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    Sep 14, 2014

    Class 4: Talking to God

    Series: Following Jesus

    Category: Core Seminars, Devotional Life, Prayer, Sanctification & Growth


    1. consider the main themes of the Christian life (like…see handout) and

    2. what it means to live as a Christian.

    Today we’re going to talk about prayer.


    main question =  “How do I live as a Christian”.

    See back of handout – in order to know first how to live as a Christian – first we need to know what a Christian is – someone who has been saved by God. Once one is saved and becomes a Christian, a Christian delights in living by God’s ways, hearing God through His Word (considered 2 Tim. & Ps. 19 last week). Another fundamental aspect of what it means to LIVE as a Christian is someone who “Speaks to God”.

    First some preliminary questions.

    1)      What is prayer?

    A: According to the Westminster Catechism, “Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God for things agreeable to His will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins and thankful acknowledgement of His mercies.”


    This is a good summary of prayer, which at its most basic level can be described as:

    ¨      Communication with God

    ¨      An expression of our desires/needs

    ¨      A thankful recognition of our dependence on Him and His purposes for all things.


    Q: Why is it important that we pray?

    A: The first most fundamental answer to this question is that we are exhorted to in Scripture

    • In Colossians 4:2, we are told to devote ourselves to prayer.
    • I Thessalonians 5:17, Paul tells us to “pray without ceasing.” 
    • Luke 18:1, Jesus told his disciples a “parable to show them they should always pray and not give up.”


    Secondly, scripture clearly demonstrates that praying is simply something that God’s people do.  We see this first in the Old Testament, Psalms being one book that is filled with prayers to God, reflecting a multitude of needs and desires and praises on the part of the writers. In the New Testament, Paul offers up many prayers for the churches to which he’s writing (you can read more about Paul’s prayers in “A Call to Spiritual Reformation” by D.A. Carson).  And Christ Himself is constantly seen praying to the Father (9 prayers in Luke, alone).  As we’ll see, it’s this fact that leads the disciples to ask Christ to teach them how to pray.


    Martin Luther summed it up well when he wrote:  “As is the business of tailors to make clothes and of cobblers to mend shoes, so it is the business of Christians to pray.” 



    Thirdly, it expresses our trust in God and is a means whereby our trust in Him can increase.

    When we admit that we need to talk to God because He is the source of all things – our trust in Him is going to build. If we wait till we get in a difficult situation to pray – those trust muscles will not have been built…


    So we can express our love to Him and enjoy fellowship with Him.

    I’m a Christian (he’s Lord of my life) but I talk to Him 2 minutes a day on a good day.


    Prayer allows us as creatures to be involved in what is eternally important. God uses our prayers as a means to his soverign ends.


    Well, beyond the questions of what exactly is prayer and why should we pray is the question of how should we pray…a question that is at least as old as Christianity itself.  In Luke 11, the disciples say to Jesus, “Lord teach us to pray.”  And today, we’re going to look at how Jesus responded to them to help us understand how we should talk to God.


    II. How to Pray, Part I…The Lord’s Prayer (Luke 11:1-4)


    Turning to the question of talking to God, how do you do it?  How do you “talk” to him?  What do you say and what is your attitude?  To help us understand how we’re to pray, we’re going to be reading through Luke 11:1-13. 


    Let’s first begin with verses 1-4.  Will someone Read 1-4. 


    We see Jesus’ response to His disciples’ questions in verses 2-4.   We’re going to look at each section of the prayer to help us think more fully about the content of our prayers.


    First, we are told to address the Father.


    Q:  What might that one word/title teach us about prayer? 


    A: It tells us something about God and how He relates to us.  “Father” implies both authority and intimacy.   In terms of authority, we are praying to the God that we discussed last week…the one who created the world, hung the stars in the sky, who created the oceans and sets their boundaries.  And as our Creator, He created us (he owns us) to live under His authority.  So, in praying to Him as our Father, we are recognizing our dependence upon Him, much like a child is dependent upon his earthly father.


