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Re-Thinking Your Prayer Life

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(4/7) I. Introduction –The Prayer of Jabez - Several years ago, then President Bruce Wilkerson, of Walk Thru The Bible ministries, wrote a small book that became a national sensation. The book is very small and is an easy read. It is based on just one verse of the Bible and a man we know next to nothing about. It is called, The Prayer of Jabez and can be found in 1 Chronicles 4:10, ‘And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, "Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!" So God granted him what he requested.’ People in churches and Para-church organizations everywhere were challenged to use this prayer as a model for their own for a period of at least 30-40 days and see how God responded. I was one that read the book and prayed the prayer and I highly recommend that you read it.

Sometime later, however, it hit me that there is a place where we are instructed as to how to pray and yet, I seldom, if ever, hear anyone pray like we have been instructed to. While it is a wonderful prayer, the model we are given to pray by is not the prayer of Jabez, but rather, the prayer of Jesus. We call it the Lord’s Prayer. Let’s look at today’s Life Lesson from Matthew’s Gospel. I heard David Jeremiah say recently, that announcing that He was teaching on prayer was a sure way to get people to stay at home. I cringed but I understood what he was saying.

II. The Perversion of Prayer – Let’s quickly review. Matthew 6:5-7 says, "And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. 7 And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.

A. Self-Centered- For Personal glory – to be seen by men.

B. Thoughtless – Vain –empty repetitions, memorized and repeated by rote –thinking God will be impressed by how much you say.

C. Heartless – Prayer offered as a ceremony and show, contained no heart felt desire to communicate with God for either praise, repentance, supplication, or intercession. Self-centered, thoughtless, heartless prayers are an offence to God. I don’t care if it is over a meal or in front of a church. Such praying is play acting hypocritical, and offensive to God.

III. The Purpose of Prayer – Before we look at this prayer it is absolutely essential that we understand the purpose for praying, because I honestly don’t think everyone truly understands. Too many people see praying as a child sees Santa Claus and we come to God with a list of the things we want and ask Him to give them to us. Or, we see Him as a Genie in a bottle and we are asking for 3 wishes. Or we see God as a Band-Aid, or bottle of aspirin that we turn to when we hurt. I saw a sign in a Doctor’s office that read something like this. "God and the Dr. we all adore, in times of trouble but not before, but when the illness is cured or the wrong is righted, God is forgotten and the Dr. is slighted." Another sign says, "When all else fails-Pray!" How foolish? Our motto should be, "Before all else fails, Pray!" So, let me give you a brief but accurate purpose for praying.

A. To Commune with God – heart to heart. Praying is simply a child talking to his or her Father. It is when we express our love, or our gratitude. In prayer we confess our sins and seek forgiveness and reconciliation. In Prayer we pour our out hearts in grief and pain. And, in prayer we ask our Father to show us what is right in our lives or in the lives of those we are interceding for. He is not Oz the Great and Terrible, He is our Father and He longs for us to talk to Him.

B. To Seek His glory – The Purpose is to seek God’s honor and Glory. Most of us tend to think that prayer is about my needs or wants and asking God to meet them or give them to me, but the primary purpose of praying is to seek the Father’s glory and honor. Jesus our Lord said, "Whatever you ask in my name, that I will do that the Father may be glorified." (John 14:13). I want God to be known, God to be honored. God’s name to be exalted, lifted up an honored. I have said for years that even to pray in Jesus’ name means to ask for what Jesus would ask for, it is to do business for Him, as His representative. Our Lord’s goal was to glorify the Father. Even Paul said, that if, "we eat or drink or whatever we do we are to do all to the glory of God." (1 Cor. 10:31).

C. To Seek His will done on earth – not our will in heaven. Do you really understand this? This model prayer tells us to ask that His will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Again, I remind you of the words of our Lord Jesus, instructing us to pray in His name, meaning to do business for Him. What did Jesus pray for? What does Jesus want done? What is the will of God, as expressed in the Bible? These questions should be the subject of an intense search. One of the reasons we are doing this study of 52 weeks at the feet of Jesus is to see what He says about life and following Him. I have told you before that Cecil Rhodes, for whom the famous Rhodes scholarship is named, said, "If there is a God and He cares for man, than the most important thing in life is find out what His will is and to do it." Our Lord will tell us, as we will see in a few weeks, that our primary focus in life should be to seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and if we will do that, then God will meet our needs. I believe that is what He is alluding to in verse 8.

