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Teach Us to Pray

By Jared Warner

Willow Creek Friends Church

July 24, 2022

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Click to read in Swahili

Bofya kusoma kwa Kiswahili

Luke 11:1–13 (ESV)

1 Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” 2 And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread, 4 and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.” 5 And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, 6 for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? 8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. 9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Of all the disciplines of the Christian life, prayer is the most important. Prayer is also the most difficult. We are encouraged to pray without ceasing and yet how many of us feel as if we have a grip on what it means to pray? If we are honest with ourselves, we all have room to improve in this. While I was in school, I took several classes that focused on prayer, and after I completed school, I enrolled in an independent study on prayer. Even after all of this, one might think that I could pray and yet I struggle.

I struggle because prayer is something that is often deeper than we think. It is one of the pillars of Jesus’s life and lifestyle. Jesus made it his custom to worship in the synagogues with his community, he withdrew often to isolated places to pray, and he ministered to the needs of those around him in word and in deed.

That lifestyle of worship, prayer, and service is the lifestyle that we are called to put on, to reflect, and to live in front of those around us. We have a good grasp on worship, I say this because we are all here on a Sunday morning worshiping with our community. We sing our praises to God, and we encourage and are encouraged by the teaching derived from scripture. We have a grasp on worship, and we understand ministry or service. Service is where we provide help to those around us. People let us know what is needed and we do our best to fulfill the needs. At times we struggle with ministry but for the most part if we have been a person of faith for any amount of time, we aide those in need. Many of us did this even when faith was not important in our lives because ministry is being a good member of society. That is why the civil governments in many countries elect ministers. Ministers serve those around them, and our elected officials are in service of the people, their work and their purpose is to do whatever they can to provide aide in areas that we cannot provide for ourselves.

Worship and ministry we understand but pray is often where we struggle. This is because we do not understand what prayer is. Many of us were taught that prayer is simply talking to God. That is not wrong, but in many cases, that definition is one sided. It is dictating our will to God. We express our needs and desires but what do we do after that? We struggle with prayer especially if we have made our petitions and we do not see the results that we expected. This causes us to assume, either I do not really know how to pray, or God does not really listen.

Prayer was central in Jesus’s lifestyle. He worshiped, he prayed, and he served. It is right in the middle. It was in his time of prayer that Jesus found his rest. It is after prayer that Jesus changed his courses of ministry. Jesus prayed alone and he invited others to join him. And Jesus protected his time of prayer. Often when he prayed, we see him taking his disciples to a mountain. He would leave most of the disciples at the base, and would move up the slope with Peter, James, and John. Then he would withdraw from those three and pray off by himself. I have often wondered about this, but I realize that Jesus was making sure that he could pray by those actions. He was setting a perimeter around him so that he could pray uninterrupted. And even though he was being incredibly private, he was also inviting his disciples to share in the intimacy of prayer. He withdrew but in his withdraw he could be observed, and often he would ask his disciples to watch and pray with him.

Have you ever watched someone? As a child, I would often observe the people that I respected. I would listen to what they had to say and would try my hardest to reflect their lifestyle. There were a few things that I really wanted to do I wanted to be an astronaut and a basketball player. I watched every documentary I could about the space program, and I learned that to be an astronaut you had to be physically fit and smart. So, I studied hard, and I tried to stay fit. That is where basketball came into play. I loved playing basketball. I spent hours in the afternoon trying to hone my skills. I would shoot free throws, I would do dribbling drills on our driveway, and whenever possible I would ask my dad to play a game with me. I practiced because I listened to people like Larry Bird. They said that they practiced all the time on their own and with a team. If I wanted to be good, I was going to have to practice. I learned these concepts because I watched others. I observed what they did and because I respected them, I tried to emulate them in my own life. In both cases I realized that I did not have what it takes to continue in that course. I was born deaf and the best way to become an astronaut was to serve in the military. I cannot serve in the military, so I pursued other dreams. That left basketball. I am not tall, and even though I practiced hours a day, I am not coordinated enough to be a real basketball player. I would practice my free throw shots; I would tally how many I did and keep track of my statistics. And I was terrible. I would do dribbling drills and we did not have a concrete driveway so I would dribble on gravel only to lose the ball. I tried and I love the game, but I am not good. I played on the freshman team as a senior, but I still tried.

