Thursday, April 2, 2009

Matthew 6:9 The Model Prayer Part I

I have had numerous jobs in my adult life. I have taught school, sold cars (ok, I’ve sold A car), and I now work as an auditor. For about a year or so prior to going back to school for accounting, I managed a pizza restaurant. One of my responsibilities was training new crew members and training old crew members to do new things. When I would teach someone how to make a pizza including how to properly stretch the dough the first thing I would do is demonstrate how to do the job properly. Giving someone an example of how to do something is a pretty common method that is used to teach someone how to do something. Often times, it can be effective. Jesus, in these next verses, gives believers a model for how to pray to God. We can learn much as we study the words of Christ and examine the principals He gives us as we try to relate to God the Father.

First of all, we should remember the immediate context of these verses as we attempt to determine not only their interpretation but also their application. Jesus, in chapters 5-7, is teaching His disciples. Therefore, the example of how to pray that He gives is likewise directed to believers. Secondly, remember that Jesus had just taught that we are not to pray as the Gentiles who would babble on in long and wordy prayers without really saying a thing. For us to think that this prayer is to be prayed verbatim as it is recorded here is in my mind somewhat silly. I wouldn’t say that someone can’t pray this prayer from their heart but it can easily be exactly what Jesus preached against just a few verses prior—a meaningless repetition. A better use of this prayer would be for you and I to apply the principals of how to pray rather than trying to repeat the specific words or phrases.

In fact, I would submit that Jesus indicated just that when He said in verse 9 “Pray, then, in this way”. He does not say “Pray these words”. The phrase “in this way” translates a single Greek word “ houto” (3779) which is used to indicate “in this manner”. We should use this prayer as a pattern of how we should talk to God not as a script to be memorized and mindlessly regurgitated.

Observe, first of all, that the prayer begins with the recognition of God’s identity. Jesus says “Our Father”. He doesn’t just identify God as the Sovereign of creation—the Lord of hosts. While God is both Sovereign over all creation and the Lord of hosts, He is also our Father. I remember reading an article David Robinson wrote about when the San Antonio Spurs had won the NBA championship. He described being in the locker room after the game and having reporters crowding around him to get an interview. At the same time, he son came up to him and his dad was trying to help tie his shoes. I thought that was a pretty stark contrast. None of the reporters could approach him and garner his attention the way his child could. They didn’t have the relationship with him that his son had. In the same way, we can approach God and know that He listens to us because He is our Abba Father (Romans 8:15).

Next, notice that Jesus not only talks about who God is but also where God is. He says we should direct our prayers to “Our Father, who is in heaven”. We don’t pray to a fallible human being here in this earth but we pray to the King of glory who is on His throne far above anything here on this earth. We pray to the God who created everything that exists out of nothing by simply speaking it into existence. He has perfect perspective on everything and knows not only what is best for us but also is working all things for the good of those of us who are His children (Romans 8:28). He is in control of everything whether it be people or circumstances and nothing that He decrees will fail to come to pass. Because of His location, we can know that He is God and that we can trust Him to do what is best for us.

God is able to work His perfect will in the earth because He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. However, while we should respect and revere His as God we should remember that He is our Father and we can approach Him in prayer because He loves us as his little children.


Anonymous said...

That was what I had heard before but they put it into the A.C.T.S. prayer format.
I liked they way you used the Robinson situation to show His love for us.


Joe Blackmon said...

Thank you for the comment and the visit.