John MacArthur: How Should We Pray?

John MacArthur: How Should We Pray?


Thank you. Well, I’m not sure there’s much to be said
after Ligon Duncan’s message. What a rich, rewarding treatment of the great truths of
prayer. My own heart was so encouraged by it. But R.C. says I have to speak anyway,
so here we go! I would invite you to turn in your Bible to
Luke chapter 11. I have really been asked to direct our thoughts toward how to pray
and, in particular, that takes us to how the Lord taught us to pray. And I want to choose
the more brief version of this instruction by the Lord we find in Luke. And I want to
choose it to make a point, which should become clear in a little while. Luke chapter 11,
verse 1: “And it came about that, while He was praying
in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach
us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.’ And He said to them, ‘When you pray, say:
“Father, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And
forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And
lead us not into temptation.”‘” A little bit of background on what’s going
on in this context: the reality of personal access to God Himself, on an intimate level,
was somewhat convoluted among the Jews in Jesus’ day. They had been taught by the rabbis
that God was far off, that God was so transcendent that they could not really experience any
kind of intimate fellowship with Him. He was frighteningly unapproachable, and they were
used to realizing that no one could actually enter His presence except the high priest
on the day of atonement, and that only with the proper preparation. God appeared on Mount
Sinai and the Israelites had seen His presence there, accompanied by frightening displays
of thunder and lightning and smoke — and because God is, after all, the writer of Hebrews
says, a “consuming fire.” But this had been stretched to, I think, an unfair point in
the time of our Lord because, if you go back into the Old Testament, it was very clear
in the writing of the Old Testament that God was approachable by His people. We just heard
about that with regard to Daniel and that great prayer which he prayed. The rabbis even
said the Holy One yearns for the prayers of the righteous. Psalm 50 and verse 15 says,
“Call upon me in the day of trouble and I will rescue you and you will honor me.” Psalm
91:15, “When he calls to me,” says the Lord, “I will answer him.” Psalm 145:18, “The Lord
is near to all who call upon Him.” Psalm 18:6, “In my distress, I called upon the Lord and
cried to my God for help. He heard my voice out of His temple and my cry of help before
Him came into His ears.” Psalm 65:2 says, “O Thou that hearest prayer, unto Thee shall
all flesh come.” And there is an indication that access to
God was broader even than just the Jews. A Midrash commentary on Psalm 65 says, “A human
king can hearken to two or three people at once but he cannot hearken to more. God is
not so, for all men may pray to Him and He hearkens to them all simultaneously. Men’s
ears become satisfied with hearing a little, but God’s ears are never satiated. He is never
wearied by men’s prayers.” Some rabbis taught that prayer was greater
than sacrifice. And some rabbis believed that prayer should be constant, not just when a
person is in need. In fact, there’s a statement in the Talmud that says, “Honor the physician
before you have need of him. You shall pray, and not just when in prosperity,” and not
just when in “need,” rather, “but when in prosperity, before misfortune comes, anticipate
and pray,” says the Talmud. And when you look at the Old Testament and begin to analyze
the components of the prayers of the people of God in the Old Testament, when you see
what the Old Testament calls them to do in their prayers, it breaks down to a number
of things. Jewish prayers had several elements. First
of all, we could say love and praise. Psalm 34:2, “I will bless the Lord at all times.
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Psalm 51:17, “O Lord, open my lips. My mouth
shall show forth Thy praise.” And then there was, very closely related to
that, gratitude and thanksgiving. R.C. remarked last night about Jonah’s prayer in which Jonah
says, in the second chapter in verse 9, “I will sacrifice unto Thee with a voice of thanksgiving.”
