Andy Stanley - Give Us
So do you remember learning how to swim? I do, it was terrifying which is probably why I remember it. I remember teaching or trying to teach my kids how to swim, terrifying as well for them. I specifically remember Andrew my oldest clinging, clinging to the arm of his swim instructor screaming at the top of his lungs, "I wanna be on the land. I wanna be on the land". Now, if you know how to swim, it's so natural, if you don't, nothing could be more unnatural except perhaps flying, and the earlier we learn to swim the better and the longer we wait, the more difficult it is. But regardless learning to swim requires something that we all naturally resist, and what we all naturally resist is surrender, surrender. Surrender to an instructor, to a parent, to an older brother and sister. We resist and when we resist, well, if we resist we'll never learn to swim. In fact, if you resisted you may have never even gotten in the water.
Those of us who eventually learned to swim eventually let go of the side of the pool, we surrendered to a trusted adult, and in doing so and we probably haven't thought about this, in doing so, we were introduced to a world we would have never known or experienced otherwise, a world I would have watched other people enjoy from a safe distance, wakeboarding, surfing, skiing, canoeing, whitewater rafting, scuba diving, high diving, maybe cliff diving, not to mention living without the fear of water. As long as the child insist on having their way, they get in the way of learning to swim and their childhood fear of water has the potential to sentence them to a lifetime of fear of the water. So good parents when they have the opportunity they insist that their kids learn to swim even when they prefer to be on the land. More on that in just a bit.
Today we are in part two of our series, grown-up prayers. Many of us, probably most of us grew up praying, but our prayers didn't grow up with us, we pretty much pray the same way we've always prayed, the way we were taught to pray as children. Some of that's good, but some of that as we discovered last time is not so good. And speaking of last time, in part one of this series we discovered that we are not the first group of grown-ups who never learned to pray grown-up prayers. Apparently many of Jesus' closest followers they never learned to pray grown-up prayers either something they became acutely aware of when they listened to Jesus pray.
Here's how it went, if Jesus was praying correctly, then perhaps they were praying incorrectly. If Jesus was doing it right, they had a lot to learn. So they finally mustered up the nerve to ask Jesus. And so one day they come to Him and I guess they appointed a spokesperson who said, Jesus, Lord, teach us how to pray. "Lord, teach us to pray". Now like most of us they'd been praying their entire lives. In fact in some cases they'd been praying the same prayers their entire lives, and watching Jesus pray it dawned on them, maybe it was time to move on. Maybe it was time to learn some grown-up prayers or learn how to pray like a grown-up.
Now I would imagine and we talked a little bit about this last time, I would imagine this is something that you've never done, you've never asked someone to teach you how to pray. In fact, if someone after hearing you pray suggested that you should learn how to pray, you would be offended and rightly so.
And last time as we began this lesson of learning how to pray from Jesus, some of us were actually offended by what Jesus had to say because it turns out like the disciples some of us have not been praying correctly, or to be more specific, we haven't been praying the way Jesus prayed and the way He instructed His followers to pray. Now, if you're not a Jesus follower, but you pray, you may pick up a few tips from what Jesus has to say, but if you are a Jesus follower, then, well, if you're a Jesus follower, you really have no choice, but to follow Jesus instructions regarding prayer, and He's very specific, He says this, "But when you pray," And then He tells us how to pray.
And as we discovered last time He also tells us how not to pray. He says, don't pray to impress other people because, well, God's not impressed, and don't keep repeating the same thing over and over and over as if the volume of your words will somehow move God to action. Besides He says, in fact what He says next assures us that He knew why we think prayer is so perplexing to begin with, He said, you don't need to go on and on and on about what you need or want or wish for because "Your Father knows what you need before you ask". To which we respond, well, if that's the case, well then, why pray? And now Jesus has us right where He wants us, asking the question He wants us to ask. His disciples wanted to know how to pray, Jesus wanted them to understand why we should pray. And isn't it true? Come on, isn't it true that for the most part we reduce prayer to basically informing God of our needs, wants, and wishes, or perhaps the needs wants and wishes of someone we cared deeply for, right?