    In terms of intimacy, God is not some abstract, impersonal or detached being.  He’s not the man upstairs, who lives mostly apart from us, with whom we rarely interact.  Rather, we are praying to a God who created us to have and enjoy fellowship with Him; And from the Lord’s prayer, and, as we’ll see from the parable we look at today, our relationship with Him is characterized by the sort of relationship a father has with his child.  The invitation to pray, therefore, is an opportunity to deepen our intimacy with Him. 


    Notice also that God’s name is to be hallowed. 


    Q: Anyone care to take a stab at what “Hallowed means? 


    A: To make holy, to sanctify, to honor, to venerate. 


    This word directs us to a couple of thoughts here…First, we see that prayer is not simply to ask for things for ourselves.  Now, we will see that Christ does include our personal petitions, but notice that He doesn’t start there. 


    Instead, he first instructs us to direct our thoughts to God’s glory. (Q: do our prayers add to the holiness of God?)  That’s the starting point.  The idea here is NOT that we should pray for God’s name to be made holy or glorious in the sense that our prayers add anything to God --- He’s already those things apart from what we do or pray.  Rather, it’s praying that God’s glory would be on full display in our lives and the world around us --- that He would be recognized and worshiped for who He is.  So, our first concern in prayer is for God to be glorified. 


    Secondly, understanding that God is to be worshiped and honored can help prevent us from humanizing Him such that we forget Who He really is and what He’s like. I think there can often be a tendency in contemporary Christianity toward a familiarity with God that may not be appropriate.  Even as Christians, our sinful nature constantly desires to make God into our image.  We forget God’s holiness and the perfection of His character.


    While God is near us and relates to us, and is even in us by His Spirit, God is still God – infinitely perfect and incomprehensibly holy.


    To help us with this, think of the response of men in Scripture when they’re confronted with God’s holiness.  Job becomes speechless and aware of his complete ignorance before God.  Isaiah falls prostrate, overwhelmed by his uncleanliness.  And God has to hide Moses in a cleft of a rock so that Moses can survive God’s presence passing by.  


    So we see that our prayer should recognize first the relationship between us and God (he is our Father and we are His children), and that the starting point or the spring of our motivation in prayer is God’s glory.  He’s the starting point.


    Any questions?


    The next line reads, “your kingdom come.”  From this line, we see a couple more things about how we should pray.  


    First, note that it is not “my” kingdom come, but “your” kingdom come. 


    So, not only should desiring God’s glory be displayed, but more specifically, as we go to God in prayer, we should be primarily concerned with God’s purposes.  Q: So what are some of God’s purposes that we should be praying for and have in mind when we say “your kingdom come”?


    More specifically, this verse teaches us a couple of things, at least, about prayer.  First, prayer should be an expression of hope in God’s kingdom.  We should remind ourselves often that there is a kingdom that’s coming.  God is expanding His kingdom now, and there will be a time when Christ will consummate His eternal kingdom.


    So our prayer should not be an expression of our most worldly desires and wants or of getting what we want here and now.  Instead, it should be an expression of our most precious hope:  God’s coming kingdom.  (Week 7)


    Secondly, from the phrase “your kingdom come” we see that our prayers should be an expression of humble submission to and trust in God.  In praying that God’s kingdom come, we are ultimately praying that His will or purposes be carried out to their full completion. This has serious implications on our lives.  (Matthew Lord’s prayer, also says, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…(Matt 6:10).)


    Q: What happens when God’s purposes are contrary to our purposes? How can we still pray this prayer? I think this is likely one of the most difficult aspects of prayer because it may at times go against every fiber of our being to pray with this basic purpose.  Particularly in times of difficulty or tremendous need, we want God to answer the way we think is best.  Therefore, it takes humility, trust, patience, and faith in God’s good purposes to pray for God’s will above our own to be done.


