How To Pray: The Basics of Prayer

Posted By on January 7, 2020


– Well, good morning. So excited to be able
to kick off our series, “Give Us This Day,” and we’re gonna be working
for the next few weeks out of a chapter of the Bible that I think is one of
the most important ones, and I say that about
every chapter in the Bible ’cause it’s all important, but is this is a very familiar passage, Matthew 6, this is where
the Lord’s Prayer is, and I’m actually going to kind of talk us
through the Lord’s Prayer, and I’d like us to go ahead
and say that together. Would you do that with me? We’re gonna put it on the screen here, and if you’re watching in one
of the campuses or online, just read this together. This is the Lord’s Prayer. Are you ready? Let’s do it. “Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name. “Your kingdom come, your will be done, “on Earth as it is in heaven. “Give us this day our daily bread, “and forgive us our debts
as we forgive our debtors, “and lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.” Now that’s straight out of Matthew 6:9-13, and we’ll get to that
text in just a second, but I am reminded that
we’re just a few days out from our resolutions. How ya doin’? [parishioners murmuring] If you’ve already broken them, you’re in, actually, in good company. Statistically, by the end of February, something like 85% of all resolutions have been broken by people. So hang in there, and I’m
actually gonna give us I think some fuel for those resolutions because what a resolution really is, it’s language that we
use to talk to ourself to remind us of our
commitment to God, really, if we’re followers of Christ. But that’s the beauty of
the resolution, right? But the fuel for it, I believe, is not in talking to ourselves
but in talking to God, and not really thinking
about our commitment to God but rather thinking about
God’s commitment to us. That’s where the magic happens. And so I wanna talk to you about prayer. What would it look like for you in 2020 to actually be a person of prayer? To actually be able to access
God through your words. That’s where we’re going. And I wanna give us a couple of things that Jesus warns us about before we get into the Lord’s Prayer, because He’s assuming
we pray in this passage. He says multiple times,
“And when you pray, “and when you pray, and when you pray.” But before He gets into
kind of this teaching mode, He says, “I need to warn
you about two things “that you’re gonna be
tempted to do when you pray. “The first is you’re gonna be tempted “to try and impress
people with your prayers.” And that’s in Matthew 6:5. Jesus says, “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites.” See what I mean? I came to church to church and
they called me a hypocrite. I did not; that was Jesus. That you must not be like the
hypocrites, for they love, these hypocrites love to
stand and pray in church and the synagogues, and
on the street corners, that they might be seen by others. It is very tempting in our prayer life to actually pretend to be a little farther than we are spiritually, and we do that with flowery words. I remember that one time
an early mentor of mine, we were praying together, and the first few times
you pray in a group, let’s be honest, it’s weird and awkward. If you don’t know what you’re doing, if you didn’t grow up in the church, and you’re just, everybody’s got all the, and I didn’t really know
a lot of Bible verses, so I start praying,
and before you know it, three to four minutes went by. And so after the meeting he’s like, “Hey, I asked you to pray, not preach,” because I was kinda
teaching everybody else. You ever been in that situation where you’re in some kind of prayer and it’s like they’re not
really talking to God, they’re talking to the people that are, Jesus said don’t do that, all right? That’s the first temptation. Second temptation is to
try to manipulate God with your prayers. That’s verse seven of Matthew 6. “When you pray,” Jesus says, “Do not heap up empty
phrases as the Gentiles do, “for they think they will be
heard for their many words.” So the word empty phrases is a Greek word [speaking in foreign language] which literally is gibberish. Jesus is saying don’t just pray
a lot of meaningless words. Don’t just think that more words equal quicker answers, right? That’s not what prayer is about. Don’t be ritualistic. Don’t be mantra-like. Don’t be mechanical. Don’t think your words
are some kind of magic, manipulative power that you have to get God to do what you want God to do. Now I love it because Jesus
tells us what not to do and I was just thinking, I’m like, “Okay, that kinda makes sense,” but what Jesus is saying is, “I need to kind of reset
your theology of prayer.” And a lot of times we, and maybe some of us grew up in a Catholic tradition or
a more liturgical church, where you said the Lord’s Prayer a lot, and that’s not a bad thing to do, okay? But I don’t think that’s
what Jesus is saying is the main purpose of this prayer. It’s not that we just go
through the prayer, right? Or we say five to 10,
whatever, and then we’re good. I think what He’s saying is, “I want to give you a blueprint, “I want to give you a structure, “I want to give you a framework, “so that you can
organization your prayers.” It helps kind of, in
a compass kind of way, it helps orient you to what North Star is. So the first thing He
says is, “Our Father.” Now that is about intimacy. So what Jesus is saying
you can actually pray with intimacy towards God. What do you mean intimacy? That sounds weird. What that means is God is your Father. He loves to hear you are
His son and His daughter. That’s how He views you. That’s how He sees you. So when you talk, it’s not like an employee
talking to a boss, right? It’s not like a citizen
talking to a police officer. It is a son or daughter
talking to their dad. And for some of us, that’s hard because earthly
dad wasn’t so great. Earthly dad’s conversations were awkward. Earthly dad talked more than he listened or gave you the silent treatment. So a lot of times we hear
God the Father and we think, “I’m gonna project all of my dad’s stuff “onto God the Father.” That’s the wrong way to do it
even though it’s very real, and I kinda had a rough
relationship with my dad, so I’m utterly sympathetic,
but we have a good dad. We have a good, good Father. We have a God who loves to hear us, loves to listen, and loves to speak. And He doesn’t love us
because we perfectly obey him, because we don’t. He loves us because He loves us. It’s not because we’re really great people as much as it’s because
He’s a really great Father. And so you can come to Him. He is your Father. And the good news is, He’s not just my Father, He’s our Father, so that we can do this
together, so we pray intimately. So this phrase “our Father”
governs the whole Lord’s Prayer. What do I mean by that? I mean that this is the
basis by which we can pray. God doesn’t hear us because
we’ve been perfectly obedient, or we’ve done everything right, or we’ve got this long,
spiritual track record. No, He hears you because you’re His son and because you’re His daughter. And so I like to do
this throughout the day, and it gets a little awkward
if people catch me do it, but I’ll just say, “I’m a son. “I’m a son; you’re my dad. “I’m a son; you’re my dad.” I mean, it’s just something
that my heart needs because I forget it so easily. Our Father, we can pray intimately. Now our Father, the text says, is in heaven and we
are to hallow his name, and this, friends, is about reverence. We’re to pray reverently. When’s the last time you use
the word hallow in a sentence? My guess is never, right? What does it mean? That’s a word you will not use
in 2020 probably very much. Well, the word hallow means
that which is most important, that which is the supreme
focus, your ultimate concern. That’s what it means to hallow something. The thing that you hallow is the thing that you pray about the most. I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed this. You start having money problems, right? Or marriage problems. Or kid issues. Or your job gets kinda shaky. Or your boss gets kinda crazy. Or you had some health concerns. Notice how your prayer life
heats up when that happens, why? Because that’s what’s important to you. That’s what’s relevant to you. That’s what’s impacting you. And what Jesus is warning us, actually, he says you’re gonna be
tempted to make everything in and around your life
the hallowed thing, and if you focus on that,
you’re gonna miss prayer, because what you’re supposed
to make as your supreme aim, as your ultimate focus, is
not your need, but your God. Make your Father the hallowed thing. Now the good news is when we do that, God promises to meet our needs. Matthew 6:33 says, “If we
seek first the kingdom of God, “everything else will be added to us.” In other words, He will take care of us if we are reverent in our prayer. So Jesus is our dad, but He’s a holy dad, so we pray reverently. We also pray submissively. The next part of the Lord’s Prayer says, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, “on Earth as it is in heaven.” What Jesus is saying is, “I want you to pray a willful prayer. “I want you to think about your will, “your desires, what you want, “and I want you to actually
submit your will to God’s will.” Now this is not easy, people, ’cause I got some stuff I want. How about you? I got some stuff I want, I got some stuff I want God to do, and let’s do it, right? And a lot of times those are my prayer, and what Jesus is saying
is prayer is not really about bending God’s will,
right, to meet my will. Prayer is more about God bending my will so that I can follow His will. Prayer isn’t a bunch of
words where we soften God up. My kids do this all the time. Our little one will ask for the same thing 27 different ways. You ever had a kid like that? She will not take no for an answer, and after a while, it’s like, “All right, what do you want?” I’m emptying pockets, I’m
giving her 20s and whatever. What do you want? ‘Cause she just won’t stop. She won’t stop. Well, a lot of us think
that’s what prayer is. We just kinda soften God up,
then we get what we want. But what Jesus is saying is, “No, no, no, prayer’s
about God softening us up “so that we do what He wants. “Your kingdom come, your will be done, “on Earth as it is in heaven.” The prayer of submission
is an acknowledgement that our will is not best, and God might know more than we know. Tim Keller said it this way though. He said, “God always gives us
what we would have asked for “if we knew everything He knew.” Isn’t that beautiful? “God always gives us what
we would have asked for “if we knew everything He knows.” So what’s Keller saying? He’s saying, “Listen, we,” wait, aren’t you glad God doesn’t answer most of your prayers? I’ve prayed some stupid stuff, man. I’m just like, “I gotta have it! “God, if you don’t do this
