Statistics
1459 sermons as of October 17, 2017.
Site Search powered by FreeFind

bottom corner

   
Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
 send email...
 
Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Preached At:Providence Canadian Reformed Church
 Hamilton, Ontario
 
Title:Our Lord Jesus teaches us to end our prayers in hope
Text:LD 52 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Prayer
 
Preached:2011
Added:2011-07-25
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Note:  All songs from the 2010 Book of Praise

Psalm 100
Psalm 43
Hymn 63:1,7,8
Hymn 1
Psalm 147:1,4,6

Reading:  2 Chronicles 20:1-30
Text:  Lord's Day 52
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus,

We’re at the end of the Catechism and at the end of our look at the Lord’s Prayer.  This prayer gives us valuable instruction for the most important part of our thankfulness.  It deserves the regular attention we give it as we go through the Catechism on an ongoing basis.  This is what Martin Luther once said about the Lord’s Prayer.  He said:

 

To this day I suckle at the Lord’s Prayer like a child, and as an old man eat and drink from it and never get my fill. It is the very best prayer, even better than the psalter, which is so very dear to me. It is surely evident that a real master composed and taught it.  What a great pity that the prayer of such a master is prattled and chattered so irreverently all over the world! How many pray the Lord’s Prayer several thousand times in the course of a year, and if they were to keep on doing so for a thousand years they would not have tasted nor prayed one iota, one dot, of it! In a word, the Lord’s Prayer is the greatest martyr on earth (as are the name and word of God). Everybody tortures and abuses it; few take comfort and joy in its proper use.

Luther is right.  The Lord’s Prayer is a precious piece of teaching from our Saviour.  It’s a shame that it is so much abused and taken for granted. 

But the abuse of a thing should not lead us to disparage the thing or ignore it.  Especially when that thing has been given by our Saviour and recorded for us through the work of the Holy Spirit.  We need instruction on how to pray – and this prayer is designed to be a model for us. 

The Lord’s Prayer teaches us how to begin our prayers – we’re to approach God as his children, acknowledging both his majesty and his love for us.  It teaches us the content of our prayers – we’re to pray for everything we need for body and soul.  Then finally, our Lord Jesus teaches us how to end our prayers.  We’re going to see this afternoon that our Saviour teaches us to end our prayers in hope.  We do this:

1.      Despite our enemies

2.      Trusting our King

3.      Confident our prayer has been heard

Among other things, one of the great things about the Lord’s Prayer is its realism.  It doesn’t gloss over the fact that we live in a sinful, broken world.  When Christ taught this prayer, he clearly taught it from the perspective of someone who knows what it’s like to live here on this side of the fall into sin. 

Among the realities we face in this broken world are enemies.  There are those who are dedicated to destroying God’s people.  This is a reality today and it’s been a reality in history too.  We see some of that illustrated in what we read from 2 Chronicles 20.  Moab and Ammon brought a vast army to destroy the people of God.  Things were looking grim.  If these nations had been victorious, the people of Judah could have expected one of two things:  death or slavery.  In the face of that, they cried out to God for deliverance, led by King Jehoshaphat.  They realized that they could not stand against this onslaught without God’s help. 

Similarly we today face a gauntlet of enemies bent on our destruction.  We call this the “unholy trinity.”  There are three of them and what unites them is the desire to see God’s work come to nothing and to see God’s people dragged down to hell forever. 

The first of our sworn enemies is the devil.  Peter describes him as a prowling lion looking for someone to devour.  From the beginning in the garden, it’s been his goal to destroy and tear down everything good.  It’s been his goal to ruin God’s creation, and especially the pinnacle of that creation – humanity.  Satan sets snares for God’s people, he sets traps to lead us away from God.  What are some of those snares?  In his book The Great Gain of Godliness, Thomas Watson mentions some of them and I think he’s worth listening to on this.