That's why we pray. That's why we were taught to pray, but maybe, maybe we've been doing it wrong, and maybe we've been praying for all the wrong reasons. Jesus gets very specific, He says, "But when you pray go into your room and close the door". In other words, find a place and isolate yourself. This was very difficult for 1st century followers to do, homes were small, if they had doors at all they were generally made out of leather or even cloth. We have bedrooms and closets with wooden doors, we don't find it difficult to pray because we don't have room, we find it difficult to pray because we're so busy, we're so distracted. And then He said this, "And pray to your Father who is unseen".
Again, we talked about this last week and this was a little offensive. Jesus says, "don't pray to me". In other words, we don't begin our prayers, "dear Jesus". He says, "I want you to pray to your Father in heaven". We begin our prayers, "heavenly Father". And then last time we briefly discussed the tension that this creates for some of us, the tension of trying to view God as a Father, and that's a legitimate tension. And if that's something you struggle with, you're not alone. And if it's attention you're struggling with, here's the amazing thing, you are invited to take that tension to your heavenly Father.
In fact Peter who knew Jesus intimately said this, you can cast your cares on Him because you can rest assured that He cares for you. Then Jesus gets down to business and gives us the specifics, He told us exactly how to pray, and He told us what to pray. Here's what He said, He said, "This then is how you should pray, 'Our father in heaven, hallowed be your name.'" That is we're to pause and recognize who it is we're addressing, the great God who has no equal, no rival, the uncreated Creator who is both infinite and intimate. When we pause to reflect on who God is, what happen is we gain a better understanding of who we are and why we're here, what's going on around us. This the part of prayer where we regain our bearings, we remember the context of our lives.
This we said last time, if you rush by that, if you rush by that you will resist what follows, and what follows is why we pray, what follows is the purpose of prayer. Here it is. "Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven". Your kingdom come, your will be done right here, right now in my life, in my relationships with my resources, with my plans, with my schedule. Which point we're all tempted to join with Andrew and say, "I wanna be on the land, I wanna be on the land because I wanna be in control, that is just too open-ended. I mean, I want God to do my bidding. Honestly, I'm afraid of what He might require of me if I just let go of the side of the pool and trust myself fully to Him, I may drown".
But here's the thing, Peter, you know, Peter like the Peter the fisherman who followed Jesus, James the brother of Jesus, John, Mary, Martha, the Apostle Paul, perhaps some folks you know they would assure you, they would assure you that embracing thy will be done will introduce you to a world that you will never know and never experience otherwise. This is the part we skip, but according to Jesus, this is why we pray.
Come on, lemme ask you this, if you're a Christian, do you wanna be deep? I mean, we talk about being a deep Christian, do you wanna experience deep faith? Did you know that deep has very little to do what you know, it has everything to do with letting go of the side of the pool and praying, before I even know what it is, thy will be done right here, right now in my life. And let's be honest, that rarely shows up in our prayers because it stands in contrast to why most of us pray. We don't come to God to surrender, we usually come to God to be rescued often from something we would have avoided if we had in fact surrendered.
So the purpose of prayer. The purpose of prayer we talked about this last time is to align our wills with God's will, the purpose of prayer is to surrender our will not impose it. And this becomes even more evident in what follows. So in part one I challenged you to begin your prayers this week this way, I said, begin by declaring his greatness and then surrender your will. Declare His greatness, hallowed be your name, and surrender your will. And, and this is important, and if there is something in you, if there's something in you that fears or hesitates to pray, your will be done, if you're afraid to let go of the side of the pool, which is understandable, pay attention to that.
Honestly, honestly, there's no point in continuing with Jesus lesson on how to pray until we're willing to prioritize His will over our own, His kingdom over our own. And the reason I say that is everything that follows assumes surrender. Jesus is doing more than simply teaching us how to pray properly, He's actually inviting us to experience the world in a way that we will never experience it unless we surrender. Then from there Jesus pivots, He pivots to the place where we generally begin our prayers. He says, and now pray this, when you pray, pray "And give us today". To which we say, finally, it is our turn, but Jesus is not taking prayer requests, He's actually requesting that we pray three things in particular. In fact, all three things no surprise assume surrender.