The point of that story is not that practice makes perfect, but discipline. I watched, I observed, I tried, and I continued to try. My lifestyle became practice, and practice became a part of who I am. Jesus’s disciples watched, and they tried to reflect Jesus. But watching only goes so far, sometimes need information. So, they asked Jesus to teach them to pray.

“And he said to them, ‘When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins. For we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.’”

There are two instances in the Gospel accounts where Jesus teaches us to pray, we are more familiar with the version that in Matthew’s account. There is a difference in the wording of the two, but the overall theme remains. We use this prayer as a formula to guide our own prayers, if not our prayers themselves. The lesson that Jesus gives is more than a prayer. It is an attitude, or a temperament.

Jesus begins with Father, or in Matthew’s account our Father. There is something to the difference here. It is common for the prayers within the faith of the Hebrew people to use the phrase, our Father, but it is unique to address God in such a familiar term as just father, or more accurately dad. This is important to note. We should be familiar with and even intimate in our language while we pray. So often we try to use sacred words when we pray. My grandfather’s generation would only pray with words like thee and thou because it was how they were taught to pray. That is how they were taught, but that was not how they spoke in their everyday conversations. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, but it does place a distinct division between the secular and the sacred. In our mind there is a switch that is flipped. I speak one way with those around me and a completely different way when I pray. I say there is nothing inherently wrong with this, because we do this all the time. When we speak with our children or our spouse we speak in terms of endearment, if we were to use those same words with our coworkers, we would find ourselves in the Human Resources office being investigated for harassment. There is a time and place for intimacy in our language and formality. Jesus is telling us that our relationship with God, our conversations with God are intimate, not formal. We should be as familiar with speaking to God as we are with speaking to our earthly parents.

I want us to consider the last conversation you had with your parent, how many of us addressed them as my mother or my father? Or if you have siblings, did you say our mother or our father? No, we might speak that way if we were speaking of our parent, but not in a conversation with our parents. When we speak to our parents in conversation, we are informal. When I call my mom, I do not say “hello mother” I say, “Hi, mom.” If we use anything other than the informal greeting, we are usually being sarcastic. If it is not sarcastic then it is a sign of a lack of intimacy in the relationship, or a coldness where there is not trust or love within the relationship.

Jesus is teaching us that our life of prayer should be so familiar that we should feel comfortable enough to speak to the God of the universe using terms of endearment. I want us to think about that for a moment. How many of us hesitate at that thought? I will admit, I do. I cringe at times when I hear someone being a bit too familiar in their language while praying. I know people that will literally say daddy in prayer. I think how crass. Do they not know that they are speaking to the God of the Universe? Have some respect! But I am wrong. I should be so comfortable with God that I could say daddy. Will I get that comfortable? Only God knows my heart, and God knows that I struggle, God knows that I am awkward and not good at expressing myself in words. This means that I do need to work on relationships in general, especially in prayer.

Jesus is the only known teacher within Hebrew traditions that taught this kind of intimacy in prayer. And Luke points this out. Matthew puts a more traditional Hebrew mindset in his rendering of the lesson on Prayer, but both agree with the next part. “Hallowed be your name.” We do not use the term hallowed much in our language today. The closed we come to using the word Hallowed in everyday conversation is when we say Halloween, which literally means All Halloweds’ Eve. Which is the night before All Saints’ Day.

Hallowed means to sanctify or to make holy. The tense in which this verb is used means to let your name be set apart or above, may it be honored above everything else. There should be familiarity in our prayers, and there should be awe. We are speaking with God the most high, creator of all things visible and invisible. What a privilege we have in this. Praise and honor should always be part of our conversation with God. And with this an acknowledgment of our place. “Your kingdom Come.”

