“‘And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.’”
“This, then, is how you should pray:
‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’
“‘For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.’” Matthew 6:5-15
I need to point out several things. First, take a look at that second sentence. Albeit it is short, read it again. This is more than a warning to unbelieving sinners. This is a true and future consequence that will be carried out against those who have rejected Jesus (Romans 2:5, John 3:36). This is not something to celebrate. Yes, God is just and he is merciful, but you were like them once. You were an unbeliever once. Now you’ve been shown mercy. Jesus CHOSE you and this is how you are alive.
“He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” 2 Timothy 1:9-10
“For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 5:9
Nothing about you saved your skin so you cannot boast. Not your appearance, charisma, singing voice, wit, agility, physical strength, intelligence or any other kind of gift. God has chosen you to carry out his purposes and if you are wise you will heed his guiding hand. The Lord is for us not against us. You can trust him.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
“God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” 1 Corinthians 1:28-30
All over the Bible you will see the quiet warnings against those who do not believe. I say it is quiet because you do not fully take in these warnings. You cannot absorb through your senses what kind of disaster is coming. Like in the book of Revelation, which is a window into the future, you can read about war and violence and terrible creatures. But it is silent when you read. You do not see it. You do not hear it.
But it is coming and when it does the world will be shaken and the sun will not give light.
The Bible warns not to celebrate the demise of the wicked.
“Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice, or the Lord will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from them.” Proverbs 24:17-18
When I read those two verses this is what I am seeing. Someone has sinned and brought God’s wrath upon herself. When you celebrate this person’s demise then the Lord turns away his wrath…and now you have sinned too by rejoicing over someone else’s pain. The Lord is just and he does what is right, this is a good thing, but when you are happy to see someone else suffer now you have expressed hatred and a desire to harm others. That kind of reaction does not honor God.
See, Proverbs is in the Old Testament and was written before the time of Jesus. Jesus removes God’s wrath from believers because he forgives our sins. We permanently have God’s favor through his son Jesus (Romans 5:9). But even in the Old Testament before Jesus, the resurrection and the bestowal of the Holy Spirit, God still did not pay back people’s sins according to what they deserved.
“He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:9-12
Don’t you see? God always loved people and wanted to save them from themselves. It is this uncontrollable compassion that brought Jesus into the world. So we as believers rejoice that the Son has risen and that we are saved, but God always loved us too much. He always loved the crippled, weak humans on the Earth. He minded us before time began.
I cannot fathom it, but here I am and when I see Jesus I’ll ask him why God loves us. The funny thing is that when I see him I think I’ll understand instantaneously and these things called curiosity and mystery will vanish from my heart because my eyes will be open.
And I see this happening to all believers when they see Jesus. The questions and the pain and the crying will all stop. We will finally understand. And we will be at rest. Finally.
Let’s look at the Lord’s prayer now and dissect the way Jesus prays.
Jesus starts by acknowledging the Father and then in the second line he immediately worships God. Next Jesus prays that God’s kingdom will come, and God’s will be done as it is done in Heaven. Then Jesus makes a request for food each day. Next Jesus asks for forgiveness. Jesus did not sin, but he said this as an example to believers. We must readily confess our sins, otherwise, how would Jesus forgive us?
Jesus then says that we forgive those who have sinned against us. We must love others and forgive them for their sin, because if we don’t then we are hypocrites and we increase the darkness in the world. What good is revenge? What good is pride? What good is stubbornness? It hurts everyone. We must be blinded by love and forgiveness even when the world hates us. This is how we bear the marks of Jesus. We must love others and obey God’s commands. We must forgive. We must be patient and keep trying to save others.
Finally, Jesus prays not to be led into temptation and to deliver us from Satan. Temptation does not come from God.
“When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.” James 1:13-14
God does allow trials in order to test our faith and to help us grow into maturity in Christ, but God is not human. He does not scheme with malevolent intentions nor does he wish for your destruction. Sin drags us away because this is our human weakness. Jesus knew the taste of every kind of temptation: lust, addiction, anger, pride, gluttony, shame, worry, anxiety, suicide, vengeance, complaining, gossip…all of these things and every other sin Jesus is familiar with, only, praise God, Jesus did not give into any sin.
In him we have strength to resist sin. Jesus gives us strength. We are powerful. We are dead to sin (Romans 6:11).
So I believe that Jesus meant to pray for strength against temptation and against the lust of the world because this is what humans are weak in. Jesus understood our weakness that’s why he showed up in the first place. I believe Jesus was praying for us to contend against the Devil. Isn’t that what we do each day? We struggle against temptation. We crave that which will kill us. Sin is poison. We desire poison and the poison desires us.
A preacher named Fred Felton III came to our church for the weekend. For three days, Felton taught our congregation in the Holy Spirit. He is so finely turned in his ministering. He is a warrior for Christ. He knows God’s word and he understands it. You can request his attendance at your church if you like. Check the hyperlink attached to his name. I’m at a loss for words because I cannot adequately recommend him enough. You will be changed by him. You will be inspired by him. And he will make you laugh.
Felton taught us how to pray. He explained many things including the difference between praise and worship. Praise is thanking God for what he’s done. Worship is thanking God for who he is. Remember Jesus’ formula for prayer. Notice that after he acknowledged God, Jesus worshiped. This is what Felton said to do. Go to Jesus, worship God and bring your requests to God, in that order. This is the formula for prayer.
Felton used the story of Jairus and his sick daughter which is in Mark 5:21-43. Jairus went to Jesus, worshipped Jesus and then made his request. Jairus asked Jesus to put his hands on his daughter and to heal her. What happens next is critical, “So Jesus went with (Jairus).” Jesus moved after Jairus followed that formula.
God and Jesus are aroused by our prayers. Arouse means to influence into action, it does not mean anything sexual. When we pray we release God’s power in our lives and we arouse God into action. Prayer moves God’s hand on the Earth. Our prayers are important and they are powerful which is why Satan tries to discourage us from prayer and to distract us.
“Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
“Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” James 5:13-20
That’s enough to digest. Now you know how to pray. Start praying this way and follow Jesus’ example. It will change you.