Robert Jeffress - God's Pattern For Prayer - Part 1
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Many of us can remember memorizing the Lord's prayer in Sunday school, and perhaps reciting every night before bed. But the Lord's prayer isn't a poem or a clever saying to learn and repeat by rote. It's God's instruction manual for powerful and effective praying. And today I'm going to share with you an overview of the model Jesus provided for laying our request before God's throne. My message is titled "God's Pattern for Prayer". On today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
A few years ago, the security service chief of Gaza was in a motorcade when suddenly Israeli troops opened up fire on the motorcade. The panicked security chief reached for the phone in his car and he immediately called the then president of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, Yasser Arafat, and asked Arafat if he could be of some assistance, that he was under fire. Yasser Arafat, upon receiving the call, picked up the telephone call and he called the U.S. Ambassador to Israel and pleaded for intervention. The ambassador in Israel picked up the phone and called us secretary of state at that time Colin Powell and asked for assistance. When Colin Powell heard about the ambush, he picked up the phone and he called the prime minister in Israel, Ariel Sharon, and asked for assistance. Sharon said yes and ordered a cease fire. That security chief's life was saved literally because he had the right connections. He knew whom to call.
You know, you and I, if we're Christians, we have a connection available to us to someone infinitely more powerful than the secretary of state. Through prayer we can be connected to the King of kings and the Lord of lords. We can call to him for his help at any time. And yet even though we posses that connection, it is a connection that most Christians use infrequently and ineffectively. And that's why last week we began a new series on the subject of prayer. A series I'm calling "Prayers that really work". How can you pray in such a way to catch the attention of God and calls him to do things in your life he otherwise would not do, that's what we're talking about in this series. And the basis of this series is the most famous prayer of history. We call it the "Lord's prayer".
If you have your Bibles, turn to Matthew chapter six. Matthew chapter six. Remember last time we saw that Jesus taught us by his own example, that prayer has to be a priority in our life just as it was in Jesus' life. Even though he was the perfect Son of God, he carved out time in his schedule every day to spend long periods of time with God in prayer. For Jesus, prayer wasn't that oxygen mask, remember, it was oxygen itself. You know, one reason more of us don't pray is, more often is we really don't feel like we have time to pray, do we? I found these words from Oswald Chambers that might be an encouragement to you whenever you think you're too busy to pray. Chambers says, "Remember no one has time to pray. We have to take time from others things that are valuable in order to understand how necessary prayer is. The things that act like thorns and stings in our personal lives will go away instantly when we pray. We won't feel the hurt anymore because we have God's point of view about those problems".
Jesus taught us that prayer has to be a priority in our life. But then Jesus gave us the pattern for how to pray, beginning in Matthew chapter six. Remember Jesus said when you pray, don't pray like the hypocrites. That word hypocrites means an actor. Don't try to play a part. Don't try to look more spiritual than you are when you pray. Guard against hypocrisy. Secondly, he said guard against ritualism. Don't think prayer's some secret, magical theological formula. If you can just get all the right words in the right order somehow you're going to make God act. Don't think God is impressed by your vocabulary, by the length of your prayer, the loudness of your prayer. Guard against ritualism. Instead, beginning in verse nine, Jesus said, "When you pray, pray in this way". He never said pray this prayer. Nowhere did God mean for us to ever repeat the "Lord's prayer," the model prayer, word for word. Nowhere in the New Testament did any apostle ever pray this prayer word for word. Instead, this is a pattern for how to pray.
Now, before we look at the first phrase in this prayer, I want to give you an overview of this prayer. I remember hearing from time to time people teach about prayer and say, "The most immature way to pray is to pray for yourself. It's only baby Christians who ever pray for themselves. And when we grow as a Christian we learn not to pray for ourselves. The second level of prayer is to pray for other people. But the final, the highest level of prayer is not praying for yourself or praying for other people, it's praying for the glory of God". Have you ever heard that before? Nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, we are to pray for the glory of God. In fact, he says he focuses on God's glory in the beginning of the prayer, as we'll look at today. He ascribed praise to God in verse nine. He talked about the priorities of God in verse 10. "Thy kingdom come, thy will be cone". But then the focus shifts in verse 11 to focus on our needs.
There's nothing wrong with telling God about your needs. He's very interested in your needs. Jesus taught us to pray for provision, verse 11. The basics of life, food and water. A pardon for sins, in verse, 12 we're to pray for. Protection from problems in verse 13. And then we come around back to closing our prayer with again focusing on God's glory. "For thine is the kingdom". Now, we're going to look at this first phrase today. The phrase that tells us that we're to begin with praise. And the theme of the sermon's very simple today. We are to always begin with praise to God. Our prayers should always begin with praise to God. Jesus modeled this when he began his prayer. Remember he was teaching his disciples to pray. He said, "Pray in this way. Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name". In those two phrases are two very crucial concepts to remember when you pray. First of all, the first phrase reminds us of our relationship to God. Our Father who art in heaven.