When we think of kingdom our mind is often transported to a place of castles and nobles. We do not live within a kingdom in America. We pride ourselves in this. We live in a democracy where we are free to pursue our own definition of happiness. Because we are culturally removed from the concept of kingdom, we often have a negative view of what that word means. When we think of king and kingdom our mind is often drawn to an idea of a tyrant. There is not a relationship with a tyrant. There is no interaction and no conversation. One does not approach a king and say daddy, unless you happen to be a child of the king.

That is kind of the point. A kingdom the scope of influence of a king. Some kingdoms stretch as far as our eyes can see and beyond, while others may not even get out the door. To say your kingdom come, means that we strive to participate in the expansion of God’s influence throughout the world. Your kingdom come, is not just a future embrace of heaven, but it is allying ourselves to God here today. It is denying our own will and seeking his face in all that we do.

Your kingdom come is probably the most difficult part of the entire lesson on prayer. We can praise God for his greatness and his holiness, we can even accept that we can have a relationship with him. But when we say your kingdom come something must happen. My kingdom, our kingdom, the scope of influence that I live and participate in is no longer mine to dictate. For us to have intimacy with God, our will and our influence must be absorbed into that of God.

How many of us have had an argument with another individual? Why did we argue? Often it is because our ideas did not resemble the other’s. I wanted to eat pizza and you wanted a burger. The argument ensues. I wanted to watch a movie, and you wanted to play a game. The argument begins. Or maybe the argument is completely one sided. I assumed that you and I were on the same page and in reality, we were not.  Assumptions are relationship killers. I might assume that my spouse will do something because that is how it has always been in the home I grew up in, and my spouse assumes something different because that is how it was in their family. I expect them to do it, they expect me to. And now there are no clean clothes or dishes and who is to blame? Our kingdom, our will, or our expectations were not met. We are upset but the reason we are upset is because we did not align ourselves together.

In prayer we acknowledge that God is the most high in our praise. God is most high, where does this leave us. God is the one that created all and knows us from the time we were formed in our mother’s womb. God is, was, and is to come. God is the expert in all things, and yet how do we live our lives? We assume, we argue, we make decisions without consultation. We want our will, but why? We want it because we believe it is in our best interest. What exactly has that gotten us? Arguments.

“Give us each day our daily bread,” This is a turning point in the prayer. We are submitting to the intimacy and adjusting our will to the will of the Father’s. And something that comes with that is a release of need. Why do we control? Because if we do not look out for ourselves who else will? We do not trust. We do not feel that the people around us care about our interests and as a result we pull away and provide for ourselves. Let me ask one question where is the relationship in that mindset, where is the intimacy?

In the garden the serpent brought deception to the human mind. The result from that event we often call sin, but the reality is that we lost trust. Eve no longer trusted God, because the serpent suggested that God was withholding knowledge. But I want us to think of something else. God told Adam not to eat of the tree, and Eve told the serpent that they were not even to touch the tree. Sure, the serpent deceived Eve, but if we are to take the words literally Adam was the first to deceive her. Adam even though he loved his wife, did not trust that she would follow God’s commandment so he either directly or indirectly caused Eve to believe that touching the tree was just as wrong as eating from it. History has put the blame on Eve for too long, when Adam failed. Adam did not trust Eve, even before she handed him the fruit. And the result was that once the fruit was eaten their eyes were opened and they saw that they were naked. They were vulnerable. They could not trust. Sin brought in death, but death is separation from life. True sin is separation. And separation is the lack of trust. We sin, we separate from others, because we do not trust. And because we do not trust we cannot entrust our future to another.

That is what “give us each day our daily bread,” means. It is petitioning God to live up to his word. If we are to join him in his kingdom instead of our own, he will need to provide. The word for bread is translated accurately because bread is the primary source of food in ancient times, but it is food. The idea It is those that live within God’s kingdom will be provided with their necessities. But when Luke says give us each day it is not merely asking for our daily needs, it is a statement of trust that God will provide not just today but tomorrow.

