Pray: The Posture of God’s People

Pray: The Posture of God’s People

Luke 11:1-13

Last April, a group from our church spent a weekend together thinking through the kind of church we believed God was calling us to be.  We reflected on our great history, our present, and our future.  Of the words that frequently came up in that meeting, there were five we unanimously agreed we wanted to be true of Meadowbrooke; those words were:

  • Love
  • Authenticity
  • Gospel-centeredness
  • Community
  • Engagement

Since our strategic planning meeting, the staff and I sat down to refine that list into three simple vision words: Pray, engage, and develop.  These words come from our vision statement which states:

We exist to develop a culture of Jesus followers who prayerfully engage their communities with the gospel.” 

The purpose of a vision statement is to announce what you want to become in the future.  The function of a mission statement is tell others how you plan to accomplish your vision statement.  Our mission statement is almost identical to our vision statement: “Developing people who follow Jesus and engage their communities.”  I believe that for us to accomplish our vision statement, each of our three vision words must become a part of the culture of Meadowbrooke.  This is the reason why I will be using our time together over the next four weeks to answer why each word is so important and how we as a church can develop a culture of prayer, engagement, and development a community.    

For the first two weeks we will look into why we chose prayer as our first vision word.  We believe that prayer is the posture of God’s people where the Church’s mission begins, is sustained, and nurtured

Jesus prayed all the time during His earthly ministry.  He took advantage of every opportunity He had to get alone to pray. For Jesus, prayer was fundamental to the success of his mission.  After one such time when Jesus had finished praying, He was approached by one of His disciples and asked if He could give them all a lesson on how to pray.  So, He gave them an example on how to pray, not a mantra to repeat over and over again: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come.  Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.”

The Why and the How We Pray (vv. 5-13)

In Jesus’ answer to his disciples as to how they should pray, we also are given six reasons why we need to pray.  Jesus models how we should pray by the way he begun and the way he finished his prayer.  When we pray, we begin by understanding who God is, and we end understanding who we are. 

1) We pray because God is our Heavenly Father

When we approach God in prayer, we can approach Him like a child approaches his/her father.  The point Jesus is making here is that God is not unapproachable because He calls all whose faith rests in Jesus Christ His children.  Remember that passage from Ezekiel 36 regarding the new covenant that the gospel of Jesus Christ makes us the recipients of: “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.”  Romans 8:14 informs us why it is we can approach God as a child approaches a father: “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.  For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received he Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry ‘Abba! Father!” 

2) We pray because God is God

Secondly, when we do approach Him, we must understand that although God is our Father, He is not like us.  The One who we address: “Abba! Father!”  Is the One before whom the angels must cover their feet and hide their faces anytime they are in His presence as they sing: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isaiah 6:3)!  Although the Christian is privileged to be a child of God, we must not forget that he is holy.

3) We pray because God’s kingdom is coming (Your kingdom come…)

When we approach God in prayer, we can do so understanding that we do not belong to the kingdoms of earth, but to the kingdom of God.  The Bible says of the Christian, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. [1]

Things are not the way they should be, and when we pray, we can pray knowing that things will not always be the way that they are.  We pray because we are citizens of a different kingdom.

4)  We pray because it is God who provides for our needs (Give us each day our daily bread…)

When we really know our God, we recognize that He is not only aware of our circumstances, but that our most basic needs come from Him.  When we truly know our God, we understand that it is He who ultimately provides for our most basic needs.  This is why Jesus said in His sermon on the mount:

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they…. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matt. 6:25-26, 34)

5)  We pray because of our failures and God faithfulness (…and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us)

When we know our God, we sense just how sinful we really are.  So when we pray we ought to pray for the forgiveness of our own sins as well as the ability to forgive others.  This principle reminds me of the authority of a certain government who took a Christian captive and asked, “What can your God do now?”  To whom the Christian replied, “He can give me the strength to forgive you.”