IV. The Place of Prayer (v.6)

This verse does not tell us that God is opposed to public prayer. Jesus prayed publicly, and the Holy Spirit came on Pentecost during a prayer meeting of 120 or more people. You should also pray as a family, at meals, with your spouse as you begin or end your day.

What our Lord is saying here though, is that you should find a private place, a quiet place, a place without distractions. To close the door is so that you won’t be disturbed by others. That’s why it is good to have a room or a place without a TV, telephone, or toys that you will be tempted to pick up and clean. A place away from your business, or busyness, where you won’t be tempted to say, I’ll just do this first. It may be a tree or a stump in the woods, a spare bedroom, etc. It may be a place where you walk, and talk undisturbed and uninhibited by who else may listen. You need to find such a place. Maybe just have a chair, a pillow to kneel on, and a Bible and talk to God.

V. The Practice of Prayer – God expects us to pray, He commands us to pray. I wish I could tell you how prayer works, but I can’t. I just know that it is both therapeutic, and it aligns our wills with the Father’s when we do it as we are instructed. Jesus prayed often and alone, sometimes spending entire nights alone with the Father in a garden, or on a mountain, or in a deserted place. We know that Daniel prayed three times a day (Dan. 6:10), the David said, "evening, morning and noon I will pray," (Psalm 55:17). Also compare Luke 18:1; 1 Thess. 5:17; Eph. 6:18.

VI. The Pattern of Prayer – As we unfold this prayer again, I want to encourage you to try to pattern your prayers for yourself, your children, spouse, your enemies, after this model, and see the difference it makes. Before, we break it down, I also want to remind you that Jesus never intended that we only memorize it and repeat it by rote, because that is doing what He has just instructed us not to do - to pray thoughtlessly, or heartlessly. He wants this prayer to be an outline, a skeleton upon which we place the muscles. And notice with me, that there are no personal pronouns in this model prayer; that is, no me, my, or mine, but instead, it is our, we, and us as we pray as Children of God. So let’s observe.

A. God's Paternity – Our Father In Heaven. He wants us to begin by focusing on who we are praying to. Yes, He is the eternal God, the almighty Creator, the omniscient, omnipotent, ever present God, but if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, He is your Father; not Santa Claus, nor a Policeman, nor a mean school principle, but He is your Father. He has adopted you into His family. Paul says in Romans 8:15 and Gal. 4:5, that we can call Him, Abba Father, or dearest papa, daddy, if you will. God is the author of adoption and we who have received Jesus as our Savior and Lord have been received into God's family as His children. He is Our Father. The eternal God is our papa. What does that mean to you? It means that He loves me unconditionally. He wants to protect me. He wants to take care of me. He wants the best for me. He wants me to love Him. He wants me to honor Him. He will discipline me for my good. He is my Father. I am asking you my Father, or I am praying that ______ will know you as their Father and all that goes with that.

B. God's Priority – Hallowed Be Your Name – This isn't a statement of fact, but rather it is meant to be the first petition when we pray for. It is wanting our Father to be honored in what we say or ask of Him. It is wanting our lives to glorify Him. God's name represents all that He is. That's why we don't call Him, "the man upstairs" or, "the big guy." He is the eternal I Am, All that we are about to say, is so He will be honored and people will know He is our God and Father. That is why the third commandment says that we are never to take His name in vain; that is, to treat His name like an empty or worthless thing. I want all that I am, all that I say, and all that I do to honor Him. That is the priority of my prayer. I want ________ to honor, reverence, and respect you.

C. God's Program – Thy Kingdom Come- The longing of our hearts is for the time when Jesus returns and He will rule the world in righteousness, and there will be an end to sin, selfishness and Satan, and peace will be over all the earth. A time when there will be no more war, or terrorism, or taxes. But His kingdom is also for now and this prayer includes the desire for Jesus to reign in the hearts of people; to reign in my heart, and in the hearts of my children, grandchildren, and friends. Here we pause and pray for those who are lost and ask God to draw them to Himself and save them.