This was a very typical way the Jewish people prayed, and the rabbis said through all prayers
there must be thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is never to be discontinued, they said. There was also, in prayer, an affirmation
and recognition of God’s holiness. “We are to pray,” said one rabbi, “realizing that
the glory of God is before us as if the shekinah was present.” There is also to be, in prayer,
the affirmation of one’s desire to obey God; to please God; and that, basically, is what
Psalm 119 emphasizes, such as verse 103: “My tongue will sing of Thy Word, for all of Thy
commandments are right.” Prayer is a celebration of the goodness of God’s law, and the goodness
of His commandments, and the eagerness to obey them. Another component that was a part of Jewish
praying was confession of sin and the longing for a pure heart. Psalm 26:6, “I will wash
my hands in innocence and go about Thine altar, O Lord.” Psalm 51, that great prayer of confession
on the part of David, is an illustration, and it’s a very familiar one to us. And we
are reminded that the psalmist says, “Who can ascend to the hill of the Lord but He
who has clean hands and a pure heart.” So the Jews understood the components of prayer
which are familiar to us. They also understood that prayer was to be
unselfish. The highest Jewish prayers were those offered on behalf of the community.
There was a great sense of solidarity among the people of God. They saw themselves as
a covenant people (as indeed they were), and they saw God’s redemptive purpose as collective
on behalf of them all as the seed of Abraham. In fact, one of the things the rabbis used
to say was, in praying to God, they would say, “Let not the prayer of the traveler find
entrance to thee, O Lord.” Interesting prayer. “Let not the prayer of the traveler find entrance
to thee, O Lord.” Travelers might be praying for fair weather when the people of God needed
rain. In other words, “God, don’t pay any attention to the prayers of the strangers
if they interrupt the purposes that You have for Your people.” So they prayed with a view
to collective benediction and blessing. They also marked their prayers by perseverance.
They did pray with importunity. They did pray with pleading. And you see a number of those
kinds of things. I would say that Daniel chapter 9 is a wonderful indication of the pleading
of the man of God who goes over the same things repeatedly and does all those kinds of things
that emphasize a heart that is wholly given over to the urgency of this. Another illustration:
Moses prayed for the mercy of God even after God said to him in Deuteronomy 3, “Enough!
Speak no more to me of this matter.” But he kept speaking. In fact, after the sin of the
golden calf, Moses interceded for the people of Israel for forty days. Now there’s some
importunity in prayer. The Jews knew what it was to plead with God. And I suppose, at the end, the pervasive attitude
in prayer (that was righteous prayer among the Jews) was humility. They often began their
prayer, “May it be Thy good pleasure.” Now the reason I give you just a little bit of
a fast rundown on Old Testament prayer is because I want you to know that Jesus, here,
is not giving some new instruction never known before. However we are to commune with God,
it is not going to be any different than those who have been communing with Him all along.
All the elements that we find in proper Jewish prayers are emphasized and refined by our
Lord in His instruction, and here again is a wonderful illustration: that He came not
to overturn anything, He came not to replace anything, but to fulfill. And so, in this text of Luke 11, we come to
Jesus’ specific instruction on how to pray. This can be compared with the other version
of this instruction in Matthew chapter 6, verses 9 to 13. They are not the same incident.
The Matthew account happens much earlier in Galilee. This one, no doubt, in Judea, months
later. Here again, Jesus is repeating His instruction. And the question that launches
it is at the end of verse 1: “Lord, teach us to pray.” Teach us to pray. They didn’t
say, please notice, “Teach us a prayer.” They said, “Teach us to pray.” This is not a prayer.
This is how to pray. It follows that we learn from this a structure to prayer, a pattern
that we can follow. This is a model for praying. The Lord is not saying ‘occasionally’ or ‘daily’
or ‘once in a while’ or ‘every Lord’s Day’ at the end of the prayer that you pray in
the pulpit, lead your people in this prayer.’ He said to them, “When you pray…” or, literally,
“Whenever you pray, pray like this.” This is a skeleton that you’re going to hang all
your praying on. This is a framework that provides the structure for all our prayers.
