How to Pray, pt. 3 (Matt 6:10a)

Focus is sometimes very difficult. Especially after dinner and a long day. It’s easy to lose focus. I remember one day when I had spent the whole night working on an assignment for school. I hit the print button as I took a shower and then off to seminary I went.

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At chapel I sat up near the front so that I wouldn’t be tempted to fall asleep (a tactic that I used for classes after lunch as well!). On that particular day, John MacArthur was our chapel speaker. But the focus was gone. I fought hard, but the sleep won out. I’m pretty sure Dr. MacArthur saw me sleeping that day.

But other than sleepiness, we can lose focus, can’t we? Those two sisters, Mary and Martha teach us that Martha lost her focus on the most important things (Lk 10:38-42). And we can do that in our prayer times as well.

So far we have seen that our prayers need to be honed:

  1. With a God-centered focus on God as our Father–“Our Father in heaven…”
  2. With a God-Centered focus on God’s holiness–“…hallowed be your name…”
  3. Now, With a God-centered focus on God’s Kingdom, “…your kingdom come”

God has given us a job to do on this earth. And it’s not to make it to the top of the corporate ladder or feather our retirement nest or finally reach all those goals in our bucket list. Those are all fine and have their place, but it isn’t first place and too much time on those things will cause us to lose our focus on God’s kingdom.

You know that almost everything we spend these short 70+ years on this earth gaining will all be burned up one day? Not much will be left if we don’t spend our time wisely. And that begins with prayer.

In the 2nd Petition, “your kingdom come” we focus our prayers on three matters:

  1. We pray that Satan’s kingdom may be destroyed.

A kingdom means that there are people who are being ruled by a king; and the vast majority of humanity is ruled by Satan, the prince of the power of the air (Eph 2:2). When we pray, petitioning that God’s kingdom come, we are at the same time asking that Satan’s kingdom be destroyed, since these two kingdoms are incompatible.

When we pray for the destruction of Satan’s kingdom, we are praying in line with the psalmist: “God shall arise, his enemies shall be scattered;and those who hate him shall flee before him! As smoke is driven away, so you shall drive them away;as wax melts before fire, so the wicked shall perish before God! (Ps. 68:1-2).

Also, when we pray for God’s kingdom to come, we pray in agreement with what is revealed in prophecy will one day surely come. In Revelation 20:1-3, 7-15 we see the yet-future defeat of Satan and the judgment of all the wicked. At this point in history, all of sinful humanity will be placed into one of two places-with God, or in the Lake of fire. The final separation of darkness and light will be complete! Sin and evil will be eradicated and finally be completely judged!

There are some dark and sinister elements in our world that Christians need to war against. You need to be in deep and concerted prayer for God to strike down the enemies of the gospel and for him to use you as his agent to bring about those changes.

I’ve prayed that the Lord would remove obstacles, including people, to the preaching of the gospel. I’ve prayed that the Lord would shut down strip clubs and bars. I’ve prayed that back-sliding sinners would be crushed by their sins so they will look up to Jesus once more. I’ve prayed that family members would be overwhelmed by their sin and would seek Christ with a repentant heart and that they would be miserable until they do so.

I want to see God’s Kingdom come. And I don’t want to see the kingdom of darkness grow—not in my neighborhood. Not in my church. Not in my home. What about you?

  1. Likewise, when we pray, “Your kingdom come,” we pray that God’s grace may advance:

The Church is made up of those who are currently living in the grace of our Savior Jesus Christ here on earth. We have not been glorified, and we have not received all that has been promised for us, yet we hope expectantly in Jesus’ finished work on the cross. It is this hope that we are to busying ourselves in moving forward while we still have breath:

The Apostle Paul, in writing to the believers in Thessalonica, wanted to see the Church of Jesus Christ grow, praying: Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you( 2Thess 3:1, emphasis mine). Paul wanted to see Christ come into the hearts and lives of people, and so he shared the gospel with everyone he came into contact with. Like Alex Montoya says, “If it looks human, evangelize it!”

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Do you realize that God has blessed you, in part so that you can make his name great in the whole earth? Notice the connection that the psalmist makes: “May God be gracious to us and bless usand make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!” (Ps 67:1-3)

Do you pray for God’s kingdom to come? Does it match your hunger for souls to be saved?

Paul’s hunger to see his fellow Jews saved was so intense, that he wrote,  “I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (Rom. 9:1-3) and in Romans 10:1, “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.”

  1. Finally, when we pray, “Your kingdom come,” we pray that the kingdom of God’s Glory may be hastened

This is possibly the most prominent idea that we think about when we consider this phrase of the Lord’s prayer. Every true follower of Jesus Christ looks forward to the day when our Savior returns, and hopes that he comes soon. As Revelations 22:20 says, “He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”

Notice the message that comes to us through 2 Peter 3:8-13:

  1. It acts as a warning to those who think that Jesus’ return is far off.
  2. It reminds us to keep working towards fulfilling the Great Commission until he comes again.
  3. It encourages us to keep waiting eagerly for that day when it finally does come and we see our Savior face to face!

But awaiting the Lord’s coming needs to be accompanied with a die-hard obedience to his last words—Take the gospel to the world! Make disciples. Push forward. Take the kingdom with violence—violent men for Christ and the gospel are needed. The Church needs men and women who are not lax or passive. Men and women who study hard and pray hard and preach hard and live godly lives that cannot be denied by our enemies.

Are you that kind of Christian? Pray that you would be!

How to Pray, pt. 1 (Matt 6:9a)

Prayer is a difficult thing to do. It may seem to be easy, and we can form words and make statements that seem to be prayers easily enough, but if we stop and consider a few things, we will see that true prayer is difficult.