Now, when I began praying this prayer, I summarized the three things Jesus asks us to pray with three words that helped me remember what they are and they all begin with a P, provision, pardon and protection. Provision, pardon and protection. The provision part of the prayer you're familiar with, Jesus says, and when you pray, pray, "And give us today our daily bread". Something that most of us really don't worry too much about, right? In fact, some of us eat more than our daily bread. But when Jesus' 1st century audience heard Him say this is what we're to pray, what they thought of immediately was their ancestors hundreds of years before crawling out of their tents every morning in the middle of the desert and collecting just enough bread for the day.
And during that season in the life of the nation of Israel, God was teaching the nation, the people of Israel to recognize their dependence on Him. And then He warned them, He said this, look, the day will come, the day will come when you will have more than your daily bread. In fact, you're gonna have so much bread, He said to the nation of Israel that other nations will come to you to buy bread, but don't be deceived, even when you have plenty, you are no less dependent on me than you are this very day when you're crawling out of your tent collecting your daily bread. And the same is true for you, the same is true for us, this is the part of our prayer when we remind ourselves that God is our ultimate provider, not just what we eat, everything.
In fact, when you think about it, when you think about it, many of the things that we depend on most, we have little to no control over. In fact, some of us have faced seasons, you may be in one right now or maybe circumstances where we're reminded of just how dependent we really are on God. And if that day has not come for you yet, I assure you it will come, whether it's your health, your income, food, physical or mental health, maybe the physical or mental health of someone you love, suddenly you will be reminded, you will be reminded of just how dependent you are on your heavenly Father, how little control you have over the things that are most valuable, most important to you. And Jesus says, when we pray, we are to pause and we are to declare our dependence on Him for everything, every day, every single thing lest we forget.
Now, this is such a big deal in a culture where we get in trouble because of our excess rather than our privation, right? I mean, in a culture of excess which is the culture we live in, we just take things for granted, right? We expect things, we feel entitled to things, consequently we become ungrateful for things.
So years ago when Sandra and I were learning to pray through the Lord's Prayer and kind of extrapolating out some of the insights I've shared, we memorized an additional prayer from the Book of Proverbs that we use to supplement this portion of the Lord's Prayer so as not to rush by it too quickly. And before I share it with you, I wanna go ahead and dare you to pray this prayer. And the reason I wanna dare you to pray it is because like it did for me, it will confront you with a side of you that perhaps needs some confrontation. You pray this prayer and you will feel your fingers being pried away from the side of the pool.
Here's what the writer of Proverbs says, I love this. "Keep falsehood and lies far from me". This is like a prayer. "Keep falsehood and lies far from me, give me neither poverty," Which we like that part. "Nor riches, but give me only my daily bread". Heavenly Father, don't give me more than I can handle, and don't give me so little that I'm tempted to sin or to steal or to cheat, don't give me more than you know I can handle. That is not a very American or Western prayer, is it? But he continues and he explains why this is such an important prayer. "Otherwise, otherwise I might have too much, I may have too much and I may disown you and say, 'Who is the Lord?'" Or is there even a Lord? I don't think I need God anymore, I don't think I need faith anymore. "Or I might become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God".
I dare you to memorize this, and I dare you to pray it. "Heavenly Father keep falsehood and lies from far from me. I declare my dependence on you, give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only what you know I can handle otherwise, otherwise I might have too much and I might disown you and say, 'who is the Lord? Who needs the Lord? I don't have time for faith, I don't have time for God', or I might have such need that I would be tempted to steal. And just as I'm not above abandoning God because I have too much, I'm not above stealing if I have too little".
"Give me neither poverty nor riches, but only my daily bread. Otherwise I might disown you and say, 'Who is the Lord?' Or I might become poor and steal and so dishonor the name of my God". I love this prayer because it slows me down and it reminds me of my dependence on God for everything that comes my way, and it reminds me of my propensity, my propensity to allow God's blessing in my life to lead me astray. And you know this is possible, right? I mean, certainly you've met someone or you've heard about someone who became so successful that they no longer needed faith, they no longer needed God, they got too busy for church because they had so many options, they no longer needed to trust God because well, they were able to take care of things themselves, right? I have the potential for that, so do you.
Keep falsehood and lies far from me, don't allow me to be deceived into thinking that I don't need you every day, for everything. And once again, we find ourselves back, you know, open handed can't touch bottom, that place of surrender. So that's provision, provision, pardon, and protection. Provision, pardon and protection. This is the pardon part of the prayer. You'll remember this, you probably memorized this as a child. In fact, this is the part of the prayer that probably all of us pray the most, "And forgive us our debts". I mean, I would imagine if you grew up praying, somebody taught you to pray to ask God to forgive you of your sin, "And forgive us our debts," but we perhaps were not told or taught to pray the second half, "As we also have forgiven our debtors".
This is a prayer request with a catch. Forgive me, here's what Jesus is teaching, heavenly Father forgive me in the same way and to the same degree that I have forgiven the people who have wronged me. And again, the assumption is surrender. It's like God says, you need forgiveness from me? Yes, I need forgiveness from you. So does that mean you're surrendered to me? Or what do you mean? I mean, are you asking something from me that you're unwilling to extend to others? As Jesus followers we are required. Listen, we don't have an option, we are required to do unto others as God through Christ has done unto us. We forgive because we've been? Forgiven.
The Apostle Paul comes along later and he reverses the order of things, here's what he writes, he says to Christians, 1st century Christians, "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other". Why? You don't even know my story, you don't know what she said about me, you don't know what He did to me. "Forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you". Paul was saying what Jesus was saying, what Jesus was alluding to. We don't forgive because other people deserve to be forgiven, we forgive because we've been forgiven and Jesus says when you pray, you forgive other people just as you have been forgiven. When you pray, ask for forgiveness as a reminder to forgive other people. Declare your need for forgiveness, but before you do, before you move on, you do a quick 360 in your mind and you ask the question, am I withholding from someone the very thing I expect God to grant to me? Forgiveness.
You know this, to ask God to forgive you while refusing to forgive your brother-in-law, your ex husband or wife, your manager, your neighbor, to ask God to do for you what you are unwilling to do for someone else reduces God to, well, it kinda reduces God to a cleaning product, right? It reduces God to a conscious cleanser. I come to God and I pray and I ask Him to forgive me of my sin, and He forgives me my sin, He cancels my debt, in fact, if you were raised the way I was, and then He forgets all about my sin and I feel so much better about me because I wanna feel good about me, but I'm not willing to forgive you.
Now, contrary to what you may have been told, prayer isn't a Conscience Cleanse. The reason we confess our sin is to restore and maintain fellowship with God, our heavenly Father, and the reason we forgive others is to ensure, this is important, is to ensure the door is open to those who have sinned against us, in case, and I know as unlikely as it might be, in case they come to their senses, they realize what they've done and they ask for forgiveness. Not necessarily return to the way things were, that may be impossible, it may not even be safe, but by forgiving ahead of time, and this is what Jesus is asking us to do, by forgiving ahead of time, you release them from the debt they may never be able to pay anyway. When you forgive, come on, when you forgive you are doing for them what your Father in heaven did for you.
As Philip Yancey famously wrote, "God announced forgive ahead of time". And we should do the same. To refuse to forgive while asking to be forgiven, do you know what it makes us? It makes us one of those folks that Jesus talked about at the beginning of this little lesson, it makes us a hypocrite, a pretender, a user, a consumer. The invitation to forgive, this is part of a posture of surrender. Heavenly Father, you canceled my debt, so of course I'll cancel hers, so of course I'll cancel his. So we shouldn't be surprised that Jesus connects our forgiveness by God to forgiving others, after all, by this all people will know that you're my disciples. If you ask for forgiveness? No, by this all people will know that you're my followers if you love one another, if you love as in forgive, as in serve, as in give, as in put others first.