    Jesus serves as wonderful example here.  Recall at the garden of Gethsemane on the eve of his crucifixion, Jesus prays, “My Father (note Father), if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will but as you will (Mark 14:36).”  Christ, even to certain death, prayed that the will of his omniscient Father be done, and not His own or anyone else’s.


    Let’s see what else we learn about prayer in verses 3-4


    Verse 3 reads, “Give us each day our daily bread”

    Q: What might this be talking about?


    Note that we are supposed to ask for daily provision ---Literally, give us day by day our daily bread.  The way it’s worded emphasizes our daily dependence upon God to meet all of our needs.  It almost seems a petition, not for abundance as we in our culture are often inclined to pray for. Rather, it’s a prayer for enough to meet our needs, but not enough to make us forget our dependence upon God.


    Now, most directly, this verse calls us to trust God to meet our physical needs, recognizing that He is our provider and sustainer.  If we come to God anxious, worried about the future, about our provisions, we can lay those burdens upon God, knowing he holds all circumstances in His sovereign hands.   In Matthew 6 Christ tells his audience that if God clothes the lilies of the field, how much more will He care for us.


    And, importantly, as we learn to trust God as our physical provider, we should also learn to trust Him as our spiritual provider.  If God provides for our physical needs, how much more does He desire to meet our spiritual needs. The result is that by depending on God to meet all of our needs, we learn to find the ultimate satisfaction of our souls in God alone.  We learn that he is what we need more than anything else, and we are satisfied when we have Him, no matter what our worldly circumstances may be.


    In His book “The Pleasures of God”, John Piper writes,


    “Prayer is his (God’s) delight because it shows the reaches of our poverty and the riches of his grace.  Prayer is that wonderful transaction where the wealth of God’s glory is magnified and the wants of our soul are satisfied.” (Pleasures of God, Ch. 8, pg. 216)


    In verse 4, we see confession cloaked in the form of a petition.  In asking God to forgive us our sins, we are essentially to acknowledge our indebtedness to God because of our sin, and to plead continually for his forgiveness of sin (not in an ultimate sense). And confession of sin will, I think, flow pretty naturally as we acknowledge God’s holiness, as Christ calls us to do in the beginning of the prayer, because an awareness of God’s holiness serves to magnify our lack of holiness.  So Confession is part of recognizing our tremendous need before God and signifies a humility as we enter in to God’s presence in prayer.


    Now, we should be careful here.  The big question verse 4 poses for us is whether Jesus is talking about a merit-based forgiveness.  Is He saying, that we earn God’s forgiveness by forgiving others?


    Well in week one we learned from looking at the book of Titus and Ephesians, that God saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy and his unmerited favor.  So the forgiveness that God offers us is completely by grace. We can’t earn it.  

     Rather, this line seems to imply a couple of things.  First, forgiven people are forgiving people.  Writing on this verse, Puritan Thomas Watson says, “It [our forgiving others] is not a cause of God's forgiving us, but a sign. We need not climb up into heaven to see whether our sins are forgiven: let us look into our hearts, and see if we can forgive others. If we can, we need not doubt but God has forgiven us. Our loving others is the reflection of God's love to us.”


    Secondly, this line indicates that we should not go into prayer without self examination.  The question for us here is:  Do we forgive others for what they do against us, the way God has forgiven us.   Matthew Henry sums up the implication of verse 4, this way,


    “We have no reason to expect, nor can we with any confidence pray, that God would forgive our sins against him, if we do not sincerely, and from a truly Christian principle of charity, forgive those that have at any time affronted us or been injurious to us. Though the words of our mouth be even this prayer to God, if the meditation of our heart at the same time be, as often it is, malice and revenge to our brethren, we are not accepted, nor can we expect an answer of peace.”


    Basically, Henry says it’s supreme hypocrisy to ask God to forgive us for sinning against Him, if we aren’t willing to forgive others for sinning against us.


