Wednesday, January 15, 2014

LUKE 11: 2 - HOW TO START IN PRAYER



A  DIAGRAMMATIC OUTLINE OF THE LORD'S PRAYER  -  J.Rieck 

 

Exposition of Luke  11:2

On this occasion  Jesus  was praying in a certain place. The disciples had taken note of His prayer habit and they  wanted  to know  about prayer and so they asked Him: “Lord teach us  to pray, as John taught his disciples”. Clearly prayer is not something that comes naturally. Clearly prayer  is a  spiritual discipline, and the Lord assumes  that  believers  should pray and that they must learn how  to pray. We see here also that John taught his disciples to pray.

So, in response to their request, Jesus gives them this short outline on how to pray. Matthew’s version of the Lord’s prayer is  a little more detailed, and indicates  that  this is not a prayer in itself but  that this is  a pattern after which  to  pray.  “Pray then like  this” (Matt  6:9).

Jesus  probably taught  about prayer  on many occasions.  He may even have taught  His  own disciples   repeatedly concerning the nature  and the form of biblical prayer. You know how we are. We learn so slowly. Things take time to sink in! Spiritual truths  do not always sink in  the first time. That is why we need to read and re-read the Bible. That is why we need to be taught  its truths repeatedly. For this reason  we make time to be reminded  concerning on of the core disciplines  of the Christian church at every beginning of the year.    Matthew and Luke’s accounts  of Jesus’ teaching on prayer certainly seem to indicate  different occasions on which He taught principles of praying.  In Luke’s account Jesus  adds information concerning   the necessity of persevering in prayer  (Lk 11:5-13).  We must learn  to be patient. We need to learn to trust God.  We need to  trust His timing. We need to learn  vital lessons in prayer – in particular that when praying  that  we should always  seek  His glory  and purposes FIRST!

The  Lord’s  prayer  has a very specific  logic or structure and we  cannot afford  to ignore  this. This is part of the divine inspiration of the Bible. The order in which things are written are  important. There  is a clear  order and structure  attached to the Lord’s prayer, and we would be foolish  not to see this and apply this.
Today,  we will focus  on  the ‘first half’  of  the Lord’s prayer in Luke 11: 2.  Here  the Lord Jesus directs His disciples  to  begin  prayer   with the request that God’s Name might be sanctified – that  His Name might be declared  holy. Jesus  says to them: “Pray like this…start  your praying like this:  “Father, hallowed by your name”. Linked to this  is an added request : “your kingdom come”.  Luke omits the third  part of the petition, mentioned in Matthew’s account :  “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10b). One might argue that  the  various components  of  the first part of the Lord’s prayer  are really all  variations  of  the  same theme, namely  that the glory of God  might be made visible on our earth!
This then  is the very first thing  that ought to occupy our prayers. This  is challenging  for we know  that very often  our prayers  are not  structured that way. We tend to be  ‘need focused’ or self- centered in  in prayer.

Prayer  is  often  considered to be  the  last resort - like the   woman who once undertook a sea journey, and  in the midst of  a serious storm, she  asked  the captain: “Captain what shall we do?”  “Well, you can always pray“, answered the captain.  “Oh no!“… she cried, “Is it as bad as that?” You may laugh – but that’s  how  we tend to use  prayer - only in real crisis- when it’s really bad! There is, of course a place for that  sort  of prayer, as was the  case of  Jonah’s story, where  the men in the ship  were praying  that the storm might subside[1] , and when  Jonah was praying  to God from within the whale[2]  to save him. 

