“Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me” (Luke 7:23). It was a hard moment for John the Baptist. In prison. Confused. Life had taken an unexpected turn. He sent his questions to Jesus. Jesus sent back this encouragement, “do not fall away because what I do is not what you expected”. Hard times often take us by suprise. In them, we either turn away from God or turn toward Him. Part of the equation for prayer is a deep trust in God’s goodness and wisdom. This morning in worship, I will teach that Jesus is the light of the world (John 8). A guiding light. When we pray, “Thy will be done”, we are surrendering our dreams and clinging to Him with faith-born confidence that God knows the right path for us. Even when it is painful or difficult. “Blessed is the man/woman who does not fall away.”
“Call unto Me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things that you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3). This morning, I will meet with members of our church for the second day of strategic planning. One of the humbling, exciting dynamics of “planning” is that we do not know the future or God’s deeper purposes. We do not know which hard path is intended for His glory and our good. We do not know which easy path will actually be a dead end. Only He can show us and He does so in answer to prayer. When we say “lead us not into temptation” we are opening your hearts to the direction of God, even when it is different than we were expecting. “Your Father (and ONLY your Father) knows what you need” (Matthew 6:8).
The danger of an emphasis like theeverydayprayer is that it may, unintentionally, communicate that prayer always involves us “saying something”. It doesn’t. This week, I went away for a time of prayer and seeking the Lord. The very idea sounds “monkish” to some, but it follows, I think, the wisdom of Christ to take the time that is necessary to be still before God.(Mark 1:5) I learned this week (again) how difficult this can be. I’m programmed for action! I have NOT been trained to wait, but to solve problems and move forward! Today, I invite you to name the subjects of the Lord’s prayer, (His kingdom, His will, daily bread etc) and rather than talk, just rest with the subject “on the table” between yourself and God. Listen re. this subject. Let Him teach you a new way to think and, as a result, a new way to pray. “In repentance and rest you shall be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength” Isaiah 30:15
It is the first fact we need for friendship. Some mental “file folder” for all of our subsequent observations and experiences. What is your name? In Exodus 3, when God speaks from the burning bush, it is the question that Moses asks. He needed some way to tell others, some description or summary of God’s character, some beginning point for his own understanding. God’s answer? I AM (YHWH–Jehovah). No beginning. No end. The one permanent existence in the universe. When Jesus taught us to pray “Hallowed be thy NAME”, He was pointing to this beginning. None of us knows everything about God. He is a vast mystery. All of us know something about God. He has given us His NAME (made even clearer in Christ). If God exists, do you think that we should be grateful for every communication of Himself ? If He told us His name, would we treasure, guard, and reflect on it? Would we hallow it?
I hope you will take your time this morning (if not this morning, today or tonight before you sleep). I hope you will say the first two words of the Lord’s prayer and linger long enough for them to stretch your heart. Say “FATHER” and realize that you are talking with someone so large and beautiful that His concerns and wisdom are necessarily different than yours. Don’t hide from Him! For a moment, worship Him, lay yourself before Him in glad surrender. Shape your prayer around Him and His will. Then say “OUR Father”. Even when we are alone with God, we are not alone. Our children, friends, church, nation, the whole “prodigal world” should be in our thoughts. Don’t just think of your needs today. Include others! The first two words are a quick start, but they cannot be done quickly. Runners are told to stretch before they run. Stretching your heart is part of the preparation for prayer, too, but it takes some time.
In my church, FBC San Antonio, we are reading John 9 this week. What did Jesus mean when He said that He was “the light of the world”? Did He have Psalm 119:105 in mind? Thy word is a lamp/light for my feet/path? Was He thinking of the “cloud by day and the fire by night?” that gave the Israelites safe passage through the desert? One of the things that light does is give us direction. Just as red lights and green lights tell us what to do, so the Lord is our light. He says “yes” to some things and “no “to others. Whenever we pray, “thy will be done”, we must remember that it is the Father’s will for us to be followers of His Son. In which direction is the light of Christ leading you today? If He was your only consideration, your eyes only on Him, which direction would your steps take today?
One of the most difficult things about prayer is to honestly answer the question: “Am I willing to do His will?”. Until I can answer yes, real prayer is impossible. God’s requirements on my life are frequently things I do not want. Sometimes I say “I can’t” (forgive, wait, apologize, face criticism, etc.); often the real truth is I don’t want to. Perhaps that’s why the Bible connects humility with prayer. “If my people will humble themselves and pray…”. Ego demands what it wants/needs. Humility accepts the decision/direction of a Greater Mind. Humbling myself may be the most difficult task of prayer. It is certainly the most often ignored. Our Father. . .thy will be done. I release outcomes to you. I want what you want. I am willing.
To pray for God’s name to be hallowed is to pray for all people to perceive God with accuracy and reverence. One of the ways this happens is for them to see God in us. In Romans 2:24, Paul says, “the name of the Lord is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you“. If our lives can have a negative impact, isn’t a positive impact also possible? This morning, as you prepare for worship, I hope you will make the words of Horatio Bonar your own. “Fill Thou my life, O Lord my God, in every part with praise, that my whole being may proclaim Thy being and Thy ways. . .So shall no part of day or night from sacredness be free: But all my life and every step be fellowship with Thee”. I will look for you his morning as we worship God together.
When we pray, “Thy Kingdom come”, we are praying about the future as we hope and expect it to be. (If it is to come, it isn’t here yet). From partial to full, gradually over time, we ask God to bring His Kingdom into full and glorious expression. But do we really expect it? These can be empty words without the confidence of deep faith. Christian friend, do you really, joyfully expect the future to bring something wonderful? Not just finally but progressively? Do you ask God for justice and truth to triumph, and does a confident expectation flood your heart as a result of your petition? This morning, I will meet with members of our church to plan the future as the Lord helps us to see it. My prayer is that God will give us a noble dream, a confident expectation of the future and our part in His Kingdom as it comes. Will you pray? Will you expect?
“Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour”. (1 Peter 5:8) When Jesus prayed, “Deliver us from evil”, He used an adjective rather than a noun. He was thinking of an evil person rather than evil itself. In every situation, there are 2 voices present and persuading. The evil one (Satan) takes hardship and proposes resentment. “He doesn’t love you. You will never get through this”, he whispers. He takes blessing and counsels pride or excess. ” You are the Man!”, he will say. God’s counsels are exactly the opposite. Jesus was not praying that we would be spared difficulty. He was praying that in pain or in joy we would be rescued from the one who deceives us and lead us away from God. On hard or happy days whose voice/counsel do you hear? Rescue us, O God, from the one who only wants to devour us!