D. God's Plan – Thy Will Be Done On Earth, As It Is Heaven– This is not a statement of "whatever will be will because I can't change it." Rather, it is a statement of desire. I want God's will more than anything. I want to learn God's will, as revealed in His word, for my life even if it conflicts with my nature or my personal desire. Isn't this the way Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, "Not my will but yours be done,"? It is also a statement of trust when we pray. I trust God to do what is best for His purposes in the long run. I know that I won't always understand all that God does, but I trust Him. In my situation today, I want to respond according to your will so your name will be honored. I want to be as obedient to you here as the angels are in heaven. And Father I pray that_________ will seek you and your will today and trust you to do what is right.

E. God's Provision - Give Us This Day, Our Daily Bread - This is where we ask God to provide those things we need as we seek His will. In two weeks we will see in that people often think that God helps those who help themselves and that we must forsake God's will to care for ourselves. But God says that if we seek Him and His Kingdom and His will first that He will meet our needs. Like the manna in the wilderness, He does not ask us to ask for next week or our retirement funds but to trust Him day by day to take care of His - His children. To teach the Israelites this, if they tried to gather more manna than they needed for that day, it would rot and be filled with worms. Father, as I do your will today, I trust you to provide for my needs and my family, and Father provide the needs today for __________ in such a way that they will know this was you.

F. God's Pardon - And Forgive Us Our Sins - or Our Debts - Every time you are alone with God, you should pause and reflect on your speech, your thoughts, your actions, or your neglect to do what you should have done and seek His forgiveness. This is the, "search my heart," part of our prayers. This is so important, because our sins affect how God responds to our prayers (vv. 14-15 and Psalm 66:18). We want to be clean and honoring to our Father. Father would forgive _______ them and cause them to seek your forgiveness and grace in their lives, they don’t know what they are doing.

G. Our Pardon – As We Forgive Our Debtors. This may be one of the hardest parts of the prayer. It is the intentional surrender to God, of the right to seek to get even or seek revenge, to harbor anger and hate towards others who have hurt us. Jesus, Himself, modeled this for us from the cross, when he said, "Father forgive them," and He taught us to pray for our enemies (Matt. 5:43-44; Luke 6:28). Father, I forgive________ and I pray that __________ will be able to forgive with your grace too.

H. God's Protection - And Do Not Lead Us Into Temptation, But Deliver Us From The Evil One. This is a figure of speech common in the first century. It is to focus on the fact that our enemy will do all He can to tempt us to run away from God, and to trust ourselves, as he tempted Jesus in the wilderness. He wants to destroy you and your testimony and this part of our daily prayer is to focus on the fact that every day, we will be faced with choices and we need God to lead us to make the right choice. Lead me as I watch TV, as I respond to criticism, as I deal with traffic, as I do my job, etc. Protect my mind and my heart. Help me to know how to use the Armor of God and the Word of God in the Spirit of God. Help me to respond as Jesus would; to know the right decisions to make today, and Father, protect _________ from the enemy, the world, and his or her own sinful nature. Show them the right way to go today.

I. God's Pre-eminence- (6:13) - For Yours Is The Kingdom And The Power And The Glory Forever. Amen. The NIV or NASB may not have this here as some think a scribe may have interjected it as it also doesn’t appear in some ancient manuscripts nor when Jesus gave this again in Luke 11, but it is exactly what David prayed for in 1 Chronicles 29:11, "Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, The power and the glory, The victory and the majesty; For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, And You are exalted as head over all." In my life Lord, Be glorified today; and Father I pray that_____ will honor you in all they do.

This brings our prayers full circle. It says that my prayers are all to seek God's will, done God's way, in God's power for God's Glory. Matt Redman’s song, The Heart of Worship should express what we say about prayer, "I’m sorry Lord for the thing I’ve made it because it’s all about you." It’s time to re-think our prayer–life and to start praying the Jesus way.

If this has spoken to your heart, write to me and tell me, or ask me whatever you want about knowing God or having a relationship with Him.

Benediction – Numbers 6:24-26 "The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace."

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman