I started teaching on some basic matters of discipleship last night and we began with prayer. I'm attaching the notes I wrote up below the fold for those who are interested.
Communicaiton is the most important aspect of any relationship. Prayer is how we communicate with God.
The more we communicate, the more we value what God values and when that happens we start making choices and living more like God in Jesus Christ lived. In order to do this we must abide or remain attached to Jesus in prayer:
John 15:1 (CEB)
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vineyard keeper. 2 He removes any of my branches that don’t produce fruit, and he trims any branch that produces fruit so that it will produce even more fruit. 3 You are already trimmed because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. A branch can’t produce fruit by itself, but must remain in the vine. Likewise, you can’t produce fruit unless you remain in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit. Without me, you can’t do anything. 6 If you don’t remain in me, you will be like a branch that is thrown out and dries up. Those branches are gathered up, thrown into a fire, and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.
μένω - abide, remain, stay. How does a person become a disciple or an apprentice of another person? By staying close. If we want to be a disciple of Jesus we must stay close to him and there's no way to stay close to Jesus that doesn't involve prayer. We must pray.
How many of you feel like you have arrived in prayer? That it's like breathing to you?
Me too. There's a danger in telling people you're going to teach them to pray and that danger is that you shouldn't come off like you know very much yourself. We are all pilgrims and beginners in prayer. A seminary degree means you've completed coursework, not that you know how to pray. Maxie Dunnam writes in his Workbook on Intercessory Prayer, "Emphasis is on growth, not perfection." We're going to emphasize daily, constant growth.
Maxie also says that we learn to pray by praying. Amazing. We're going to spend sometime tonight praying. I'm not going to ask you to pray out loud but I'm going to just to model my limited understanding.
Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
Jesus was praying and his disciples wanted to know how to pray, so he showed them with the Lord's Prayer. In Matthew 6:5-14, Jesus is preaching the sermon on the mount and says several things about prayer. If we want to pray then we should look to Jesus and learn to pray the way he did it.
“When you pray, don’t be like hypocrites. They love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners so that people will see them. I assure you, that’s the only reward they’ll get. 6 But when you pray, go to your room, shut the door, and pray to your Father who is present in that secret place. Your Father who sees what you do in secret will reward you.
When you pray, don't put on a show.
“When you pray, don’t pour out a flood of empty words, as the Gentiles do. They think that by saying many words they’ll be heard.
Don't babble or heap up empty phrases.
Don’t be like them, because your Father knows what you need before you ask.
Remember, God knows you better than you do and knows what you need. This ought to be of great comfort to us.
Pray like this:
Not, pray only this, but pray like this. It's a prayer but it's also a pattern. Let's look at it more closely.
Our Father who is in heaven,
uphold the holiness of your name.
Recognize God's sovereignty and holiness.
Bring in your kingdom
so that your will is done on earth as it’s done in heaven.
Recognize that God's rule is preferable to our control.
Give us the bread we need for today.
Provide for me - God is the source of all our sustenence. Remember, Maslow's heirarchy of needs. Basics are breathing, food, water, etc. Then safety, then love and belonging, then respect, and on down. We don't live in a time and culture in which we need the basic levels of needs, but we need safety, love, and all that. So it might be that we need to pray for that which we cannot provide for ourselves - that which is outside of our control.
Forgive us for the ways we have wronged you,
just as we also forgive those who have wronged us.
Forgive us and help us to forgive others. Hard, hard, hard. Peter Kreeft says "Do you realize that everytime you pray the Lord's Prayer you're asking him to damn you to hell if you don't forgive others?" We must keep our hearts free from bitterness and unforgiveness.
And don’t lead us into temptation,
but rescue us from the evil one.
Keep us from temptation and evil. Notice he doesn't say "harm" or "evil that other people do to us." Keep our souls, more or less.
Remember, "Emphasis is on growth, not on perfection." Persistence is the key.
Jesus was telling them a parable about their need to pray continuously and not to be discouraged. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected people. 3 In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him, asking, ‘Give me justice in this case against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused but finally said to himself, I don’t fear God or respect people, 5 but I will give this widow justice because she keeps bothering me. Otherwise, there will be no end to her coming here and embarrassing me.” 6 The Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 Won’t God provide justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he be slow to help them? 8 I tell you, he will give them justice quickly. But when the Human One comes, will he find faithfulness on earth?”
He who fritters away the early morning, its opportunity and freshness, in other pursuits than seeking God will make poor headway seeking him the rest of the day. If God is not first in our thoughts and efforts in the morning, he will be in the last place the remainder of the day.
Early in the morning, well before sunrise, Jesus rose and went to a deserted place where he could be alone in prayer.
Let’s give is a shot. With persistence, let’s pray like this:
- Recognize God’s sovereignty and holiness.
- Recognize God’s rule and that it is preferable to our control.
- Provide for me - God is the source of everything we need to be sustained.
- Forgive me and help me forgive.
- Keep me from temptation and evil.
If any of you are suffering, they should pray. If any of you are happy, they should sing. 14 If any of you are sick, they should call for the elders of the church, and the elders should pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord.