#357 - BEGIN BY LOOKING UP (25/5/21)
For the rest of this week, we will be learning to pray through the four major themes of The Lord’s Prayer: Praise, Petitions, Peace-making and Protection.
“This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…” (Matthew 6:9)
Jesus teaches us to begin our praying by looking up in praise. Praise or worship sets our minds and hearts on who God is and who we are in relation to Him. In worship, our problems and needs are put into perspective and faith rises for prayer. In worship, we are reminded of how God has saved us in Jesus.
Rushing into petitions without worship is like trying to take off in a plane that has not got up to speed. It’s like trying to rise in a deflated hot-air balloon.
So, let’s begin corporate or personal prayer with a period of praise. Let’s consider a few ways that one can do this.
i) Praise from the Bible
Most importantly, we praise God from what we read about Him in scripture. In The Lord’s Prayer, we learn who God is.
He is ‘Our Father’: He loves us and wants what’s best for us. So many have a negative view of God and themselves that it’s no wonder that they shy away from prayer. Who wants to spend time with someone who is disappointed with them? Who wants to be reminded that they are disappointed with themselves? Jesus teaches us to pray to God as ‘Our Father’. We’re adopted into His family. He loves to be with us and hear our prayers.
He is ‘in heaven’: This is about God being almighty and able to do all things. He is loving and able.
His name (who He is) is ‘hallowed’ or Holy: This is about awe and reverence. He is separated from all evil and is perfectly good. His holiness caused Isaiah to cry out, ‘“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”’ (Isaiah 6:5). Knowing God as holy should cause us to remember that it’s only through the blood of Jesus that we can ‘approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.’ (Hebrews 4:16).
There’s a lot to praise God from here!
However, One could also praise God from a section of the psalms or any other section of scripture that you find helpful. I find it helpful to ask the question ‘what does this text say about God and the gospel?’ and praise God from my musings. A great example would be Psalm 103,
‘Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits’ (Psalm 103:1-2)
What does this say about God? He’s the Lord. He wants my soul involved in prayer and worship. His name is holy. He wants me to recall and remember His benefits. He wants to spend time with me…
ii) Sung worship
Singing songs which teach us about who God is, is also very helpful. Choose songs that have scriptural content. Alternatively, practice using words from the Bible and singing a new song.
Thanking the Father for the various things He is doing in your life is a great way to praise Him. This is a great way to end the day as you recount and thank the Father for what He’s been doing and teaching you.
We’ve learned through this section of The Sermon on the Mount that God is not impressed by worship and prayer in which our minds and hearts are not engaged. Praising God requires more than passively listening to Christian music or ‘saying our prayers’ in a mechanical manner. Let’s begin our praying with praise. Let’s engage the mind and heart by deliberately recalling and praising God for who He is.
A good start would be to read and praise God from the opening phrases of The Lord’s prayer. Alternatively, you might like to choose a psalm or another section of scripture. Dig for gold. Search for God. Praise Him from what you find.
COMMUNITY GROUP STUDY - THIS THEN IS HOW YOU SHOULD PRAY
It might be good to begin with notices. Please share from this week’s Church News.
Do you have any encouraging stories of answered prayer that you'd like to share?
Recap of Sunday's message - please share in your group
On Sunday we continued with our series on discipleship from The Sermon on the Mount. This week we continue to learn from Jesus about prayer from The Lord’s Prayer.
Please read Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:1.
Let’s briefly look at The Lord’s prayer together. We're going to break this prayer into 4 themes. I don’t believe that Jesus is teaching us to repeat this prayer as a kind of mantra. Rather, He is teaching us the themes that should regularly feature in a healthy and well-rounded prayer-life. They are like the ingredients to a healthy diet.
1. PRAISE - WORSHIP
“…Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…”
Prayer begins with looking up and recalling who God is. He’s our Father. He loves us. He’s with us. He’s for us. He ‘in heaven’. This speaks of His almighty power. He’s imminent and transcendent. He’s Abba Father and Holy, Holy, Holy.
“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread…”
Prayer also includes asking for things. Please prayers. Jesus teaches us to begin this section by praying ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done’. Not my kingdom and my will! We are to find out what God wants from His word and pray for that.
After praying for God’s Kingdom and will to be done, we turn to our needs. We are to pray for our ‘daily bread’, pray for the things that we need. Pray for other people’s needs.
3. PEACE - MAKING (RECEIVING AND GIVING FORGIVENESS)
“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors…”
Penitence is a vital part of prayer as is forgiving others. I think that this is often overlooked in corporate and personal prayer. Many people change their friends and change their church because of unmet expectations. It’s easy to walk away, it’s Christ-like to forgive and love.
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”
We are to regularly pray for protection and pray for others to be protected from dark forces. Too many are unaware of his schemes. Too many of us don’t realise that we are in a war zone. We are not in peacetime.
Peter tells us that we are to be,
‘Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him,’ (1 Peter 5:8-9).