I found it so helpful many, many years ago, when I went through teaching the wonderful
gospel of Matthew, to spend an awful lot of time in the version of this prayer that appears
in the sixth chapter and to learn this structure, and this framework which has been the constant
structure and framework for my praying ever since. Occasionally, I actually say or sing
the Lord’s Prayer. But that’s not the point. It’s not wrong to do that. It’s wonderful
to do that because you need to be reminded of that structure! But that’s only the framework.
And I want you to see just exactly what this framework is because this, dear friends, is
what it really means to pray the way Jesus taught us to pray; which is to say this is
what it means to pray in the Spirit — to pray consistently with the will of the Spirit,
who desires that we pray the way we’ve been instructed to pray. And I know you’re going
to know many of the things that I’ll tell you but perhaps this will be a reminder. Let’s go back to verse 1 and just get the
setting. “It came about…,” a very general indicator here, we don’t know when or where
this occurred, but “it came about that, while He was praying in a certain place, after He
had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John
also taught his disciples.” It was a regular part of our Lord’s life, to be in constant
communion with His Father. No doubt the disciples experienced that with Him all the time. But
on this occasion, when Jesus is at prayer, they ask Him to teach them to pray as they
were hearing him pray. They must’ve been watching. They must’ve been listening. And they wanted
to know what was the structure of His own prayers? And they bring up the fact that John,
John the Baptist, had taught his disciples to pray. And that was true. Even the Pharisees
and the scribes recognize that, in John 5:33. They said, “The disciples of John often fast
and pray.” It was known then by everybody that John the Baptist’s followers prayed.
And whoever asked this question said, “You know, we ought to know how to pray, too.”
And so, to that, Jesus responds, “When you pray…” — no set time, no set posture. “Whenever
you pray…,” present subjunctive, “say….” Say, from lego, in the broadest sense. And
here the framework begins. First thing: “Father.” God is called ‘Father’
only fifteen times in the Old Testament. Never is He addressed as ‘Father’ in a prayer. God
is called ‘Father’ sixty-five times in the Synoptic Gospels — Matthew, Mark and Luke
— and a hundred times in John. Something has happened. To bring God near, to open up
this filial relationship among us and this parental relationship with Him. And the Greek
is pater but the Jews use the Aramaic and probably said, “Abba.” When you pray, start
out this way: “Daddy.” “Papa.” That, by the way is still used today in Hebrew-speaking
families, the term of tender affection, family love. And rabbis used to note that the first
words that a child ever uttered were “Abba” and “Inma.” So here is a model, a pattern, a format, a
framework for prayer that begins with addressing God in a way that the Jews really never did.
Collectively they did, but individually they did not. This invocation says that you have
the right to approach God the Creator, the Sovereign, the Eternal, Holy One and to call
Him ‘Papa.’ To the conventional wisdom of the Jews of that day, this is frighteningly
presumptuous. But God is so eager to introduce Himself in this way and we are reminded again,
aren’t we, of the seventh chapter of Matthew where God presents Himself as a Father who
responds to His people? “What man is there among you that, when his son asks for a loaf,
will give him a stone? What if he asks for a fish? He won’t give him a snake, will he?
If you, being then evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more
shall your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him?” It’s not presumptuous
to call God ‘Father.’ He wants to be called ‘Father’ in the most intimate sense and our
Lord Jesus instructs us that’s how you pray to Him. In fact, in John 20, in verse 17,
Jesus said, “Tell the brethren….” — this is after the Resurrection — “I go to my Father
and your Father.” Just an amazing reality. Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:6: “Abba Father”
is again Paul’s reference in telling us how to approach God. He is our Father. God is
not the apatheia god of the Stoics, unable to feel anything. He’s not the adorexia god
of the Epicureans, living in perfect, indifferent serenity. He is not the god, say, of Thomas
Hardy who called God “the dreaming, dark, dumb thing that turns the handle on this idle
show.” He’s not the god of the deists who wound it up and went away. He is Abba Father.
