This passage is different than Luke’s version where Jesus says, “Pray this.” It is almost as if in Luke’s account He is saying, “Pray these very words.” But in Matthew it is more broad in the sense pray like this, or according to these broad principles. “Pray like this, Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver from evil. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your heavenly Father forgive your trespasses.”
We could certainly say that the Bible is the great manual on prayer. Everything you want to know about prayer you could certainly find in Scripture. It is full of prayers. Obviously this prayer is to shape our prayers, “Pray like this.” There is nothing more important than prayer. It probably determines or validates our spiritual authenticity more than anything else. It was Martyn Lloyd-Jones who said, “When a man is on his knees, that he is and nothing more.” You can give all kinds of reasons why you should pray. If we could boil down our reasons to one word to give impetus to prayer, it would be love. It goes four ways: love for God; love for the world; love for the church; and love for yourself. Love captures them all.
Love for God. Prayer is an expression of love for God. This is how we get to spend time with Him. Essentially prayer is speaking with the true and living God. When we come to the throne of grace we come to a person, our Father which art in heaven. The very first word reminds us that this is a personal engagement... person to person. Someone has said, “The heart of prayer is not getting things from God, but getting God Himself.” That is the primary and most important reason. We are even commanded to pray. So if you love God you obey His commandments.
Love for the world. Remember how Paul tells Timothy to teach us how to pray, “Pray for all men, those who are in authority, and those who are rulers in high places. You could say that encompasses the world. And here in our prayer by our Lord Jesus, when He says, “Pray, Thy kingdom come, “ you could say that has a global reach. When we pray for unbelievers we pray for the unconverted neighbor, for unconverted children, friends and parents.
Love for the church. This is a corporate prayer meeting. We are to gather together. James 5:17 says, “Pray for one another.” Paul would frequently ask people to pray for him when he had gospel opportunities. Jesus asked people to pray for Him. In the Garden of Gethsemane He asked Peter, James and John to pray for Him as He was facing His greatest trial in His life.
Love for ourselves. We need to pray that we would grow in holiness, that we would grow in love, in all of those graces that God has deposited in us. We need to pray that what we hear on Sunday after Sunday would not simply sit on the shelf of our minds but be taken down into our hearts, “Thy Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against you.” In Psalm 119 that is what David focuses on more than anything else, the Word of God. “How can a man keep His way pure according to Your Word;” “Deal bountifully with me that I may keep Your Word;” “Fix my eyes on Your way, I will delight in Your statutes, I will not forget Your Word;” “Incline my heart to Your testimonies. I will seek You and not wander from Your commandments.” So we need to pray in the Word of God that it would find a lodging place in our hearts.
1 Peter 5:6-8
What are the two questions regarding identity that we need to be constantly asking as Christians? One is, “Who is God?” and the other is, “Who am I?” It was Tozer who said, “What comes to your mind when you think of God is what is most important about you.” What do you think about God? Calvin said, “We need to understand who God is or we will never understand ourselves.” We need to first look at the face of God before we can understand who we are. It makes sense, we are made in the image of God and we have that identity. Someone put it this way, “Because God is an infinitely complex being we will never fully understand Him perfectly.” Even in heaven we will constantly be learning about who God is. We will be growing in our understanding of God for all eternity. Because God is infinitely complex, we are complex too. We don’t understand ourselves all that well. In heaven we will also be growing to understand who we are in the image of God. That is a profound concept, “You were made in the image of God.” What does that mean? The whole Bible helps us to understand what it means to be made in the image of God, but there will be an eternity where we will be learning how to reflect God and image God for all eternity.
The first great truth we learn about God from Genesis 1 (and certainly we reflect God in this) is simply that God talks, God communicates, God speaks. God made us to talk; animals don’t, we do. We were made to communicate; not just with one another, but with God. Think about that, God wants us to talk to each other; it is part of our image bearing capacity. He wants us to talk to Him and God listens. That should amaze us, that the God of the universe listens to us. If someone came to you and said I have regular conversations with the President of the United States and you say, “Wow!” But you have ongoing communication with God every day, any time of the day with the God who made you, who made everything, who sustains everything, who controls everything. We don’t simply talk to God like we might talk to a guy at work, a very impersonal way, talking about the weather, politics or sports. We talk to God in an intimate, personal way. All of our worries, our cares, you can bring anything to God. The worse things about you, your sin, you can confess that to God. Jesus tells us in the Lord’s Prayer to regularly ask Him to forgive us for our debts. Anything that grieves you, that troubles you, that causes you to lose sleep at night.
Think of all the verses in your Bible that encourage you to bring everything to God. I am sure there are some verses that are stored in your own memory banks that remind you that this God will hear anything that you have to say. Psalm 55:22, “Turn your burdens over to the Lord and He will take care of you.” Psalm 18, “But in my distress I cried out to the Lord, yes I prayed to my God for help. He heard me from His sanctuary.” Psalm 50, “Pray to me when you are in trouble, I will deliver you.” Philippians 4, “Do not be anxious about anything, instead in every situation let your request be known to God.” Psalm 46, “God is our refuge and strength, a great help in times of trouble. Therefore we will not be afraid when the earth roars, when the shake into the depths of the sea.” Proverbs 3, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” Matthew 6, Jesus says, “Don’t worry about what you’re going to eat or drink, about your tomorrows because your heavenly Father knows everything you need.” Then the passage we read earlier in 1 Peter 5. Let’s remember who we are talking to, we are talking about a Father who loves us; He wants to hear us talk to Him. He listens and can do anything in terms of the request that we make to God. Any remedy, any problem, He can lift any burden, any care.
Psalm 86: 1-13 – A prayer of David
David here makes a petition and then follows it with the reasons why he is able to make the petition. In verse 1 we see, “Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me for I am poor and needy.” As David prays to God he acknowledges that he is poor and needy. He acknowledges his inability to deal with whatever he is facing. He is looking to God for help, admitting that he needs to be trusting in God. In verse 7 we see the ability of God. “In the day of my trouble I call upon You for You answer me.” David is confident that God is able to answer; that is an encouragement for us as well.
I want to focus this evening on verse 5. “For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon You.” David here is helping us focus on some of the attributes of God, His character. Who is it we are calling on? God is good; we call on a God who is good. There is an emphasis on moral goodness. We don’t call on a wicked King, but a good one. Because God is good we can have confidence that He will do what is right. We don’t have to worry that He will do something evil. This should encourage us to come to Him, to a God who is good. Also, we are coming to a God who is forgiving. He is ready to forgive. He is not reluctant to forgive; He has a predisposition to forgive. We just need to call on Him and He will forgive. This should encourage any of us, as we struggle with sin and need forgiveness, that He is ready to forgive us. We also see that God is abounding in steadfast love. He doesn’t just have a little bit – He is abounding, overflowing in steadfast love. His lovingkindness and mercy is constant. It doesn’t waver. It will be there when we come.
So, we can have confidence as we pray that we come to a God who is good, forgiving and abounding in steadfast love to all who call on Him. Not only do we come to God with our requests, but when God does answer our prayers we see in verse 12 what our response should be. “I give thanks to You, O Lord my God, with my whole heart.” When we come to this God who is good, forgiving and abounding in steadfast love, and He answers our prayers how should we respond? With thanksgiving, with our whole heart, with sincerity, to God. “And I will glorify Your Name forever.” Our focus is on God, not ourselves. When the answer comes, don’t give yourself glory. You may have accomplished something or overcome some sin or a challenge in your life – the glory goes to God. “For great is Your steadfast love toward me. You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.” This is the God we come to this evening. I hope it is an encouragement to pray.