Saturday, May 01, 2010

Quit Mumbling Those Memorized Prayers! (Another Look at "That" Prayer)

     Last night I started to pray in my usual way. “Our Father, Who art in Heaven,” I recited the long-ago memorized words.
     Half-way through I suddenly realized I was talking to God as if He was just a man. I spoke like I would to any other ordinary person, as if we were equals.
     Ooops! With a sudden dawning of recognition I stopped short. I pictured myself, dashing up to the very Throne of the Creator of All the Universes and Maker of Everything. I realized my conversation was too phony, my attitude was too casual.
     Did Jesus say the words so quickly, so empty of expression when He taught those followers that day? Was it mumbled like the congregation does on Sunday morning?

How did Jesus do it?
     Picture the scene: out on a mountainside Jesus smiles at the crowd who had followed him. He teaches on several other subjects for awhile, then he speaks the astounding words of a prayer they’d never heard before. Jesus gives them a model prayer. (Matthew 6:5-13, Luke 11:1-4). They had heard prayers in the synagogue and in the temple, but now Jesus brings focus to these few words.
     Every time in the Gospels when we see Jesus praying or talking about prayer we get the idea that when He talked to God it was real, honest, and even emotional.

Look at the topics in “that” prayer.
     As a model prayer given by Jesus “that” prayer is not a prescribed, word-for-word prayer. The topics show us some of the main components that Jesus wanted to emphasize to His followers at that time.
1. Recognition of who God is.
2. Request for our daily needs.
3. Acknowledgement of our sins, asking for forgiveness.
4. Declaring we do not hold our enemies hostage with hate in our hearts.
5. Proclaiming we need His help to avoid sin.
6. Affirming we need Him to protect us from Satan’s attacks.
7. Acknowledging His authority and preeminence over all.

Look at that difficult verse.
     We say the words automatically, but what does it mean “we forgive those who trespass against us”?
     Children and teens might think of others who have been their “enemy” for doing such things as tease, overlook, cheat, or insult them, or who lie.
     A grown person, aware of the despotic governments, hard-core criminals, drug cartels, all people who are truly evil -- must consider what it means to forgive them. Are we pardoning them from any penalties, pleading for amnesty for them, overlooking their terrible sins against mankind? Are we to pretend that actual evil does not exist or that it doesn’t matter to us, personally?
     What Jesus’ words here tell us is that as individuals we are not to seek personal revenge, or allow hatred and anger to fill our hearts. We are to turn these evil-doers over to the law, which will judge them and pronounce the penalties. Law-breaking is punished for the good of society.
     Throughout the Psalms mention is frequently made about the enemies of God. It is clear that there is evil in the world and Satan is the head of a vast army of evil spirits. The Bible says that God will righteously judge and punish all the evil ones. Those who refuse to turn from wickedness have chosen to disobey God.
     We can pray to God for others to own up to their sin, repent and turn to God. But we cannot ask God to forgive them if they refuse to turn to Him.

Look at one way to pray this prayer.
     If we do not speak to God from our hearts with honest words, then it isn’t really a prayer.
     Try this alone, at home. Pray the first words, “Our Father, Who art in Heaven.” (Stop here and spend 15 seconds in silence, pondering what you just said and Who you are talking to.)
     “Hallowed be Thy Name.” (Stop here and take 15 seconds to consider what this means.)
     “Thy Kingdom come.” (In 15 seconds give thought to His Kingdom that IS coming.)
     “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven.” (For 15 seconds think of this powerful petition being achieved to His glory.)
     Now, you’ve seen the pattern, and can continue through the model prayer. Each petition is followed by 15 seconds of a quiet meditation. Enter into the prayer deeply. Be honest and open. Be responsive to Him as you actually speak to the One and Only God. He hears your words and sees your heart.
     There’s a new freedom in prayer when there’s no rush to speak it. For your own personal growth as a believer, for your own deeper walk with the Lord, try this for only one week. Got the idea? Got the time?

See how to make personal prayer real.
     Here’s another idea. Again, it’s for your own personal quiet time. Later, you’ll be ready to share the ideas and your own new view of prayer with your family. For now, there’s no pressure to put on a picture of perfection. You have more to learn, just you alone, open to God, Your Creator and Father.
     Open your Bible to the Psalms, and read at least a dozen verses. Consider the larger picture, and open your heart to the truth being revealed.
     Maybe you haven’t read the Psalms lately, and this will be a good refresher of what David and the others were inspired to write. We are blessed to have the written Word, and we have much to learn from a daily reading that is not rushed.
     If your prayer to God is the same words at the same times in the same way, then you have a wonderful discovery to make. God is real. And talking to Him is real. Jesus assures us that God sees us, knows us, and hears us all the time -- not just when we pray!

     In the New Testament the word, “pray” appears 159 times in New King James Version. Here are several of those verses.

“Finally, brethren, pray for us,
that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified,  
just as it is with you,
and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men;
 for not all have faith.
 But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you
 and guard you from the evil one.” 2 Thessalonians 3:1-3

“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions,
and giving of thanks be made for all men,
for kings and all who are in authority,
that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life
 in all godliness and reverence. 
For this is good and acceptable
in the sight of God our Savior,” 1 Timothy 2:1-3

“Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another,
that you may be healed. 
The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” James 5:16

“But the end of all things is at hand;
 therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers.” 1 Peter 4:7

“But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith,
 praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God,
 looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ
unto eternal life.” Jude 1:20-21

“For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son,
that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers,” Romans 1:9

by Elaine Hardt ©2010