So to refuse to forgive, to refuse to forgive is to refuse to follow, and suddenly we're not so sure we really wanna know how to pray, right? It just requires too much, it requires that we let go of our well-rehearsed stories that justify our anger, our prejudice, our resentment, we wanna go back to the land. And Jesus wants to introduce us to a world that we will never know or experience until we forgive because, because, because, because surrendering to Jesus in this way, do you know what it does? It protects us from allowing those who've hurt us, it protects us from allowing those who hurt us from becoming our lord. Surrendering to Jesus in this way, it ensures that we don't surrender to bitterness, resentment, anger, revenge, those are not good masters, those are not good lords they do not deserve your loyalty. They'll extend the reach end of your enemy right into your future, right into future generations, right?
Now, again, you know people, this isn't new for us. You know people who had every reason in the world to hang onto their hurt, to embrace their resentment, to hold a grudge, to extract revenge, right? But they decided to let go at the side of the pool and to be taken out into the terrifying, somewhat irrational deep waters of forgiveness, you know, people like this, right? You know people whose countenance doesn't reflect their past, whose countenance actually reflects their freedom from their past. They learn to swim. learning to pray the way that Jesus wants us to pray it's an invitation to follow, it's an invitation to surrender, it's invitation to a better way of living. And this way, following Jesus will in fact make your life better and it will make you better at life because forgiving makes you a better husband, forgiving makes you a better wife, a better friend, a better employer, a better employee.
Now this was a really, really big deal to Jesus. In fact, what I'm about to read next you may have never read before or heard before, here's how big a deal it was. Do you know how Jesus concludes His lesson on prayer? Not the way it ends at weddings, you know, for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever, you know, and the soprano holds that note out forever, amen. I mean, that was added later by a scribe perhaps because the way Jesus ends His prayer is not very eloquent honestly, is not the way we would like for Him to end it which is evidence of the fact that this is actually what He said, He wasn't writing song lyrics, He was teaching us how to pray. And we're gonna come back to the, lead us not into temptation part in a minute, but at the end of His lesson on prayer, here's what happens, to underscore how important it is to Jesus that we forgive, this is how He ends His lesson on prayer.
And I'll just tell you up front, this is gonna create some tension for you. And since Jesus doesn't resolve the tension, I won't either. Here's what He says, "For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you". So far so good, "But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins". It's like, wait a minute, nobody ever told me that before, right? That's not what they taught us in Sunday school. But quick question, come on, you're smart, what do you call someone who expects other people to do something they're not willing to do for themselves? Yeah, we just covered that, right? We call those people hypocrites.
Here's Jesus' point, don't be a hypocrite. You expect to be forgiven, so c'mon forgive. Not only does He know what you need before you ask, He knows what's in your heart. Blessed are the pure in heart because according to Jesus, they will see God. Blessed are the pure in heart they will recognize what God is up to, they will be more attuned to what God is up to in the world, to what God wants us to participate in. So before we go any further, before you can go any further with your prayers, come on, is there anyone you have refused to forgive? And I know, I know if I were to hear your story, you have every reason in the world not to forgive. It fells like I understand this, it feels like you're rewarding the person who hurt you, I get that. It's like you're letting them off the hook.
In fact, if I heard your story I might be tempted to give you a pass, but Jesus wouldn't, Jesus wouldn't because He knows like you know what a lack of forgiveness does to the human heart. So because He loves you, because He's a perfect heavenly Father, He coaxes you, He coaches you, He invites you to forgive. Is there anyone you have refused to forgive? If so, would you be willing maybe not now, but soon would you be willing to decide to cancel their debt as you expect your heavenly Father to cancel yours? Would you be willing to decide that they just don't owe you anymore? If you're not willing to do that, and if Jesus is correct, and I just always assume Jesus is correct, that's as far as prayer will take you.
