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How Do We Pray?

(Prayer Part 2) April 22, 2012


by John Partridge Scripture: Luke 11:1-11 Often when I have the children up front for the childrens message I ask them to pray with me at the end. One reason I began doing this in part because of some advice that I received from a retired pastor. I had been doing this from time to time for several years already but in our conversation he mentioned that he had done this many years earlier and discovered that the children he prayed with, often grew up to be young people and adults who knew how to pray in public. In the forty something years I have been in the church, as well as the eight years I have been a pastor, I have noticed that many adults have a deathly fear of public prayer and I have become increasingly aware that often this is not just because they are shy, but because many adults are simply uncertain of their ability to pray. It seems like and odd thing to say that adults might not know how to pray, or at least to say that they are not sure whether or not they know how to pray. How can that be so? Isnt prayer just having a conversation with God? Perhaps, but in public we become very self-conscious and worry that we arent going to do it right. We are all okay with repeating the Pledge of Allegiance because weve memorized it and so we are fine with praying Now I lay me down to sleep with our kids and saying the Lords Prayer in church because we know how its supposed to go but if we go very far at all from these two simple prayers, most people arent certain that their prayers are good enough. In large measure, that is how weve arrived at this sermon series. In several conversations I have been asked to teach about prayer because the folks who were asking, people who have attended church for decades, knew that there had to be more to praying than they or many of their friends really understood. I dont say this to you in any way that is condescending. I am not looking down on anyone in any way imaginable. Honestly, I think that this is a widespread problem but one that has a simple solution. Many people find prayer to be intimidating. When I say things like, spend time with God or build a relationship with God through prayer I am certain that many people are asking themselves how they could ever do that. Twenty years ago that would have been me, but praying isnt really that difficult. I confess that Patti is much better at it than I am and she far more dedicated to prayer than I have often been, but God isnt finished with me yet. I continue to learn and to practice so that I can continue to grow and to build my relationship with God. Prayer, like our relationships with our friends, is an ongoing process that goes on throughout our entire lives. Last week we talked about what prayer meant, why we pray, and what we hoped to accomplish through prayer. This morning we will continue that conversation, we will remember how Jesus taught us to pray, we will learn how others pray and perhaps we will discover some new ways to pray. Before were done, you will have some simple models for prayer that you can use as well as some assurances that God will love you no matter how much of an expert you might or might not be. So lets begin where everyone is together. We all know the Lords Prayer and we recite it or read it each week when we gather together to worship. When Jesus disciples asked him to teach them how to pray, Jesus answered by teaching them this prayer. Interestingly, the prayer recorded by Matthew and the one recorded by Luke are slightly different from one another and we also note that the last part of our prayer, for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever, Amen, was not in the original

manuscripts but added later. Taken together, scholars have historically taken this to mean that while we pray this prayer together on Sunday morning, Jesus intended for it to be a model of prayer for us. If we take the Lords Prayer apart a line or two at a time, we have a nice model that we can use for our personal prayers. We begin with, Our Father which reminds us and tells everyone else, who it is to whom we are directing our prayers. Who art in heaven is where we expect and believe God to be. Hallowed be thy name reminds us that we should come before God with respect and adoration. Thy Kingdome come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven, reminds us of our position and who is in charge. We are not the ones who are issuing orders. We are not the ones who created the universe and who direct the stars. In our prayers we should remember that God is God and our prayer is not that we should get our way, but that God might get his way. Give us this day our daily bread, is the part where we ask for the things that we need. In Jesus model we are not taught to ask for riches or fame or power, but instead we are taught to ask for bread, for the things that we need to sustain life. Forgive us our sins marks the place where we recognize our imperfection, that we make mistakes and offend God. We are invited, daily, to confess our mistakes and ask for forgiveness. But we dont end there, we finish that phrase by saying, as we forgive those who sin against us. In this way we are to remember, regularly, that those of us who are forgiven, must be forgiving. God requires that because he forgave us, that we also forgive others. We ask that God would not allow us to be led into temptation and that he would keep us away from evil, that in some way, God would protect us from travelling the wrong roads and from making poor choices. In this way, we ask for wisdom, protection and strength to make it through the day in a way that is honoring to God. And we finish the way that we began by praying, for thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever and in this way we remember that God is God, we recognize that the world belongs to him, and we pray that all people would come to know him and praise him. That is how we pray the model prayer that Jesus taught his disciples and from that we have a model that looks like this: Who, Where, show respect, remember who is in charge, ask for things we need, ask for forgiveness, remember to forgive others, ask for protection and strength, finish by remembering that God is God and praying that God would continue to receive honor and glory forever. That is a pretty simple model and one that we have all committed to memory. With a little thought, we can begin to pray our own words as we think through the elements of the Lord s Prayer. But still, there are several parts to that, and maybe we could find a model that is even easier to remember, well, actually, we dont have to because someone else already did.. 2

