Humility in Prayer

Preached September 3, 2017

Prayer is a substantial part of life for a follower of Jesus, or, at least, it should be. In the ESV translation the words pray, prayer, and praying occurs over 300 times. The world religions all have their style or types of prayer from Hindu and Buddhist use of Japa mala beads and Tibetan prayer flags to the salah of Muslims and the Jesus prayer of the Eastern Orthodox church. In fact, in 1999 Crandall Stone after set up a radio-wave-transmitting website that beamed prayers to a star cluster, M13. One of the oldest in the universe and where they supposed God must have been (Gaines 6-7). A spokesperson for the National Consumers League said, ‘Consumers might be right to be skeptical about these claims’ (Richtel).”

 The problem with prayer is that if we’re not careful it turns into ‘magic’ or ‘good wishes’ Neither of which is God’s design. This is the reason we’re going to enter this fall season looking at the Lord’s prayer in detail. We’ll see what it is and what it isn’t. We’ll see the national and social impact of praying we pray this prayer. But we first must guard against two very real problems.

Prayer the means of Communication

God created humans to live in continual communication with him. In the garden God doesn’t hide his face. In fact, it is man and woman who hide from God, in order to conceal their foolish sin. God walks in the garden. Do you think God had to ask Adam and Eve, “Who told you, you were naked?” God knew it already, even their hiding place was only their pretending to hide from the God who created them and knew them in toto.

Because of the universal sin which we have inherited from these two, we were forced from paradise and have sought a way back ever since. A ziggurat, the Tower of Babel, was to reach heaven and so allow us to commune with God. God destroyed it and confused our human tongues. Religions, cults, and other human inventions attempted to establish rituals by which we could once again, contact god. Some of these are fanciful inventions of the human mind while others are dangerous demonic forces demanding worship and extracting a toll from those who follow.

God’s people, Israel, were called to be a light to the Gentiles, the non-Jews, so that they might discover the one true God. As much as God continues to woo his people to himself they fall into one problem after another. Even creating minutia of law to supposedly keep them holy while, in fact, building formidable walls between themselves and the God they professed to worship.

So much so, that when Jesus, God’s Son, Messiah, comes they cannot see him. In his life on earth we see Jesus model prayer for us. Time away from the crowds and even leaving good things undone. He speaks to God as one who knows him. He addresses God as ‘Father’ and he prays for God’s people, his disciples and even the world. Here a question for you to think about. Did Jesus have to pray, in order to hear the Father’s will?

 Selfishness the Universal Problem  

Our passage starts with a generalized warning about living spiritual lives. Don’t practice your religion in order to be praised for it. Jesus speaks about the three primary spiritual disciplines of Jews—almsgiving, prayer, and fasting. I imagine we could add to this list, simple living, reading God’s word, and maybe even evangelizing.

He uses the example of the Pharisees, some of whom were very much into showmanship. They’d make sure the came to the right street at the time of prayer so they had no choice but to pray aloud in public. Jesus uses a verb tense to show that this is a habit for such people (Hagner). They love to make a show of it. They love it that people know how christian they are.

There will be times when we can’t help but show our faith in public. We’ve seen videos of people helping others, sometimes you just do what you need to do. And there will be those who believe we are grandstanding or showing off.

Humility before God

If you want to be heard by the people, then show off. If you want to be heard by God be circumspect. Leaving Home Depot, at the far end of the parking lot, I saw an Islamic man roll out his prayer rug and pray alongside his. He wasn’t showing off, he was out of sight of most people.

Our first text, that of David, pleading for his child’s life is an also an example of one humbling themselves before God. He doesn’t declare a ‘National Day of Prayer’ nor does he pray for this child at the tabernacle but in private prays.

There is a balance for us when we come before God. He is or ‘daddy’ according to Jesus’ teaching and he is the King of King and Lord of Lords. We have access to the throne room of the most-high and we risk dying if we see God face-to-face.

I’ve heard well-meaning preachers say you should only talk to God in this or that way. Not true. God is God, his spirit searches our heart when we don’t know what to say. It’s the attitude not the words that make the difference.

I’ve also heard well-meaning preachers say one should never pray in public, which is wrong. Jesus prayed in public. I find at least five times in which Jesus makes a public prayer and that does not include his participation in synagogue or temple worship.

Here is my suggestion for how to pray with humility before God. When you start to pray remember two things. First, He’s God and you’re not. Second, He loves you more than you can understand and already knows your desire.

Let’s come to His table

 

 

Works Cited

Hagner, Donald Alfred. Word Biblical Commentary: Matthew 33B. 1st ed. Dallas, Tex.: Word Books, 1995. Print.

Richtel, Matt. "Beaming Prayers to God's Last-Known Residence." New York Times 1999. Web. 30 Aug. 2017.

Works Referenced

"10 Things About Harvey Ball and His Famous Smiley Face." Legacy.com. n.p., 2011. Web. 31 Aug. 2017.

Aarssen, Mark. "Jesus Our Model for Prayer." https://www.sermoncentral.com. n.p., 2012. Web. 30 Aug. 2017.

Flavel, John. The Touchstone of Sincerity. Nabu Press, 2011. Print.

Gaines, Judith. "Tapping Into God." Denver Rocky Mountain News 2000: 6-7. Print.

Hagner, Donald Alfred. Word Biblical Commentary: Matthew 33B. 1st ed. Dallas, Tex.: Word Books, 1995. Print.

"Jesus Prayer." Encyclopedia Britannica 2017: on-line. Print.

Lange, Johann Peter, and Philip Schaff. A Commentary On The Holy Scriptures. 1st ed. Bellingham: Logos Bible Software, 2008. Print.

LeCroy, View. "Why Do We Say The Long Ending Of The Lord’s Prayer?" Tim LeCroy - Vita pastoralis. n.p., 2012. Web. 29 Aug. 2017.

Luz, Ulrich, James E Crouch, and Helmut Koester. Matthew 1-7. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2007. Print.

Main, David. "October 24, 2004." Geocities.ws. n.p., 2004. Web. 31 Aug. 2017.

Richtel, Matt. "Beaming Prayers to God's Last-Known Residence." New York Times 1999. Web. 30 Aug. 2017.

Sanders, Fr. William. "STRAIGHT ANSWERS." Ewtn.com. n.p., 1994. Web. 29 Aug. 2017.

Stupart, Richard. "How People Pray Around the World." Matador Network. n.p., 2010. Web. 1 Sept. 2017.