One approach Satan uses is to “bait his hook with religion.”  He can transform himself into an angel of light.  Satan tempts people to sin with the idea that some good might come from it.  Watson says, “The white devil is worst.”  Who would suspect Satan when he comes like a theologian and, if need be, can quote Scripture to us?

Another approach of our great enemy is to argue from necessity.  Watson gives the example of Lot with his daughters.  He offered his daughters to the Sodomites to protect his visitors.  He thought it was necessary to sin in this terrible way.  That is Satan’s way of thinking. 

Another snare of Satan that he uses to tempt us is to call sins something different.  Watson gives two examples:  people call revenge valour and they call covetousness frugality.  In our day we could think of how people no longer speak of sin, but of mistakes.  Or along these same lines, the way that pride has been transformed into a virtue.  These are snares of Satan.

One last snare of Satan that Watson mentions:  it is to create doubts in the hearts of people who truly trust in Christ.  The suggestion comes that you are not good enough to be God’s child or that you have not repented enough of your sins.  Of course, you are not good enough, but that’s why you have Christ.  This is the thinking:  “Your sins have been great, and your sorrow should be proportionate.  But is it so?  Can you say that you have been as a great a mourner as you have been a sinner?  What is a drop of sorrow to a sea of sin?”  Watson says, “This is laid only as a snare.  The subtle enemy would have a Christian weep himself blind, and as a cruel joke throw away the anchor of hope.”  Satan would have us turn away from Christ and get lost with our doubts and questions.  Make us think that our salvation depends on the quality and quantity of our repentance, rather than on Christ.       

Loved ones, Satan’s power is not to be trifled with.  He is a deadly enemy.  He has had several thousand years of practice at his evil arts.  We should be on our guard and mindful of his strategies.  And recognizing all of that should bring us to our knees asking God for his help.  Satan may be stronger than us, but he is certainly not stronger than our Father. 

We’ll also need his help because we have the world against us.  That enemy is the world of unbelief.  It involves the culture in which we live, the godless people surrounding us and the principles that guide their lives.  Brothers and sisters, the world is not anymore your friend than is the devil.  Like the devil, the world hates you and has a terrible plan for your life.  What we find in the world is the crab-pot syndrome.  If you take a big pot of crabs and put them on the stove and try to cook them and one of the crabs tries to climb out, all the other crabs will drag him back in.  “If we’re going down, we’re all going down together!  Nobody gets out.”  Evil has a grip on the world in which we live and this world then throws numerous temptations our way.  Without God’s help and our hope in that help, we will be swept away.  Prayer is the way to access the help we need.  Prayer is the means by which God will grant us the help of his Spirit so that we can firmly resist the world along with our other enemies.

Most insidious of these enemies is the traitor within.  “The heart is deceitful above all things,” said Jeremiah (17:9).  Martin Luther said that he feared his own heart more than the pope and all his cardinals.  Rightly so.  “Our flesh” refers to our sinful and deceitful heart, to the remnants or left-overs of our sinful nature.  How do our hearts deceive us and tempt us?  I could spend an hour or so on that point.  But let’s just mention a couple of ways.  One way is that we flatter ourselves.  We tell ourselves that we’re not as bad as we really are – at least we’re not as bad as that other person anyway.  Our hearts deceive us by hiding our sins under excuses.  Think of Adam and Eve and the blame game they played after their fall.  Think of Aaron and the golden calf in Exodus 32.  Remember Aaron’s words when he was confronted by Moses?  “Do not be angry, my lord, you know how prone these people are to evil.”  Oh, and that golden calf, it just sort of emerged from the fire.  Like magic.  Right.  And our hearts deceive us and tempt us to sin with false repentance.  Are we really sorry for our sin or are we just sorry we got caught?  There is a difference in Scripture between godly sorrow for sin and worldly sorrow.  How often isn’t our sorrow worldly, how often don’t we need to repent for our repentance?   “The heart is deceitful above all things.”  I am my own worst enemy. 