I’m not gonna make it!” If He would have answered that prayer, it would have destroyed things. So if I knew what His will
was, I would pray differently, and I think that’s what Jesus is saying. Submissive prayer says
I don’t see the future. I don’t know all the pieces. I don’t get all the people
that need to be involved. I don’t understand the process
that you’re putting it. I don’t get it, but I trust you. The Psalm, it says it
this way, in Psalm 34:7, “Delight yourself in the Lord.” Everybody say that with me. “Delight yourself in the
Lord,” and then it says, “And He will give you the
desires of your heart.” Say that with me. “And He will give you the
desires of your heart.” Now when I read that, I thought, as a newer Christian, I’m
like, “That’s awesome,” because I do some God stuff, “delight yourself in the Lord,” and then God’ll let me
have a bunch of stuff. He’ll give me the desires of my heart. But what I think that means is as we take delight in the Lord, as He becomes our greatest
delight, our hallowed thing, then His desires, listen,
become my desires. And so when I pray and
ask for what I want, it’s actually what God wants. Are you tracking with me? This is what happens
in the place of prayer. Your desires change. My uncle used to say it this
way, “Your wanter changes.” Is that communicated? What you want, your wanter. Your wanter changes. You begin to want what God wants, you begin to love what God loves, you begin to hate what God hates, and when happens, then
your prayer life changes. The mystery of unanswered prayer is one of the hardest things,
honestly, in Christianity, and sometimes we don’t know. We don’t get it. God, why doesn’t God
heal, why doesn’t God, I don’t know all the answers to that, but what I do know is
that my heart at times is refusing to submit to
a good and loving Father, but when I do that, good things happen. I think what He’s telling us here is, “Listen, don’t just want
stuff from God’s hand. “Surrender your will to God’s heart. “He’s good; He’s gonna
give you what you need.” Some of you are like,
“Oh, that’s great, Darrin. “So what I’m hearing is I
can’t pray about what I want. “I gotta do this whole God thing “and I’m not gonna get much help.” Well, I’m glad if you’re thinking that way to tell you that you’re wrong because the next thing says, “Give us this day our daily bread.” This is about praying practically. We are told to pray for what we need. Bread in the first century, and even now in countries
all over the world, bread is like the basic
building block of life. It is basic nutrition. And this phrase “give us this day” is right smack in the
middle of the prayer. So what do you mean? Well, let’s go back. He says: First, I want you to come to God as your heavenly Father, our Father. Then, I want you to praise God, make Him your hallowed thing. Then, I want you to submit to God. Not my will, but your will be done. Not my kingdom, but your kingdom come. And then I want you to ask God, “Give us this day our daily bread.” God is committed to meeting our needs. Now He did not say, “Give us
this day our daily crab cakes. [parishioners chuckling] “Give us this day our daily cheesecake.” He said, “Give us this day
our daily,” what, bread. So what I love to say is, “God is committed to
meeting all of my needs “and in His grace some of my wants.” But this is about what we need. And so people say all the time, “Well, I don’t know what to pray about.” Well, I got a question for you. I’ll answer your question with a question. People say, “How do I pray,
what do I, how do I pray?” What do you need? “Pastor, I asked you, ‘How do I pray?'” Yes, and I ask you, “What do you need?” Because that’s where you pray? If you’re struggling to fill
the air with some words, what do you need, what do you need? What do you need God to do? I need a car. Okay, God can give you a car. I need a new car. God can give you a new car. Okay, I need a job. Okay, God can give you a job. I need a new job. Okay, God can give you a new job. I need a spouse. Okay, God can give you a spouse. I need a new spouse. God’s not gonna give you a new spouse. [parishioners laughing] “Give us this day our daily bread.” Then we can pray authentically. Now this one take Him a little work. “Forgive us our debts as
we forgive our debtors.” The old translation, our transgressors, but the new translation, debt. So forgive us, our debt
to you because of sin, and then we’ll forgive people
when they sin against us. Obedience to God has two dimensions, one is vertical, meaning we obey God, but then one is vertical,
meaning we also love people. We love God, vertical, and then we love people, horizontal. So He uses forgiveness I think here ’cause it’s a little bit out of place when you’re reading it. You’re like, “Okay, now
we’re talking about prayer “and now you go to people. “What’s that about?” Well, I believe forgiveness
is the core and the meat, if you will, of Christianity. It’s our biggest need. We need to be forgiven. I mean, that is what Christianity says, that we are sinners, that
we’re really bad sinners, but He’s a really great savior, and so He loves to save sinners. That’s what Jesus does. So we’ve got that problem, that’s our biggest problem with God, we need forgiveness, but it’s our hardest
task in life, isn’t it? When somebody really
