Text: Matthew 6:5-15
It has been said that “to be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” Although this is true, just because something is necessary for life doesn’t mean that it comes naturally to us. In Luke 11:1 we read, one day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” What makes this significant is that this is the only record in Scripture when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them something. Jesus sent them out to preach and they did not ask for a lesson on “how to preach.” When Jesus sent them out in Luke 10, he did not give them detailed instructions on how to treat leprosy or cast out demons. None of the disciples ever said, “but Jesus, we were asleep the day you went over how much spit to use when healing a blind man.” They simply followed instructions. Peter did not ask Jesus how to walk on water – he simply stepped out and tried. But when it came to prayer the disciples said, “teach us.” In Matthew 6 Jesus provides us with a simple template to teach us to pray. J.C. Ryle once said, “tell me what a man’s prayers are, and I will soon tell you the state of his soul.” As Jesus teaches us to pray, he doesn’t begin by teaching us how to ask, he teaches us what to ask for.
“OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN”
We learn two precious truths from these familiar words.
- The first two words “our Father” remind us that prayer begins with not just a relationship but relationships. These two words remind us that we are both children of God and siblings to each other. Every time we pray, we must actively remind ourselves that we are not just individuals in relationship with God, but that we are part of a community of people who have the same access to God. Before we request anything in prayer, we are reminded that God is not merely our sovereign Judge and Ruler. He is also our Father. In John 1:12 we are told that through belief in Christ God gave (us) the right to become children of God. In 1 John 3:1 this truth takes the apostle’s breath away. How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! In J.I. Packer’s book Knowing God he has a chapter on adoption. He writes, our first point about adoption is that it is the highest privilege that the gospel offers: higher even than justification . . . that justification – by which we mean God’s forgiveness of the past together with His acceptance for the future – is the primary and fundamental blessing of the gospel is not in question. Justification is the primary blessing, because it meets our primary spiritual need . . . but that is not to say that justification is the highest blessing of the gospel. Adoption is higher, because of the richer relationship with God that it involves. Packer goes on to write to be right with God the judge is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the father is a greater.
- Our Father is in heaven. When we start to pray, we must remind ourselves that we are addressing someone who is at the top of the pecking order. In Psalm 115:3 we are told, our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him. When we pray, we are holding on to God’s omnipotence. He is in control. He needs permission from no one. No one can stop his plans. Our Father in heaven is capable! His agenda always wins. The opening four words of Jesus’ model prayer teach us that God is as compassionate as he is capable. He can do anything. We have the ear of the most powerful being in the universe. No court of appeals can undo the decisions he makes.