You know, you'll never really appreciate these words 'cause we've said them too often. You'll never really fully appreciate them until you understand the culture in which Jesus lived and spoke these words. John macArthur notes that the Greek and Romans had one understanding about the gods. The stoics among them believed that the primary attribute of the gods was the characteristic of apathy. You know what apathy is, don't you? Do you know what apathy is? Some of you are saying, "Well, who cares". That's exactly what apathy is, okay? The a in apathy, the alpha privative, means without. Pathos, feeling. To be apathetic is to be without feeling. And the stoics believed that was the highest attribute of the gods. They had no feeling. Because a feeling God was a vulnerable God. If the gods could feel love, then it means they could also feel hurt. If they could feel joy, they could also feel sadness. Therefore, the gods had no feelings whatsoever.
The epicureans who were among them believed that the greatest characteristic of the gods was the characteristic of ataraxia. Ataraxia means complete calm and serenity. That is, no matter what was happening on earth, the Gods in heavens were unmoved. And that's why they stayed detached from the affairs of you and me. Because if they get involved in our daily lives and we're upset, well, they're upset. And the Gods have to remain calm. Some of our American forefathers took that idea and they became deists, like Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. Deists were people who believed that God exists but that he's detached from human affairs. He wound this universe up like an alarm clock and he's letting it wind down, but he never intervenes in humanity, he never intervenes in history. That's why deists don't believe in the resurrection of Christ from the dead or the miracles. They believe God is detached from human beings' existence. That was the Greek Roman understanding of God.
Now, the Jews came with a completely different understanding of God. It was an understanding that was shaped by the Old Testament. The greatest attribute of God according to Deuteronomy 6 was God is One. Remember the great Shema of Israel, Deuteronomy 6, "Hear, o Israel, the Lord your God is one God". Nevertheless, that one God was a distant deity to the Jews. He was separated from man. You see that in the most holy name for God, Yahweh. It was the name of God that no human ever dared to utter. It's a name that whenever it was written down by the scribes when they copied the Old Testament, when a scribe would copy down the name Yahweh he would then throw his pen away. Yahweh was a name too holy to ever utter. You saw the separateness, the holiness of God illustrated in the design of the tabernacle and later of the temple.
Remember the holy of holies in the temple? It was the place where God resided. No man could ever go between the curtain and come into the holy of holies. Only the high priest could do that once a year to bring a blood sacrifice to atone for the sins of the people. That was the relationship, that was the distance between God and man. But Matthew 27 verse 51 tells us something earth-shaking happened one Friday afternoon. Remember on that good Friday afternoon when Jesus Christ died, remember what happened? The moment he died, the Bible says that curtain in the temple that separated the holy of holies, the presence of God from everyone else, that curtain was torn from top to bottom. You know what that meant? What the rending of the curtain meant? It simply meant the priests were out of a job. Suddenly they had to go to the unemployment office. Because there is no need for them any longer. No longer did we need a go-between between God and us. We had the ability to come to God directly through Jesus Christ, his Son.
You see, Jesus Christ, the book of Hebrews tells us, was the perfect high priest who came not into the human temple but the heavenly temple. And he came not through the blood of animals but through his own blood. Not to make multiple annual sacrifices but to make a one-time sacrifice for the sins of the people. See, the Old Testament patriarchs, they believed in the holiness of God. They believed that God was one God, the true God. But it's interesting, the term father was only used 14 times in the Old Testament, and it's always in reference to God as the father of the nation of Israel, never as their individual father. But all of that changed the moment that Christ made the final payment for your sins and my sins.
And to see how our relationship with God has changed, I want you to turn in your Bibles to Galatians chapter four, the passage we read just a moment ago, to see what the death of Christ did to change your relationship with God. Look at verses four and seven. Paul said, "But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth his son, born of a woman, born under the law, so that he might redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the," and I want you to circle this word in your Bible, "That we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the spirit of his son into our hearts, crying, 'abba, father'! Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a," and circle that word, "Son. And if a son, you are then an heir," circle that word, "Heir through God". Adoption, son, heir.
Now, why are these words significant? The Bible uses two metaphors to describe how we become a part of God's family. Sometimes the Bible says we are born into God's family. Remember in John chapter three Jesus said to enter into the Kingdom of God you have to be, what? Born again. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh. That which is born of the sprit is spirit". That is, those of us who come into this world, and that's every one of us, spiritually dead have to be made spiritually alive to become a part of God's family. And when you trust in Christ as your Savior, you are born into the family of God. That's one way we come into God's family, we are born. But there's another word that is used to describe our entrance into God's family. It's the word adoption. The Bible also says, in a sense, we have been adopted into God's family.