wounds you and hurts you, to forgive them, to release them. Not necessarily to trust them, but to not live your
whole life in bitterness on what they did to you. That’s really hard, it’s really hard, and so I think He puts it in the prayer because he’s saying, “I
don’t want you to believe “that you can just do all
your God vertical stuff “and not have to deal with the
hard stuff of Christianity.” I remember as a newer Christian
I asked one of my mentors, I said, “Listen, I need help.” I remember, it was the first of the year. “I need help on how to pray. “I’m so activistic, I like to read, “I like to do stuff, but to sit and pray.” Even to this day it’s hard! So I said, “Hey, man, help me.” He’s like, “Okay, I totally will. “We got some ideas. “Well, let me ask you this question: “what’s the last thing
God told you to do?” And I lied and said, “I
don’t know,” but I knew. So I had a situation where I was wounded by another Christian, and I felt like, literally, the night before
that I was supposed to go over and talk to this person, and forgive them, and I immediately went to
sleep the night before, and said, “No, I’m not gonna do that.” So when he said that, I knew exactly this is
what God wants me to do, and what I was doing is I
was trying to use prayer as a substitute for my obedience. Any sinners like me in the house? You ever do that? So you tell a friend,
“Listen, I really need “to have this hard
conversation with this person. “I need you to keep me accountable.” Okay, great, you see that
person the next week, “Hey, did you have that conversation?” I’m praying about it. I need some time to pray. So maybe you’re doing that
with your resolutions. I really need to eat better. So you didn’t get really specific, I really need to eat better, and then next week, somebody, “How’s your eating better thing?” Well, I’m just praying about which diet. [parishioners chuckling] Right, see, what we do is we use prayer to avoid doing what God
wants us to do sometimes, and that’s what Jesus is saying don’t do. The Psalm, it says it this way. Psalm 66:18 says, “If I cherish iniquity,” or that’s another word for sin, “in my heart, the Lord will not,” what? He’s not gonna hear me. What do you mean, like God can’t hear? What the Psalm is saying
is when you’ve got stuff that God has clearly told you do, don’t buy into the lie that you
can talk your way out of it. Don’t buy into the lie
that you can just kinda, like Jesus warned about in Matthew 6, you can manipulate God
and just kinda not what, God doesn’t play like that, and He will withdraw
His presences at times. Not that you’re not a Christian, but He’ll make you feel like you’re not. Like, “Oh, Gosh, where are you?” He’ll arrange circumstances. He’ll keep putting people in your path. Some of us, the best
thing we can do in 2020 is to actually do what
God told us to do in 2019. Just do it. You say, “That’s easy for you to say.” I know, I got some hard stuff too, but I’m trusting that if I do
what God has called me to do, that He is going to meet me in that place. So we pray absolutely
authentically when we say, “I will do whatever you want me to do, “and I will refuse to use prayer “as a substitute for that obedience.” The last thing is this: “Lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.” This is about praying cautiously. Now I love this word temptation. It’s a word that sometimes is translated in the New Testament, test, so it depends on who the subject is. If Satan is the subject,
it’s a temptation. If God is a subject, it’s a what? It’s a test. So in a way, I think what Jesus is saying, pray that your tests
don’t become temptations. That what God is doing in your life, in your marriage, with
your children, at your job, don’t let that character
development that he’s doing click over into temptation. Don’t let what God is
trying to build in you be destroyed by the enemy. Don’t let my tests become temptations. You see, when you understand
and kinda tread carefully, listen, I don’t know if you know this, this world is jacked up, man. You paying attention? I mean, we got some stuff
going on in our world, right? I mean, I don’t even
wanna get into all of it, but there is so much turmoil, and it’s hard to
understand what’s going on. And sometimes Christians are just like, “Well, I just enjoy the
Lord, everything’s wonderful, “and I just stepped out into this world. “Everything will be great.” Listen, it’s a war out there. It’s a battle. You should be cautious, Jesus is saying. There’s temptation everywhere. And so it’s not about fear. It’s about faith that God is at work and then awareness that
we live in an evil world. And I love what He says. He says, “Lead me not into temptation but deliver me from,” what? Evil. When you understand
that the world is evil, you actually expect temptation. You expect it. What you’re tempted to do,
and I do it all the time, you’re tempted to rename temptation. Instead of going, “God is using my boss “to teach me how to not
have my own way at my work, “which can help me realize “I don’t up get my own way with God, “and then gives me mercy
and grace for my kids “who always say, ‘I wish
I could have my own way.'” Instead of saying it like that, we go, “Let me rename that temptation. “My boss is an idiot,” right? Instead of saying God is at work, and some of you just
experienced this at Christmas, in my crazy family, we go, “They’re crazy, I can’t. “I hope Christmas is canceled next year. “We don’t have to see these people.” Right?
