Cross Points 5.28.21

Talking to God:  Praying Like Jesus

Jesus was the Son of God, Immanuel, which means God in the flesh.  Why would he need to pray?  The mystery of the relationship between God the Father and God the Son is just that, a mystery.  As we’ve stated in previous articles of this series, some of God’s ways are above us, we just don’t understand.  Jesus understood but prayed, a lot.  “In these days Jesus went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God…” (Luke 6:12).  After “dismissing the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray” (Matt. 14:23).  There are several examples of Jesus praying publicly, but he also needed time alone in prayer.  You’ll remember the night before his crucifixion how he prayed alone in the Garden, sweating drops of blood, so intensely did he pray.

The twelve would have been around to hear many of his prayers, and on one occasion they ask him to teach them how to pray.  “Now Jesus was praying in a certain place and when he finished one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray’” (Luke 11:1). Jesus gave them a version of what we call the Lord’s Prayer, which he had also offered during his Sermon on the Mount.  Here is the longer version that Matthew records:

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.  Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.  Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil” (Matt. 6:9-13).

If you’re like me, you’ve repeated this prayer many times over the years.  Often within church services the congregation will repeat this together, almost as if it’s a magic wand to wave, granting us blessings from God.  I don’t think that was what Jesus had in mind.  Remember, he wasn’t asked what words to say within prayer, he was asked to teach them how to pray.  Consider the parts of his model prayer, as we consider how:

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.  A good prayer recognizes who God is, our eternal Father, whose name is to be revered.  We should start prayer with this respect, some might say this fear, of the God of hosts (who commands the armies of heaven).  Until we recognize who he is, we’ll not admit who we are (sinners).
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  We must want what God wants: to expand his kingdom, to introduce people to the Savior, to shepherd the flock of God’s people, to learn and obey his Word.  When we want what he wants, many of our prayers will be answered positively, reflecting his will.

Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.  God’s true rewards await the faithful in heaven.  Meanwhile we live in a broken world of sin.  We prosper at times, but our needs are basic: to have food, shelter, clothing; and to forgive as God does so proper relationships (with God and other people) can be maintained.  “Provide this Lord; and allow me to live sacrificially otherwise.”
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.  We must cooperate with God in this.  He does not tempt us, but many temptations are out there, pulling at us.  Satan is active in our destruction.  As we make the effort to learn God’s way in scripture (as Jesus and his apostles instruct us) then discipline ourselves as disciples (notice the similarity of those words), we allow God to provide us with the tools to live semi-righteous lives.  We still mess up, still make mistakes, but we steadily improve, and if we remain “in Christ” his righteousness becomes ours!  That result (in heaven, where all the wrongs will finally be righted) is the ultimate answer to our prayers.
Cross Point: “Praise the Lord, O my soul; all of my innermost being, praise his holy name.  Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits – who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion” (Psalm 103:1-4).
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