JESUS TEACHES US HOW TO PRAY
Key verse: 11:2“He said to them, ‘When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.’”
In this passage Jesus teaches us a model of prayer. This is the Lord’s prayer we recite every Sunday. This prayer is short but contains all our prayer topics. Verses1 through 4 teach us the content of the prayer and verses 5 through 13 how to pray. May God help us to learn about prayer and pray throughout our life.
Look at verse 1. “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”” We don’t know who this disciple was and what prayer John the Baptist had taught his disciples. But we do know that this disciple became interested in prayer. How did he become interested in prayer? He got interested in prayer when he watched Jesus’ constant life of prayer. Jesus prayed very early in the morning while it was still dark. Despite his busy schedule he often withdrew from the crowd and went to a quiet place and prayed. Sometimes he prayed all night when he had to make important decisions. Once Jesus was praying in the mountain and his appearance was transfigured into his glorious image. Jesus also taught them the importance of prayer. Once nine of his disciples couldn’t drive out a demon from a boy and asked Jesus why they couldn’t drive it out. Jesus told them that a demon can come out only by prayer. Through all these experiences and Jesus’ teachings about prayer and their observations on Jesus’ prayer life he got interested in prayer and asked Jesus to teach them to pray. In the past, whenever Jesus prayed the disciples felt bored and slept. But now they wanted to imitate Jesus’ prayer life. Dr. Ezra said that when he was a young student he saw a servant of God praying and after prayer his face was shining. When he saw this, he wanted to pray like he did. What did Jesus teach them about prayer?
First, when you pray, say “Father”. Jesus teaches his disciples and us that we should call God ‘Father’ when we pray. This is a revolutionary teaching because Jewish people called God with names such as El Shadai or ‘Adonai’. El Shadai means ‘God Almighty’ and Adonai ‘my Lord’. They couldn’t call him God but ‘G-d’. But Jesus teaches us to call God ‘Father’. This is very personal. I still remember when my children used to call me ‘daddy’ when they were little. It sounded so sweet. This teaches us what kind of relationship we have with God; God is our father and we are his sons and daughters. Romans 8:15 reads “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to son-ship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” In the past, because of our sins we were separated from God. We were God’s enemies and the objects of his wrath. We lived in fear, guilt and shame. But because of what Jesus did our sins were forgiven and we have been adopted as sons and daughters to him. Now we can freely come to God and call him ‘Abba, Father’.
When we call God ‘father’ it connects God and us in a very close and intimate relationship. When we call God father in our prayer we feel his arms of love. We feel he is attentive to our prayers. God knows all our needs and what we go through. We can come to him and pour out our hearts to him. God is our loving and compassionate father. He wants us to come to him and pray to him and he listens to his children’s prayers. And even though we have earthly fathers they can’t be with us forever. But God is our everlasting father who can be with us forever. When we call God father we have everything. It is a great blessing that we have God as our father and call him ‘father’. When missionary Inang was a young sheep God seemed to be far away and distant when she prayed. But when she called God father, she felt God was close to her. We must remember that God is our loving and compassionate father and call him ‘Abba Father’.
What is the first prayer topic Jesus teaches us to pray? Let’s read verse 2. “Hallowed be your name.” What does hallowed mean? The American Heritage Dictionary defines hallowed as, “sanctified; consecrated; sacrosanct,”. To hallow is “to make or set apart as holy. To respect or honor greatly; revere.” In simpler terms, we use hallowed to refer to someone whom we should treat with awe and respect because they deserve it. To Jewish people, a person’s name was more than just a way to identify them physically; their name also reflected their nature. In the Lord’s prayer, the phrase, “Hallowed be Your name” is appropriate, because not only is God holy, but His name is holy too. We should never treat God’s name with disrespect as some do when they curse and use in vain. Instead we should pray that God’s name may be honored and glorified as the first and foremost prayer topic. In our prayers, we should remember who God is and what he has done for us and give him thanks, praise, honor and glory. Prayer is not just asking God for what we need. Through prayer we can exalt, honor, praise and worship God as our father, Creator and Savior.
