Jesus’ Prayer Model

In response to the inquiries of His disciples Jesus teaches them how to pray.  He offers up a prayer model when He says to them, “Pray like this…”

Matthew 6:9-13 (nlt)

Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy.
May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.

Give us today the food we need for today, and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
And don’t let us yield to temptation,
but rescue us from the evil one.

For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

This isn’t meant to be a prayer to be memorized and mindlessly repeated.  In fact, right before these verses Jesus tells us not to repeat the same prayer over and over like the heathen, who think they will be heard because of their much talking.  It’s a model.

The prayer is broken down into a sequential order that will help Christ’s followers pray more effectively.  6 requests to God the Father are featured.

First 3 requests are about God:

1. May your name be holy,
2. May your kingdom come,
3. May your will be done

This structure addresses all parts of the Trinity; Father, Son & Holy Spirit.  God the Father, whose name is holy; Jesus, who brought God’s Kingdom to earth; and The Holy Spirit, who leads us into God’s will today.

Next 3 requests are about Us:

1. Give us our daily food,
2. Forgive our sins,
3. Keep us from temptation, which rescues us from the evil one.

Again the Trinity is addressed in these petitions for God’s help. The Father supplies our needs, Jesus paid the price for our sins to be forgiven, and the Holy Spirit leads us away from temptation and into righteousness.  The point?When we pray we should involve all three parts of God.

Another huge lesson here is to begin with God and then move to our needs. The first three requests are great.  They are about God: His holiness, His Kingdom, and His will…huge, monumental topics.  The second set of requests is small, ordinary, and everyday.  They’re about us, normal, everyday people.  We NEED food, we NEED forgiveness (and to give forgiveness) and we NEED God’s help with temptation and the devil everyday.  “Lord help me not to fall into that old sin habit again today.“

There is such a huge truth hidden in these four little verses.  We must first rehearse the immensity of God’s nature but then remember He cares for my little needs because of who He is.  Pray that His name would be hallowed or revered in my life, that His Kingdom would dominate me, and that His will would be performed.  If that happens, the three requests for my needs are easy.

Another truth revealed in the passage, is that we should begin praying about the eternal, the Kingdom stuff, and then turn our attention to our needs. Oh, let’s not be falsely religious, we’re not beggars, we’re His children, we need to pray for our needs. Jesus used the word Father so we wouldn’t be afraid to go to Him who loves us.  My point is, let’s put God’s Kingdom first in our prayers, then our needs.  Let’s focus on the eternal more, the temporary less.

In heaven with a holy name gives us the balanced view. Yes, He’s your daddy but please don’t forget He is also the Almighty One.  The angels around the throne of God in heaven don’t cry love, love, love. They cry “holy, holy, holy!”  That is His dominant characteristic.  It is our job to make sure we reverence His name.  His name, refers to who He is, His character, His personhood. Before anything else we pray, we need to declare His holiness in us and in the world.  The beginning of the book Ephesians echos this process.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…v3

God decided in advance to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. This is what He wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure. v5

All the praise should go to The Father because He cared enough for us to save us.  After we’ve hallowed His name (separated it as unique, lifted it above all others), prayed for His Kingdom and His will to come, then we can run to Him with our problems!

At some point, your whole life shrinks down to your problem.  Financial pressure, “God I need bread!”…”Lord I messed up my life with sin!”…”Or God I’m overwhelmed with this struggle.”  We try to focus on God but the sickness, death, relationship problem, abuse, sin or other worry pulls our attention back to what’s right in front of us.  It’s not wrong to cast your cares to God, He tells us to but there is an additional prayer strategy here.

Draw your attention first, to the first three requests of the Lord’s Model Prayer.  Lift your prayer up to heaven, to the glory of God, to the greatness of who He is.  When we forget to start there, that’s when we lose our ability to stand in the face of our issue.

There is more strength, more forgiveness, and more provision in praying for God’s name would be made holy, that His Kingdom would come and that His will would be accomplished than any request for a specific situation we could pray.  We need to do both, but let’s keep the order correct for the power to be released.