The final thing we ought to include in our prayer to God is that…

6)  We pray because we are our greatest enemy and Jesus is our greatest advocate (And lead us not into temptation)

One of the themes of Jesus’ prayer is that it is about our need for, and dependence on God.  We see in this prayer our need for God in every area of our lives. 

When Jesus said this is how you should pray, he did not mean we say the specific words of this pray like some kind of mantra.  Jesus meant that we model it, and the only way we can model it is if we really know to whom we are conversing, and by knowing the One to whom we pray, we become dependent on Him for everything.  On this point, Darrell Bock suggests,

Not praying is a little like walking up to the marriage alter, saying one’s vows to the spouse, and then going mute as the relationship moves from day to day.  There can be no development of a deeper connection without time for table talk.  In fact, without such basic contact, the relationship not only fails to go forward; it goes backward.[2]

We Should Pray Because God Listens and He Answers (vv. 5-13)

In “The Lord’s Prayer” Jesus answered how and why we must pray; in verses In Jesus’ prayer, we are given six reasons why we need to pray. 

In verses 5-10, Jesus used an illustration that might sound weird to us, but was something of which his disciples would have been very familiar.  In the first century, bread was baked each day to meet the daily needs of all those who lived in a typical home.  It was also expected of each member of Jesus’ society to show hospitality to anyone who came to your door regardless of the hour the doorbell rang. 

The typical home of Jesus’ day was one room, so to go knocking on a person’s door in the middle of the night was to risk waking the whole family.  So what was the homeowner to do?  Honor the request of the friend asking for bread, not because he is a friend, but because he doesn’t want his family woken up at the expense of the boldness of the one knocking. 

The point Jesus was making in verses 5-8 is that God promises an open door to the one who belongs to Him (the disciple of Jesus Christ).  Like the friend seeking bread, we can approach God with boldness because we are promised He will answer the door; He might not answer in the way we want Him too, but He will answer.  When we pray, we can pray with confidence to a God who calls us his children: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1).

There is something else that is assumed in Jesus’ prayer and that is that God is good.  We who have children enjoy giving good things to our children.  I love my children, I love playing with them, and I even enjoy providing for them.  Now why in the world would I enjoy these things?  Because I love them. Yet I will not always give them what they want because what they want is not always what they really need. 

God might not give us all that we want.  Just because we pray for something and do not receive it does not mean that you lack the faith to get it, it just may mean that God does not want you to have it.  Richard Phillips in his book, Turning Your World Upside Down: Kingdom Priorities in the Parables of Jesus, gives one reason why our prayers seem to go unanswered sometimes:

God’s idea of blessing is often quite different from ours.  God prioritizes our spiritual blessing over our temporal blessing; he is ever willing to submit us to temporary hardship for our spiritual and eternal good.  The way to cooperate with your prayers, then, is to maintain a quiet and contented trust in God.  How often we make idols of things we pray for, desiring the gift above the Giver, and thus inhibiting God from granting our request because it would not be good for us.[3]

Have you ever thought about the possibility that the reason why God has seemed silent to that request you have been bringing to Him day-in and day-out is because you have desired the gift above the giver?  The famous pastor, A.W. Pink said this about prayer,

Prayer is a coming to God, telling Him my need (or the need of others), committing my way unto the Lord, and then leaving Him to deal with the case as seems Him best.  This leaves God to answer the prayer in whatever way He sees fit, and often, His answer may be the very opposite of what would be most acceptable to the flesh.[4]

As recipients of the gospel who have been purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ, we have been made the children of the living God who is eager for us to come to Him like a doting father is eager spend time with his child.  We have direct access to the throne room of the very One who created all things… the King of Creation.  God not only expects us to talk to him, but he longs to satisfy us with only what serves our good and his glory.   

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (1 Pe 2:9–10). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] Ibid; p. 312.

[3]  Richard D. Phillips. Turning Your World Upside Down (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing; 2003), p. 47-8.

[4] Ibid; p. 48.