Sunday Message, 23rd October – Lifeshapes – The Hexagon: Praying as a way of life
The overwhelming theme of our shapes thus far has been to help us effectively and fruitfully follow Jesus today: we do that as we repent and believe in the gospel of grace, work from our rest, and have balanced dynamic relationships with God, fellow disciples and those as yet not in the kingdom. We are equipped and matured as we become disciples and disciple others, and as we understand the part of the ministry of Jesus we operate in and with Holy Spirit ease are fruitful in. Key to all this is a dynamic relationship with Jesus and the key to that is communication.
Modern warfare takes out the command and control centres first: scuttle the enemy’s ability to communicate and the rest is easy. How sad then that many churches and Christians have allowed their prayer life never to get off the ground because of a faulty understanding of what prayer is. We have suggested just one monochrome way of praying and to be honest it’s not only faulty, it’s often borning and doesn’t do what it says on the prayer tin. There is, in many congregations, a failure of creativity in this area, so I can publicly say how grateful I am to the Trinity prayer team for bringing this right back into the heart of our life together.
God is most interested in relationship – an open, ongoing relationshkp that we see throughout the scripture described as “walking with God”. Life is learning to walk with God, learning to relate and communicate with God. How we interact with God is vital for our lives. Thus, when Jesus teaches his followers how to pray, he is showing them how to walk with God. If walking with God is truly what our lives are all about, then praying the way Jesus shows us is a major part of our life. The Hexagon teaches us about prayer. The prayer Jesus taught has six segments. When we learn to pray, these segments in the right way, we also learn to align our lives with God’s will for us. Learning to pray according to the model Jesus gave us in the Lord’s prayer will renew our prayer life and that of our congregation. The disciples were full-time students, learning practical faith by watching Jesus in action. Note that we are not told how to pray for everything we need for the rest our lives, but only for today. So using the model prayer of Jesus found in the Sermon on the Mount let us learn to pray as Jesus did.
1. The Father’s Character (Matthew 6:9)“Our Father in Heaven, Hallowed be Your Name”. Here is a really important relational concept: Father. Jesus used the Aramaic word Abba, meaning Daddy. This implies the intimacy we have with God. Jesus is teaching us to have this right relationship that He enjoys with Father, which transcends physical presence. Knowing God as Father is fundamental to our desire to pray and the absolute connection we have with the one who daily hugs us with grace (in his high priestly prayer he says: This is Eternal Lifem that they know You, the One True God. John 17:3). Knowing He is in the place of power and authority at the heavenly throne of grace is also a crucial understanding. “Hallowed”: God is very close yet different. In our conversation with God, we come with reverence and respect to Him, who is holy. We acknowledge that He is what we desire to be; we long for to become more like His son Jesus. Not only can we seek more of the Father’s character for ourselves, but we can also pray it for others.
2. The Father’s Kingdom (Matthew 6:10)
“Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on Earth as in Heaven”. Our Father God, our Daddy Almighty is not just a King. He is the King. We want His Kingdom to advance in this world: His kingdom of light and light advancing in our world of darkness and hate. We are praying: “What you’ve done in heaven to remove sin and sickness and sadness and suffering and all that other stuff – let it be seen here on earth, Father”. We desire what He desires. That’s what Jesus meant when He said: The Kingdom of God is at hand: the future breaking into the here and now so everyone can see it. When we say Kingdom we can also say kingship: a King’s kingship is his will – the way he will rule and reign in his kingdom. God’s Kingship – His will – is the very nature of God. So when we pray this part of the Lord’s prayer, we are inviting the king to come and rule our lives. In times past when warefare was fought with swords instead of laser bombs, when one man was captured by another, the prisoner would take his sword by the blade and extend the hilt towards the captor, thus signifying his surrender to the King. Again, not only do we need to get into that place of perfect surrender, but we also need to be praying this for others.