Before closing, I would like to change focus for a moment. It sticks out like a single tree in a vast, open field. Forgiveness is the only request that is listed conditionally.  If we don’t forgive sins against us our sins won’t be forgiven.  Later Jesus would explain that His shed blood purchases forgiveness for all.  If we say we don’t want this person forgiven we say don’t apply the blood!  If the blood isn’t applied to one, it’s not applied to any.  Remember as you pray for forgiveness that you choose to forgive those that have hurt you.  If we don’t, then we are putting ourselves on God’s throne and saying we want to be the their judge and that He never tolerates.

It is my prayer that this blog helped you to organize your prayer time and pray more effectively by following the pattern Jesus gave us.  God Bless

30 Days to Live e-Devotional – Day 9: What Good is Suffering?

God works in every circumstance for those that are His children. We see good or bad but God sees opportunity in either.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose. – Romans 8:28

So, if God works good in everything for those who follow Him, then why do we suffer?  We are never closer to God then when we suffer.  Yes, we may get mad at Him during loss or unjust treatment but ultimately we end up with nowhere else to go.

Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you also going to leave?” Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life.  – John 6:67-68

When things go bad we realize like at no other time that there is nowhere else to turn but Him.  When it’s really bad, people can’t help.  It has to be God.

If God works good for me in all things what’s the good in this horrible situation?  Well if nothing else we turn to God in a deeper way, and that is important indeed.  See God is more concerned with our character than He is our comfort.  He is more concerned about eternal treasure in heaven than temporary trials here on earth, more concerned about our relationship with Him than our success in this life. He’s not uncaring; He just has a different perspective on our lives than we do.

The words of King David give us hope if we’re in a trial of our own making.  David committed adultery and then murder to cover the affair, yet after that He was called a man after God’s own heart AFTER these sins.  Why because he repented and turned to God. (Read the story yourself in 2 Samuel 12.)

The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer. – Psalm 6:9

God heard David’s prayer and accepted them.  If you’re hurting because of your own sin, it’s ok.  God has already forgiven you and is waiting to use even that situation for the good I your life.  Talk to Him about it right now.

Prayer:

Lord help me to not wait until there’s a problem to turn to you but to seek you each day.  When I do fall into trails, help me to remember you are there, and to seek you immediately.  I will not to blame you for my problems or suffering because I know you love me.  I trust you Lord.  I know there’s nothing I can face today that you and I can’t handle together.

Thoughts for Today:

  • Am I serious about my prayer life or do I just call out God when I need Him?
  • Have I been afraid to turn to God for help because I thought He wouldn’t answer?

Action List:

  • Spend time with God today telling Him how you’re hurting and asking Him to help.

30 Days of Putting God First – Part 2

If we only had 30 days to live an important change would be to put God first in every area of our lives as we prepare to spend eternity with Him.  Yesterday we discussed giving God the first day of every week and the first part of every day.  Today we look at two very practical ways to put God first.

Give God the First Part of My Income

As a person faces eternity, somehow money loses its importance.  The last 30 days of a person’s life they become extremely generous, realizing that you can’t take it with you.  Jesus told us to store up treasure in heaven, not here on earth.  The best way to do that is to give to God first, before everything else.

Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the first part of everything your land produces. Then He will fill your barns with grain, and your vats will overflow with the finest wine. – Proverbs 3:9-10

As we honor the Lord by returning the first 10% of everything He has given us back to Him, He then increases our blessings.  If we wait until after the bills, after home repairs etc. there’s usually little left to give.  If we give to God first, He multiplies what’s left supernaturally.

“I never would have been able to tithe on the first million dollars I ever made if I had not tithed my first salary, which was $1.50 per week.” — JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER, SR.

As we are faithful in the temporary things He can trust us with eternal things.

Give God the First Consideration of Every Decision

People will ask, “Does God really care where we work or where we live?”  YES, He does. He cares about the smallest details of our lives because He loves us.  (The very hairs on your head are all numbered. – Matthew 10:30)  There is nothing to small for Him to care and nothing to big for Him to handle.

If we had 30 days to live we would ask God to heal us.  In the grand scheme of the countless years of eternity and the vastness of the universe, whether one person lives 100 years of 30 years is meaningless.  What I’m trying to say is, to God all our requests are little things so don’t be afraid to ask.

Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take. – Proverbs 3:6

By asking God what His will is the various parts of our lives we involve Him in our day-to-day lives.  If He’s involved, then we have His wisdom, His presence and His blessing.

Remember, Give God…

  • The First Day of Every Week
  • The First Part of Every Day
  • The First Portion of My Income
  • The First Consideration of Every Decision

And you will soon find yourself living for eternity.

Looking Forward

As we are starting our new year we are again forced to look forward.  Forced to look at a new year and ask, “What does the new year hold for me? For my family? For my church? For my city?”

It’s a good thing!  We can close the door on past failures and problems and start fresh!!  Each change of the calendar causes people to take assessment of their lives, careers, relationships, spiritual lives, even their bodies!  (haha)  That is why the new year is so full of resolutions.  I know, I know.  Most people never keep them.  But think of this, how many people make changes in their live that never make a resolution?  None.  We have to resolve to change and a new year is a great time to do that.

One of the best things we do is start each year with fasting and prayer.  It refocuses us on God, reestablishes prayer as a priority, buffets the flesh (not buff-A you hungry fasters, buff-ett) and gets us looking forward to a better new year.

I resolve this year to put God first in every are, work less, delegate more, blog weekly, finish school, get healthy, enjoy my family more, give more money, and reach 3 more people for Jesus.

How about you?  What are you looking forward to?

Finding Direction in the New Year

Have you ever felt lost?  Feeling like we have no direction, no purpose.  I think we all have.  As we begin 2009 our church took a look at how to find direction and purpose for our lives.  Here’s some highlights…

First Focus on Eternal Things.

I know it sounds funny to think about getting direction for our life by getting the focus off ourselves but that’s exactly how it works. Some good verses on this…

Prov 23:4-5 – Don’t weary yourself trying to get rich. Why waste your time? For riches can disappear as though they had the wings of a bird!

Matt 6:33 teaches us to pursue the Kingdom of God and live righteously then God will take care of our career, finances etc.

Prov 3:5-6 – Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will direct your paths.

Begin with the Bible.

It’s amazing how many times we forget to read the creator’s guide to life when we are trying to figure life out.  It reminds me of a story of an at critic who stood in a gallery describing what the artist was trying to say with a painting when another man walked up and said actually I think the artist meant something completely different.  The critic indignant with pride snapped “How would you know?”  “Well I painted it.” the man replied as he walked away.  Let’s ask the one who made us what we should be doing.

Psalm 119:104-105 – Your commandments give me understanding; no wonder I hate every false way of life. Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.

Spend time directly in God’s presence.

There are things the word is silent on.  Where should you work?  What house should you buy?  These things God will speak directly to us as we pray.

Pslam 57:2 – I will cry to God Most High, who will fulfill His purposes for me. 

James 1:5If you need wisdom—if you want to know what God wants you to do—ask Him, and He will gladly tell you. He will not resent your asking

Don’t give up.

After we have heard God for ourselves we must take action and never give up until His word to us is fulfilled. (Gal 6:7-10)

Pray for President Barack Obama

Scripture is very clear about our mandate to pray for those place in authority over us.

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. 1 Timothy 2:1-2

Therefore, whether we voted for President Obama or against him, we now must pray for him AND respect him.

For the Lord’s sake, respect all human authority—whether the king as head of state, or the officials he has appointed. 1 Peter 2:13-14a

One of the saddest thing about our country is the lack of respect for those in authority.  I know we have freedom of speech and we’re allowed to disagree with and even poke fun at our leaders but there is a growing attitude of disrespect towards our presidents.  I saw this as a large issue when President Clinton had a sex scandal while in office and it has continued with President Bush largely because of broken promises to find Weapons of Mass Destruction and Bin Laden.