And that settles the matter of fear. And that settles the matter of hope. And that settles
the matter of loneliness. And that settles the matter of resources. Every time you pray
“Father,” you’re not lost in the crowd. Think about the story of the Loving Father — I
prefer to call it the story of the ‘Loving Father’ rather than the story of the ‘Prodigal
Son’ because it is really about the love of God for a returning prodigal. In Luke 15,
when he comes back, the magnanimous affection of the father for this disobedient child is
overwhelming. All he wants is to be a servant. Then the father will have none of it: put
the ring on his finger, killed the fatted calf, put a robe on, “Let’s have a party to
end all parties.” You’re that son. That’s right: you are that son. And the Father’s
arms are open to you, to embrace you and to fall on your neck and kiss you. He is our
Father in the truest sense. And that’s where all prayer begins. And it means we’re not
lost in the crowd. And it means He cares, and He is the source of everything, and His
resources are unlimited. Well, let’s just call that God as Source — that’s where we
start. But even more intimately, God as Father. Secondly, I want to see the next statement
here: “Hallowed be Thy Name.” Let’s just say that’s God as sacred. God as sacred. And it’s
good that this comes right away because we could get a little sentimental with “Father”,
couldn’t we? It’s really a very important balance. “Hallowed be Thy Name.” While we
are so thrilled to have this kind of access to Abba, while we can rush into His presence
and cry out, “Daddy!” and lay out all the issues of our hearts before Him, it is also
incumbent upon us to understand that His Name is to be hallowed, and that is to say He is
to be honored above all things. This is not just “long live the King!” This is not just
“God save the Queen” kind of stuff. This is not a casual bit of religious jargon, although
it certainly I suppose becomes that, because of its familiarity to us. This is a statement
that recognizes the enormous respect that is required when you enter God’s presence.
The Jews took this to an extreme level to the point that they would not even speak the
name of God. They wouldn’t say the tetragrammaton. They invented ways to refer to God without
saying it. It was too holy to speak. We do recognize this, at the beginning of our prayers:
that we are entering into the holy of holies. And while there is familiarity, and love,
and care, and a personal relationship of affection and generosity, we are also entering the holy
presence of God. And you understand that. What does it mean when we talk about His ‘Name’?
Let’s just talk about that for a minute. “Hallowed be Thy name”: do we ever think about that?
In 1 Samuel 18:30 I think it is, regarding David, it was said his name was ‘highly esteemed.’
Does that mean everybody liked the name ‘David’? No. The name was synonymous with him, with
his character which had been manifest in his acts. The name stands for the whole character
of the person revealed, all that he is, all that he is that manifests itself in all that
he does. So the ‘name’ of God is simply that which refers to His character, His nature,
His attributes, His personality, and His works. Psalm 9:10 says, “Those who know your name
put their trust in You.” If you really know He is, you certainly are willing to put your
trust in Him. So His name is all that He is. What we do, when we come to God in prayer,
is affirm the fullness of the glory of His person. Psalm 20 and verse 7 says, “And some
boast of chariots and some boast of horses, but we boast in the name of the Lord our God.”
Jesus, in John 17:6 said, “I have manifested Your name.” What did He mean? He meant “I’ve
manifested You, Your Person, Your power, Your truth to the men You’ve given me out of this
world. I’ve put You on display, on exhibit.” Jesus revealed what God is, His true nature.
