Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Disciples’ Prayer

Prayer is the disciple’s life connection to God.  It’s vital to our relationship with Him.  And yet it is widely overlooked, and its importance is underestimated.  If we understood how vital it is, we would pray more often and more earnestly, and not allow ourselves to be distracted by other things. 

When the disciples asked the Lord to teach them to pray, He taught them a model prayer to show them the kind of content their prayers should have, as well as how to approach God.

"And it happened as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, one of His disciples said to Him, 'Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught His disciples.' And He said to them, 'When you pray, say: Our Father, who is in Heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, as in Heaven, so also on the earth. Give us day by day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.'" (Luk 11:1-4, MKJV; cf., Mt 6:9-13)

Teach us to pray
The request of the disciples was, "Lord, teach us to pray."  We can learn to pray from a verbal teaching on prayer, as well as life lessons, which are trials and temptations we go through.  In this instance, He taught them verbally.  But He gave them plenty of other opportunities to learn to pray through trials and circumstances, such as the storm at sea.

Pray like this
Jesus taught them what to pray about and how to approach God in prayer.  He said, "When you pray, say:" In other words, “Pray like this.”

Our Father in heaven
“Our Father in heaven.” (v. 2). Address the heavenly Father reverently and lovingly, as “Our Father in heaven.” He also did not say to pray to Mary, the saints, or anyone else, but to our heavenly Father.

Hallowed be Your name
“Hallowed be Your name.” (v. 2). As you approach God, praise, magnify, and exalt His holy name.  We enter His gates with thanksgiving in our hearts, and come into His courts with praise (Ps 100:4).  Begin prayer by praising His name. Put God first. Prayer is not a business meeting. Love God with all of your heart. Just give Him all of the love in your heart. One thing you can do as you praise Him is think about all His names. God's name identifies Him. People’s names identify who they are.  Praise His holy and awesome name.

Your kingdom come
“Your kingdom come.” Seek first His kingdom (see Lk 12:31; Mt 6:33).  His kingdom is the royal realm where He has absolute and universal dominion.  It’s where He rules and reigns. It’s God’s Divine Government over which He has supreme administration.

When you pray for God’s kingdom to come, you are praying for Him as the sovereign King to come and live and rule in your heart.  The government of God’s kingdom is on Jesus’ shoulders (Is 9:6). He is the King of kings (Re 19:16; cf., Re 17:14; 1 Ti 6:15). There can only be one king on the throne inside your heart.  Ask Him to come and take His place on the throne.

Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven
“May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (v. 2). In heaven God’s will goes unchallenged and is always done. There’s nobody there challenging God’s will. On earth there are many enemies of God and hindrances to block his will. Yet His will is best.  “Father knows best.”  The Father is looking our for your best interest. Trust God. Go with what He says.

When you pray for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, then it will guide you to pray in His will.  And even if you make a mistake and pray outside His will, He will know that you asked for His will to be done, so He will answer it according to His will, rather than how you wanted it.

When you do God's will, that is one way this prayer of your will be answered.  He said, "For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother." (Mar 3:35).  He also said, “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it." (Luk 11:27-28). 

Jesus prayed for the Father’s will, when it was contrary to His own (Mt 26:39-42).  This is what we must do also, following our Lord's example. His will is what we live for, not our own. This is critical, because of the power of the will. Your will has the ability to make you miss heaven. God will not force you to obey Him. He will not force Himself on you. If you allow your will to take priority, it can take you to hell. If you aren’t willing, then you can block God’s will from being done, so live your life for the will of God. Surrender to His will, and live according to it. (1 Pe 4:1-6).  The one who does the will of God lives forever. (1 Jn 2:17). His will us holy, righteous, perfect, and true.

Give us each day our daily bread
“Give us each day our daily bread.” (v.3). “Daily bread” represents the necessities of everyday life, including food. Once you have first sought God's kingdom, His will, and His righteousness, then you can bring your petitions before His throne.  Ask for what you need today.

Don’t worry about your needs for tomorrow and next week and next month. It’s all right to pray about those, but don’t worry about them, because God is able to handle all your needs each day, if you ask Him to.  If you worry about things in the future, it will be more than you can handle.

Notice that he used the expression “daily bread.”  I want to draw your attention to the word "daily." He did not expect you to have enough bread stockpiled for months to come. I also want to draw your attention to the word "bread." He also did not expect you to live luxuriously on food fit for a king.  Sometimes we are blessed with plenty, but let us not forget share it with others.  And if all we have is bread to eat, then we know the Lord has answered our prayer and He provided it.

The meals our Lord ate and fed to others were simple meals like a piece of fruit, or a fish, and some bread.  On a feast day like Passover, then there was more to eat and drink like lamb and wine.  Our daily bread also represents our basic necessities that we need for each day, such as clothing and shelter.

Some people wait until the end of their day to pray.  Sometimes it will happen this way, because of your schedule, but it is not wise to make it your routine.  How can you ask for what you need today at the end of your day?

When you pray, “Give us each day our daily bread,” and you are thinking about future days ahead, the fact is you still must ask.  The Lord instructed us to ask the Father for everything we need. Of course, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” (Mt 6:8b)  Yet you still need to ask Him.

