Monday, January 20, 2014

LUKE 11:3-4 : HOW TO PRAY FOR YOUR OWN NEEDS

January is “prayer month”  at Eastside Baptist Church.  We  focus  and prepare  ourselves for the year ahead by  asking  for God’s blessing and direction  upon  us  and  the work  which  God has called us to do  for the sake of His Name.

Last Sunday   we saw  that  the Lord Jesus was approached   by one of  His disciples  with the request  “Lord  teach us  ( i.e. me and your other disciples) to pray “.  The disciple  was obviously impressed by the reality and the significance of  Jesus’  communion with His Father in prayer. We considered verse 2  in which the Lord Jesus  began  by instructing  the disciples  to focus firstly  on  God Himself  in prayer -  that His Name might be sanctified; that  His kingdom might come on earth. [1] We learn from this that all true prayer begins with God. The truth and the priority of this fact  is  summed  up very well in  Matthew 6:33 :  “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all  these things will be added to you.”

In and of itself that  part of  prayer being answered would solve  all our problems.   If God’s Name were ‘hallowed’  in all the earth, then the earth would be a  perfect  place in which  all the wants and needs of man are  supplied , for  God would be  honoured , and   we would honour our fellow human beings.
But we are not living in a perfect world . Sin makes us godless and selfish .Sin makes us  grow distant from God  and  distant from  our fellow  human being.  

We see this in  a number of instances:

We see it firstly in the fact  that  many people  in our world  suffer from  food shortages  - from lack of  bread.   Now there is really no need  for anyone to starve, for in truth so much food gets wasted  and thrown  away on this planet.  There is more than enough farming land to  feed  6 billion people  and beyond. However, so  much land cannot be farmed  because  war  and selfishness  prevent it  being used  to produce food. Think of South Sudan  at this moment. This is a  rich and fertile land , but  right now the fields lie wasted , and the population lives by and large in UN shelters , depending on food aid  from abroad.
Furthermore,   many  selfish economic policies  of countries  keep  excess  food productions from being imported and exported. In addition  there  is so much  corruption  among politicians  and governments  who prevent  food aid  to reach the poor and the needy – all because of political  manipulation. In reality however if we were God centered  and  obedient to care for our fellow human being, there would be no shortage of bread .

Secondly , sin  is also the reason  why  we   commit sins  that  cause  others to suffer   and for which we need to be forgiven  whilst , whilst  we  also  have to  learn to forgive  those  who have sinned against us, whether parents , siblings , thieves ,murderers,  rapists – you name them!  Unforgiveness  makes emotional wrecks of so many people. Many people are emotionally crippled because  they cannot forgive , and because they have not met the Living God who alone  can forgive our sins through Jesus Christ our Lord. Forgiveness is a  huge need in the world. Man needs to be forgiven  by God, and  man needs  to forgive  his fellow man  for sins  mutually committed. 

Thirdly, we live in a sinful and fallen  world  in which Satan and his demon forces have  been  thrown  down to the earth[2] and where people ultimately  suffer  because evil  forces are at work  stirring and  tempting[3] people  to sin. This  fact must never  be underestimated  or disregarded.[4]   We need protection from  their temptations to sin.

WHAT WE ARE TO PRAY FOR ON A  FREQUENT  BASIS

These  three areas according to the Lord Jesus   need particular  and consistent attention in prayer to God .  [3] Give us each day our daily bread,[4] and forgive us our sins ( Matthew : debts[5]) , for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.”   (Matthew  6:13 adds   “… but deliver us from evil… “)  

In a fallen world we are to pray for :

(i)         daily  bread i.e. everything essential for physical survival  
(ii)      forgiveness of  our sins  and  grace to forgive the sins  of  others against ourselves  i.e everything essential for  emotional survival   
(iii)       escape from temptation  i.e.  everything essential  for  spiritual survival.  

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT  TO ASK THESE THINGS IN PRAYER ?

God knows what we need to survive   as we  live  in a fallen world where physical, emotional and spiritual need  is so very apparent . Every person  is  a physical , emotional and spiritual  being , and if  any one of these components  are  challenged,   our whole being is challenged.

We cannot function very well without   physical  sustenance (food, clothing , shelter) . This is a basic need. A lack of these basics will   have  an impact  upon our emotional and spiritual well -being.  We are to ask God  in prayer to provide  for  our daily needs : “Give us this day our daily bread.”   