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Consider this quote from Dr. Lloyd-Jones:

Man is at his greatest and highest when, upon his knees, he comes face-to-face with God….It is the highest activity of the human soul, and therefore it is at the same time the ultimate test of a man’s true spiritual condition. There is nothing that tells the truth about us as Christian people so much as our prayer life. Everything we do in the Christian life is easier than prayer….Prayer is undoubtedly the ultimate test, because a man can speak to others with greater ease than he can speak to God. Ultimately, therefore, a man discovers the real condition of his spiritual life when he examines himself in private, when he is alone with God….So that it is when we have left the realm of activities and outward dealings with other people, and are alone with God, that we really know where we stand in a spiritual sense. It is not only the highest activity of the soul, it is the ultimate test of our true spiritual condition. [Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 322]

Obviously, the disciples sensed the difficulty of prayer themselves. In Luke 11:1 it says,“Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” After watching Jesus pray, and seeing their own lack-luster attempts, they ask Jesus to teach them. So, we have in Matthew 6:9-13 not only an answer to the negative idea of not praying like the hypocrites (see Matt 6:5), but the Lord’s model prayer was for teaching the Lord’s disciples, then and now, how to pray.

This prayer has a preface followed by six petitions. We will look at each one in turn and see what Jesus meant to teach us about prayer. Let’s begin by looking at the preface, or opening words of this prayer, “Our Father in heaven” or “Our Father who art in heaven.”

 

1. The Preface teaches us to draw near to God with holy reverence.

We are about to speak to the One who is “in heaven.” This is not an earthly conversation with another man, but a holy conversation in which the lowly creature is about to speak to his heavenly Creator. The hypocrite of our context has forgotten this. He speaks for his own pleasure and self-promotion forgetting that he is standing before the Lord’s presence.

Psalm 95:6: Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!

When you come before the Lord in prayer, is it like you are John in Rev. 1:12-17? We are addressing this same Lord and God whom John fell dead at his feet. How can we rush flippantly and irreverently into his presence?

2. The Preface teaches us to draw near to God with confidence.

He is “our” Father. Luke’s version of this prayer (given on a different occasion) doesn’t include this word, but I am so glad that it is here. This prayer is not for the pagans and the unbelieving world. He is not their Father. Their father is Satan, the father of lies (John 8:44). But, because he is our Father we can have confidence as we draw near to Him. This confidence is based upon the finished work of our Savior Jesus Christ. The cross is the doorway by which we enter into the throne room of God with confidence.

Eph 3:12: [Christ Jesus] in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.

3. The Preface teaches us to draw near to God as Children to a Father.

This is closely related to the last point, but it is more intimate. Matt 7:9-11 says, “Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

Rom. 8:15 comforts and confirms this for us when it says, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

Gal. 4:4-5 also calls all believers God’s adopted sons, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

Listen to Thomas Watson regarding this incredible reality:

See the amazing goodness of God, that he is pleased to enter into the sweet relation of a Father to us. He needed not to adopt us, he did not want [for] a Son, but we wanted [for] a Father. He showed power in being our Maker, but mercy in being our Father. That when we were enemies, and our hearts stood out as garrisons against God, he should conquer our stubbornness, and of enemies make us children, and write his name, and put his image upon us, and bestow a kingdom of glory; what a miracle of mercy is this! [A Body of Divinity]

4. The Preface teaches us to draw near to God, who is able and ready to help us.

Jesus assumes this by his own personal practice of prayer and his willingness to teach the disciples how to pray. He didn’t say to them, “Well, I’ll teach you, but remember, God helps those who help themselves.” Wrong. He is able and ready to help us. He is the same Father whom Jesus said he could call out to and who could easily send 72,000 angels to come to his side to deliver him from the cross.

Eph 3:20-21: Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us [that is, the Holy Spirit (v. 16)], to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

God’s children need to recognize that prayer is not a duty, but a privilege. When we come to times of need, our Father ought to be our first resource that we go to.

We need to think about how each of these lessons impact our current way of praying. Do you draw near to God with holy reverence or with a flippant casual attitude? How does this show up in our choice of words and our hastiness to pray? Do we ever take the time to collect our thoughts before we enter his throne? Boldness does not mean rashness!

Do you draw near to God with confidence because He is our Father who is in heaven? There may be some who don’t have confidence when they approach God in prayer because He is a stranger, not a Father. Confidence comes in the relationship that we gain through our Savior. If you haven’t received Jesus Christ as your substitute, as your Savior, then you can do so today.

Do you draw near to God as children draw near to their loving Father? Put aside all twisted ideas of poor and evil fathers. We are speaking of our loving heavenly Father who drew near to us first. Do you seek His face, not merely to ask for your needs (although that is important), but also just to adore Him as Abba, Father?

Finally, do you draw near to God confident that he is able and ready to help you? This can be seen in the amount of time, effort and energy you spend in prayer as compared to your striving to achieve what you secretly believe God cannot or will not do.

How will your prayer change? Hopefully it will. Hopefully, as you think about these four lessons, you will be challenged to pray more fervently and actively in faith than you ever have before.

“Although discipline is painful for a moment…”

“Although discipline is painful for a moment, it leads to lasting, restorative joy. As members of the church, we are all under church discipline in that we have submitted ourselves to the discipline of the church and attend weekly to the discipline of the preached Word. The first step of discipline is admonition, and we come each week because we know how desperately we need to be admonished, to repent of our sins, to reaffirm our confession of Christ, and to receive our Father’s assurance of pardon and benediction that carries us through the week, reminding us that our loving Father lifts up the light of His countenance upon us and makes His face to shine upon us that we might be blessed and kept to live coram Deo, before His smiling face.” – Burk Parsons