God, in the past, spoke through the prophets. Now, He speaks through His Son. So the name
is not a title. It’s the total of the person. You can think about God’s name, and names,
that help us understand the fullness of that name. He is called Elohim — the name that
acknowledges Him as Creator, the third word used in the Bible. He is to be acknowledged
as the Creator. El Elyon — God Most High; in Genesis 14 we read, “Blessed be Abraham
of the Most High God, possessor of heaven and earth.” He is called Jehovah Jireh — ‘the
Lord will provide.’ He is called Jehovah Nissi — ‘the Lord our Banner,’ Jehovah Raphah — ‘the
Lord that heals,’ Jehovah Shalom — ‘the Lord our Peace,’ Jehovah Ra’ah — ‘the Lord our
Shepherd,’ Jehovah Tsidkenu — ‘the Lord our Righteousness,’ Jehovah Sabaoth — ‘the Lord
of hosts,’ Jehovah Shamah — ‘the Lord is present,’ and Jehovah M’Kaddesh Kim — ‘the
Lord sanctifies you.’ All of that, all of those names sum up His name. He is also Adonai
— ‘Lord.’ And, most wonderfully of all, His name is the Lord Jesus Christ. And, in Him,
all the character of God is revealed. So, when you pray, you go to God as ‘Father’ but
immediately you become aware, as you draw into intimate presence which is made available
to you since the veil has been ripped, that you are entering the presence of the all-holy
God. “Hallowed be….” When we hear the word ‘hallowed’…I
don’t know that anybody uses ‘hallowed’ anymore unless you’re going through a really old,
kind of musty building. The word has become archaic. It’s dropped out of current use.
It usually is associated with the cloistered halls, long robes, dismal chants, halos, musty,
dim churches, mournfully morbid music, and other traditions. But it’s just hagiadzo again,
the same word I talked about yesterday: to be ‘holy.’ So, if we could just maybe replace
‘hallowed’ with ‘holy,’ we might understand it a little better: “Holy be Your name.” That
verb, interestingly enough, is very rare in secular Greek, but not in biblical Greek (obviously,
because you’re talking about God). Now, what do we mean when we say, “Holy be
Your name”? We’re not making God holy. He’s already holy. We’re simply recognizing it.
We’re treating Him as holy. We’re acknowledging His holiness. We’re affirming that we recognize
His holiness. And that’s essential as we come to Him in prayer. The Greek fathers used words
that they felt were equivalent to hagiadzo. Chrysostom equates it with doxadzo, which
means ‘to glorify’ or ‘to honour.’ Origen equates it with ibzun, which means ‘to exalt’
or ‘lift on high.’ John Calvin said, “that God’s Name should be hallowed is nothing other
than to say that God should have His own honor, of which He is worthy, so that men should
never think or speak of Him without the greatest veneration.” So this is a protection against
sentimentalism. This is a protection against the overuse and abuse of ‘Abba,’ which is
so prone to be sentimentalized. When you go back and find some of the Jewish
prayers — some of the Jewish prayers that’ve been used historically and are still used
today — you find (and I listed all kinds of these once and I just copied down a few
of them). Here’s how a Jew prayed in the past (and they still do if you ever are in an Orthodox
environment, or even a conservative environment); they’ll pray like this: “O Lord, Father and
ruler of my life.” They just never end with ‘Father.’ Or “O Lord, Father and God of my
life.” Here’s another one: “O Father, King of great power, Most High, Almighty God.”
Some of you have heard of the Shemoneh Esrei, which are the series of eighteen prayers.
They all start this way: “O Father, O King.” And on the day of atonement, there are ten
penitential prayers the Jews pray; they are called the Avinu Malkeinu. And, in those ten
prayers, they say this: “Our Father, our King,” forty-four times. The balance between ‘Abba’
and God’s holiness. They guarded carefully against sentimentalizing God. And so must
we. When we hallow God, we are affirming that
He is set apart from everything common, that He is set apart from everything profane, that
He is to be prized, and esteemed, and honored, and reverenced, and adored, and glorified,
and praised, and worshipped as the One who is infinitely blessed. It’s so easy to say,
“Hallowed be Your Name,” and have absolutely no thought. The truth is, when you pray, yes,
you go into His presence as ‘Abba,’ but immediately you’re pulled up short to the realization
that the absolute priority place in your heart belongs to the glory and the honor of God,
and whatever it is that you’re bringing in, it is directed at that. Jesus says, “Father,