The prayer that Jesus  is  thinking  about here  is  not ‘emergency prayer’.  He is  thinking about regular prayer, or routine prayer. Here we are thinking about  the  regular personal  quiet time  or  the  regular church prayer meeting.  Jesus  regularly took time out to pray ; John taught his disciples  how to conduct their times of prayer. The early church had  regular  times of prayer, which  followed  the  pattern  of  temple worship    with its regular times  of prayer.[3] We must  make time for prayer – individually and corporately. It is important  that this discipline should form a part of our  spiritual  lives :
“O  what peace we  often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear – all because we  do not carry everything to God in prayer.” [4]

How then  should  we structure our prayer  time?  The structure of the Lord’s prayer helps us  here. We are taught  to  begin praying with God and His glory in mind! Let’s try to be practical about that. How  do I do that ?  There is no more practical way  to  begin  prayer  than by reading  the Bible. The Bible  in its very essence  is God –focused. So, as I read the Bible  my thoughts  are  directed  to God, and immediately I am in the spirit of prayer.

Let me give you an example  how this  works for me.  Recently I was reading through  the book of Leviticus. Now, that  book presents  a great  challenges to many  people. The laws for  burnt offerings, grain offerings, peace offerings, sin offerings  guilt offerings (Lev. 1-7), together  with  the  laws of cleansing, and various  laws  for guiding human relationships appear  to be tiresome. But  I cannot get away from the fact that all this ordered ritual was  designed to bring glory  to God and happiness to man. The unblemished, the very  best sacrifices brought  by the worshiper  to God  were  not  only designed to provide atonement  for the worshiper, but it was also designed to be  a pleasing aroma to the LORD. Does this not apply to prayer?  The goal of prayer  is to offer up time (Yes, it takes time!)  to seek the presence of God  so that I might worship Him, and  so that I, a sinful being might  find my peace with Him and therefore my joy in Him  through  the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ.

And then  there  is the story of the  death of Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron the high priest  in Chapter 10   who offered ‘unauthorized fire‘ . This  story  sent  cold shivers down my spine,  as I realized afresh  that  God will not be worshipped  casually.

The  repeated use of the phrase  “holy to the Lord” challenged me greatly, and the  Lord used the reading of this book  to cause me to pray for  an awareness  of a  greater revelation of His holiness in me  and in our church and in our society.  Can you see how that links up with this  part  of the Lord’s prayer? I prayed in essence: ”Lord  may your glory   be seen in our society!” May your Name be hallowed  here  in my life, and at Eastside, and in Windhoek, and in Namibia – and indeed in the whole world.“  I would argue that the entire Bible will do that for  you.  So, use the Bible  to provide you with fuel for  this vital part of  prayer. It is important that you do, for  so the Lord Jesus has taught us to pray: “May  your Name be hallowed. May your Kingdom come. May your will be done.”

Will   This Aspect Of Prayer Really  Make A Difference ?  

Of course it must! Anything that God commands in His Word,  if it is obeyed, will carry His blessing. I  direct your attention to   1 John 5 :14,15 :
"And this  is the confidence that we have toward him, that  if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us  in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”

If we pray  that God’s  Name  would be glorified  in our lives, our church, our country and our world  then we should expect God to honour  this prayer.  Who knows  what God has spared us from in Namibia  as we have often prayed  that  God’s glory would be seen and felt  in every corner and part of our country. Who knows what God is doing in our country  as  He brings  men and women  to conviction  and repentance through Christ our Lord. While there are many  things that are  not  good, we do  need to thank God that there is  a general sense of  the fear of the Lord  among us, and I do not want to take that  for granted, and so I would encourage  Christians to earnestly continue praying  that God’s Name would be honoured  in our land. Pray for visible  tokens of the advancement of his kingdom . I cannot speak for other  churches and  Christian organizations, but I thank God, that the gospel has not stood still among our churches.

So, learn to make the  glory of God  central to your praying. The degree  to which  God’s Name will be  hallowed in the earth; the degree to which His kingdom advances  and  the degree  to which  His will is  done on earth, will  ensure  your and my happiness this side of heaven. 

Pray therefore brothers and sisters  that the glory of the LORD will  be seen and felt  in these days ! Amen .




[1] Jonah 1:1-14
[2] Jonah  2
[3] Acts  1:14; 2:42; 3:1
[4] Joseph Scriven (1819-86) “What a friend we have in Jesus”

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