I heard a story about an aquarium owner once.
I don’t know why but he put a barracuda in the same tank as a goldfish. Under normal circumstances, a barracuda would devour a goldfish in no time. But this tank didn’t have the normal conditions.
There was a clear glass partition separating the goldfish from the barracuda. Like a snake ready to strike, the Barracuda would circle round and round and round until he felt the moment was right…. And then BAM! He smacks the glass wall like you have when you tried to walk through a recently windexed sliding glass door. There was no meal for him this time.
Maybe a couple of hours later he would try again to no avail. And the next day, he would fail again. The aquarium owner got used to the ‘thud’ sound of the barracuda hitting the partition.
Then there was a day where the owner heard no sound coming from the tank. He checked and seen that both the goldfish and barracuda were doing fine; it was as if the barracuda had given up.
So the owner removes the partition.
And the barracuda could have success… if he just tries one more time.
But he never does.
And he never finds success.
What if you are just one more try away from the breakthrough you have been praying for?
One more job application to land your dream career.
One more creative idea to be validated and fulfilled.
One more invite to church for the lost family member you lose sleep over.
One more prayer to God until all Heaven breaks loose in your life.
So many times I think we give up when we aren’t called to give up. We are called to keep going.
And you might find out that the barrier that has held you back in the past has been removed.
When You Pray
Week 2: The Lord's Prayer
March 14, 2021
Text: Matthew 6:7-13
Main Idea: When you pray, knowing what to say is sometimes the hardest part – but Jesus teaches us
“That’s easy for you to say!”
We hear that a lot, don’t we?
Maybe it’s someone you know who went through a breakup.
- “Well, remember – there are plenty of fish in the sea.”
- “That’s easy for you to say – you’re already married.”
Maybe it’s someone asking for help with their car.
- “Oh, all you have to do is disconnect the carburetor and re-jigger the spark plugs.”
- “That’s easy for you to say!”
Maybe it’s a grandma asking for help with Facebook.
- “You just need to reset your WiFi router.”
- “That’s easy for you to say!”
We get frustrated when we think that if something comes easy for other people.
As a pastor, when I talk about prayer, people imagine that it’s easy for me to say.
It’s not true
I have prayer struggles a lot - I get distracted, and I’ve fallen asleep before, and I repeat myself.
Here’s the thing about prayer – if it WAS easy for some of us to say, we wouldn’t need help saying it.
Because prayer is just that – it’s talking.
And it’s never really easy.
Jesus knew that.
We’ve been walking through the Sermon on the Mount.
And we’re in the part where Jesus is teaching us about prayer…
7 “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as the Gentiles do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again.
How many of you feel this way?
- That your prayers are just…babble.
- That you’re just making it up as you go along.
- That you don’t really have a point to your prayers.
You just sort of say stuff.
- “Dear God…I just, God…want you to know, God…”
- And before you know it, you’re sort of looking at the clock…what time is it?
- Did I say enough words? Is this good enough?
And Jesus tells us that praying just for the sake of praying doesn’t work.
But we all feel that, don’t we?
I think one of the big reasons that many of us don’t pray as much as we should is that we just don’t know WHAT to say!
8 Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!
God doesn’t need you to say the right words in the right order.
- Prayer is not some sort of magical incantation.
- One person’s prayer is not better than another person’s prayer because:
+ They have the right words
+ They use the right voice
+ They pray at the right volume.
James 5 says that the prayer of a RIGHTEOUS person is effective.
- Not the prayer of a very literate person or a very good speaker.
- Not the prayer of someone who has tons and tons of prayers memorized.
- But someone who seeks the righteousness and justice of the kingdom.
- When you have your eyes on the right thing in prayer, it doesn’t matter what your mouth is doing as much as what your heart is doing.
Jesus said that your father, God, knows exactly what you need.
- He’s not dangling the carrot in front of you.
- He’s not thinking, “Oh man, I hope Tyler says it right today. Or I won’t be able to bless him.”
- He’s not that anxious boyfriend/girlfriend waiting for his text to be read and replied to.
God knows what we need.
So Go tells us how to ask for it:
9 Pray like this:
When we read this passage – verses 7 & 8 – we usually hammer home:
- Don’t just say the same thing over and over and over again!
- Make sure you know what you’re saying!
- Make sense of your prayers, don’t just say stuff!
But what Jesus does is he says,
- “Look, I know it’s hard to pray sometimes.”
- Some of you are shy, some of you are reserved – I get it!
- So here’s how to pray…
Some of you have kids that are so quiet, right?
- They don’t like talking to strangers.
- You feel this need to apologize for them – “I’m sorry, she’s shy.”
- Don’t apologize. That’s how God made them.