glorify Your Name.” That’s the model. That’s what this is saying. You hallow His name when you believe He is
who He is. Hebrews 11:6, “Him that comes to God must believe that He is who He is.” And
who He is is clearly revealed in all the wonder of the names that make up His Name. It was
Origen who wrote, “The man, who brings into his concept of God ideas that have no place
there, takes the name of the Lord God in vain.” Origen was right. If you’re going to go into
the presence of God, you go into the presence of the God who is the God He is. That’s why
R.C. said yesterday it is such a horrific heresy to redefine God, as the Openist theologians
are doing. We hallow His name when we worship the God who is the God He is. And the God
He is also includes that He is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. We hallow
God’s name also when, in view of who He is, we desire His glory to the extent that we
come into His presence first and foremost to submit to Him. It was Luther, in the catechism,
who said, “How is God’s Name hallowed among us? When both our doctrine and our life are
Christian.” Don’t say, “Hallowed be Thy name” and then go out and dishonor God. The prayer
is not just that God’s name be hallowed in Him, or that God’s name be hallowed in our
words, but that God’s name be hallowed in us so, what I’m saying is ‘Father, I come
to You, in my need, as the Source. I come to You thanking You for intimacy. But I come
to You to hallow Your name; that is, to submit myself to that which brings you glory and
honor.’ Agustine said, “It’s not that God’s Name is not already holy. But we pray that
men may regard it as holy, and that God may become so near and dear to us that we esteem
nothing more reverent than Him.” Prayer begins, clearly, with us being on our face; the prayer
that God would use His fatherly goodness, and His eternal riches at His disposal, on
behalf of His people to glorify Himself; for us and through us. Romans 11:36, “For from
Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” There’s a next phrase, and, if you’re wondering
if we’re going to get to the full prayer, probably not; but that’s okay. The third element
here is, “Thy kingdom come.” This looks at God as sovereign. That’s critical in your
prayers. You come to God as a loving Father, as the Source of everything you need. You
come to God as sacred; absolutely holy, and pursuing His glory. And you come to God as
utterly and completely sovereign. Immediately after the celebration of intimacy, and the
celebration of worship, comes submission: do whatever advances Your kingdom. That’s
the point. Do whatever advances Your kingdom. Here I am, Lord. I have one prevailing request:
do whatever advances Your kingdom. And, as you heard last hour, God does what He does
because He purposes to do it, but the means by which He does it is our prayer; just as
God saves us because He determined to save us, but the means by which He saves us is
our faith. Do whatever advances Your kingdom. The Talmud says, “That prayer in which there
is no mention of the kingdom of God is no prayer at all.” The vain repetition of the
Pharisees and the scribes, somehow seeking to badger God into doing what they wanted,
is a far cry from what our Lord is telling us here. The kingdom of God was a central matter in
His preaching. I don’t want to get too technical. Let’s make it real simple: the kingdom of
God is the sphere over which God rules, right? And there are two kingdoms of God, two elements
of this: there is the universal kingdom — that is to say God is the ruler of the entire universe
— but there is the redemptive kingdom, and that is to say that is the kingdom of those
over whom God rules by virtue of salvation. And so what we say is, “God, whatever it is
that brings the fullness of your redemptive purpose to pass, do that.” Jesus came preaching
the kingdom, the good news of the kingdom. He was sent by God. He was sent to preach
the kingdom, to announce that the kingdom was in their midst, the kingdom was available.
The King was gathering His people. He told them how to come into the kingdom. He told
them what it required. He said the kingdom already existed because Abraham, Isaac, and
Jacob, and all the prophets are in the kingdom! And He said, in Luke 17:21, “And the kingdom
is in your midst.” And He was talking about the salvific kingdom, the realm of salvation
over which God rules. And we really are saying, “Lord, I just want You to do what builds Your
kingdom and brings You glory through salvation.” You’re praying for the advance of the gospel.
