Prayin’ Like a Pagan (Part 2)

Quick Review

Before we jump into "Prayin' Like a Pagan (Part 2)" (otherwise known as "Winslow's Sermon on the Lord's Prayer (Part 2)"), let's quickly review the highlights of part 1. Although we are reviewing eleven verses (Matthew 6:5-15), we only made it through three of them two weeks ago when I last preached. I suppose at that rate I should do another three weeks :-)…but we'll go ahead and try to wrap it up today.

Other than everyone learning that if you compliment me there is a ka-ching in heaven as money is removed from my celestial bank account (just kidding!), the easiest way to summarize what we learned in verses 5 through 7 is by listing the people we should not pray like.

Verses 5 and 6 taught us not to pray like hypocrites whose words were selfish and for show. There is no heavenly reward for that kind of supplication.

An by looking at 10 different translations of verse 7, we generated a much longer list of people we should not mimic in prayer:

  • Don't pray like Gentiles
  • Don't pray like pagans
  • Don't pray like heathen
  • Don't pray like idolaters
  • Don't pray like people of other religious
  • Don't pray like ungodly people
  • Don't pray like people who don't know God

And…turning "don'ts" around to a "do"…

Ultimately we are to pray like people who know God.

[ These are quick sermon notes…not cleaned-up…and missing the "extras" that come out in the audio (which is available here). All quotes are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted. ]

God Knows

We have one more verse before we reach the actual Lord's Prayer…but to keep it in at least minimal context, let's read verse 8 with the one the immediately precedes it:

7 "And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him (Matthew 6:7-8).

"Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him."

Wow!

Let's think a bit more about that by considering a couple other verses…first, these from when Luke shares the Lord's Prayer in Luke chapter 11:

9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" (Luke 11:9-13).

And how about these amazing words from Christ's mouth as He spent his last night on earth with His disciples?:

26 In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; 27 for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God (John 16:26-27).

Your heavenly Father…

  • Knows what you need before you ask Him
  • Promises to answer your prayers
  • Is more trustworthy than your earthly father to give you good gifts
  • (And most importantly) Himself loves you!

Because I do want to be able to go over the actual Lord's prayer today, I'll leave it at that…but I realize that you may have a lot of open questions, especially with me sharing that meaty section from Luke. For instance, it seems to imply you'll get whatever you ask for…but take some time and review the verses and you'll see it never says that…and also think about His last comments…

If I, being an "evil" human father, would never give my child poison even if he or she begged for it…how much more will our heavenly Father not give you poison of any kind even if you ask Him for it over-and-over-and-over again.

Because He loves you.

The Lord's Prayer

Now for some of the most beautiful verses in the Bible…and it seems only appropriate that we read them together from the King James Version. Linda kindly included it on the front of the bulletin in case there are some who haven't had the opportunity to memorize these golden words.

We will go ahead and do the "full" version, which includes the extra words that begin with "For thine is the kingdom…" at the end.

Ready?…let's say the words together…

9 After this manner therefore pray ye:

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen (Matthew 6:9-13, KJV).

If it didn't come too close to the earlier verse's admonition against heaping up empty phrases (thinking we will be heard for our many words), I would suggest to Winslow that we repeat that prayer together every week as part of the service. That is a part of the Presbyterian liturgy that I miss.

Time to buckle up again…to get through this and not spend a few hours together…we are going to race through these verses so that when you say them you aren't heaping up empty phrases.

Our Father

"Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed by thy name"

Many of you might be familiar with the Aramaic term, "Abba"…a term some argue is almost the equivalent of "daddy" in English. Now, I do not believe it has the same exact connotations, but it is definitely one of much greater intimacy than referring to God as "Father."

"Abba" is used three times in Scripture…the first making a lot of sense since it is Jesus speaking with His Father:

And he said, "Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will" (Mark 14:36)

However, what makes the word "Abba" especially meaningful to Christians is that Paul twice says that we can refer to God that way too:

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!" (Romans 8:15)

And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" (Galatians 4:6)

When I read, say, or hear the "Our Father which are in heaven" in the Lord's prayer…it is very formal to me. This is not a "dad" I would hug, this is "father" who I must respect and obey.