Also, this prayer topic shouldn’t be just a prayer. It should be our life goal and purpose we should seek in our life. God created us in his image so that we can please him and live for his glory. When we live for this purpose we are most happy and our life can be fulfilled. Before meeting Jesus apostle Paul lived for his name. He sought human glory and honor. But after meeting Jesus his life goal changed. He lived for Jesus’ names sake. He says in Romans 1:5 “For his name’s sake we have been called to be an apostle to call Gentiles to the obedience that comes by faith.”
The second prayer topic we should pray is for God’s kingdom to come. The world we live in is ruled by Satan. Satan rules people’s hearts and lives. Under the rule of Satan people suffer and are tormented. We should pray for God’s kingdom to come on earth and rule people’s hearts and lives. Like the first prayer topic, we should not only pray for God’s kingdom to come but also we should seek his kingdom and righteousness in our practical lives. When we pray with this prayer topic we come to long for God’s kingdom to come to this world. The coming of God’s kingdom should be our deep desire and longing and a driving factor of our lives. And we should work for God’s kingdom to come by spreading the good news.
Look at verses 3 and 4. “Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins for we forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation”
First, give us each day our daily bread. Very few people in this country have food shortage. But that doesn’t mean we have no problem. We have many bills and expenses to pay. And among us no one is rich like Bill Gates or Donald Trump. Jesus teaches us to pray to God our father who can provide us what we need. But why does he teach us to pray to give us each day our daily bread? Why not yearly or only once in our life time? How nice it would be if we had enough money to live without work? Sometimes we feel tired of struggling to live month by month. So, we wish that God would give us a huge amount of money all at once so that we don’t have to struggle financially. But that doesn’t happen. Instead our needs are barely met. Why? It is because God knows our tendency to become greedy no matter how much we have. And if we have too much all at once we won’t seek him to depend on him. That’s why King David prayed like this, “give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.” God knows our needs and he wants us to seek him and depend on him for our needs. And he will provide our needs. We should pray to God to give us good grade, admission to medical school, a job, green card, a reliable car, a house, a husband or a wife and children and many other things.
Second, forgive us our sin for we forgive everyone who sins against us. Why do we have to pray for forgiveness? It’s because we sin every day. When we sin, we feel guilty. We have to confess our sins and ask God’s forgiveness. Then he forgives our sins and our relationship with him is restored. But the prerequisite of our asking God to forgive our sins is forgiving everyone who sins against us. What happens if we don’t forgive others? Our relationship with the person will be worsened. We will remain in darkness and be victims of our own unforgiving heart. Worst of all, God won’t forgive our sins even if we ask for his forgiveness. Matthew 6:14-15 read “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Wow! How important it is to forgive others from our hearts!
Third, lead us not to fall into temptation. Why should we pray for this? It is because temptations are everywhere even through our cell phone. No one is immune from Satan’s temptations. And it is easy to be tempted and fall into sin. Then the person’s life can be messed up and it may take many years to recover. Satan is very sneaky. It is not easy to discern the way Satan tempts us. Our enemy, Satan is like a roaring lion. He goes around to look for people to devour. He knows our weaknesses and constantly attacks them. He constantly tempts us to turn away from God and follow the world. Unless we pray and stay alert spiritually we will be Satan’s prey. Each day we should be equipped with God’s word and humbly ask God to protect us from Satan’s temptations.