You should get stuck right there, every morning, every evening, until you forgive. Don't move on, don't attempt to go around that, stay right there, stay right there until you have surrendered your anger, your hurt, your resentment, until you say yes and forgive. And when you do, when you do you know this, you've seen this in other people, when you do, you will be introduced to a world, to a peace, to a freedom, you will be introduced to a world you will never know otherwise.
So back to the question we asked last week, does prayer work? Well, the Jesus' way of praying works. It works on us, it works in us, it works to free us, but at times, yeah, it's just so uncomfortable. We will feel so accountable, we feel too accountable, right? We will be tempted to respond with Andrew, I wanna be on the land, I don't like this, I don't like feeling so accountable to God, I want God to be accountable to me. I don't like thy will be done, I like my will be done. And my will, my will is that things would be good between God and me whether they're good between me and you or not.
By the way, there's a name for that, that whole thing of I'm good, I'm good with God, but I don't have to be good with you. Do you know what the word for that is? It's called religion. This is why, this may solve a mystery for you, this is why so many overtly religious people turn out to be hypocrites because religion is simply an attempt, oftentimes an attempt to use God, religion reduces faith to magic and a good luck charm, but in the end, religion will leave you empty and unchanged, safe but shallow, you will confuse knowledge with depth, you'll you'll confuse correct belief with, you know, correct belief will become a substitute for loving other people. You will run the risk of missing God.
And here's something, I've learned the hard way, I had to learn the hard way that when I focus, when I focus on the work that God is yet to complete in me, I am far less concerned with the work He has yet to complete in you. In other words, if I allow myself or I should say, when I allow myself to get stuck in my prayers of God I'm not sure I can let this go, God I'm not sure I can cancel that debt, in that moment, I'm reminded that I have focused more of my attention on what they have done and where they stand with me, than where I stand with my heavenly Father. And when I'm willing to focus on the work that God has yet to do in me, I find it so much easier to forgive you and to forgive others for the work that God has yet to do in them.
Jesus was, He was more direct, here's how said it, first, first, first, before you go any further, first take the plank. You've heard this, "take the plank out of your own eyes, and then you will see clearly". Do you wanna see clearly? Well, then embrace the way Jesus prayed and you will see clearly. To what end? To feel superior to those who don't see clearly? No, you'll see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. When I see me as I truly am, I am better positioned to love you in spite of our differences, and in spite of what you've done to me. I won't judge you, I'll just serve you. I'll pray more like a tax collector than a religious leader. God have mercy on me, a sinner.
That's the prayer, and that's the posture that Jesus commended. This is where the Jesus prayer takes us and leaves us surrendered, dependent, forgiven. So I want you to find a place, I want you to choose a time, I want you to get alone, and I recommend that you choose the same place in the same time, I want you to make this a priority and I want you to begin your day this way, pray your way to surrender. Well, pray like this because, "This then, is how you should pray. 'My Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.'" You're the great God who is infinite and because you've allowed me to call you Father, you're intimate. "Your kingdom come". Your agenda is the priority. "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven". Right here, right now in my world.
This then, this then is how you should pray, declare your dependence on God for your provision lest you forget. "Give us, give me today my daily bread". Even though I have more bread than I need, and more bread than I should eat, I am not gonna forget that every single morsel of food, every beat of my heart is a gift from you. "Give me neither poverty nor riches, but only give me what you know I can handle, otherwise I might have too much and I might say, 'Who is the Lord?' Or I might become poor and steal and so dishonor the name of my God". This then is how you should pray, declare your dependence on God for your pardon, for forgiveness of sin, and forgive us, "And forgive us our debts". As we also, "As we also have given our debtors".
Provision, pardon, and the third part of the prayer is protection, protection from what? From temptation. Here's what Jesus says we're to pray, "And lead us not into temptation". Because we are more, we are more than capable of finding it all buy our selves. Of course He didn't say that. Now temptation is a really big topic, in fact, it is so big, we're gonna save it for next time. So don't miss next time, not because temptation is an issue for you, but I don't know, maybe you'll pick up some tips to share with a friend. Either way don't miss part three of grown-up prayers.