And although He definitely is someone I must respect and obey, I was very surprised to read the following NET Bible notes while doing research for this sermon:

13 sn God is addressed in terms of intimacy (Father). The original Semitic term here was probably Abba. The term is a little unusual in a personal prayer, especially as it lacks qualification. It is not the exact equivalent of "daddy" (as is sometimes popularly suggested), but it does suggest a close, familial relationship.1

Hmmm…I was a bit skeptical, so I turned to the Word Biblical Commentary:

Underlying the simple π is unique (Jeremias; Luz; Davies-Allison regard it as only "characteristic" and "distinctive," 602).2

So…Jesus starts off verse 9 by saying to pray "like this" and then immediately says to use the same word for our heavenly Father as we do for our earthly ones?!

Pray like people who know God:

  • He knows what you need
  • He will answer your prayers
  • He loves you Himself
  • He wants you to think of Him with the same affection and intimacy you would with your earthly father

That deserves another "Wow!"

However, Jesus is smart enough to know how we humans have a habit of going to extremes, so in that verse we are also reminded of something very important. Just as when I share God's offer of friendship in John 15:15 I always mention this is not a friendship of equals, Jesus implicitly reminds us that this isn't a familial bond of equals. As Paul noted in Romans…we are adopted…which means (unlike Jesus) we are not of the same "substance" as God…and contrary to Mormon belief…we cannot become God's.

How does Jesus remind us we aren't equals? This father is a Father "which art in heaven"…one whose name must be "hallowed." What is "hallowed"? Most strict modern translations pay homage to the beauty of the King James Version by also using the word "hallowed"…but the Holman Christian Standard Bible breaks out of the mold and, in doing so, implicitly gives us a definition of "hallowed":

"Therefore, you should pray like this: 

Our Father in heaven,

Your name be honored as holy (Matthew 6:9, HCSB).

We are to honor our heavenly Father's name…which represents His entirety…as holy.

And He is holy, is he not?

Pray like people who know God: honor God and recognize He is holy.

Thy Kingdom Come

I see the next verse, "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10, KJV) as being a natural extension of verse 9. If God is a loving being that we can trust…and we honor Him as holy…then don't we want His kingdom to come and His will to be done? Would we really want anything else?

Multiple times I've quoted Revelation 22:20, which reads:

20 He who testifies about these things  says, "Yes, I am coming quickly."

•Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! 

And I really, really want to be able to honestly say, "Amen! Come Lord Jesus!"…but I will admit in many ways I am fearful. Am I ready? (As if there is anything beyond belief I can do to be ready.) Can I make it through all the trouble that will proceed His return? What about the ones I love who haven't accepted Jesus?

Pray like people who know God: Wholeheartedly want God's kingdom to come and will to be done.

Simple Needs

We'll go through the next three verses as one:

11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: (Matthew 6:11-13, KJV)

Are you all familiar with that Janis Joplin song where she pleads, "Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz?" In addition to a Mercedes Benz she asks Him if He'll get her a color TV and a night on the town.

How does that sync with Jesus' advice on how to pray to our heavenly Father?

First…it's far more extravagant than just asking for our daily bread. Now, I've often mentioned we have to be cautious about an "argument from silence"…but I think it's fair here…especially based on the witness of the rest of the Bible…to say that we really should only be asking for that which we really need.

Some food on the table…
Some clothes on our backs…
And a roof over our heads.

And a little bit later in Matthew chapter 6 God reiterates His promise to provide what we need:

31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?' or ‘What shall we drink?' or ‘What shall we wear?' 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

34 "Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble (Matthew 6:31-34)

Pray like people who know God: seek first His kingdom and be satisfied with just the necessities…trusting He will provide them.

So, Janis messed up on that part…and I can't say whether she personally asked for forgiveness or was forgiving…but I did find a web site that said she, of all things, was raised in the Church of Christ.3

Regardless…after telling us to ask for bread Jesus tells us to request forgiveness as we forgive. Us being forgiving is important enough that it is expanded upon in the last two verses in the verses we've been studying:

14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses (Matthew 6:14-15)

These actually disturb me a bit…they seem to imply that somehow our works…forgiving others…leads to our salvation. We know we are saved by grace through faith, not by works (see Ephesians 2:8, Romans 3:28, and Galatians 2:16).