3. The Father’s Provision (Matthew 6:11)
“Give us this day our daily bread”. The Father’s provision is abundant. Human beings are needy beings, and we admit it; food, water, shelter, health, emotional and spiritual needs (all of this is our daily bread) whatever the hunger, He provides. (In the high priestly prayer Jesus said: “Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you” – John 17:7). The important principle here is that we are not told to pray for everything we will need for the rest of our lives, but only for today. Grace for the day! So we are compelled to return to Him again and again. God delights in giving us what we need – and we need everything. As servants, we are empty-handed. But most of all God desires our attention and affection. If He were to give us the key to a vast bank vault and say, “Here is everything you will need throughout your life”, how often would we need to come back to him? Needs drive us to our knees. The children of Israel, wandering in the wilderness, were giving manna for each day. If they took too much, the excess rotted and became maggoty before they could eat it the next day. If they forgot to gather the manna in the morning, they had to wait until the next day for more. Our bread from God is daily. “Sufficient unto the day” was this principle as it was taught to mne when I became a Christian and never once has His wellspring failed!
4. The Father’s Forgiveness (Matthew 6:12)
“Forgive us our sins as we have forgiven those whose sin is against us”. God has given us some territory that is outs but we often stray from that territory on to land that belongs to someone else and we incur a debt we cannot pay. You see when we transgress against another what we are really saying is, “God, what you have given me is not enough” and we must seek forgiveness. God has set a path for us; he has called us and given us a destiny. In this prayer, we ask God to help us not only stray from His place for us in His kingdom, and to forgive us when we do. When others stray from their paths into ours, hurting us and abusing us and causing us pain, then we need to forgive them too as God has forgiven us. “Lord, keep us from being indebted to you in withholding forgiveness from others”. The Father’s forgiveness is never ending, but it is conditional, based on our willingness to forgive others. How often do we hear the well worn refrain that someone just can’t forgive another – well lef me be candid: I am convinced that the reason for this is that we have not fully embraced His character, Kingdom and provision. Add to it forgiveness and you are ready to win the world. I sense this is the absolute key to mature and fruitful discipleship: it’s all about living by grace as a grace community.
5. The Father’s Guidance (Matthew 6:13a)
“Lead us not into temptation”. Up to now the prayer has dealt with our relationship with the Father, and then those around us. Here is changes to where we go out into the world with God’s message of Amazing Grace. Take us into the world to do your work Father and give us the strength to be in the world but not of the world. We have an enemy of our souls and his devices of evil include temptation to participate in his evil schemes. If we are led astray by his temptations, eventually we will end up in his hands. God promises to guide us around temptation so we are not ensnared. Trials and temptationsare not like a battle: they are the battle and one that we must learn to fight daily. So be prepared and talk to Father about battle strategy. (Sanctify them by the truth, Your word is truth – John 17:7). He longs to shape and direct our lives and under His mighty hand all things become possible.
6. The Father’s Protection (Matthew 6:13b)
“Deliver us from evil”. The prayer ends, as it begins, by calling on God to intervene in our experience, pushing back the kingdom of darkness and extending the Kingdom of Heaven. The Father’s protection keeos us from the principalities and powers that seek to destroy us. There is an enemy of our soul, who desires that we participate in what is evil. If we are led astray, we will actually end up in the hands of the evil one. The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy, but Jesus came that we might have life. (My prayer is not that You take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one – John 17:15). His protection is amazing: the completed work of the Cross is both our defence and attack, His whole armour our invincible shield, and His spiritual sword (word and spirit combined) our powerful weapon.
So this hexagonal prayer is a framework in which to pour all of the thoughts and concerns of your life. Take the thing most burning in your heart at the moment and pray through it using the prayer Jesus teaches us as a model. Better still, take a concern for another and pray in this way. Oh and remember the triangle: up, in and out. Look how this prayer framework fits just that:
Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name,
Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we also forgive those who sin against us.
And lead us not into temptation.
But deliver us from evil.
So I can call you all to repent with me of seeing prayer as a chore, and invite us all to choose to believe it will, if it isn’t already, become the wellspring of your life. Will you resolve today to plumb the depths afresh of the Father heart of God? And if you thrive on the practical, why not take the first step by joining the prayer team and enlisting into the frontline of our missionary endeavour here in Newcastle.
October 23rd 2011