    So, in prayer we are to acknowledge our sin before God, asking for His forgiveness.  And as we do, we should check our hearts to see whether our lives are marked by the forgiveness that we seek from God.


    Moving on…


    Let’s look at the way the prayer closes.


    It is a prayer of protection from temptation.  Essentially, this element to our prayers reflects the reality that we as Christians are under siege.  In our second class, “Living by God’s Ways,” we noted that while we are dead to sin and have been given a new nature, we still struggle with the sinful inclinations of our flesh.  We also know from Scripture that Satan seeks our spiritual harm (Ephesians 6).


    The question for us, is what do we do with this information about reality and that spiritual battle in which we are engaged?  Jesus’ answer, in part, is to pray.  Pray that God, who is sufficiently ABLE, will deliver us from evil:  both from the evil our hearts naturally incline us to commit, but also from the Evil One who seeks to destroy even our faith if that were possible.


    To summarize what Christ has taught on prayer thus far:


    1. Prayer is communion with God, who has authority over us and yet is also intimate.
    2. It is to be done with God’s glory and purposes foremost in our hearts and minds.
    3. It is an expression of our dependence upon and trust in God to meet our needs and to protect us from evil.
    4. It is to be done in humility, recognizing our need for forgiveness.


    In our own prayers, a useful acrostic is ACTS.  Are you familiar with it?


    A – Adoration

    C – Confession

    T – Thanksgiving

    S – Supplication


    We see elements of all four in Christ’s prayer.  You’ll also notice we do something very similar in our Sunday morning worship service.  The prayer of praise (adoration), confession, and the Pastoral Prayer (Thanksgiving and Supplication).


    II. How to Pray, Part II: Parable of Midnight Visitor - Luke 11:5-13


    Not only does Jesus direct us in the content of our prayers, He also uses another parable to direct us in how we should pray:  or our attitude in prayer.  To learn more of how we should pray, we’re going to look together at the parable of the Midnight Visitor in Luke 11.  Have someone read the parable.


    The host is faced with two options.  He either goes at midnight to the man he knows has food when the family will surely be asleep, or he becomes a rude and inhospitable host to his guest.  Neither option is pleasant.  Historically, it’s important to note that the average home consisted of just one or two rooms.  Families tended to sleep together on a large mat, and the doors had heavy bolts on them that would wake the entire household if opened.


    The question really becomes, “who has the nerve to wake up the neighbor and family to ask for bread?  Who is willing to put aside their own pride and recognize they need only what another can offer?”


    Subsequently, that’s one great lesson for us concerning prayer:  We must be willing to approach God NOT as self-sufficient but as those who need what only He can provide.


    Q: So what does the man do?  Wakes friend.  And the response he gets is just what he didn’t want to hear – Go away! (vs. 7) But look at what Jesus says in vs. 8?  Because of the man’s boldness the friend will help. 


     So, the man’s persistence pays off.  It prompts his friend to respond to his request.


    Q:  What do you think this teaches us about how to approach God in prayer?

    A:  Not only are we to approach God with humility, recognizing that only He has what we need, we are also to be persistent in our prayers.


    We see this very clearly in verse 9, where Jesus essentially spells as much out for us.  He says, “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you.


    So the promise is: God will meet our needs.


    Q: Now a question:  Does this mean that God gives us everything we want?  For instance there’s the “Name it and Claim it” movement in some evangelical circles.  We name and claim what we want from God and it’s ours?


    In James 4, James says we have not because we ask not, but he also says that we have not because we ask with wrong motives, so that we can spend it on our pleasures.  And then in the Lord’s prayer, we’ve already discussed that we are to pray with God’s kingdom and His glory in mind, not ultimately for what we desire, but what God ultimately desires. 


    So ultimately, we must trust that in His sovereign wisdom, God answers according to what He knows is best for us, not what we think is best for us.  And the best gift He can give us is the gift of Himself, a deeper walk with Him.