So what is God saying here?

I would suggest two things…

First, if you are saved then, at some level, you are forgiving. Thus, if you aren't forgiving then you aren't saved…you aren't forgiven. Not an "even stevens" type of approach where you have to forgive to be forgiven…but just the reality of how salvation works. The Gospel isn't powerless. It will change you. If it doesn't change you, then you haven't accepted it.

Second, Jesus is just trying to make it very, very clear that you need to forgive. However, let's assume that we cannot be forgiven if we haven't forgiven everyone else. Just think about it. There are some people in this congregation who have been so wounded by an individual that they have forgiven everyone else but him or her. Does that mean they are hosed…that missing that one prerequisite means they are on the Amtrak to hell?

Pray like people who know God…does that really sound like the way our Lord works?

Now, having said that, just like the man who cried out and asked Jesus to help his unbelief (Mark 9:24), when we know our heart is still holding out on forgiveness for someone, we should cry out to have our Lord change it.

Pray like people who know God: know your need for forgiveness, and your need to forgive.

Lead us not into temptation

What about not being led into temptation, but being delivered from evil? What does this mean?

First, we need to hear from James:

Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God," for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death (James 1:13-15).

One of the reasons I don't like "lead us not into temptation" is it implies that God might do that. James emphatically teaches us otherwise…and Paul adds something for good measure:

13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Pray like people who know God: realize your need for Him to help you past temptations.

And one last Scripture before we wrap things up…we've heard about temptation from James and Paul…here's something from Peter:

8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world (1 Peter 5:8-9).

No wonder Jesus taught us to pray to be delivered from evil…and some versions actually say that we should asked to be delivered from the "evil one." Our adversary "prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking" to devour us. We need God's protection!

Pray like people who know God: realize your need for Him for protection from the god of this world.

Wrapping it up

We've gone through quite a bit, haven't we? Have you taken good notes?

You may have noticed that I did not discuss "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen." That is because that was probably added to the text and wasn't part of the original Greek….

But, getting back to the question at hand…

Do you pray like someone who knows God?

Pray like people who know God:

  • Realize He knows what you need
  • Realize He will answer your prayers
  • Realize He loves you Himself
  • Realize He wants you to think of Him with the same affection and intimacy you would with your earthly father
  • Realize who He is and honor Him and recognize He is holy
  • Realize who He is and wholeheartedly want God's kingdom to come and will to be done
  • Realize who He is, seek first His kingdom, and be satisfied with just the necessities (trusting He will provide them)
  • Realize who you are and know your need for forgiveness (and your need to forgive)
  • Realize who you are and your need for Him to help you past temptations
  • Realize who He is…and who you are…and your need for Him for protection from the god of this world

Janis Joplin

Since I brought up Janis Joplin…let's wrap up with her. On October 4, 1970…Janis did not live like someone who knew God…and "was found dead in Hollywood's Landmark Motor Hotel (now known as Highland Gardens Hotel) from a heroin-alcohol overdose the previous day."4 Strangely enough, her best selling album, including the aforementioned tune "Mercedes Benz," was released after her death. Yes it was just a song, but I can't help but think that both her temporal and eternal fates would have been much different if she really did pray like someone who knew God.

If she had known God.

The lesson for us

However, the lesson for us is that no matter whether you have grown up in the Church of Christ…

No matter whether you attend a Church of Christ faithfully…

No matter whether you listen to a sermon like this over-and-over again on-line…

No matter what…

If you do not know God…you will spend eternity with the one you should be praying God deliver you from.

First, know God.

Then, pray like someone who knows God.

Footnotes

1Biblical Studies Press. (2006; 2006). The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Mt 6:9). Biblical Studies Press.
2Hagner, D. A. (2002). Vol. 33A: Word Biblical Commentary : Matthew 1-13. Word Biblical Commentary (147—148). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.
5http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-4AheUl6ls (accessed February 18, 2011).
3http://www.adherents.com/largecom/fam_church_of_christ.html (accessed February 18, 2011).
4http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0429767/bio (accessed February 18, 2011).


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