Meanderings of a Minister


Lord, Teach Us to Pray!

Lord Teach Us to Pray

That was the request of the disciples one night after they had watched Jesus praying and speaking with His Father.  One of the disciples spoke up and asked Jesus to teach them how to pray just like they had seen John the Baptist teach his disciples.  Basically, they saw in Jesus a means and method of communicating with the Father that looked so much more intimate and vital than the rote prayers they were used to praying and they wanted to learn how to lean in to that kind of a relationship with the Father.

Jesus began by teaching them to call God their Father.  This was a new way of referring to God as through a personal relationship of love.  This would assume that they believe God loved them.  It would also assume that God wanted to hear from them.  Not because He did not already know what they were going to say or what was going on in their lives, but because God desired relationship with them even more than they desired the relationship with God.

Next, he told them to ask that God’s Name be hallowed.  Since we don’t use the word, hallowed, much, it would be helpful to think about what Jesus was saying.  He was saying that His disciples should make the entire basis of their prayer and their life to be the lifting up of God’s Name as holy, awesome, powerful, mighty, and wonderful.  They were to pray that people would think much of God’s Name and would want others to do the same.  This prayer is hard to pray honestly, if we are not living this day to day, so asking God is also a way of asking Him to help us to live that way.

“Your Kingdom come” was the next phrase Luke recorded in Luke 11.  This was to pray that God would come and rule the world like He rules in Heaven.  Not meaning that He is sovereign, because that is already the case everywhere you look.  God is sovereign, but what the disciples were to pray was that God’s reign would come to earth or that God’s plan for His world would be consummated.  Again, this is hard to pray if we are not living this out daily.

Jesus then taught them to pray that God would give them each day their daily bread.  While you and I know that all we have comes from God, Jesus wanted to make sure that they recognized God as the source of their sustenance.  For those of us who do not live with a lack of resources, this is even more important because we have a tendency to take for granted that what we have comes from our hard work instead of appreciating that even our ability to live, move, breathe, and work comes daily from God.

The next part of the prayer seems to come more natural for most Christians I know.  “Forgive us our sins”.  But Jesus did not stop there when teaching His disciples to pray.  He went on to teach them, “for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us”.  Jesus taught us to daily, or even periodically, to tell God that we have forgiven those who have done us wrong.  This is a tall order.  Even this week, I have experienced a hurt that I am struggling with and want to be able to put it behind me, but find myself struggling.  Jesus said in Matthew that if we did not forgive, we would not be forgiven.  This part of the prayer sends me back to my knees to beg for God’s help.

He ended with teaching them to pray that God would not lead them into temptation.  What did He mean by that?  Surely God would not lead someone to sin.  Would He?  Of course He would not.  This part of the prayer is a request that makes us aware of the times God gives us the way of escape.  It reminds us that we must lean on and follow God in order to avoid the temptations or to resist the sin to which the temptation might lead us.

Jesus taught His disciples to pray that their lives would be a constant advertisement for the awesomeness of God’s Name, as an example of His rule, as a testimony to His faithfulness, and as a surrender to his leadership.  When people look at your life, do they see any of that?  Maybe we had better start praying like we have been taught.

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How Much Is Enough?
February 26, 2015, 9:55 am
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Money

I am preparing to preach a message on finances this Sunday.  Before you close your browser and say, “It knew it!  All churches care about is money!”  That could not be further from the truth.  Actually, in over 20 years of ministry, the only time I have ever preached on finances has been as they are encountered in whatever book of the Bible I happened to be preaching through at the time.  This message is the latest in a series of message entitled, “Transformed Living”.  We have looked at Spiritual Transformation, Physical Transformation, Emotional Transformation, Mental Transformation, and Relational Transformation.  This week, Lord willing, we will look at various Proverbs that give us God’s plan for our finances.  Next week, we will look at Vocational Transformation.  As each area is a key component of life, it naturally fit that something as ubiquitous as finances should be included.

Anyway, as I have been preparing for this message, I became very disturbed with the apparent contradiction between what I was reading and what I have experienced and have seen others experience.  I read Proverbs that talk about the diligent succeeding and the lazy having poverty.  I thought about how I have known many people that were very diligent and didn’t seem to have much and I have known many lazy people that constantly need help with the necessities of life.

As I read this, and struggled in prayer, I turned to Jesus’ own words in Matthew 6 when He told those listening that they should not worry about what they would eat or wear, but that they should seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things would be added to them.  As I thought about these words, I was struck that I have known many believers around the world that have literally starved to death.  I have known pastors that struggle to just have a Bible and enough food to feed their family.  I have known Christians that have had to go about nearly naked because they did not enough money for clothing and food at the same time.  Did they not seek God or His Kingdom or His righteousness enough?  Did they not have enough faith?  Hardly!

As I thought more about this, a number of thoughts occurred to me.  First, what is the definition of enough?  Many of us in North America think of not having enough money in terms of enough to do everything we want to do.  We complain because we don’t have enough money to make our house payment, car payment(s), electric bill, water bill, garbage bill, internet bill, cell phone bill, retirement fund, eating out, groceries, new clothing, etc.  We think we don’t have enough because we don’t have as much as others.  But have we stopped to ask the question, “What if I stopped thinking about my plans and thought about God’s plans?”  Maybe I don’t have enough to do all I want, but the Bible seems to indicate that I will have enough to accomplish God’s plans.  Ephesians 1 says that we have been given every spiritual blessing under heaven.  That means we already have what we need to do God’s will which is to glorify Him.

The reason I think this is so hard of a concept for many is that thinking of God’s plan means humbling ourselves and putting Him first.  Was this not what Jesus said?  I think it is also hard because it means we are not in control.  We certainly like to think we are!  It is also hard because it means that we have to see God as the source and supply of all we have and surrender to give Him the right to use all of it.  That strikes at the heart of our pride to say, “We earned it.  We worked hard for that money.  It is mine!”

So, this Sunday, we will talk about money.  Many people will be uncomfortable.  Some might even get mad, walk out, and leave.  Others might want to argue.  While I do not have all of the answers and certainly have not learned to live out the truth perfectly, I want to invite you to join me in asking, “How much is enough?”