19/7/2020 [Thematic Message 110] www.lifechurchmissions.com
How Should We Pray? <Lk 11:1-13>
Prelude: Our Christian faith is actually supernatural, but it also fits well with reality and human logic. Many believers lack the understanding of such a supernatural Christian faith, so they do not love to pray and do not anticipate answers after praying. Whenever they face some pressing problems, they rather stay in worries and helplessness, than to come before the Lord and call upon Him. Sometimes, even if they have the actions and forms of prayer, those prayers do not result in them trusting more in the Lord later. In addition, some believers seem to spend a lot of time praying. Often in prayers, they will project their feelings into the setting, as if “enjoying the presence of God”, but they do not grow in their spirituality and understanding after praying. They are still not very clear about God's perfect will, in that they still lack a lot of wisdom in handling matters and people in life. Hence, their beliefs feel like superstition and blind faith to the people around them. The commonality of these people is that they mainly have problems in prayer. In fact, many believers often feel that they have fallen short in their prayers. They are guilty because they cannot truly commune with God. They may serve the Lord diligently, or they often read articles or reference books on faith, but they know in their hearts that they cannot be close to the Lord, and also do not know how to get close. They have nothing to say during prayer, neither can they pour out their hearts to the Lord. The most important thing is that they cannot receive the Lord's response in prayer. The state of their heart is the same before and after prayer. As time passes, they stop praying. In fact, regardless of the extent of growth of our spiritual life, our prayer life has room for growth. Whether it is to draw closer to God in prayer, to understand more of the will of the Lord, or to gain more strength and wisdom from the Lord, these are all areas where we can grow. But we know that if prayer is done only out of duty, then as we pray more, we gradually do not feel like praying. In fact, when we ask believers in general, “Why don't you pray?” Some people may say it is because there is no time, or they themselves lack discipline. Of course, these are very direct reasons given by believers in general. But in fact, the greatest reason why believers do not pray is because they do not know how to pray. Believers who have known the Lord for a period of time will know that prayer is not a formality, not talking to themselves, or reciting some words to pray to God, yet they still have little understanding of how to pray. Therefore, the disciples came to the Lord Jesus one day and asked Him, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Think about it, the disciples were with the Lord Jesus daily from morning to night. They would have learned and seen what they should have learned and seen. But they still had one thing they had not learned, which was also what they desperately desired - that was “prayer”. Because they had witnessed how the Lord Jesus prayed to the Father, and His prayers were neither ritualistic nor unreal. They saw how the Lord Jesus truly enjoyed communing with the Father and how His prayer was completely different from the hypocritical prayers of the Pharisees or prayers using beautiful wordings. The Lord Jesus’ prayer practically allowed Him to receive all the grace and power from the Father. All the glorious serving of the Lord on earth was related to the communication between Him and the Father. At the end of each busy day of serving, the Lord Jesus loved to leave the crowd and retreat to the mountain where He often met the Father and had communion with Him. In contrast, the disciples might find that they did not receive so much grace in prayer, and they only felt tired after their daily serving, and sometimes they even encountered some negative situations which caused them to become anxious or of the flesh. Therefore, the disciples were eager to learn how their Lord prayed to the Father.