Forgive us our sins
“Forgive us our sins.” (v. 4). We have all sinned, and we all stumble in many ways.  We need to repent daily, because we commit so many sins, often without knowing it.  We need to ask God for forgiveness, believing that Jesus died on the cross for our sin, and rose from the dead, victorious over sin and death.

In order to be forgiven, you must repent sincerely from your sin, and confess it.  "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1Jn 1:9)  Cry out for mercy. “Lord, have mercy on me!” and pray for the Lord to have mercy on others, too.  We need the God's mercy much more than we realize!

We also forgive everyone who sins against us
“We also forgive everyone who sins against us.” (v. 4)  This is another condition in order for us to be forgiven. We must forgive, because if we do not forgive, God will not forgive us.  "For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Mat 6:14-15)  The spirit of unforgiveness will lead you down to hell. Release those who are indebted to you.

Lead us not into temptation
“Lead us not into temptation.” (v. 4).  He taught us to pray and ask the Father not to lead us into temptation. He told us to “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mt 26:40-41).  You become weak when you sleep away your prayer time.

We sometimes feel confident that we can withstand the temptations that lie ahead of us in life without praying much, or without praying at all.  Yet even Jesus had to pray, and often spent the whole night in prayer.  He was tempted by the devil (Mt 4). He was “tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb 4:15). Temptation is common and every temptation is a common one. Through prayer you can resist temptation. Resist the devil. 

"Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it." (1Co 10:12-13, NASB)

Don’t become complacent, thinking you stand. That's just the pride that comes before a fall.  Rather take heed lest you fall!

God does not tempt us. James said, "Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am being tempted by God'; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death." (Jas 1:13-15)

Deliver us from evil
“Deliver us from evil” and some versions say “deliver us from the evil one.” (v. 4) The word “deliver” is from the Greek word rhuomai, meaning to rescue or deliver.  This is the same as crying to God, “Rescue us! Deliver us!”  And when you personalize it, then you should cry out, “Deliver me! Save me! Lord, save my soul!”  Or if you are sick, you should cry out, “Lord, heal me!”

Only God can deliver you, save your soul, set you free, and heal you by the power that is in Jesus’ name.  All power is in that name. “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Ac 4:12)

The entire prayer is for “us” not me. That doesn’t mean you cannot pray for yourself.  You should pray for yourself, and when you come to Christ, you must pray for yourself.  But we must pray for others, too, and not just ourselves.

The devil is so evil and does so much more than we realize with the purpose to harm us.  He comes to kill, steal, and destroy people.  Jesus knew the devil would continue to do that, so He instructed us to pray for deliverance.

Disciples’ Prayer
This is usually called “The Lord’s Prayer,” but it may also be considered the “Disciples’ Prayer.” (Lk 11:1). If you want to become a disciple of Jesus Christ, this is how you should pray. And if you want to grow as a disciple, this is how to pray. This was also the Lord’s Prayer personally, except that He never needed to ask forgiveness for any sin of His own as we do, since He was without sin (Heb 4:15).  But I am sure He needed to forgive others.

Notice how concise this prayer is.  There is so much meaning packed into so few words.

Sinner's Prayer
If you are a sinner, and you want to give your life to Jesus, then repent of every sin you ever committed. Continue to pray and ask the Lord to show you every sin you ever committed from the time you were a young child until now.  It could take you some hours, but repent for each thing you can remember specifically. Then ask Him to cleanse you by His blood.  Afterward, I suggest reading Psalm 51 and receive His forgiveness.  Surrender your whole life to Jesus Christ, commit to live for righteousness, and invite Him to come and live inside your heart.

After you give your life to Jesus, you should immediately pray and ask to be Baptized with the Holy Spirit.

Putting it All Together
Learn to pray the way Jesus taught His disciples to pray.  He will also give you life experiences to learn how to pray, so be sure you don’t miss those practical opportunities.

Pray to God, the Father in heaven in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Approach Him with reverence, awe, and love Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.  Begin with praise and thanksgiving, just pouring out your love on Him and adoring Him.

Always put God’s concerns ahead of your own, and ahead of any petitions you may bring to Him.  There may be times where you have an emergency and you cry out to God for help without spending time in praise and thanksgiving, but normally you should take the time to do this first.

Begin with blessing Him, and His name, and seeking His kingdom, His righteousness, His will in your life to be done just as it is in heaven.  Ask the Lord to reign in your heart as King.  Lay your life on the alter as a living sacrifice to Him. That pleases the Father.  If that is your heart’s greatest desire, then all the requests you make of Him after that will be in accordance with His will.  If not, then He will know that you want His will above all else, so He will answer it according to His will.

After you have put the Lord and His concerns first, then bring your concerns to Him for yourself and others.  Bring all those petitions and requests before His throne, knowing that you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.

Remember to repent daily and ask forgiveness, as well as forgive others.  Pray away those temptations the devil has planned for you and others.  Pray for salvation and deliverance and healing. And remember, everyone who asks receives, the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks the door shall be opened.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.  "Prayer Warrior" painting © 2012 Danny Hahlbohm, all rights reserved by the artist.

Author's Note:  If you enjoyed this message,  you may also like "Who Intercedes for Us?" and my daughter's poem, "Our Intercessor."  I also invite you to visit my collection of blogs at "Writing for the Master."  Now let me ask you a very important question.

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
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Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.