Sunday, March 14, 2010

Jesus' Principles For Prayer

Jesus' Principles For Prayer

Introduction:  I did not learn to write until my senior year of college.

  1. Oh, I had English during all four years in high school.
  2. I had even taken and passed freshman English in college.
  3. During my first three years of college, I had written many, many papers.
  4. But it was not till my senior year of college that I learned to write.
  5. Our teacher began from scratch – we began by writing sentences and then paragraphs and then research papers.
  6. And when I learned to write, I learned to think. 
  7. It had to built step by step.
  8. And that is the way Jesus introduced his disciples to prayer.  He is on a hillside presenting what you and  call the “Sermon on the Mount”.  In just a few moments He will be giving the Lord's Prayer as a model prayer – but before he does, he has a few words to share with those who are following Him.

Read:  Matthew 6:4-8

More Like Jesus

William Howard Doane was a wealthy nineteenth-century industrialist who entered the business world at age sixteen and was president of his own manufacturing company by age twenty-nine. But his real love was music, and he sang solos and directed choirs at various churches around Cincinnati. At age thirty, Doane suffered a terrible heart attack which took him to the edge of the grave. As he recovered, he felt God wanted him to devote more of his time to the ministry of Christian music.

He began compiling and publishing hymn books, and writing musical scores for hymns and gospel songs. But Doane didn’t feel he could compose words suitable to his melodies, and he was always looking for Christian poets who could write lyrics for the Gospel tunes. In November, 1867, in New York, he was asked by Rev. Dr. W. C. Van Meter to write a hymn in celebration of the anniversary of a rescue mission. Doane quickly came up with a melody, but could find no suitable words.

Kneeling in his New York hotel room, he asked God to send him a poem suitable for the anniversary celebration. He also prayed for a poet who could supply an ongoing stream of suitable verse. As he prayed, he heard a knock at the door. Opening it, he saw a messenger boy who handed him an envelope addressed to Mr. William Howard Doane. The letter read: Mr. Doane: I have never met you, but I feel impelled to send you this hymn. May God bless it. Fanny Crosby.

Thus began a relationship that gave the church some of its greatest Gospel hymns: “To God Be the Glory,” “’Tis the Blessed Hour of Prayer,” “Tho’ Your Sins Be as Scarlet,” “Pass Me Not,” “Near the Cross,” “Savior More Than Life To Me,” “Rescue the Perishing,” “Will Jesus Find Us Watching?,” “Safe in the Arms of Jesus,” and more.

The one enclosed in the letter that day was quickly embraced by congregations around the world:

              More like Jesus would I be,
              Let my Savior dwell in me,
              Fill my soul with peace and love,
              Make me gentle as the dove;
              More like Jesus while I go,
              Pilgrim in this world below;
              Poor in spirit would I be;
              Let my Savior dwell in me.
              More like Jesus when I pray,
              More like Jesus day by day
              May I rest me by His side,
              Where the tranquil waters glide.1
  1. Don't be hypocrites
    1. There is a something about the word hypocrite that just irritates me.
    2. I don't want to be known as a hypocrite – yet, in my heart, I know I am one.  I do not always speak the way Jesus would have me speak, I don't always behave the way that God would have me behave.  I am a hypocrite.
    3. And now Jesus tells me to not pray like a hypocrite – Jesus is pretty clear about what he means.  Don't stand in the street corners to be seen.  In some ways, these hypocrites were showoffs.  They were braggerts – “look how good I look when I pray – pat me on the back – congratulate me for my holy words.”   

(Ill.)    A hypocrite is much like the tree in our back yard.  From a distance it look tall and straight.  It has limbs that go way into the sky.  But on the inside it is dying.  No nourishment is reaching the needles – they are brown and dead.  And though it looks good on our property,  it is deceiving.  At some point we will need to cut that tree down and dispose of it.  It is a hypocritical tree -

    1. In some ways we are all hypocrites – but as believers we never claimed to be perfect; what we do claim is to be forgiven.  We being each service with a “Prayer of Confession” - why?  Because we know that each of us falls short of what God wants from us.  
    2. Perfect people do not need to confess, perfect people do not need forgiveness.  But we do confess, we are forgiven.  We are fogiven hypocrites – and that is the message we have for our broken world.
    3. Jesus also gives us instructions on how not to avoid being hypocrites - “go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret.  And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
    4. It seems amazing, that as Jesus begins to introduce his disciples to the Lord's prayer, the prayer that is said more than any other in corporate worship, he tells them to go spend time alone with God.

(Ill.)  I think I know why this resonates with me.  Earlier this week I took an on-line test offered by the publishers of the Upper Room devotional.  The test helped me find out what kind of faith I have – the result was that I am called a “mystic”.  One of the characteristics of a mystic is that they appreciate the quiet presence of God.  For  me, spending time alone with God is a good thing.  But that means that there are others, perhaps it includes you, who will struggle to find the time and a place to spend time alone with God. 

    1. This past week I have spent time examining Jesus' prayer life – do you realize that the vast majority of Jesus prayer time was spent alone.  There are only four of Jesus' actual prayers recorded scripture, only four times were people present to record Jesus' prayer.  Most of the time we have images of Jesus being alone or trying to be alone so he can pray.2 
    1. Can we do any less?
  1. Don't be like the gentiles
  1. I often make a big mistake – I fall into the trap of thinking that the longer I pray, the more impressed God will be with me and my prayer.  Boy do I have it wrong!
  2. The gentiles, one translation call them the heathen, are those who do not know God – those outside the community of faith.  They do not know the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings.  God may or may not heed their prayers – and here is why ... 
  3. You know why our prayers do not need to long drawn out affairs – because God knows what we need.  He is fully aware of how we hurt, of where we feel empty, of where we have holes in our souls.
  4. No, we do not pray because God does not know what we need.  We pray to show Him and to remind ourselves of our dependence on Him.  And the Gentiles, the heathen, do not have faith.  They have not yet truly depended on Him.
  5. We come to God as a child might come to daddy or mommy for a candy bar.  We come as children – for we are His children in needs of a parents protection.
  6. A child's vocabulary is limited.  There is a certain excitement, a certain trust, that a child shows as he or she comes to their parent.  The same must be true of us.  We are not asking for a candy bar – but we are coming to the one who loves us more than we love ourselves.

Conclusion:  There you have it --

  1. Don't be like the hypocrites that spend their time on the street corners
  2. Don't be like the gentiles or heathen that spend their time composing long and wordy prayers.
  3. Come to God in simple faith, expressing your faith, your dependence on Him.
  4. And then we are ready to have our prayers answered!



1 Morgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson's complete book of stories, illustrations, and quotes (electronic ed.). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers. 2 Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson's Application Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

No comments: