Jesus Teaches Us to Expect Answers
...when We Pray and the Way Is Hard and the Path Is Dark
After Jesus had taught His disciples that prayer should not become a public display of how religious they were, He gae them a pattern for their praying. Many people call what He taught them "The Lord's Prayer." Here it is as it appears in the King James Version:
After this manner therefore pray ye:
Our Father which art in heaven,
1)Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy kingdom 2)come,
Thy will 3)be done
in earth, as it is in heaven.
4)Give us this day our daily bread.
And 5)forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors.
And 6)lead us not into temptation,
but 7)deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen
Take note of the words we have placed in bold type. 1) Hallowed, 2) come, 3) be done, 4) give, 5) forgive, 6) lead us not, 7) deliver. From the Original, we find that each one is recorded in a way that carries with it an urgency demanding an immediate answer.
This Prayer is more than just some religious words we add to the end of a Pastor’s morning prayer. It is more than a prayer to be recited by mechanical memory. Indeed, we find Jesus was leading His disciples into a very private communion between their hearts and the heart of God, especially for times of trouble.
Jesus was teaching His followers to pray in a way that would take them through the difficult time that would come upon them after He ascended to His Father. What He taught then is for us today who may be facing a time of trouble greater than any we have ever known.
With many of us, using this Prayer over the years has brought about too much familiarity. The Holy Spirit is drawing us now to know more precisely what the Lord was teaching. It reached for the end of the age. It reaches us today. It will help us through any time of trial.
Look with me now as we interpret this model Prayer from the Received Text of the Greek New Testament.
Matthew 6:6-8 Jesus said, 6And whenever you pray, go into your own private place and, after you have shut everyone and everything out, pray to Your father in the secrecy of that place. And your Father Who sees in the secret place will give what you ask for, openly and according to your expectation.
7And in your praying, don’t use empty words with little meaning like the heathen do. This is because they suppose they will be heard if they use many words. 8Do not be like them! For your Father knows what the necessities of your life are before you even ask Him.
Therefore, after this manner pray:
Our Father in the heavens:
•Let Your Name be sanctified, now, in this very moment!
•Let Your Kingdom come—now, into this present situation!
•Let Your will come into being—now,
in this present moment on earth, as it already is in heaven.
•Give us what is needed for our sustenance today—as You will through all our days.
And, •dismiss us from the guilt of our failures toward You,
as we also have dismissed the guilt of those who have failed us.
And, •lead us not into trials which we have not the grace to bear, but
•rescue us from the evil one because the Kingdom is Yours,
and the Power, and the Glory unto (the end of) the ages.
Beside the seven petitions, there are two points of instruction the Lord gave regarding prayer. He talked first about going into our own private place. This is something each of us must find for ourselves. For some it will be more difficult than for others. But, we can know for certain the more difficult it is to find that place, the more precious it will be to our spirit when we do find it.
Prayer is the most secret communion a soul might have with God. Adam Clarke said, “It is...the conversation of one heart with another.”
The world is too profane and treacherous to offer us a secret place of its own. We must learn to shut the door against it and endeavor for a while to forget what its demands are. This is one of the greatest challenges for the person who would pray.
Paul teaches us to continue in prayer at all times, never ceasing. We learn from Jesus to take times out when nothing is done but prayer. It is this that our enemy hates and fears. He has every distraction imaginable ready to throw at us. For every person it will be different. Many times, the distractions of the mind invade our time of prayer. Sometimes the thoughts that draw our attention from communion with the Lord are unclean and unnecessary. Sometimes the distractions come from persons making demands of us, or requests that could wait, or calls not necessary, or conversations that are only idle talk. But, for every person it is possible to find a secret place and to know sweet communion with the Lord while in it.
How do we overcome the distractions? One way is to set a time to be with the Lord when no else will be around. In the middle of the night, when others are asleep, may be a good time for some. A walk along a safe but secluded path might do for another. We could dedicate a certain time to be with the Lord, turn off the phone, the radio or television and let others know we are not available.
Some of you who read this are in prison, some on lock-down. This could be like a nightmare, but ask the Lord to sanctify the time you have alone. Maybe you’re in a cell with a mate who cares nothing for your communion with the Lord. Or, maybe you’re in a marriage with a spouse who despises you for praying. Let me tell you, if you want to find that secret place, you can. Let it be a secret place, a place only your heart and the Lord knows.
The second point of instruction the Lord gave about praying is that we are not to use empty words with little meaning. I think this comes over on some of us more than we might realize. It is well to stress our love for the Lord, or our adoration of Him, but let us make sure the words we use do not become just empty "fillers" in our communion with Him.
Our present point is that we are not to make use of terms in prayer that seem as though we are attempting to get God’s attention. How loud we pray, how many words we repeat, how contrite we are does not gain His attention nearly as well as giving our attention to what the Lord Jesus said. See this: I tell you the truth, My Father will give you whatever you ask in My Name—John 16:23. We have immediate access to God when we come in the Name of His Son, our Lord Jesus.
We must balance what Jesus taught here, however, with His lessons in Luke 11:1-13 and Luke 18:1-8. These two passages are asking for our understanding and at which we hope to look more deeply in soon coming articles. In Luke 11 we have the disciples asking Jesus, Teach us to pray. After what seems a quick run-through of the “Lord’s Prayer,” Jesus told the story of a man who knocked and knocked at his neighbor’s door in the middle of the night till he got what he needed. The key to receiving his request is in this verse 8. See it here: I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth. The key was in his importunity. This is from a word meaning “impudent solicitation without regard to time, place or person.” In the story Jesus told, the man had so great faith he would not leave off “praying” till he received what he knew was available in the house of the man on whose door he was knocking.
Then in Luke 18 Jesus told this story to illustrate further the kind of praying that will not give in till the answer comes. It is the story of a widow who came before a judge requesting that he avenge her of her adversary. She would not stop making her request till the judge said, ...because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. Here the key is continual coming.
Let us go back now to the seven points of petition we find in the Prayer Jesus taught His disciples to pray. We take these points as they are worded in the King James Version. We will have to stretch this out into another article because of the limited space, but we will at least get started in this one.
The first is Hallowed be Thy Name. Seeing this in the Original, we are more apt to translate it: “Let Your Name be sanctified.” It already is holy. It already is a sanctified Name. What we’re asking is that it will be regarded as an holy Name in our midst. That it not only be regarded as such by those around us, but that our own lips may be purged from ever using it as a byword. Let every thought of our heart hold our Father’s Name most reverently and let it never be used as part of an expression of profanity. May even our reference to Him as God, or Lord, be always with the utmost love and respect for Who He is. Oh, let us use God, Lord, Jesus, Christ—and every holy Name we may every know—only in a manner of worship and adoration!
We hold God’s name as holy when all our conversation is holy and just, and when we speak of those things that minister grace to those who hear us.
We keep His Name as holy in our minds when we suppress every unclean and evil thought, and have our responses to others regulated by his grace and Spirit.
We hold His Name as holy in our lives, when we carry on all our works as unto Him. Adam Clarke helps us here by this statement: “If we have an eye to God in all we perform, then every act of our common employment will be an act of worship.”
We hold God’s Name as holy in our families, when we endeavor to bring up our children in the discipline and admonition of the Lord. We keep His Name holy when we set the example before our children with talk and behavior that always glorifies the Lord.
We hold God’s Name as holy when, in whatever business or association we have with others, we keep ourselves free from deception and wrong doing, always remaining aware that we are moving under God’s watchful eye.
The second petition placed before us by the Lord Jesus is one that captures our heart and mind with the utmost weight. It is Thy Kingdom come. Like the previous Hallowed by Thy Name, this Word also is in that strong manner of speech that is urgent and calls for an immediate response. It is as though the wolf is at the door and we have no hope unless that hope should come at once from the Throne of God's heavenly Kingdom.
Time and again I’m drawn to David’s response in Psalm 11 where we find some of his friends giving him advice when they saw Saul was determined do away with him. His response was, In the LORD put I my trust: how say ye to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain? —Psalms 11:1. They meant, “You have not a moment to lose. Your ruin is determined. Escape for your life. Get off as swiftly as possible to the hill-country, to some of those inaccessible fortresses best known to yourself. Hide yourself there from the cruelty of Saul.”
Their concern for him was loving and kind. They did not want him killed. He, on the other hand, knew the reality of God’s Kingdom. The protection that was his from the Throne of that Kingdom was more sure than any hiding place in the hills. So, his response carried this weight, “Why are you giving me this advice?” ...The LORD’s Throne is in heaven—Psalms 11:4. His Throne is my protection and it remains sure.
David knew that the power and the authority of God’s Kingdom in heaven was greater than the power and authority of Saul who had rejected him as the one that God had anointed.
We are now people of the New Covenant. We know that God has delivered us from the power of darkness, that is, "the authority of the darkness," and has translated us into the Kingdom of His dear Son—Colosssians 1:13. In Christ Jesus we have every right to call upon that Kingdom's immediate protection.
Knowing Christ Jesus, we know the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand—Matthew 4:17. He spent His last days on earth after His resurrection speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God—Acts 1:3. Would he have spent those last precious days speaking to His disciples of something that would have no meaning?
So also, Paul spent his last days preaching the Kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him—Acts 28:31. Would Paul have spent his last days heralding the Kingdom of God had he not known that the Kingdom was presently sure?
Thus, Jesus has taught us to enter our plea toward our Father in Heaven that His Kingdom might become present and known with us—now, immediately, with its protection and provision.
Oh, how could our Lord have instructed us to ask for the immediate presence of His Father’s Kingdom, if that Kingdom could only become known at the end of the age? We remember the way it was recorded in the Greek New Testament meant that our plea should be for immediate help from His Kingdom.
What would this mean? It would mean that the protection and the provision of the Kingdom should be ours as soon as our heart’s cry reaches the heart of God.
The presence of God’s Kingdom means the present overthrow of Satan’s hand upon our life. The presence of God’s Kingdom means present provision of His strength, the present release into our minds of His wisdom, the present supply of our needs that can only be known by His miracle outlay. The presence of His Kingdom means peace, safety and protection from the snare of the fowler (Psalms 91:3), that is, from the traps set for us by the enemy of our souls.
His Kingdom’s presence can become known in whatever circumstance we may find ourselves. We can even walk in the midst of trouble and know the deliverance His Kingdom offers us.
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