In verses 5-8 Jesus illustrates a story to teach us how to pray. The story goes like this. A man had a friend who visited his house late at night. His friend hadn’t eaten anything and was very hungry. And since his friend came to his house without notice the man had no food left in his house. What did he do? He went to his other friend’s house at midnight and said, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread” Did his friend get up and give him food? No. His friend even didn’t open the door and refused to give him food. What would you say if your friend came to you at midnight while you were sleeping and wanted to borrow something like a lawn mower? Probably you wouldn’t even get up and open the door not knowing what the guy was. Or, if you got up and opened the door you would ask him, “Do you know what it is now?” When his friend refused to give him food did the man give up? No. The man banged the door and shouted. “Lend me three loaves of bread. I can’t go back until you give me food. Give me food. Give me food.” Then the man inside worried his children might wake up. His neighbors woke up in the middle of night and came out wearing pajamas to see what was going on. Out of embarrassment, the friend got up and gave him more than he asked so that his friend could go away and he could go back to sleep. What does Jesus teach in this story? He said, “I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.” The reason his friend gave him the bread was not because of friendship but because of the man’s shameless audacity. Let me ask young parents who have little children. When your children ask you to buy something such as expensive toys do you buy them right away? Probably not. But if they come back to you and keep on asking you to buy the same thing you will give in and buy what they ask for. You will buy not because you like to buy them but because you don’t want to hurt your relationship with your children. Missionary Sarah Chang told us a story of how she was shamelessly bold one time. In Belize, she serves lunch after Sunday worship. She cooks using a gas tank. But the problem is the gas tank doesn’t have a gauge to indicate how much of gas is left. So, one time while she was cooking, the gas ran out. The food wasn’t fully cooked. What did she do? Out of desperation she took all the lunch material with her and went to a stranger’s house in Bachelor street and asked a lady if she could cook in her kitchen. The lady was embarrassed at first. She was unwilling but allowed her to cook using her gas tank. She could be so bold because she was desperate to serve.
In the Bible, we can find a good example of shameless audacity in Abraham’s prayer. When God told Abraham his plan of checking out the city of Sodom Abraham pleaded with God six times to bring down the number of righteous people from 50 to 10 so that God wouldn’t destroy the city. Each time Abraham asked God to bring down the number he said “Now that I am so bold…”. What made Abraham so bold? It was his desperation to save his nephew Lot who lived in the city. When people become desperate they become very bold and do unexpected things. What was the result of Abraham’s persistent prayer? In the catastrophic disaster of the whole city being burned Lot could survive. Through this story Jesus teaches us that when we want to receive what we ask for we should be shamelessly bold and persistent. We live in a country where good manners are regarded as a virtue. But we should overcome our good manner mentality and become bold and persistent in prayer.
Look at verses 9 and 10. “So, I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Jesus reinforces his point through these verses. He promises that when we ask, seek and knock we will receive, find and the door will be opened to us. And we experience that this is a proven truth. If you don’t ask you will never get what you want. If you want to get something you should positively ask, seek and knock. And those who ask, seek and knock will receive what they ask for.
Look at verses 11 and 12, “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?” Let me ask you fathers again. Which of you gave a snake or a scorpion when you children asked for an egg or a fish? I bet no one. Fathers give good food to their children. Not only good food but healthy food. Look at verse 13, “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” All parents want to give good and healthy food to their children. Not only good and healthy food, parents want their children to receive a good education in the best schools and get a good job and marry the best person in the world. Even though we are sinners we know how to give good things to our children. How much more will our father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Why does Jesus suddenly mention the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is the best gift among all other things we can ask and receive. Why is the Holy Spirit mentioned at this time and why is the Holy Spirit the best gift for us? It is because Jesus would die soon in Jerusalem and no longer would be with the disciples physically. In the upper room dialogue, he promised to send the Holy Spirit when he went away. The Holy Spirit is God himself. He will dwell in us and guide us into all truth. Even though we don’t know how to pray and what to pray for, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us with wordless groans. Through the Holy Spirit we can come to God and call him ‘Abba Father’. The Holy Spirit gives us wisdom and strength to carry out his mission. Can you imagine your life without the Holy Spirit? We can ask many things from God. But we need the Holy Spirit most in our daily life. Let’s remember to ask the Holy Spirit in our prayer so that we may walk with him and live with him.
Let’s read the key verse 2
“He said to them, ‘When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.’”