February 1, 2010

"Careful What You Ask For"

Here is the outline from the sermon I gave at our Castleton campus this past Sunday (1/31/10).


“Careful What You Ask For”
a sermon on the Lord’s Prayer
Matthew 6:5-15
(parallel Luke 11:2-4)

A Few Initial Thoughts...
-Prayer is not a question of “if”, but “when”. Notice that Jesus says “whenever you pray." Prayer is a spiritual discipline that is meant to be practiced daily.

-Prayer is a conversation of the heart, which means that our motives matter. Jesus tells us that if we ask, we'll receive, well sometimes that makes us think God is some sort of divine genie waiting to grant our every wish. John clearly states this is NOT the case in 1 John 3:21-22 and again in 1 John 5:14-15.

-Notice these main themes as we walk through the Lord's Prayer: trust, forgiveness, persistence and community

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
-take note that it says “Our” Father, not “mine”. God is the Father of all, including our Baptist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Catholic, Pentecostal Christian brothers and sisters.

-the Aramaic word Jesus used was abba which is like saying “daddy”. This demonstrates an intimate relationship between Jesus the Son and God the Father, which flows over into our relationship w/God through Christ.

-“hallowed” or “holy” in Hebrew means “other" or "separate". I like to think of God as wholly holy, what I mean by this is that God in His infinite power and glory is completely separate from us which highlights the significance and importance of the Incarnation. God, who is entirely other, made Himself like us by sending His Son in flesh and blood.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
-this highlights the already-but-not-yet tension of God’s kingdom. It is not only about the future second coming of Christ but about making a difference in the world today. It emphasizes an attitude of dependency and trust in God for the future.

-notice the transition from the first part of the prayer which is directed toward and about God (thy name, thy kingdom, thy will) to us. This priority matches Jesus’ teaching about first loving God with our heart, soul, and mind and neighbor as self (Matthew 22:36-40). We also see Jesus mention this thought in Matthew 6:33.

-we begin to see words like "us", "we", "ours" and are reminded that we pray to God alone but not for us alone, we pray as part of, and on behalf of, the whole community.

Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
-“daily bread” translates to bread for the coming day or our needful bread. There is a clear distinction being made between ‘wants’, ‘needs’ and ‘perceived needs’ and shows a dependence upon God to provide for our daily needs. Remember Jesus says that our Father knows our needs before we even ask Him (Matthew 6:8).

-"as we forgive" is the request that causes me to say we better be careful what we ask for. Here we are asking God to forgive us as we have forgiven others…that is heavy! How good are you at giving forgiveness?? Jesus stressed the idea again after the prayer (Matthew 6:14-15) which I don't think leaves much room for negotiation. This is also a forgiveness that extends outside the community of believers as we don't see Jesus qualify the forgiveness we are to show by mentioning believers only but "our debtors", anyone who has hurt us in some way. To truly pray this means we believe and acknowledge that Christ died for their sins as well as mine, and that He took upon Himself the justice they deserve.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
-James tells us in his first chapter that we know the trials and temptations will come and will serve to develop perseverance…(James 1:2-4). This is a request for God’s grace and strength to stand in the face of such trials and not to fall into evil. It doubles as a confession of recognizing without God's strength and grace we will fall into evil because with our own strength we cannot stand. It is a request of being led away from temptation or trials but still acknowledging God's will. We see a parallel to this in Jesus’ prayer in the garden…Mk 14:36 (Mt 26:42; Lk 22:42)

For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
-notice how Jesus brings it all back around to focus on God’s kingdom, power and glory. We see that it begins and ends with God.

-we see how this is a prayer that brings people together, even those we might not expect. And so we pray this prayer with things like trust, forgiveness, persistence and community in mind.