You’re praying for the salvation of the lost. “Let Your kingdom come down.” In the prayer in Matthew 6, which I purposely
didn’t use because I wanted to use this one to make it clear to you that this is not a
formula; it’s a structure (and that’s why the two are not the same), but in that prayer
in Matthew 6, He says, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
What’s going on in heaven? What’s going on up there? The exaltation of God, the worship
of Christ, and the dominance of holiness. It’s where God is praised and worshipped by
the saints. And this is a prayer to bring that down, bring heaven down. That’s why I’ve
been saying for years the church is not to be the place where the world comes in, it’s
to be the place where heaven comes down. That’s what we’re praying for. “Bring Your heavenly
kingdom down! Build Your kingdom! Exalt Yourself! Exalt Your Son!” And the true church is the
answer to this prayer. You’re the answer to this prayer. I think you would say that immediately,
if I said to you would you want to pray something that was contrary to the redemptive purpose
of God? No! Well, then, this is how you line up: “God,
before I ask anything for myself….” You know, there are no personal requests yet.
Have you noticed that? Okay. Before you ever get to that, you’ve got to go through this.
This is the structure. By now, you’re so lost in wonder, love, and praise, your next words
are probably going to be, “The rest I leave to You.” I mean you’re almost there, right?
There is an utter yielding up at this point. “Glorify Yourself! Lift up the Son that He
may draw Your own! Build Your kingdom! I want You glorified. I want Christ exalted.” Paul
understood this. He gave his life! He said (purposefully, so that people would believe),
he said to the Corinthians, and their praise would “redound to the glory of God.” I mean
his whole life was given to add one more voice to the ‘Hallelujah’ chorus that God might
be glorified. You’re really praying redemptively here, for the purposes of salvation to be
fulfilled. In 1 Timothy chapter 2, it says, “God our
Savior, desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.” And this is
God’s purpose: that those whom He has called would come to salvation. What’s our part?
“I entreat,” or, “I urge that entreaties, prayers, petitions, thanksgiving be made on
behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority in order that we may lead a tranquil
and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good, and acceptable in the sight
of God our Savior, who desires men to be saved.” What are we praying for? We’re not praying
for the political wisdom of people. We’re praying for their salvation. Pray! You say,
“Well, God already knows what He’s going to do, but again, the means He uses to do what
He does is our prayers. As you heard in the last hour, Daniel was praying because God
had already revealed what He was going to do! And yet I want to add something here. You
can’t cave in at this point. You can never really make a truce with evil. You can never
be indifferent to the lostness of the world. I mean Jesus is weeping over the city of Jerusalem.
Paul says, “If I could, I literally would wish myself accursed for the sake of my brethren.”
You can never be resigned to a passive attitude. There can never be some kind of gray acceptance
of the way things are. You can never let your theology stifle your zeal for intercession.
David Wells wrote, “What then is the nature of petitionary prayer?” He said this, “It
is, in essence, rebellion. It is rebellion against the world in its fallenness; the absolute
and undying refusal to accept as normal what is pervasively abnormal. It is in this, its
negative aspect, the refusal of every agenda, every scheme, every interpretation that is
at odds with the norm as originally established by God. As such, it is itself an expression
of the unbridgeable chasm that separates good from evil. It is the declaration that evil
is not a variation on good, but its antithesis. Or, to put it the other way around: to come
to an acceptance of life as it is, to accept it on its own terms (which means acknowledging
the inevitability of the way it works) is to surrender a Christian view of God. This
resignation to what is abnormal has within it the hidden and unrecognized assumption
that the power of God to change the world, to overcome evil by good will not be actualized.”
What he’s saying is we have to rebel. That’s why Jesus said, “At all times, pray and do
not lose heart.” And that’s why, in the next texts, you’re going to hear about importunity
and about perseverance. We rebel against evil in the world. We rebel
against the dishonor of God and the dishonor of Christ. I remember reading about Henry
Martin, the missionary in India who first came there and went to a temple where the
Hindus were worshipping with sacrifices, and it was a vile experience, and he ran from
that experience, and he went to his room, and he took his journal and wrote this: “I
cannot endure existence if Jesus is to be so dishonored.” I think we understand that.
We never come to a truce with that. It isn’t that we distrust the purposes of God. It is
that we share the passion of God. It is that we are prompted by the Spirit of God to feel
the way He feels. Psalm 69:9, the psalmist writes, “Zeal for Your house has eaten me
up.” “The reproaches that fall on you, have fallen on me.” What a statement. He’s saying,
“God, when you’re dishonored, I feel the pain.” And Jesus experienced it, didn’t He? He went
into the temple and He cleaned the place out, and in a sense, He said, “I’m the fulfilment
of Psalm 69,” for He’d quoted it: “Zeal for Your house has eaten me up.” But what is the
passion of that prayer? The passion of that prayer is that God would not be dishonored,
that Christ would not be dishonored, that the kingdom would come, that salvation would
come, that the Lord would build His church, that He would be glorified. This turns prayer
into worship of the highest kind, from the heart, a passion for His glory. When prayer
is used as a device for eliciting health and success and other favors from some celestial
vending machine, is this Christianity? I think not. Jim Packer said, “The prayer of a Christian
is not an attempt to force God’s hand, but a humble acknowledgement of helplessness and
dependence.” Well, verse 3, we get to our side of this
prayer: “Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive
everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.” Once you put God in
the rightful place, you can get to you. We don’t have time to develop all of this, but
suffice it to say each of these requests is tied to a promise. Each of them. The Old Testament
says, “I’ve never seen God’s people begging…” what? “Begging bread.” The New Testament says,
“My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus.” God already
promised to give us everything we need: “Seek first the kingdom and His righteousness and
all these things shall be added to you.” And, in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he says,
“Don’t worry about giving, don’t worry about giving generously. Sow bountifully, reap bountifully
and God will give you bread for your food.” So why are we asking? Because you always ask,
consistent with divine promise, as you heard so well-stated in the last hour. And the second one, “Forgive us our sins.”
That is based on a promise. If we confess our sins, He’s faithful and still righteous
to…? Forgive our sins! “Do what You said You were going to do. Meet our physical needs.
Sustain our lives until our lives fulfill Your full purpose. Forgive our sins the way
You said You would; our violations of Your holy law. Forgive the debt we’ve incurred
with You, as we desire to do the same for others.” He knew God was His Supplier. He
knew God was His Savior. ‘He’ being any believer who comes to the foot of the cross. She knew
God was the Source of everything. “Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father
of lights, in whom there is no variableness nor shadow of turning.” We all know that. God is not only our Supplier and our Savior;
He’s our Safety. We know that. The end of verse 4: “Lead us not into temptation.” Is
God going to lead us into temptation with a view to exposing us to the evil one, as
Matthew 6 says it? Is He going to purposely lead us into a temptation so that we can fall?
No! God doesn’t tempt (James 1), does He? God doesn’t tempt. He allows us to go into
parosmos, trials. But He allows trials so that we can be strengthened not so that we
can be crushed. We know He’s going to feed us. We know He’s going to forgive us. And
we know He’s going to protect us and direct us in paths that produce righteousness, not
sin. So what we’re really praying for is what He’s already promised. It’s a very simple
prayer: “Lord, You’re the priority, and when it comes to me, all I ask is that You fulfill
Your promise on my behalf to sustain my life for Your glory, to forgive my sin for Your
glory, and to protect me from the evil one for Your glory. So whatever it is that You
do about this illness, or whatever it is You do about this dilemma, or whatever it is that
You do about the suffering and the pain, Lord, may it honor You, and may it manifest the
fulfillment of Your promises.” Let’s bow together in prayer. Lord, so much more needs to be said about
this, but we do come to You as our gracious and loving Father. We do hallow Your Name.
We seek Your glory. We remember the words of our Lord Jesus: “Whatever you ask in My
Name, that will I do in order that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” It’s really
about You, and then about us only insofar as what happens to us glorifies You. May we
pray as worshippers, and always for Your glory. We thank You for this access, this open door.
And may we live in this constant communion which You’ve made available to us. Be glorified,
O God, through our lives, as You hear and answer our prayers. We pray in Your Son’s
Name. Amen.

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