We cannot function without  emotional  well being.  At  this level  unforgiveness is the greatest  culprit  in draining us emotionally ,  and therefore  Jesus specifically addresses this matter here. However ,  this  aspect of our  emotional  wellbeing goes further  in that it also incorporates a spiritual dimension:  Unforgiveness  has spiritual consequences !  Jesus elaborates on this  very specifically in   Matthew  6:14,15 :  “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. “   Being forgiven for our sins  by God  and  forgiving others  for having sinned against us  is a basic  need  for survival in this world . It  is  a spiritual  requirement for our entry into the world that is to come . Without forgiveness received or given, we do immense  danger to ourselves and to others – and if not  dealt with,  unforgiveness    may become pathological – hidden so deeply in our souls that we do not recognize the dangers. Unforgiven and abused people  often become abusers, perpetuating the  spirit of  unforgiveness,  of  violence and abuse .  We are to ask God in prayer  for  forgiveness . We must learn to keep short accounts with sin. We need to learn to  pray regularly  : “ … and forgive us our debts ( sins)  as we also have forgiven our debtors .

Thirdly, we cannot function  in a fallen world without spiritual protection. We live in a world ruled by  evil principalities and powers  which do their utmost  to hinder the progress  and  the work of the kingdom of God. Each Christian  is committed  to  the advance  of God’s kingdom. It is  part of the first half of the Lord’s prayer : “ Your kingdom come !” .   The way  Christians  are hindered  is by causing  them to fall into  temptation .  We must understand that Satan, the tempter   easily exploits our weaknesses. These weaknesses  are inherent  in our personalities ,  in our gender , in  our circumstances,  cultures etc. ,  and we must learn to understand our  weaknesses  and to submit these to God in prayer : “ lead me  not into temptation…”.  Men must submit their roving eyes to  God. Women  must submit  their temptation to  jealousy and covetousness to God . Young people  must submit their  rebellious natures  to God.  Falling into  temptation   can have  awful consequences , and the more responsibility you bear  the greater the fall. The tragedy of  the story of David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11 à cf Psalm 51)  is a point  in case.  The story  where Satan  incited David  in 1 Chronicles  21 to  conduct a  ‘sinful census ‘  is another point in case. 
David was consumed by  delusions of grandeur and Satan quickly  exploited this and David in  an unguarded moment and with a prayerless heart   fell right into  Satan’s  snare!  
We need to learn to pray  : “Our Father in heaven … lead us not into temptation.”  
We need God’s help to survive against the tricks of Satan  in this world , “ so that we  would not be  outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.”  ( 2 Cor. 2:11)  
Satan  is forever trying his best to get to  fall. He  even tried this  with Jesus[6]  . It is important to  retain our confidence in God and in the truth  of His Word. Jesus  was able  to  withstand the devil in every temptation because He trusted His Father’s word … “ It is written” . He knew the  word and the will of the Father so well  that He also knew when Satan misquoted  biblical  texts.7]   

CONCLUSION  

Life in this fallen world  is difficult. Sin always  has consequences – physical,  emotional    and spiritual .  So we must talk to our heavenly Father  daily about this.  We must watch our hearts and we must always remember  that  we are  responsible for  giving into temptation ( James 1:14,15). Although the devil is the first cause of  temptation  we  cannot blame the devil for our sinful actions . We are moral beings . We choose to sin .
Therefore we must  learn to be vigilant, and  the main way in which we  are to do this  is by praying  to our Heavenly Father  for help .

“Oh what peace we often forfeit , O what needless pain we bear , all because we do not carry, everything to God in prayer.” [8]

So then,   learning about this aspect of prayer is absolutely vital.  Make it  apart of your daily prayer habit, and fill in the details .  This is after all an outline  for praying .

So, we have  learned where to begin  in prayer . We  start with God – His Name – His kingdom – His will (Luke 11: 2)
Secondly , we have learned  that  should pray for our  physical , emotional and spiritual well being.  Starving, hurting , wounded , compromised  soldiers cannot fight  in  the battle for the advancement of the kingdom of God. So the Lord  commands us to pray that we  may  remain  well fed, emotionally robust  and  spiritually alert .
Against such  people the devil has no effective strategy. They will cause Him to loose ground . May  we be  such people , for the sake of Christ and His  happy kingdom! Amen .



[1]  Matthew  adds ( Matt 6:10b)  “ You will be done on earth as it is in heaven” .  “They are  in essence one petition  expressed in  a threefold way “ ( Norval Geldenhuys: The Gospel of Luke, NICT p.  320)
[2] Revelation 12: 4,9,10, 12, 13
[3] Satan is called the  tempter ( Matt. 4:3;  1 Thess. 3:5 )
[4] see Ephesians  6:10-18 ;  2 Cor.  2:11; 4:4 ; ; 11: 3; 11:14-15 ; 1 Peter 5:8
[5] Gr. “Opheilēma” – sin is  described  here as  debt , because it demands  expiation by way of punishment  ( Vines)
[6] See  Luke 4:1-13
[7]  E.g. Luke  4:9-11
[8]  What a friend we have in Jesus  : Joseph Scriven ( 1819 – 1886) 

No comments: