The Lord’s Prayer (The Prayer of a Child)
Ninth in a series of ten, “What We Believe, Teach, and Confess”
Isaiah 65:14–25 // Galatians 4:1–7 // Matthew 6:5–15
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our sermon text for today begins in Matthew chapter six, with the Lord’s prayer, “Do not be like those who heap empty words, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this.”
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Why do you pray? What do you pray for? To whom do you pray? What do you think prayer even does?
Today, I would invite you deeper into this mystery that we call prayer, this act of the Christian who is commanded by God to pray to God, the God who knows your prayer already, whose will is absolutely done, who knows all things, and works in the world whether you pray or not.
So, why do we pray?
We’ve been working through the Six Chief Parts of the Catechism, first with the Ten Commandments, then the Creed, then last week Baptism and Confession/Absolution, and today the Lord’s Prayer, the prayer of a child to his father who is in heaven. The prayer that Jesus taught us to pray. One question for you.
What is a time when you prayed earnestly for something? Maybe the Lord answered your prayer yes , maybe he answered no. But hold it in your mind as we consider prayer, think about this as a real subject. Think about it through the lens of your own earnest prayer, when you desperately wished for your prayer to be answered. Hold that in your mind as we consider the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray.
Because, not too far away from here is a man who prays for his wife to be whole. She’s been slipping, declining, and even as she approached her very last days, he prayed for her to be healed. It doesn’t feel like God is listening.
And not too far away from him is a family that sits down on their couch at the end of the days to pray together. But, together is a pretty loose word for it. One gets done as fast as he can, another says every other word, mom and dad interrupt the prayer to tell them to sit down and be still. It doesn’t feel like prayer.
And not too far away from them is a woman who sits down with her prayer journal every morning. She does her devotion. She reads her Scripture, and with a cup of coffee she prays for everyone that she’s written down. Time and time again, she crosses requests off her list. Time and time again, she sees the answers of God. It feels like her prayers do something.
Our Father, who art in heaven. Our Epistle Reading gives us the interpretation of this. In our Baptisms, we are baptized into the body of God’s only-begotten Son, and because we are in him, we can call the Omniscient, Omnipresent, Omnipotent God, we can call him “Father.” In Galatians 4 when Paul writes “Abba, Father,” he’s not talking about the 70’s Swedish supergroup ABBA. He’s not getting it from there. The Hebrew word for Father was AB, and an affectionate term for father was Abba, like Dad and Daddy, or (like my kids say) Papa and Poparopatoppington (or the nickname Benny gave me, Topsy Race car Popcorn). United with Christ in his death and resurrection through our baptism, we can address the creator of the universe, Dad.
But what are we praying for? It really breaks down into two parts. The first three petitions and then the last four petitions.
The first three petitions have everything to do with the work of God. Notice that they all have “Thy” in them. Hallowed be THY name. THY kingdom come. THY will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Here in these first three petitions, we are asking God to be exactly who he already is. We are asking that he act according to his eternal nature, and then that he would teach us what it means: that his name would be holy among us, so that he can teach us how to keep it holy, that the kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven, would draw near in our lives, so that we would see how his Spirit is moving this church here on earth, that his will would happen among us as it already happens in heaven ---- his negative will which breaks and destroys every evil inclination of our heart, his positive will which builds up and grows up everything his Spirit blesses. We are asking God to be exactly who he already is, and to be that among us.
If you are crying out for justice in these days, pray to God as the one who is ABSOLUTELY just, and then go to his word to remember what justice is. If you are praying for God to give forgiveness and reconciliation, pray to him as the one who by nature forgives and reconciles and then go to his word to remember what forgiveness and reconciliation is. If you are crying out for peace, pray to the God whose peace passes our understanding, and then come right here to worship where he guards your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus.
But pastor, why does it matter that I pray? God’s nature is his nature whether I pray or not. He’ll do what he wants whether I want it or not! What about the prayer of Abraham for Sodom and Gomorrah? Does God change his mind when we pray? If he does, how can he be God? If you have these questions, come to Bible study and ask.
If the first three petitions focus on the work of God, then the last four petitions have everything to do with our lives. Notice that they all have “Us” in them. Give US today our daily bread. Forgive US our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against US. Lead US not into temptation but deliver US from evil. The last four petitions have everything to do with our lives.
Give us our daily bread. Our daily bread includes all that we need to support this body and life. Let us not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will have enough troubles of its own.
Forgive us. Let the forgiveness that flows to us flow through us to others. Lead us not into temptation.
The devil tempts, because the goal of temptation is to fail. Where the devil tempts, there the Lord tests. The goal of temptation is failure. The goal of testing is to prove.
Deliver us from evil. In this petition, we work from the greatest evil down. First, deliver us from the death caused by our sin. And then, since you have delivered us from the greatest inevitable evil, we pray that you would deliver us from every other evil as well.
So, what if I’m not being given my daily bread? Does God withhold forgiveness from us if we don’t forgive others? How could God deliver us from death through death? If he knows all this anyways, why do I have to ask? If you have these questions, come to Bible study and ask.
“Pray it like you mean it.” This is one of the very few lessons of my 8th grade confirmation class that stuck with me. I don’t really remember anything else about 8th grade confirmation with Pastor Daniel Kelm at St. John’s West Bend, but I do remember this. When we were studying the Lord’s Prayer, he challenged us to actually mean the things we pray in the Lord’s Prayer. Mean it when you pray it. Pray it like you mean it.
Consider the meaning of holiness when you pray, “Hallowed be thy name.” Consider the daily bread that God has given you. Think about those who it is hard to forgive. Consider temptations you have. Dwell upon the day of your death and remember that all of Christ’s promises are good for you on that day. Or if you cannot do all of that, just take one to start.
Because, united with Christ’s death and resurrection through our baptism, we can cry out to the creator of the universe, Dad. Not too long ago my son cried out to me. It was Benjamin Orvel. The thunder and lightning had woken him up. He was scared. He was alone. So he cried out.
I did what a dad does. I asked him, “What’s wrong?” (I can tell you, I already knew what was wrong. I already knew what needed to be done. But still, most of all, I needed for him to tell me.) He worked up the courage to tell me as I sat next to him. I hugged him, told him it was going to be alright, and told him what he needed to do.
As it was for me as a Dad, so it is (and how much more!) for our heavenly Father. He waits for us. He knows what we need. He asks us to tell him, and he walks with us.
The kingdom of heaven is like a young man who prayed an earnest prayer, Lord please please please send me a wife. But more than that, give me peace where I am at. God did not answer yes right away. And those intervening years, they shaped him into a better husband that he could’ve been. In those years, his God was listening and walking by his side.
The kingdom of heaven is like churches everywhere, crying out in days of trouble. They weep with those who have lost loved ones to violence. They listen to the stories of their community. They take prayerful action to love their neighbor and show hospitality to the stranger. They begin their day by talking to Our Father who art in heaven.
The kingdom of heaven is like a large church in a small town full of folks that don’t have it all figured out, but they do know they have a Father in Heaven who does. Their ship isn’t always tightened up but they know that their Father in Heaven holds it together. In the best of their days, they turn to their Lord in praise for all he has given. In the worst of their days, they cry out to their Lord for rescue. For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever.
Amen and amen.
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