[parishioners chuckling] So don’t rename it and
don’t be shocked by it. It’s coming, and what
we are to do is to say, “Lord, I want you to
deliver me from temptation.” Now I pray a lot of times not, “Will you deliver me from temptation?” I pray, “Will you deliver me from pain?” He didn’t say that, did He? In fact, Jesus did say, “In this world, we will have trouble,” because we live in a fallen world. He’s not saying pray so that
you never experience pain, he’s saying pray that you
don’t give in to evil. Big difference. For me, at times, I love my comfort a lot more than I love holiness. It’s just how I am. I wanna change, but I need this prayer. So this is the prayer,
and Jesus gave it to us. And I love it because He didn’t, He coulda started it any way He wanted. He coulda said, “Hey,
when you talk you can say, “‘Our King, our Lord,
our God, our Creator,'” but what does He say, church, our what? Our Father, our Father. [gentle music] Crawl up in His lap and talk to Him. I always ask this question,
it’s a weird question, but I want you to think
about when you pray, what expression does God have on His face? For some of us, it’s this. [parishioners chuckling] For some of us, it’s this. For some of us, it’s a frown. But here’s what I wanna tell you, and this is the good news of the Gospel, because of Jesus and those of us that have ceased being around saviors and trusted Christ to
be the Lord of our life, we have, listen, the eternal smile of God. He’s disappointed sometimes, but He still is committed and loves us. He’s got a smile. So when you pray in 2020, I don’t know how you think about God’s, it’s kinda hard because
God’s, the Father’s a spirit. We got Jesus on the Earth; it’s a Middle-Eastern guy in his 30s. I mean, how do you, just somehow just go, “He’s pleased with me, “not because I’m good and great “but because Jesus is good and great, “and I am in Jesus.” Our Father. He said, “Our Father.” He didn’t say, “Our genie.” So you don’t have a genie that’s gonna give you whatever you want, but you do have a Father who’s gonna give you
exactly what you need. And so this year as you
make all your resolutions, and I pray that you be able to keep them, and lose the weight, and get connected more
in your relational life, and just explore new hobbies, and maybe search for a new job, whatever was on your list, whether you wrote it down
or it’s in your head. I pray you get everything you want, but I pray that you understand the fuel for keeping these commitments is not in your commitment to God but in His commitment to you. He loves you, and He wants to empower you, and He wants to help you. You’re not alone. And so now after hearing this, let’s say the Lord’s Prayer
again together as we close. “Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name. “”Your kingdom come, your will be done, “on Earth as it is in heaven. “Give us this day our daily bread “and forgive us our debts
as we forgive our debtors, “and lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.” Let’s pray together. Father, thank you that you
give us tools to know you; we don’t have to figure it out on our own. You’ve given us this framework. Some of us, Lord, we’ve been praying this
pray our whole life, but it hasn’t meant that much, and I pray that now it will mean more. Some of us, this is a
very dear pray to us, and so, Lord, we pray
that as we say this prayer and as we reflect on the structure, that you would even deepen our commitment and relationship with you. Thank you that you’re a good
Father and you love us, amen.

Posted by Lewis Heart

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