Greg Laurie — Pray This Way!
I was at a little shopping center awhile back. They have one of those little coin fountains. I had two of my granddaughters there. Stella and Lucy. They like to throw the coins in the fountain. I am such a cheapskate, and maybe I shouldn't admit this, I reach in and grab other people's coins that have been thrown. Is that wrong? No it isn't. They are throwing their money away. Besides I am probably voiding all of their wishes out. I get the coins. I reach in and grab them and give them to the girls. I say throw the coins in. The smaller coins make a little wish. If there is a quarter, and yes people throw quarters in fountains, I have no idea why, that is a big wish we are having fun.
Then I asked them a question. Do you girls know the difference between a wish and a prayer? It was little Lucy who said, "Well papa," that is what she calls me. She said, "A wish we just make to ourselves but a prayer we make to God". That is right. That is the big difference. You know when you really get down to it everybody in some way, shape, or form does seem to pray. You look back historically and even the most remote tribes were found to present offerings and pray to their God and prayed for a lot of things we still pray for today. The ancient Incas and Aztecs even sacrificed humans to get the the God's attention. Muslims will stop five times a day and pray. Buddhists have their prayer wheels. Millions in AA groups will pray daily to a higher power asking for help to overcome addiction. It seems like we can't help but pray.
According to the latest Gallup poll more Americans will pray this week than will exercise, drive a car, or go to work. Nine out of ten of us pray regularly. Three out of four of us pray every day. As I say this billions of prayers are going up to heaven. Here is the question. Are those prayers being heard? Is there something of some things that we can do to cause our prayers to not only be heard but answered in the affirmative? Have you ever called someone on your cellphone you are having a conversation and you realize that you lost them two or three minutes ago. You wondered why they were so quiet. Maybe you had offended them or something. In reality you lost your connection.
Remember that ad campaign that Verizon did a while ago called can you hear me now boasting of their great coverage. I tell you I have Verizon. I get their bill and boy I hear them when they send bill. And by the way the guy who did that commercial for Verizon has now gone over to Sprint. That is a question we might ask about our prayers. God can you hear me now? Are these prayers being heard or have I lost my connection. Your prayers can be answered. There is no question that prayer is such an amazing privilege that God has given to each of us. If you have ever been in what seems to be an impossible situation with no way out you probably discovered that God can intervene and change things through prayer. Prayer can change situations. It can change people. Prayer can even change the course of nature. It has been said if you have been swept off of your feet it is time to get on your knees.
Most of all the thing that prayer changes is you. God will allow hardship, challenge, and need to come our way, sometimes even tragedy so he can reveal himself. So he could put his power and his glory on display for those who are watching. Really when we pray we are acknowledging our weakness. Maybe that is why some people don't like to pray. Especially men. I am not weak. I don't want to pray. Why do men act that way? Because they are idiots. Any guy with half a brain will know that he needs the help of God. Let's talk about the man's man for a moment. Who was the strongest man who ever lived on the face of the earth? Not superman. It was Jesus Christ. Yet Jesus prayed. He prayed often. He prayed in the morning. He prayed late at night. He prayed all of the time. If Jesus prayed certainly we should do the same.
Here is the problem with the Lord's prayer. The problem isn't with the prayer. It is with us. It may be the single set of words spoken more often than any other words in the history of the world. The difficulty is they are so familiar we no longer hear them. You hear what I am saying. Let me say our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be your name. They are beautiful words. The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He makes me to lie down. Come and listen to a story about a man named Jed. A poor mountaineer who barely kept his family fed. They are the Flintstones a modern stone age family. Ooh. I need your love babe. Yes I know it is true. Just words. Right. Jingles. Songs. We just say these words. We have said them so many times we don't hear them anymore. We need to slow down and break it down. Every word that Jesus used was intentional. Every phrase was meaningful. The very order of the prayer is significant. We want to look at it very carefully. We can learn from reading this how to pray.
Look at Matthew 6. We are going to read verses 9 to 14. If you don't have a Bible it is here on the big screen for you too so you can look at the screen or you can look at your Bible. Why don't we just go ahead and say it out loud together. "In this manner, therefore, pray: 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 forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen".
Now this powerful prayer can be divided into two sections. The first three petitions hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done deal with the glory of God reminding us what the real purpose of prayer is. What is the purpose of prayer? The real focus of prayer should not be on us but on God. Not on what we want but on what God wants. Really when prayer reaches its ultimate we get our wills aligned with his will and we pray accordingly. Having said that, it is not wrong to pray for the things you need in life. What I am saying is you need to understand that God's plan for you is better than your plan for yourself. How many of you believe that? His plan is better than yours. It is.
Psalm 84 says, "No good thing will he withhold from those that walk uprightly". If it is good, God will give it to you. If it is not good, God will not give it to you. There are times we pray for things fervently and believe they are God's will. He says no. We are upset. But later in life we lock back and we say thank you Lord for not giving me what I prayed for. The first part of the Lord's prayer deals with God's glory. The second part deals with man's need. Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive our debts, as we forgive those who are indebted to us. Forgive us our sins. Lead us not into temptation. Our needs.