 Jesus is telling us in this lesson on prayer to live for God today, participate in God’s kingdom work today, and trust that God will provide what we need now and in the future. This does not mean that we will have everything that we want. We cannot just claim something in the name of Jesus and expect that God will provide it, that is our will not His. I want a new car. I want to take a trip. I want this salary. I want this or that. Where is the kingdom of God in those petitions? I justify my desires before God. God will provide for those that listen to his voice and participate in his kingdom’s work. He will provide, but that does not always mean we will have everything we want. It is his kingdom not mine.

“And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation” This goes back to trust. There is intimacy in “Father”. There is honor and recognition of God’s high status in “hallowed.” There is trust in the statement, “Your kingdom come.” As we continue to pray, we move from mere trust to entrusting our life to God in the statement, “give us each day our daily bread.” But there is a weakness in our own heart. We pray for God to intervene in a situation, and the answer we receive was not what we hoped for. We question the trustworthiness of God. The shades of sin begin to separate us once again. Or maybe we were inspired to serve in some way, but we neglected that ministry. Which might have been the answer to someone else’s prayer, and we caused their trust in God to faulter. Or maybe someone failed us. Maybe they breached the trust that we had in them which is causing us to question the trustworthiness of God. Trust is important. When we do not trust others there is a wedge of separation.

Relationships are delicate things. They take a long time to develop and can be destroyed in an instant. This is why grace and forgiveness are important. I confess that I have failed to be the most ideal pastor. There are times where I want to do things, but I allow my attention to be drawn elsewhere. I confess that I have done this even to my own family. I have forgotten dates. I have put my job before deepening the relationship. I have so often failed to be the person I would like me to be. And I have also been wronged also. I have had people say things that are untrue about me, I have had promises made to me that have gone unfulfilled. I have had events happen within my life that have caused me to question why I even care. People can hold a grudge against me, and I could hold a grudge against others. There are people I interact with where we are basically at a stand off and a single word could ignite a war.

“Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.” Do you know what this is saying? Lead us not into temptation, we know from the teachings surrounding God, that God does not lead us into temptation. But we often find ourselves in them. This is petitioning God to guide us. As we face the trials that come from the breaches of trust that have been caused by ourselves and others, we are asking God to guide us to a place of reconciliation. As we seek to forgive those that hurt us, we can recognize what caused the pain and we will avoid it. And if pain appears to be unavoidable, we will speak to them so that we can both work together to bridge that gap that separates us. This is not easy, but we pray that no matter what, we will not let the breach of trust cause us to stop moving forward and living the life God is calling us to.

The disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, and Jesus gave them some things to think about. But the words go deeper. They are a call to intimacy with God and our neighbor in word and in deed. Our prayer is the parable of the Good Samaritan lived out in all that we are. Prayer is Love. It is loving God, embracing the Holy Spirit and living the love of Christ with others. Prayer is a lifestyle where we actively participate in the kingdom here now and forever in the future. Teach us to pray Lord, teach us to live.

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About jwquaker

I’m sure everyone wants to know who I am…well if you are viewing this page you do. I’m Jared Warner and I am a pastor or minister recorded in the Evangelical Friends Church Mid America Yearly Meeting. To give a short introduction to the EFC-MA, it is a group of evangelical minded Friends in the Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and Colorado. We are also a part of the larger group called Evangelical Friends International, which as the name implies is an international group of Evangelical Friends. For many outside of the Friends or Quaker traditions you may ask what a recorded minister is: the short answer is that I have demistrated gifts of ministry that our Yearly Meeting has recorded in their minutes. To translate this into other terms I am an ordained pastor, but as Friends we believe that God ordaines and mankind can only record what God has already done. More about myself: I have a degree in crop science from Fort Hays State University, and a masters degree in Christian ministry from Friends University. Both of these universities are in Kansas. I lived most of my life in Kansas on a farm in the north central area, some may say the north west. I currently live and minister in the Kansas City, MO area and am a pastor in a programed Friends Meeting called Willow Creek Friends Church.


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