jesus knows He is addressing the black souls of the lost. Jesus, in telling these dead souls to pray to the Father, knows their true condition. He sees their very sin weighing them down. When He tells them to pray and demand things of God, He intends to interject reverence, to imply they must clean their souls, to indicate to them they are not worthy to go before God the Father. This has been His entire focus – to tell the people that they need to change their hearts in order to be in Heaven with the Father. These are the kingdom saint descriptions of the Beatitudes.
Jesus says, “Our Father who art in heaven,” indicating the Father is already in a place of perfect submission, perfect tranquility, perfect prayer, perfect communion. This place is only in the imaginations of those before Jesus, but He has seen it. He knows it. He yearns to be back among the living souls and spirits of Heaven. Jesus sits and delivers His sermon and teaches these sin filled souls to pray and demand things of God when He knows they are unworthy to do so. Inherent in this instruction is the indication that you are going before a sinless and perfect being who demands sinless perfection to be in His presence. Therefore, you had better be cleansed, prepared, sinless and able to present yourself.
Imagine the Jew hearing first, “You, yourself pray” and not “go to the priest for him to pray for you.” Jews frequently submitted their prayers to priests, to the Pharisees, to the scribes. Many sought the Rabbi for a blessing. Many would take a sacrifice to the temple and have a specific prayer given over it before God. Here God’s Son is saying, “You – you pray to God the Father and you go before Him, alone and properly sanctified.” How confused a Jew would be at this teaching, unless they understood the position of the Messiah, the one advocate of man, the one perfect sacrifice foretold to us in Isaiah 53, and Psalm 2. These people did not question the teaching, they did not murmur about the teachings, and there is little talk of these teachings receiving comment by Pharisees or scribes. All of these people knew they could go directly to God the Father, they also knew the conditions and that they were unacceptable in the eyes of God. They shuddered to think of doing so though because they know God demands perfection. We have made the point more than once in this ministry that God is intolerant.
Nadab and Abihu found God’s intolerance in their fiery furnace. Lot’s wife found God’s intolerance as a pillar of salt. Sodom found God’s intolerance in the raining flames of sulfur. Every unbeliever will find God’s intolerance in the flaming torment of eternal Hell. We as believers should be mindful of this intolerance for sin. The blood of the Lamb covers us, this is true; but that blood is not to be taken for granted. True, it was given freely. Accepting the gift however comes with a price. Just as Lot’s wife was told not to and was held accountable for looking back to the old, wild and sin filled lifestyle in Sodom, we are charged to move forward in a new life for Christ, not looking back to the world. If we do, we will equally be held accountable for doing so (Rom 14:10; 2 Cor 5:10). We are to change into His image if we truly take in the gift of God for salvation.
Christian, never take prayer or any other form of worship for granted. God is longsuffering, that is why we are savable, salvageable or redeemable, if you will. However, He is also in the end, intolerant. That is why the blood of His spotless Lamb is required to redeem us that we might commune with Him and eventually enter Heaven. In this redemption, we seek His forgiveness continually (Matt 6:12) in order to commune with a perfect and glorious God.
Do you think you are okay – you are doing just fine spiritually? You could very well be just as the Jew – thinking you are doing just fine, by being born now into the family of Christ, but your soul is still stained black with the sins you’ve committed since your conversion. Do you really think you can go before God without seeking His forgiveness for the sins you commit daily? The thought of that alone should give you pause. We all must seek His face for forgiveness when we act out of our sinful hearts. Just because you are saved does not mean you are free from His chastisement: in fact, it means you are more apt to receive it (Heb 12:6). Just as the Jews have leaned upon their being the chosen people for thousands of years, the Christian leans upon their conversion experience as the end-all and be-all of their spiritual life and commitment to God. Stop saying, “I’m a Christian” and start being a Christian. Pray to God the Father, through the Son, and in the Spirit of God, seeking first the forgiveness your soul so desperately needs. Then and only then can you make demands upon God’s holiness.
In the latter part of this verse we discover the reason for this supreme reverence and the impetus for the desire to be clean before the Lord. His name alone is Holy.