The Lord's prayer deals with our past, our present, and our future. First we are supposed to ask the Father to forgive us of our past. Forgive us for our sins. Then it deals with our present. Give us this day our daily bread. Then it deals with our future. Your kingdom come. Your will be done. Let's come to point one about how to pray the way Jesus wants us to pray. Here it is. We are taught by Jesus we are to pray to our Father in heaven. What is this Father like? If you want to know what your Father is like just look at Jesus. Jesus said in John 14:9, "He that has seen me has seen the Father". What is our Father like? Look at Jesus welcoming the little children. That is what your Father is like. Children are drawn to him. Look at Jesus washing the disciples' feet. That is what your Father is like. Look at Jesus weeping at the tomb of his friend Lazarus. That is what your Father is like. Touched by your sadness and your hurt.
Maybe the most vivid illustration is the story Christ himself told about the Father in what we call the story of the prodigal son. The emphasis of that story is usually on the boy. I think you could just as easily call it the parable of the loving Father. It is the story of a Father who had two sons. One son goes astray. Wrecks his life. Wastes his inheritance. Comes to his senses. Returns home. While he is still a great way off his Father sees him, runs to him, throws his arms around him, and kisses him and restores him to full sonship. So what is God the father like? What is our Father in heaven like? He is like a Father who misses his son or daughter. He is like a Father who longs for communication with us. He is like a Father who will welcome you with open arms if you will come to him. That is the picture Jesus gave.
We have a Father who will always be there. We have a Father who listens. We have a Father who loves. We have a Father in heaven. We are taught by Jesus to pray with other believers. Circle or underline the word our. After this manner therefore pray our Father who art in heaven. That is not to say you can't pray to him personally or individually. It is interesting he used the word our. Jesus is teaching us this is a family prayer that we offer together with other believers. When you become a Christian you become part of God's family. It is called the church. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. Listen. We are all in this together.
I am reminded of the words of J. Vernon McGee. Have you ever listened to him on the radio? Get aboard the Bible bus. One of the things that McGee said was, and I won't do it in his voice but here is the statement. He said, "The only exercise some Christians get is running down others and jumping to conclusions". That is true. Paul issued this warning to the Galatians in Galatians 5. "For the whole law is fulfilled in one word. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. If you bite and devour one another watch out or you will be consumed by one another". We should not be biting and devouring one another. We should be loving and forgiving one another.
Look. Some people are lovable. Like me I am very lovable. No I am really not. People are lovable because they are attractive. Or they are talented. Or they are intelligent. Or there is something we like about that person so it is easy to love. Other people are not lovable are they? They are cantankerous. They are off putting. They are irritating. If they are part of the church they are our brother and sister too and we are to love them. If we can't love unlovable people how much do we even know about the love of God? Some will say, "I love Jesus. I just don't love Christians". That is like saying I am an idiot. Ok. That is what that is like because how can you love God whom you can't see when you don't love your brother whom you can see? Actually the Bible says an earmark of conversion is when you love your brothers. 1 John 3:14, "We know we pass from death to life because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love his brothers is passing to death".
This shows that prayer and worship go together. Our Father who art in heaven. Hallowed be your name. He is our Father. Notice how I am now to give praise to him. If you have the luxury of time in your prayer don't cut to the chase and go to your grocery list. Sometimes we approach God in prayer and if I loosely paraphrased it would be something like this. Hey God how is it going? Good to see you. Here is what I need today. Amen. We would pray along these lines. Our Father who art in heaven give us this day our daily bread. The Lord's prayer. The template for all prayer. The model prayer does not teach us to pray that way. It teaches us to pray our Father who art in heaven. Hallowed be your name. Hallowed means set apart. Glorified is your name. Just stop and contemplate the glory and the awesomeness of God.
I think if you do that it will change the way that you pray. It will give you perspective. You will see everything you are facing differently. When you pause to contemplate the greatness of God you get perspective. See because when you have a big God you have relatively small problems. If you have big problems do you actually have a small God or at least an improper view of him? When the 12 spies were sent into the Promised Land ten came back with a negative report. They said they felt like grasshoppers and the inhabitants were giants. By the way they were exaggerating everything. They were looking at their obstacles instead of their great God.
Joshua and Caleb two of the 12 spies saw the same things and came back with faith. They said let's go conquer the land. It is all how you look at things. Sometimes we can come to church and we are just overwhelmed by our problems. We worship the Lord. Then we hear a message from God's word and we walk out and our problems are still there. But we see them differently because we have seen God in his power. That is why church is so important. That is why fellowship is so important. That is why praying together is so important. When we say our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be your name. It really becomes a game changer as you see things as you ought to see them from a proper perspective.
So here is my point. The reason we start sinking into despair is we stop looking at our great God and instead we look at stormy seas. We need to realize he is in control. Remember your training. Remember what the Word of God says. So as I pray my Father who art in heaven hallowed be your name I am just taking my time to contemplate the awesomeness of God. Now look if you are in an emergency situation it is ok to cut to the chase. If you are out swimming and a great white is approaching and you know because you hear the theme music of jaws playing. You don't have to ramp up. God help. That will be fine. But if you have the luxury of time contemplate the greatness and the glory of God.
Listen. This prayer the Lord's prayer. This access to God is only possible through Jesus Christ. It is from relationship. How do I come into this relationship with God? Will being born in a Christian home help? Maybe. If you believe the message you learn there. You can't live off of somebody else's faith. There has to be a moment in your life where you say, "Lord I am a sinner and I am sorry for my sin. I turn from it". Jesus Christ who died on the cross for your sin will come and live inside of you and you can have this new relationship with God where you now call him Father. You can know that your prayers are heard in heaven.