1. The Lord taught the disciples how to pray <Lk 11:1-4>
1）Relationship and desires
All prayers are first built upon the Father-child relationship between us and God. Think about it, do we parents listen more carefully to our children’s words, or our children listen more attentively to ours? Thus, Father God listens to us more than we listen to Him, and He wants to answer our prayers. No matter if our prayers are very anxious, helpless, very earnest, or very joyful, and full of thanksgiving, what is most important is to clearly know that the object of our prayers is the Father who loves us and hears our prayers. That is the foundation of all prayers! However, in this Father-child relationship, we know that the answers enjoyed by everyone are different. Of course, Father loves all His children alike, and hears their prayers, but the degree to which every child can hear the voice of Father in their prayers and enjoy His presence, is different. The critical factor lies in the “desires” of their heart, and whether their desires match with God’s. After calling Him “Father”, there are three further lines, which reveal the desires of the person praying. Those are things yet to be fulfilled, but they should be the core desires of the person praying as he enters into prayer. Think about it: Have the name of the Father been hallowed by all? Has His Kingdom completely come? Has His will been done on earth as it is in heaven? Actually, these are things which will be fulfilled ultimately but not yet at the moment. Therefore, when it is our core desire that God’s kingdom comes, He completely reigns, and is worshipped by all peoples, that is the foundation of a praying person being able to enjoy communion with God. Thus, when the disciples asked, “How should we pray?”, Lord Jesus did not provide a method, but He revealed the desires of a child praying to God. Of course, during prayers, we can bring the misery, difficulties and weaknesses which we face now, or joy, thanksgiving and praise before God; we can also bring our personal, family and brethren problems before the Lord, but only our desire for God’s glory can let us meet Father, and receive God’s support during prayers. Here, the Lord is also not saying that if the person praying does not have the desires of the Father then his prayers will not be heard. Perhaps, some of what he asked for will also be fulfilled, but for his spirit to enjoy the grace and power that comes from prayers, it comes from him having the core desires of the Father. This is like a child who understands the father’s wishes will have very smooth communication with the father. The father will also not hide from him. This is like what Jesus said, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” <Jn 15:15>
We cannot imagine that in our glorious prayer to Father, it actually includes our daily needs; here, it talks about “daily bread”, which is like everything we need each day. Whether it is the physical strength, energy, wisdom, money, or human help which we need in our living, studies, work, dealings with people, these are what the Lord wants us to ask from Father, and confirm His provision. God does not want us to be self-satisfied or self-reliant in our living, but wants us to rely on Him as our Provider anytime and anywhere. He provided yesterday, He will still provide today, and the Lord does not view anyone’s needs lightly. However, we must know that the Father wants to satisfy our needs, not our greed. He wants us to enjoy today’s provision, not tomorrow’s excess. Thus, we will know that many believers’ prayers are not answered because they keep having worries about tomorrow, but they never pray for and confirm God’s help and provision today.
3）Forgiven, and forgive others
Often, we only think that our daily bread is very real need, but in fact, it is an equally real need for us to receive forgiveness everyday. Think about it, if what a believer eats, wears and uses each day are very abundant, but inside his spirit, he is always feeling sorry toward the Lord, then although his body is full, his soul is very hungry. In fact, when we pray, we must especially resolve the guilt in our spirits. We must wrestle with the Lord, although we may be weaker in certain area, we must also see the Lord’s mercy on us in that area. Then, if we were to be particularly blessed, at the same time during prayers, our heart should also forgive the person who sins against us. Actually, one of the most common mistakes we Christians often make is we grumble against, despise, judge and have bitterness against men. Some Christians cannot forgive their family members for very long, some always have the heart of disliking their colleagues and bosses, others cannot accept certain brethren. Or, we will face some unfairness everyday, thus we may have a heart of cursing others. <Jas 3:9-10> says, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” Christians must truly value the holiness inside the spirit. If our heart cannot forgive others, it is very hard for our prayers to reach God’s throne. Our life will also gradually lose joy because our conscience is always accused. If we face challenges in forgiving others, at least we must pray toward forgiving others, instead of rationalizing it. We forgive others, because God first forgave us. What then is meant by truly forgiving others? That is, our heart desires that person to receive grace. When we hear that God has been gracious to them, our heart will not feel imbalanced, but will give thanks for them instead. If we hear that they have met with difficulties, our heart does not gloat <Prov 24:17>. Instead, the Bible teaches us that if possible, extend a helping hand to them <Ro 12:20>.
