Sermon series: Following Jesus
Most of us can't imagine what it would have been like to walk and talk with Jesus physically as He made his way across Galilee. If we could have been there we would have seen Him touch the sick. We would have been amazed as He walked across the waves of the stormy sea. We surely would have been inspired as we heard Him teach, and then been mesmerized as He explained the meanings of His teachings to the smaller group. Imagine what it would have been like to ask Him whatever question came to mind?
When the disciples saw Jesus perform miracles and teach, they didn't clamor, "Lord teach us to teach like you!" or, "Lord, teach us to do that miracle!" Instead, what captured their attention was hearing Him pray. "He was praying in a certain place, and when He finished, one of His disciples said to Him, "Lord, teach us to pray, just as John also taught his disciples."
They wanted to know how to talk to God in prayer. Notice what Jesus gave them when they asked this question.
I. A plan for prayer (v.1-4)
In the first four verses we discover a plan that will help us pray in a way that is pleasing to the Father and keep us on track. In many ways this is a simple plan for prayer.
A. Praise (v.2)
"Whenever you pray, say: Father, Your name be honored as holy."
Praise is an important part of our prayers. We must always remember to honor our heavenly Father. We are creations of the Creator and it is a natural thing for us to worship Him.
B. Purpose (v.2)
"Your kingdom come"
It's easy to forget we have a responsibility to fulfil God's purpose in the world. We are a people on mission, and we should be mindful and sensitive about the work of His Kingdom. Each day we are to be busy doing kingdom business.
C. Physical needs (v.3)
"Give us each day our daily bread"
One of the promises that should give us hope for each day is that God does indeed supply our needs. When we pray, it is a part of the instruction of Jesus that we ask the Father for the things that we need to make it through each day. Since it is part of His plan for us as we pray, then we should never hesitate to ask.
D. Spiritual needs (v.4)
"And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone in debt to us."
There is not a day that goes by that we should not be mindful of the forgiveness, grace, and compassion of God. It is a healthy reminder for a congregation to think of themselves as participants in a weekly meeting of sinners anonymous. The sin has been forgiven and we are set free. But God provides our spiritual needs and we should not neglect asking for that help.
E. Protection (v.4)
"And do not bring us into temptation"
It makes sense that the same loving, compassionate, and kind Savior that went to such great lengths to have a relationship with us would also take the time to protect us. His plans and desires for us are so much better than anything we might plan ourselves. The problem we have is that sometimes we don't make wise choices. He desires to help us with this.
II. A parable for prayer (v.5-9)
". . . because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence, he will get up and give him as much as he needs."(v.8)
Jesus takes the time to explain the importance of persistence using a parable. Like the man in the parable, we need to be faithful to keep asking. You must always remember that the Father wants to hear from you. He is always willing to listen. You don't annoy Him when you come with a heart that desires His best for you.
III. A promise for prayer (v.10-13)
Jesus concludes this lesson on prayer by sharing with His disciples the principle of asking and receiving. If you keep looking you will find an answer. If you keep knocking the door will be open. Jesus shares some of the most refreshing and reassuring news that we could ever hear: "How much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?" We are promised that God hears and responds to our prayers . . . and that is great news for His children.
Don't allow yourself to become weary as you pray for things. This reminder from Jesus on how to pray should encourage us. When it seems like the answers are slow to come, remember this passage. Jesus knew we would feel that way and He tells us to keep on praying. We find security in the fact that God hears and will respond to our prayers.
If you were to describe your prayer life would you use the words "persistent" and "perseverance?"
This intimate moment between Jesus and his disciples should inspire us to have a stick-to-it-attitude about prayer.
Prayer that pleases God
"If our churches don't pray, and if people don't have an appetite for God, what does it matter how many are attending the services? How would that impress God? Can you imagine the angels saying, "Oh, your pews! We can't believe how beautiful they are! Up here in heaven, we've been talking about them for years. Your sanctuary lighting - it's so clever. The way you have the steps coming up to the pulpit - it's wonderful." I don't think so."
"If we don't want to experience God's closeness here on earth, why would we want to go to heaven anyway? He is the center of everything there. If we don't enjoy being in His presence here and now, then heaven would not be heaven for us. Why would He send anyone there who doesn't long for Him passionately here on earth?" (Jim Cymbala, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire (Zondervan, 1997), pp. 58-59.)
A little girl came to her mother and said, "I suppose, up in heaven, they think I am dead." The mother replied, "Why Mary, why do you suppose they think you are dead?" "Well," said the little girl, "because, I have not said my prayers for a week." (Unknown)
Additional sermon starters
Praying and God's will (Psalm 37:4; John 3:22)
Many questions concerning the will of God are answered in the Word of God. Because there is a need for guidance, it is healthy to see the connection between prayer and the will of God. These passages remind us that we must seek the will of God in prayer and the need to live in the will of God.
A tale of two prayers (Luke 18:9-14)
This is a story Jesus told that dealt with the self-righteous. The best prayer isn't the one the crowd would have chosen. Jesus reminds us that we can't do it on our own.