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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Sermon on the Mount, Day 22 of 40: How to Pray, Part I

Matthew 6: 9-10
Pray, then, in this way:  Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  

John Wesley wrote that the Lord's prayer  "contains all that we can reasonably pray for." I think it would be safe to say that all Christians have prayed this prayer at some time in their lives.  I was taught it as a child in Sunday School.  Praying this prayer connects you with Christians all around the world, serving as a common ground.  It also connects us with Christians in the past, the present and in the future.  As long as Christianity exists, this prayer will be prayed.

The Lord's prayer was a gift from Jesus to His disciples; a prayer that reveals his thoughts about God, living the spiritual life, forgiveness, being led by God, and the struggles of being human; a model to follow in our own prayers.

We will study this prayer in four parts, the first of which (verses 9-10) describes God, to whom we pray.

In all of our prayers, disciples of Christ are to remember to whom it is that we pray.  To address God as "Father" is not to say that God is male, although it does cause a person to think in that direction.  God is neither male or female.  The Greek word used for Father is pat─ôr which refers to the founder of a family or tribe.  In biblical times ancestry was typically traced using the male line and so all founders of families were considered male.  This word can also mean the one who originates or transmits his/her spirit into others.  If we insist that God is male then we have to ignore the female references to God (Isaiah 49:15, Deut. 32:18, for example).  God is beyond gender and is no more of a male than a female.  When we pray, we are praying to God who is the creator.

Who is this God in heaven?

God is transcendent over all that is, yet present in everything.

God is infinite and knows no boundaries.  Since God is infinite then everything else about God is also infinite, such as God's love, mercy, grace and forgiveness.

God is omnipresent, everywhere at all times; not just in heaven, but also on earth, in our hearts.  So, when we pray to God in heaven, we are expressing our belief in a creator God who is of and outside His creation; and we are expressing our ultimate desire to be with God when all is said and done.

God is omniscient (all-knowing).  So, if God knows everything, then God knows the deepest desires of our hearts.  Why, then, do we need to pray?  Prayer is a way of communing with God, of coming into contact with God in a very personal, intimate way.  We cannot draw close to God and not be changed.   Prayer serves to develop own spiritual growth and those that we pray for.

God is omnipotent (all powerful).  There is nothing that God cannot do that is consistent with God's nature and will.  So, if we pray for peace or for healing, our faith is that God can do these.  God may answer our prayers exactly as we prayed them, answer our prayers differently than we expect, answer them in God's time, or may withhold things that are not in our best interest (just like a parent with a child).

Since God has all of the above attributes, it follows that God is also sovereign, ruling the entire of creation and in control of all aspects of creation, sustaining all of creation.  Prayer is to be approached in an attitude of reverence and humility (honoring His holy name), and of submission to God's will over our own.

Monday we will study our daily bread.

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