    Moving on….Verses 11 through 13 present a beautiful picture of a loving and gracious God anxious to provide for His children.


    Q:  What do we see here that the Father Desires to give us?

    A:  His Holy Spirit.


    Essentially, what God desires to give us is more of Himself.  And He does this through the Holy Spirit.  In Scripture we see what a tremendous gift the Holy Spirit is.  It is the Holy Spirit who marks the Christian from the Non-Christian.  It is the Holy Spirit who gives us new life, regenerating us.  In Ephesians, we see that the Holy Spirit is given to us as a seal guaranteeing our inheritance in God’s kingdom.  The Holy Spirit also enlightens our minds, revealing spiritual truth, giving us wisdom that is from God; sanctifying us.  The Holy Spirit comforts us.  And in Romans 8 we that it is the Holy Spirit who intercedes for us and helps us in prayer before God.


    The Holy Spirit is the BEST possible gift God could give and the one thing we should desire above all else. 


    This is a good challenge for us.  Do you want a better idea of what your desires are? Then, when you pray, think of what you pray for.  Is it a laundry list of physical or relational desires: a job, a promotion, life direction?  All these things may worthy of prayer, but are your prayers consumed by these things?  Or do you pray that you might have more of God Himself; more of His Spirit?  Do you pray as if intimacy with Him is your number one concern?  What we pray for tells us a great deal about what we desire.


    Well, the promise this parable holds out to us, is that if we truly seek God and His will, we will find.  In knocking there is a picture of coming into God’s presence where we find fellowship and eternal life.


    Q: And how do we receive this wonderful gift?

    A:  Simply by asking the father. 


    We must remember that we do not have a begrudging father like the neighbor, but rather one who gives generously to those who persistently and boldly ask of Him.  This thought is remarkable when you recall what we learned about ourselves in week one in Titus.  Apart from Christ, we are an enemy of God.  Yet, to be reconciled to Him and to grow in fellowship with Him we simply need to ask of Him.


    In the parable Jesus teaches that our attitude in prayer should be to ask, seek and knock continually.  We are to be fervent and persistent in prayer.  And the Promise is that God will answer and desires to give us the best of gifts.  Quoting John Piper again, he says,


    “The most wonderful thing about the Bible is that it reveals a God who satisfies his appetite for joy by answering prayers.  He has no deficiency in himself that he needs to fill up, so he gets his satisfaction by magnifying the glory of his riches by filling up the deficiencies of people who pray.”(Pleasures of God, Ch. 8, pg. 216)




    III. Conclusion


    So to sum up, this is what we have learned about prayer: 


    -Prayer is a privilege where we convene with the one and only holy God.

    -From Jesus’ example, we learn that we are to pray with reverence, trust, humility.

    -And then ultimately, our prayers should be an expression of our desire for God Himself, to fellowship with Him. 

    -And God, who is our loving Father, will answer our prayers and give Himself abundantly to us.


    Some other great passages to consider: Philippians 4:6-8, Psalm 5:1-3, John 14:13-14, Romans 8:26-27, I John 5:14-15.  



    1. Helpful Ideas for Praying


    • Prayer Walks
    • Journaling
    • Operation World
    • Valley of Vision
    • A Call to Spiritual Reformation
    • Pray through directory
    • Pray through a Psalm
    • Pray Scripture for people
    • Keep track of answered prayers
    • Write them out


    Prayer / Next week – Meeting with God’s family



    Last taught by Daniel Schreiner on 5/2/2010

    Feedback from TML & Danny Sheih

    -          Move more quickly through the Lord’s Prayer (maybe even read over the prayer and just go into the principles that we learn from the Lord’s Prayer) – in other words, don’t do the Lord’s Prayer inductively. Just establish quick lessons from it.

    -          Have the largest discussion (set aside 5-10 mins.) for the practical prayer suggestions