Do you know what adoption is? It's the process by which somebody is taken from one family and is placed into someone else's family. It used to be, and it wasn't that long ago, that people thought of adoption as an inferior way for somebody to enter a family. You know, the best way is the old-fashioned way, to be biologically born into a family. But if that's not possible, then you adopt. It was kind of an inferior way to become a part of the family. That was never in Paul's mind at all. You see, in Paul's day, in the Roman household, if the father had a biological son and that son grew up to be a disappointment to the father, then the father would go out and he would choose another son and adopt that son to become a part of his family. And that adopted son would actually receive a greater portion of the father's state when he died than the biological son. Why is that? Because the biological son was a disappointment to his father. The adopted son was one who was chosen by the father.
You know, when you think about it, in many ways, adopted children are more special than biological children. I mean, think about it, parents. We're kind of stuck with our biological children, aren't we? And my kids who are sitting over here right now are saying, "Yeah, and we're stuck with you, too. We didn't have any say about that". And that's true in a certain sense. But when you adopt somebody, think about it, you're saying of all of the millions and millions of people in the world, I am choosing you to be in my family. Now that's what the Bible says God has done for us. Of all of the people God has chosen, think about this, he chose you. He chose you to be a part of his family. And why did he choose you? Because you're better looking or more gifted than anybody else? Because you're holier than anyone else? No, the Bible says God chose you for one reason: because he loves you. Your adoption was all of grace. You didn't choose God, God chose you, the Bible says, to be a part of his family. And when you're adopted into the family, notice what Paul says here, you don't come in as a second-class member of the household, you don't come in as a slave. You come as a son, that is, with all of the rights and privileges of a biological son.
In God's family, you come into his family with all of the responsibilities and the rights that Jesus Christ himself, the first Son of God, had. You have been adopted into his family and because of that, Paul says, "You can come before him with your heart crying out, saying, 'Abba, father'"! Now what does that mean, Abba? It's not a singing group, okay? That came later, okay? The word abba is an Aramaic term of endearment for father. For a Palestinian boy or girl who was born into a family, the first word they learned was the word immah, mommy, mama. The second word they would learn was the word Abba. It means daddy, papa. Jesus said when you come into the presence of God, if you're related to him through Christ Jesus, if you're a part of his family, you can come to him saying, "Daddy, papa".
Now, honestly, some people have trouble with that. They have trouble thinking of God in such intimate terms, mainly because of the biological father they have. Some of you listening today, you have fathers that maybe were cold and distant and detached from your life, and it's hard for you to picture God as a loving, caring father. And if that's true for you, I want to encourage you when you pray don't think of the father you have. Think of the father you wish you had when you come before God. And dads here today who are listening to this message, on television or here in the sanctuary, remember this. Your child's attitude toward God is largely going to be shaped by their attitude toward you. If they see you as a cold, uncaring, distant person, they're going to view God in that same way, too. The most important thing you do is model the character of God to your children.
Everett Pulham was a missionary to Nigeria. He tells about a young man, an African man, who was converted. And he said there was one truth this African said captured his heart more than anything other. This man said, "Behind the universe stands one God. Not a great number of warring spirits, as we had always believed, but one God. And that God loves me". That's what calls that African to come to Christ. There's one God, yes, but he is a God who loves me. When you come into the presence of God in prayer, remember, you have a father who loves you. Our daddy, our papa who is in heaven. He's a powerful monarch, but he is a loving father.
One writer notes that during the presidency of John F. Kennedy there's perhaps one picture that best captures his presidency, one that we will remember more than maybe any other picture. I bet you recall that it's the picture of Kennedy at his desk in the oval office working, and beneath the desk in an open space there is his young son John-John playing away while the president's working. Why did that picture captivate people? Because it demonstrated the two unique roles president Kennedy had. Yes, he had the most powerful leader in the free world. But he was also a daddy, a papa. Now, I was a little boy when that picture was taken. And John F. Kennedy was my president too. But I don't recall getting any invitation to come and play in the oval office back then. In fact, I kinda resented that. I mean, why is that? He was my president, just like he was John-John's president. Now, he was my president, but he wasn't my daddy, he wasn't my papa. The only people that got to come into the oval office were those though had direct access to the president.
It's the same way with us. God is the God of all of us, but only those who are related to him by faith in Jesus Christ have access, are invited to come into his presence and experience that intimacy that would allow us to call him our daddy, our papa, who is in heaven. We sing a lot about the name of God. We're constantly talking about the name of God. What's the big deal about God's name? Let me show you what the big deal is. In Psalm 9:10, the Bible says, "They that know thy name will put their trust in thee". It's those who know who God is, his character is described by his name, those are the people who will trust him. When you understand that God is Jehovah Jireh, the one who provides, or Jehovah Rapha, the God who heals, or Jehovah Sabaoth, the Lord of hosts. When understand the names of God that describe his character, when you really understand who God is, then you will trust him.