III. God is Holy (Verse 9c)
Here we run into another imperative. The word “hallowed” is a demand in the prayer that God would sanctify His name. It is another one of those imperatives. This is the opening of the prayer, and the first thing you are doing is demanding that God be perfectly sanctified. Consider what you are saying very carefully.
We have talked of the demands we are going to make to God in this prayer on a superficial level in our overview. In the exposition above, we addressed some of what we need to be mindful of in our prayers. Here we should take the closest look of all at ourselves. When I read this, “Hallowed be thy name” and think that I am to say it, I shudder.
As I was studying this, I immediately thought of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. We are so much like them. We say, “Here Lord, here is all of it” – when in fact we know we have only given what we could personally stand to give. Like Ananias and Sapphira, we do not realize the truth, which is that we cannot actually stand unless we give it all. Ananias and Sapphira essentially said, “Here is our perfect worship for His perfection” and could no longer stand because of their lie. They knew it was not perfect, but they also knew He demanded perfection – He is hallowed. God is sanctified and needs no other sanctification. In our prayer we demand that God be perfectly holy, yet we intend no such thing in our own lives. We intend no such thing for our prayer life. We intend no such thing in our giving. We intend no such thing in our personal time with God. We act as though feigned ignorance of Him and His perfection protects us from His wrath or chastisement. Ladies and gentlemen, even His name is sanctified. “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain” (Ex20:7).
We need sanctification even before we attempt to approach the Lord. If we do not first seek purity, and we have the gall to demand God to exercise His perfect purity, we invite disaster upon ourselves. This is the hypocrite; the one who would demand God to be perfect and then never expect God to act out His perfection. If God is perfectly just, true and righteous, He must demand perfect justice, truth and righteousness in His kingdom. Those who claim all souls are saved could never pray this prayer with veracity for they have already allotted a certain amount of sin in their lives and the lives of others. Referring back to our second point, these people have assumed their salvation and taken for granted the effort put into redemption.
So you might ask, “Pastor, I know I am horribly deficient, so how can I make this type of demand of God?” There are two issues you must take heart in with respect to this question. First, God knows you, and now that you are aware of your deficiency, you can go before Him with a humble heart, requesting forgiveness for sins before you approach His throne boldly. Second, it only takes that recognition, seeking forgiveness honestly and repenting or changing truly through Christ to make one worthy of this type of prayer. The tough part for us sinners is to actually bare our souls to God for proper cleansing so that we can make a demand such as “sanctify yourself in me” before the Lord.
Prayer is commanded. God demands it, and He directs it. Prayer must come under His terms, in His time and under His conditions. All worship must be given under His terms, in His time and under His conditions. God does not just want what you want to give Him, but everything that should be given Him. This means giving up the world and all its lures and enticements.
At times when I consider these principles of worship it occurs to me that, yes, God can use anything to complete His will. He used Pharaoh. He used Jacob. He even used a donkey one time. He is God. How sad it is that some Christians determine that this truth is a freedom for their own worldliness. They quote this as their own license to commune with and enjoy things that are worldly in order to try to witness. Some Christians take this truth and live in the world and with it, using it as a crutch to do anything they want to do. Some go to bars, some dress to fit in, some have worldly music styles. If you are trying to impress the one person in all the universe who has the power to give you life or take it from you, shouldn’t you choose the most holy of things with which to do so? Should we use the dregs of society to witness to the dregs of society?
Conversely, should we show a beacon of brilliant, contrasting holy and sanctified light of the purity and godliness to break through the deepest darkness? Which is deceiving – to say that the light is the way, or to say that you can remain in the world’s darkness and still worship God in the light? Who is the hypocrite – the one saying we can stay in the world and still worship God; or the one who makes mistakes while fighting their way through life’s darkness seeking the light of God? Which are you? Are you worthy of praying the Lord’s Prayer because of real heart changing redemption, or do you take it for granted?
 All definitions taken from New Oxford Dictionary Copyrighted 2005-2007 Apple Inc. ver 2.0.3(51.5).