Monday, March 27, 2017

Pray the Right Way

Part 2 of Talking to God

Text: Matthew 6:7-9a




“Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven…’” (Matt. 6:9a).


Where's the Manual?

Instruction manuals are becoming obsolete.

When the disciples of Jesus asked him how to pray (“Lord, teach us to pray,” Luke 11:1), he didn’t give them a prayer manual; he gave them a prayer model. This model prayer is known as “The Lord’s Prayer” (Matt. 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4).


Do I Have Your Attention?

Before Jesus tells his followers how they should pray (vv. 9-13), he tells them how they should not pray (vv. 5-8). They should not pray “as the Gentiles [i.e., the pagans] do” (v. 7). [1] “They think that they will be heard for their many words” (v. 7). In other words, they think they won’t get their god’s attention unless they keep pestering him.

The pagan’s god is like a landlord. To get a landlord’s attention, you often need to keep pestering until he finally gets your leaky faucet fixed. Our God is not like a landlord; he’s our Father. [2] He won’t ignore us. We are his children, and he loves us. To pray the right way, we must pray believing that we are talking to a Father who loves us. 


Father?

What right do we have to call God our Father? We can call God our Father because he has adopted us into his family. To all who have put their faith in Jesus, “[God] gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).

God didn’t simply snap his fingers and say, “You’re in my family.” He brought us into his family through the death of Jesus on the cross. The cross is the proof of God’s love for us. We know that God loves us because he “did not spare his own Son but gave him us for us all” (Rom. 8:32). “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

J. I. Packer writes, “As God’s adopted children we are loved no less than is the one whom God called his ‘beloved Son.’” [3] “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God” (1 John 3:1).


We Know Our Father Loves Us

Jesus introduces the Lord’s Prayer by saying, “Pray then like this” (v. 9). [4] In other words, pray like you are talking to a Father who loves you. We don’t have to scream for God’s attention. He is “always more ready to hear than we [are] to pray.” [5]

When we approach God in prayer, we are approaching a Father who wants what is best for us. Jesus said, “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” (Matt. 7:9-11). Sometimes God’s children ask him for stones and serpents, and God says, “No.” Sometimes God grants his children’s requests for bread and fish, but he says, “Wait.” Sometimes God’s children ask for bread and fish, but God says, “I have something else planned for you” (e.g., Paul’s request in 2 Cor. 12:7-10).


Just Show Me!

Some people find it difficult to learn something (e.g., how to play a board game) by reading instructions. In frustration, they finally blurt out, “Just show me!”

This is what Jesus did. He showed us how to pray. And he began by showing us that we are praying to a Father who loves us.

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[1] In this context, a Gentile refers to a pagan (i.e., someone who worships a false god).
[2] Many people’s fathers are/were not good, so it can be difficult to relate to God as his child. We must remember that God is a perfect Father.
[3] J. I. Packer, Praying the Lord’s Prayer, 28.
[4] R. T. France writes, “The connecting ‘then’ indicates that the following words will express the trust in a heavenly Father which has been stated in verses 7-8 to be the basis of true prayer” (The Gospel of Matthew, 244).
[5] Book of Common Prayer.