Perhaps the easiest model for prayer is to remember the word ACTS, like the book of the Bible, Matthew, Mark, Luke, Acts. A-C-T-S, and then take each of the letters and allow them to stand for a particular type of prayer. A is for Adoration, the part of a prayer when we praise God for being God just like we do when we say, hallowed be thy name. Adoration is the part of prayer when we remember that God is God and say so. We call God awesome, and powerful, we express our gratitude to God for who he is, and we show him reverence, love and humility. C is for Confession. Just like when we pray forgive us our sins, this is where we ask God to forgive us for the things that weve made a mess of. We ask for forgiveness for those times when the boss told us what to do and our thoughts were not entirely respectful or perhaps even very Christian. We ask for forgiveness for those times when we disrespected our spouse, were selfish, were harder on our children than we should have been, when we drove over the speed limit or lied to the nice police officer and told that we didnt. We ask for forgiveness for looking at pictures in magazines or on the Internet that we shouldnt have looked at or when we thought about the opposite sex in ways that were impure or disrespectful both of them and of God. In a thousand choices, both large and small, we think and act in ways that we know we should not, in ways that we have been taught not to do, and in ways that are offensive to God. In Confession, we remember those poor choices before God and ask for his forgiveness so that we might be purified and prepared to do better tomorrow. T is for Thanksgiving. Perhaps this too is a part of saying for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory. We give thanks to God, this time not for who he is, but for what he has done. Here we remember all the things that we have been given and all the things that God has done for us. We remember the ways in which God has protected us, watched over us, prepared the way for us and forgiven us. From our parents, to freedom, to material possessions, without much thought at all, we can each think of a laundry list of reasons that we have to be thankful to God. Finally, after Adoring God, Confessing our sin, and Thanking God for what he had done for us, we finally come to S, which is for Supplication, this is the give us this day our daily bread and lead us not into temptation part. Supplication is when we ask God for the things that we need to live as well as the things that we need to do what he has asked us to do. Solomon asked for wisdom, not so that he could become the most wealthy and famous king that ever lived but so that he could rule over Gods people with justice. Supplication is when we ask God to do things for us and, although God is not an ATM machine, it is, occasionally, acceptable for us to ask God for material blessings. After all, God loves us as his children so sometimes he does choose to pour out blessings for no other reason than to make us happy. Naturally, we should understand that we are called to be content with what we are given and to accept Gods wisdom when he chooses not to give us a new bass boat or a new Corvette. If it helps, A.C.T.S. is a model that we can use as we pray but remember that prayer is a conversation with God. It is a useful reminder to us that in the ACTS prayer model, supplication, asking for stuff, comes last. Just praying for a grocery list of stuff we want is not much of a conversation. It sounds too much like a toddler asking for everything in the toy store. (I want, I want, I want) These models are simple and easy to remember but also remember that God loves you and desires to have a conversation with you. Dont be afraid to talk to God about the things that frighten you, about how frustrated you were at work or at school today, about how angry you felt when you were shoved into a locker by the

school bully. Take the time to share your day with God and to talk to him about the things that make you mad, sad, glad or scared. To wrap up todays lesson we should also look at what Jesus says after he teaches the disciples to pray. In Luke 11 verses 5-11 Jesus reminds his disciples that God loves us as his children. Jesus tells his followers to be persistent in prayer, to continually be in prayer, asking for the things that we truly need. Jesus says, Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Praying isnt really that hard. You grew up knowing how to talk to your parents and you already know how to talk to your children and to your friends. God want us to talk to him. Just because we call it something different, prayer, doesnt mean that it is complicated or difficult, it is, simply, a conversation. God wants us to take the time to talk to him, to share our lives with him and to build a relationship together. If it makes it easier for you to use a model that looks like the Lords Prayer or to follow an outline by using the acronym A.C.T.S., then thats great, but if you just want to talk to God and have a conversation, thats fine too. Sometimes it might be helpful to talk to God by picturing Jesus sitting in a chair on the other side of the room from you. If that helps thats great too. Whatever works, do it, just dont be afraid that you wont do it right or that you will say the wrong thing. You never threw your kids out of the house because they had a poor vocabulary or used poor grammar when they were young, we learn by doing, we get better with practice. God knows who you are, he loves you just as you are, and he just wants to talk. Wont you spend some time with you Father today?

(Next week Obstacles to Prayer)

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