People used excuses like “Clinton dishonored the oval office” and “Bush lied”.  People have told me “Respect must be earned.” but that isn’t what we just read in 1 Peter.  We are commanded to respect the office even if we don’t respect the person in that office.

Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority. Romans 13:7

My taxes go to pay for abortions and other things I don’t believe but that doesn’t mean I’m allowed to with hold my taxes.  Presidents and legislators have done things and stood for things I totally disagree with but I honor them as placed by God.

Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. Romans 13:1-2

I remember when President Clinton was elected it caused a rise in the prayer level of the church across the country because of his stance on moral issue like abortion and gay marriage.  I believe God will again cause His church to rise and pray for this nation after this controversial election and because of this trying time we live in both economically and with the war.

Pray, pray for our president because it’s commanded and it because it works. Respect, respect because it’s commanded and because it honors God.

Paul’s Best Advice

Phillipians 3:13 – No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.

We are molded by the things that have happened to us in the past.  We all have some baggage that we carry around in our lives. This verse is Paul’s best advice.  Forget that past and focus on what lies ahead!  In this one small verse Paul gives us such wisdom from heaven.

First he says I’m not all I should be.  Paul’s not all he should be?  The man who ends up writing 2/3 of the New Testament?  The Apostle who established the majority of the Christian churches in the first century?  That guy?  He’s not all he should be?  Then what hope is there for the rest of us?  That is the point he’s making.  None of us can ever be good enough.  We never achieve the mark, the standard that Jesus set.  So what can we do then?

Focus all our effort on ONE THING…forgetting the past and looking forward.  After we are slapped in the face with the cold reality that we’re not all we should be as followers of Jesus, Paul says now focus all your effort, all your energies on forgetting past mistakes, past wounds, people that have hurt you and look forward to what God is about to do through you and for you.

Being a Christian means to change.  We can’t be the same in 2009 as we are in 2008.  Otherwise we must admit that we’ve focused our effort, our energy, even our prayers on the wrong things.

How do we know what God has for us ahead?  Ask Him.

Jeremiah 33:3 – Ask me and I will tell you some remarkable secrets about what is going to happen here.

When you start to hear God for yourself, faith is released.  Don’t be afraid to ask God to reveal his destiny for you.  He wants to! 

Romans 10:17 – So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (nkj)
So then faith comes by listening to message of good news. (nlt)

Do you want to have fresh faith for the future?  Then listen to the word of God and what He is saying about your life.

As you look at your year so far, what have you spent most of your time, most of your thoughts and your best energy on, things you can’t change or things you can?

Personal Growth Part 3 – What is Your Plan?

If you don’t plan you won’t grow (see Personal Growth part 1).  So let’s get some concrete, measurable goals that we can make the most effective us of our lives for God’s Kingdom.

Psalm 90:12 – Teach us to make the most of our time, so that we may grow in wisdom.

First, Establish a Daily Prayer Time

Psalm 57:2 – I will cry to God Most High, who will fulfill His purposes for me.

Commit to two things, how long and when.  Example: “I will pray for 15 minutes a day every morning.”  Let me say this, all of these are goals to help us to stretch ourselves and grow.  There’s no condemnation, no legalism…use these goals as guides.  If you prayed five days and missed one, don’t get all upset.  Say “I prayed for five days.  Awesome.  Let’s start again.”  Now if you look at your prayer time and you’ve missed three days in a row well, either your passion for God has slipped or your life is out of balance.

Second, Have a Regular Bible Study

Psalm 119:104-105 – Your commandments give me understanding; no wonder I hate every false way of life. Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.

Having daily Bible reading is very important but we should all have a weekly study time also.  In our study time we’re not just reading but spending time in a passage, looking up the meaning of words, studying what was happening during that time, looking up related passages etc.  In general going deeper on one section of scripture or studying one idea throughout the whole Bible.

Example: “I will spend fifteen minutes a day reading the word at lunch and One hour a week in study on Sundays.  This week I’m studying all the Bible references to gossip.”

Next Create Personal Accountability

Proverbs 15:32-33 – If you reject criticism, you only harm yourself; but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding.  Fear of the Lord teaches a person to be wise; humility precedes honor.

Someone once told me “You’re only as accountable as you want to be.”  That’s a true statement.  No one can force you to open up and share your struggles or ask another person to encourage you pursue your calling. This really is the place where people either soar or crash.  We are all human and left to ourselves we will take the easy road.  We need godly input from people we respect.

Example: “I will make myself accountable by joining a Connect Group and opening up to the leader about my struggles.  I will choose one brother or sister who is strong in an area I am weak, to keep me accountable.”

Keep Church Attendance a Priority

Hebrews 10:24-25 – Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near.

How can anyone think of personal growth apart from the local church?  A huge part of growing spiritually is the selflessness that comes from being part of a larger vision.  It’s no longer about me and my life but about what God is doing with our church and in our city.

The poor priorities we have where we choose kids sporting events, overtime and leisure activities over obeying scripture to gather together is one of the main things that causes us to stagnate.  We must seek firs the kingdom of God.

Example: “I commit to never miss church unless ill or on vacation.”  “No Molly you can’t play soccer Sunday at 11am because we have church.”

Work at Positioning Yourself

1 Corinthians 14:3 – One who prophesies is helping others grow in the Lord, encouraging and comforting them.

Whatever your gift is use it to build the body up.  Don’t wait to be asked!  If you’re not skilled yet in the gift or if someone has told you that you have a gift, seek out mentoring.  Get around other people who are already succeeding in that area.  Study the word on the specific gift.  Etc.

Example: If you feel called to teach and there’s no opportunity to teach adults, position yourself by using my gift of teaching in the children’s church or in a Small Group.

2 Peter 3:17 – But grow in the special favor and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Give Generously

Mal 3:8-10 – Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed me. But you ask, In what way did we ever rob you? In tithes and offerings You are under a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation. 10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do, says the Lord of Hosts, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Let me prove it to you!

The tithe is the minimum to call yourself a believer.  Please don’t put comments out about how it’s Old Testament.  Abraham tithed 700 years before the law was written (Hebrews 7:4-10) and Jesus said you should tithe in the New Testament (Matthew 23:23).

We should all be giving above and beyond the tithe because it’s a supernatural thing that increases our faith!  What makes me laugh is when people say, “Well, I pray and just give what God tells me to.  I’m not obligated to tithe.  It’s legalism.” Because they always are people who give less than 10%!!  Do you mean the same God who raised all the standards for those under grace (not just don’t commit adultery but don’t even look at a woman with lust) is going to lower the standard for giving?  Ha!

Example: “I commit to tithe (10%) and to prayerfully give 3% to hunger relief.”

Serve God by Serving People

1 Peter. 4:10 – Each one should use whatever gift he’s received to serve others. (niv)

Serving is everyone’s responsibility.  There should be no spectators in the kingdom of God.  I was blessed by a dear sister who showed up for the back pack give away and said, “I want to help but I can’t stand long because of physical limitations.  What can I do?”  I had her sit at the table and stuff the back packs with the pencil cases.  Her attitude was she wanted to serve in any way she could.  Wonderful!

Example: “I will serve in the Lord by ushering and coming to the church work day.”

Obey the Sabbath Principle

Ex 16:28-29 – How long will these people refuse to obey my commands and instructions?” the Lord asked Moses. “Do they not realize that I have given them the seventh day, the Sabbath, as a day of rest?

Mar 2:27 – The Sabbath was made to benefit people, and not people to benefit the Sabbath.

I wrote on the Sabbath in Personal Growth Part 2 so I won’t say anymore here.

Example: I will rest one day a week from my work (including phone calls) and take one week vacation a year with my family.

++++

Plan to Grow.  If you’re the same Christian you are next year as you are this year…If you don’t look a little more like Jesus, than you’re out of God’s will! Anything God blesses grows!