- One day you may be wanting them to talk LESS!
They say that people’s greatest fear is public speaking!
- Most people have a fear of talking.
- Something that is seems so natural, but is so anxiety inducing.
- And then you think, “Well, talking to the creator of the universe should be EASY!”
It’s not! Let’s stop pretending that it is.
When we don’t take prayer seriously, we won’t do it because it’s not important.
But if it is important – which it is – then we need to take time to plan it out and execute it the right way.
So – let’s look at how Jesus taught us to pray.
- And incredible prayer!
- We call it the Lord’s Prayer.
- A lot of you grew up saying this prayer by heart.
- I wonder if in our desire to be LESS Catholic, we have gone too far away from this.
So let’s say this whole prayer together
Our Father in heaven,
may your name be kept holy.
10 May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth,
as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today the food we need,
12 and forgive us our sins,
as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
13 And don’t let us yield to temptation,
but rescue us from the evil one.
First, what I want to do is unpack this prayer and you show you how this thing works.
- Like taking apart a watch or a remote to figure it out.
- Let’s look at how Jesus teaches us to pray instead of just what he teaches us to say.
- Because you can say this exact prayer, it’s great!
- But if you don’t know the power behind it, it may not mean anything.
- Once you know the WHY behind the WHAT, then you can make your own.
Let me give you 3 facets of this prayer, then I want to show you a simple way to TALK to God…
1. Take Your Place Before God
God is Our Father, but he’s in Heaven and we’re on Earth.
We pray for our WANTS, but it’s His WILL we really seek.
From Earth we ask that Heaven break through.
Because when we pray we need to take our place before God.
Sometimes we want to pray like God is our buddy.
- “Hey, God. Got a big list today. Hope you have time to take care of it for me. Thanks, bye!”
- Instead, we need to realize WHO we are talking to and HOW small we truly are before him.
- We need to understand the amazing opportunity to come before the creator of the universe.
- It should take our breath away some times.
2. Take Your Needs to the Father
The other side of that is, God WANTS us to ask him for what we need.
- He wants to give you what you need today.
- He wants to meet your needs.
- He’s not hiding his blessing from you.
- He’s not playing a game.
Think about this – God knows BEFORE we ask…so why do we ask?
- He’s not setting this up as some trick.
- “If you can guess the right thing to say, then I’ll give it to you.”
- What he wants is a conversation.
I think this is so great.
- He wants us to acknowledge that we need him.
- He doesn’t just provide automatically.
- Because he wants this to come from a relationship.
God loves you so much that he doesn’t just want to give you what you need each day.
He wants to give you what your soul desires.
He wants to give you a connection with him.
And the truth goes the other way too!
- He doesn’t need you to ask him for stuff.
- He WANTS you to ask him, to speak to him, to lean on him.
- He WANTS to talk to you – so we need to get in the habit of talking to him.
3. Take Care of Your Sins
After the “daily bread” part of the prayer, look where he goes:
- Forgive those who sin against you.
- Ask forgiveness for your own sin.
- Ask for power to overcome the temptation to sin.
Jesus teaches us to pray a lot more about our sin than about our needs.
I think there’s something there.
There is a deeper need behind every need.
There is a spiritual appetite that needs to be fed with daily bread.
When we pray, we need to take care of our sins.
The first is sins against us.
- It is so hard to forgive others, isn’t it?
- But this is important.
- It’s so important that he ties our own forgiveness to forgiving others.
- He is so invested in each of us giving forgiveness to others that he ties it into us receiving our own forgiveness.
- Jesus says later that if we refuse to forgive others, it could stop up the forgiveness we really need for our own sins.
- But he doesn’t leave us hanging – he’s going to help us forgive.
So we pray for the sins that we committed or were committed against us.
Then we pray for power to overcome the temptations that are on their way.
We pray for our PAST sins, we pray for our PRESENT sins, and we pray for our FUTURE sins.
I think we miss that part.
- We only use prayer to beg God to forgive us.
- When really, we can use it to prepare for the sins that are coming our way.
T – Tell God What He Means to You
Some of you hear things like “Our Father” or “Hallowed be thy name” or “Kingdom Come.”
- The first thing you think is, “I don’t talk like that.”
- You might believe that in order to pray, you have to put on the “Voice”
God wants us to talk to him like we talk to anyone.
And would anyone use those words? Really.
- Would you ever call up your dad and say, “Hello, our father…how are thou?”
- Would you ever say to a friend, “Your family pics look great. I just want to hallow you on the way that picture came out.”
Of course not!
So, when you come to prayer, come as yourself.
- Don’t put on airs.
- Don’t try to be someone you’re not.
Instead, just start by telling God how much he mans to you.
- “God, thank you for coming through for me yesterday.”
- “Father, I just can’t believe how great my life is right now.”
- “Thank you for what you’re doing in my friend’s life.”
- “I just feel so at ease around you, Jesus. Thanks!”
That’s how you start.
- And when you do, that’s called worship.
- Worship doesn’t have to include putting on music and warming up your voice and finding the right key…
- It just has to do with telling God how much he means to you.
- And when you do that, you set the atmosphere.
- You create a space for God to move.
A – Ask God for What You Need
It’s okay to ask God for what you need.
- Not only is he okay with it, he WANTS you to.
- He set this whole thing up so you would come to him and ask him for help!
- If he didn’t like that, he would just do it without your asking.
- But Jesus said, “Ask – if you ask, I will answer. But keep on asking. Over and over and over again. Bug God about your needs!”
Those of you with kids, you understand this.
- You want to do stuff for them, you want to take care of them.
- But you also want them to ask for help.
- It gets kind of annoying when you kid is struggling and needs help and wants help…but doesn’t want to ask…so they just sort of huff and puff or make noises to get your attention.
- “Oh! This is so hard. I can’t do this! I sure wish someone would drop what they’re doing and come help me.”
- We don’t jump at it because we want our kids to ASK for help.
- To learn what it means to need someone else and figure out how to get past problems without someone just jumping in.
That’s what our dependence on God is like.
- I love that Jesus starts his prayer with “Our Father” – to remind us that this is a family thing.
- There are so many parallels between what a good parent should be and what God is like.
- And this is one of the most intimate of all – that he wants us to ask for help.
L – Let Go of Sin
Start each day putting to death your sin.
- Romans 6 says that when we are united with Christ, our sin is put to death.
- We are born again, and that means sin no longer has power over us.
The problem is, each day we let that resolve weaken…be honest.
- We let sin creep in…one by one, little by little.
- We let it chip away at us.
- And before we know it, if we don’t deal with it --- it has its claws in us again.
When you come to Christ for salvation, all your sins are taken care of.
- Past, Present, Future.
- Sin no longer has a claim on you.
- The only way that sin can gain power over you again is you allow it.
- So each day, resolve to take care of sin by letting it go.
K – Keep in Touch with Him
This is the most important part.
- You can pray and then end it with an “Amen” or even a “In Jesus’ name, Amen.” Which is like giving it that exclamation mark!
- But the truth is, our prayers should never end.
Ephesians 6:8 – Pray at all times
1 Thessalonians 5:17 – Pray without ceasing.
How do you do that?
- You have to stay in contact with God.
- You have to keep in touch with him.
Brother Lawrence…wrote The Practice of the Presence of God…great book, read it:
“It is a great delusion to think that the times of prayer ought to be different from other times. Prayer is nothing else but a sense of the presence of God.”
True prayer is just staying in tune with his presence.
- It means acknowledging that he’s there.
- It means that you say, “Ok, God…speak to me.”
- It means that throughout the day, you take a second or a minute or five minutes and reconnect.
You know how sometimes your phone messes up…and it starts to glitch.
- Maybe you miss a text or you drop a call.
- What do you do? You have to turn it off and on.
- Or maybe it’s a Bluetooth issue…you have to unpair and repair.
Sometimes our lives need repairing by God’s voice.
- It means we need to disconnect from the world and reconnect with God.
- It doesn’t take an hour or two – just a moment.
- It doesn’t take coming back to church – do it in your car on the way to work or at lunch.
When you stay in contact with the presence of God, something happens inside.
- You are made new each day.
- You are filled with God’s love, joy, peace, etc.
- You are more in tune with what he wants you to do.
- You are sensitive to who needs to hear about him.
This week – set a reminder each day at least once a day…
- Maybe ever hour at the top of the hour.
- And have your phone remind you to reconnect with God.
- Just say a short prayer.
- Just say, “God, I recognize you are there.”
Some of you need to feel that again.
- This year has been tough…still tough for many of us.
- We couldn’t come together physically and some of us didn’t know how to keep up that feeling of his presence at home or at work.
- You’re tired and you’re dry…you need a refilling.
- I want to pray with you today.
Christians, you may sense a lot of heaviness in the next several days. That is because there is a massive war going on in the spiritual realm for the soul of our country. We are spiritual beings so it makes sense that we will be sensitive to the aggression that exists beyond our earthly eyesight. So when you feel yourself overcome with grief, anxiety, fear or depression in the next several days, know that you are not crazy and your spirit is being impacted by something larger than your natural understanding is accustomed to. Take a minute to stop and pray for our nation. And when you arrive at the ballot box, allow the Holy Spirit to be your guide.