March 15, 2009
INTRODUCTION – The Big Picture – Jesus is out to build a kingdom people and a kingdom culture that is characterized by His righteousness – – or that reflects His very nature in everything it does and says. Early on He promised that those who learn to hunger and thirst for this righteousness will experience a level of satisfaction and fulfillment in life that few attain to. He warned later on in chapter 5 that if our righteousness does not exceed that of the top religious leaders of Jesus’s day – the Pharisees and Scribes – we will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Then He spoke at the beginning of chapter 6 of the grave danger of practicing one’s righteousness to be noticed by men – – like the Pharisees and scribes did.
And to help us see where we easily can fall into this, He begins to discuss various spiritual disciplines – all of which are crucial for us to experience and help expand His kingdom – but also all of which can be nullified by our wrong motives.
The first one is that of giving to the poor, which we discussed a few weeks ago.
This morning we are going to begin a discussion of the spiritual discipline of prayer.
In vs. 5,6 Jesus Christ dealt with our motives for praying. (should be in secret solely to please Father, not in public for the purpose of impressing men).
Now He is going to deal with the mechanics of our praying. If you have any desire at all to pray effectively, and to literally see individuals, families, communities and even nations transformed through your prayers, …. Perk up as we jump into this passage.
This morning, I want to start with a thesis and then spend the rest of our time developing it.
I. Effective praying has little to do with the one praying. It has everything to do with the one being prayed to. The object of one’s prayers has far more bearing on the effectiveness of one’s praying – than the mechanics or methods of one’s praying. Let’s read Matthew 6:5-9
Seven Observations about Jesus’s opening comments about prayer:
1. He assumes we will pray. (vs. 5,6,7,9) Righteousness is impossible without prayer. Entering into, experiencing, and being used to expand the kingdom of God is impossible without a life of prayer. Jesus Christ – the sinless Son of God – only had about 3 and a half years to accomplish and fulfill His mission or ministry on earth. He spent much of that time in prayer. As one who was fully man as well as fully God, He demonstrated in unmistakeable terms – – that the kingdom of God advances on the knees of its sons and daughters.
2. He warns against the Gentiles’ bad example (vs. 7) – how not to pray.
Their practice = meaningless repetition; Their conclusion = many words causes God to have to listen and respond – – the more verbiage – the better chance of getting God’s attention. Similar to muslims 7 x’s a day repetitious prayers. Prayer for them was formulaic – – if I do this and this, and if I do it this way, God will do this. It was never out of a relationship with the living God.
3. The reason we should not follow their example as we see in vs. 8 is because – – Our Father knows what we need before we even ask Him. He is a hands on Father. He knows each of His children like the back of His hand. He knows we have needs, He sees them as legitimate and worthy of being met, and He intends to meet them. He does not have to be tracked down by the sherrif’s department and reminded that he is behind on his alimony and child care payments. In fact He is aware of needs we are not even aware of, and is committed to meeting those as well.
4. The proper response to knowing God as Father, who knows our needs before we even ask – – is not to sit back. It is not passivity. Rather it is to pray. “Pray then, …..” He says in vs. 9. Knowing Him as Father should cause us to pray all the more because we know He cares, and will act on the behalf of His kids. Sometimes it is while we are spending time with our Father in prayer, that we become aware of needs that He is already aware of and waiting for us to ask Him about. It is often in prayer that our theology or beliefs sink into our heart from our head and become convictions. It is in prayer that our fears and anxieties get properly dealt with.
5. Effective Prayer always should start with a focus on the object of our prayers = God the Father. Vs. 4,6,8,9 Jesus’s antidote to man centeredness in our living and praying is a constant focus on God as Father. Effective prayer begins with worship of our Father God. Only when His fatherhood of us is clearly in view, can we proceed to pray as we ought.
6. Effective prayer always is mindful of the fact that when I become a child of God, I also immediately become a member of a family. Jesus could have started this prayer “My Father, or just “Father”. But instead He wants us to pray “Our Father.” Ours is a corporate faith. God loves us, but He also loves all of our brothers and sisters, and He expects us to love them to. God wants you to know Him as your Father, but He isn’t just your father. He is also my Father, and Bill’s father, and mary’s father – – and He wants us to know that our worship of Him will never be acceptable and pleasing to Him until we see and feel about His family the way He does.
7. Effective prayer always should start with a focus on where He is in the scheme of things – – in light of all the world’s problems, and our present adverse circumstances. Our God is the living God of the universe, who created the Universe, who is beyond and above the universe, and who therefore controls everything in the Universe for His own purposes. Unlike what some of the religions teach – – that God is in everything we see; and that there are multiple gods, and that they even often compete with one another and are jealous of one another – – and thus much each be placated – – the God of the Bible is one God, He is the only God – – He is high above every other god or ism known to man. He wants us to be intimate with Him and know Him as Father – – as Daddy. But He never wants us to lose sight of His pre-imenence and greatness and holiness. He is our Father. But He is our Father in heaven – far above every human power and every angelic or demonic power.
II. Knowing God as Father – – Not the emphasis in the Old Testament – only seven times. Emphasis more God as Creator; Lord; Master; Judge…. He is revealed as Father in the Old Testament, such as in passages like Psalm 68:5, where He is praised as a “Father of the fatherless, and protector of widows..” But not as often or frequent as in the New Testament.
In the N.T. – 220 separate verses refer to God as Father. 68 of those refer to God as Jesus’ Father. 152 verses are referring to Him as our Father. The revelation of God as Father is greatly enhanced and expanded in the New Testament.
A few observations:
1. He is not everyone’s father – – we are not all his children. Every so often I will see a letter in the newspaper or hear someone on the news being interviewed say, “Well you know we are all God’s children.” Well that is news to God. The scriptures are clear that only those who have placed their faith in God’s Son – Jesus Christ – for their salvation and redemption are God’s sons and daughters.
To be a son – – you have to embrace God’s Son.
The apostle Paul – speaking to the church in Galatia said, Gal. 3:26 “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”
Jesus Christ in an intense conversation with the Jewish leaders at one point in His earthly ministry was very straightforward and clear about this issue. John 8:38-44
2. Once you have become His child, He wants you to know and walk with Him as Father. Rom. 8:15 “For the Spirit that God has given you does not make you slaves and cause you to be afraid; instead, the Spirit makes you God’s children, and by the Spirit’s power we cry out to God, “Father! My Father!” Today’s English Version
A huge part of the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to bring you and I into intimacy with God our Father.
3. He is on the most part unlike your earthly father. Because of that – you will have to overcome all of the negative connotations you have when you think of God as your “father”. Five ways
1. For instance: Once you become God’s child, He will never leave you or forsake you. Even when we are faithless, Paul says, He is faithful. Your earthly father on the other hand might have been flaky at times; he might have left you and your mother in the pursuit of another woman, he might have not been there when you really needed him. He may have put his career ahead of you.
2. God the Father does not have a passive bone in His body – – actually He does not have a body at all – but my point is – – unlike many earthly fathers – God will never not do what is appropriate and necessary. He will never have a senior moment or a lapse in judgment, or a nervous breakdown, or a weak moment where he prefers his buddies to his children.
3. God the Father does not have a selfish bone in His body. He will never snap at you for interrupting his movie, nap or sports program. He is 24/7 accessible, and never grudgingly so. “Let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we might find mercy and grace to help in time of need.” Says the writer of Hebrews.
4. God the Father does not have a demeaning or impatient bone in His body – – He will never embarrass you to try to control you. He will never use shame to accomplish His purposes. He will never vent His inner frustrations at you.
Phone call with Caroline after her “Get Free” retreat. Basketball practice. My meager attempt at being a father and a trainer or coach.
God the Father’s love for you is so intense and forbearing and enduring that He will never turn His face from you when you come back to Him in repentance and brokenness. If there is anything that the Parable of the prodigal son teaches us it is that when we return to God after a time of rebellion and sinful living, His posture is not this,…… but rather it is this…….
God the Father’s love for you is so pure and so intense, that He will never allow you to make stupid decisions and head in a wrong direction without giving you every opportunity to see the error of your way and turn from it. He knows the very best thing in the world for you is to grow in holiness and righteousness – -to put on His very nature – – so to help you develop those qualities – – He will lovingly bur firmly do whatever is necessary. Heb . 12:4-11
One of the troubling themes I am noticing increasingly in letters to the editor is this idea that love means never confronting someone with something wrong or destructive in their life – – love means live and let live – – and we all be happy ever after.
CONCLUSION – We are going to learn a lot more about prayer as we wade through this gospel because Jesus Christ has charged His church with His mission of making disciples in our Jerusalem on to the ends of the earth. But the rest of His teaching will mean very little if we do not get over our issues with the Fatherhood of God.
Our society is increasingly fatherless. They need to know Abba Father.
Prayer for revelation and healing re: the Fatherhood of God.