4）Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one
During prayers, we ultimately must go back to spiritual insight. This is like the concluding words Paul gave believers in <Ep 6:10, 12>, which is to know the enemy who is not of flesh and blood, as well as, his attacks. Here, it talks about “the evil one”. He was the one who tempted Jesus in the wilderness <Mt 4:1>, he was also the one who wanted to sift Peter’s faith on the night Jesus was betrayed <Lk 22:31>. In the book of Job, we see that he is also the devil who always goes before God to slander us, and brings us very severe trials. Thus, during prayers, other than reflecting upon the practical things we encounter daily, the Lord also wants believers to have spiritual alertness at the same time. Sometimes, in various human problems, we must not merely focus on human weakness, but we should always know that there is the work of the evil one behind. If we only face people and things, we will be embroiled in many unnecessary conflicts. In particular, during spiritual battle, we must be careful not to boast about our own power, and not to walk into an environment of temptations. If some serious trials come upon us, we should learn from Lord Jesus Christ’s example in Gethsemane. Sometimes, more important than the coping mechanisms of thinking of solutions and trusting men, we must first quiet down before the Lord, and ask the Lord to save us from the attacks of the evil one, and guide us along the right paths for His name’s sake <Ps 23:3>. Actually, spiritual man knows how to resist the devil and not fall into more complicated problems in crises or trials.
2. Not just receive prayer contents, but also have a heart of surely receiving answers <Lk 11:5-13>
<Lk 11:5-8> talks about a parable where a friend comes to our house at midnight and asked for three loaves of bread to offer his guest from afar. We even tell him that it is already late and it is inconvenient for us to get up to give him anything, but because of that friend’s shameless audacity, we will get up and give him as much as he needs. Think about it, even such unreasonable request of a friend can receive from us what he needs because of his shameless audacity. If we have reasons, and pray to Father according to the Lord’s instructions, how would we not receive what we asked for? Thus, we will know that there is a spiritual factor among prayer’s spiritual principles, which is, if we base our prayers on our relationship with Father, clearly knowing His desires, we will surely receive answers. Although some believers learned the contents of what to pray, because they do not ask with shameless audacity, they do not see that beautiful fulfilment in the end. Why are they not firm? Simply put, that is because they do not believe in God’s promises. The faith of such people may be full of knowledge but their heart of prayer is not set upon God’s faithfulness. Although their prayers have the right words, they cannot experience supernatural power.
2）Continue to ask, seek and knock
When <Lk 11:9-10> says “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you”, it is in a continuous form - continuing to ask, seek and knock. Therefore, the “continuous and earnest” nature of prayer is emphasized. Because of spiritual reasons, some prayers must be done over a period of time and with earnestness, or it needs to be prayed for collectively, before it is answered. Sometimes, if our prayer is like making a wish, such that it is fine whether it comes true or not in the end, then that is not a prayer of someone who truly knows God, looks to Him and asks from Him. Believing God’s sovereignty does not mean we are not assured of His faithfulness. If our prayer is made in accordance with His will and is based on His promise, how can we not expect what we prayed for? In the simplest thing, after we wake up and pray, we must anticipate His help and provision for the rest of the day. If we pray for our family’s salvation, although they do not immediately turn to God, that must not make us give up prayer, instead we must pray more earnestly. Because God promises that the one who asks will receive.
3）Ultimately, go back to our relationship with Father God.
<Lk 11:11-13> talks about how when our children have a simple request, like bread, fish or egg (these things are not of great value), we as fathers, though imperfect (evil and sinful), will not harm the child, but will give good gifts to them. Think about it, if we ask to receive the Holy Spirit, why would our Heavenly Father not give to us? Some people may ask when did we ever ask for the Holy Spirit? Actually, when we have the Father’s desires in our prayers, when we confirm His timely provision, receive the heart of forgiveness to forgive those who have transgressed against us and rely on His great power to overcome the forces of darkness, these are how the Holy Spirit has been guiding us in our heart and helping us! How glad our Heavenly Father is to give us the Holy Spirit, and reveal Himself through the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it is not that God is not answering our prayers, but we have problems receiving them. Actually, in learning how to pray, it is most important that we are brought to know our Heavenly Father clearly, and to always encounter Him in our prayers. If we do not know the nature of our Father and His love for us, no matter how we pray, we will not see real effect. However, if we have little knowledge about prayers, let us first go back to the relationship with the Father as we enter prayers today.