This unholy trinity, these enemies, they’re hell-bent on dragging us to the place of God’s eternal wrath.  Because of this great and real danger, our Lord Jesus teaches us to pray along the lines of the sixth petition:  “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”  Our hope is in God, and because of that we cry out to him to protect us from these enemies, and to uphold and strengthen us for our battle with them.  Our prayers are to be along the lines of what Jehoshaphat prayed in 2 Chronicles 20, “...We have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us.  We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.”  Loved ones, it’s important to be realistic about your enemies, and to acknowledge their strength as you pray.  Confess what you’re up against.  But then look heavenward in hope.  Not the kind of wishful thinking hope, but the hope that goes hand in hand with faith and confident expectation.  Our deliverance will come as we trust our King.

That trust is reflected in the conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer.  Here our Lord Jesus teaches us to confess three things:

First, we’re taught to confess that as our King, God is sovereign.  He has power over all things.  Even the smallest and most mundane things in our lives and in the universe are under his control.  Absolutely nothing falls outside of his sovereignty, his omnipotence.  Even the Gentile king Nebuchadnezzar came to recognize this.  He said in Daniel 4:35, “All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing.  He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth.  No one can hold back his hand...”  His omnipotence, his almighty power, means that he is able to give us all good things we need for body and soul.

He is able.  But what if he wasn’t willing to give us those things?  Thankfully, we don’t need to doubt or question that.  Scripture is clear that God is not only able, but also willing.  Because of what Christ has done for us, because of the gospel, his heart is turned in love to his people and he gives generously to all who seek him in true faith.  Think again of Jesus’ words in Matthew 7.  What earthly father wouldn’t give good gifts to his children?  Because Christ lived, died, and rose again for us, we have a heavenly Father who loves us far more than any earthly father loves his children.  This knowledge of God’s power and love gives us hope as we pray.  It gives us confidence in our hearts. 

The third thing our Lord Jesus teaches us to confess here is that God’s glory is our highest end.  God’s glory is the point of our lives and thus it’s also the point of the prayers that we utter in our lives.  We have to be self-conscious of that point.  Perhaps sometimes we can speak rather glibly about God’s glory as Reformed people.  We know that God’s glory is what we’re about, but it can become a sort of part of our religious jargon.  The way to avoid that is to be praying along the lines Jesus taught us and to do it with our minds and hearts fully engaged.  Mindless prayers referring to God’s glory are not giving God glory.    

The kingdom, the power, and the glory belong to God.  That’s our confession and it teaches us to hope and trust in our only help.  Think again of Jehoshaphat there in 2 Chronicles 20.  He was the king of Judah.  He had an earthly kingdom, and power, and glory.  But before those enemies, he knew that he was helpless.  He knew that he needed the help of the heavenly king and that’s why he prayed.  That’s why we need to pray.  And when Jehoshaphat’s prayer was answered, how did he and the people respond?  They responded with praise to God and thanksgiving.  Their prayers were an expression of their faith and their response to the answer was gratitude and adoration.  God was glorified. 

That brings us to the last word of our prayers, that little Hebrew word that everybody knows and uses, “Amen.”  That little word is a confession of faith.  In fact, the Hebrew word “Amen,” can be used to describe a response of faith and trust to what someone says.  It’s a word that denotes hopeful confidence. 

We have the desire in our hearts to be heard by God.  Of course.  Otherwise we would not really pray.  But the strength of that desire is not comparable to the strength of the certainty that God has heard us as we pray.  It is an objectively certain and true fact that God hears the prayers of his people as they call out to him in the name of Jesus Christ.  Because Christ is our Mediator in heaven, we can be sure that our prayers arrive at the address of our Father.  They arrive with his urgent appeal for those prayers to be heard.  And they arrive with the perfection of the Holy Spirit too.  Both the Son and the Spirit are working on our behalf to get our prayers heard and they will not be ignored and so we won’t either. 

What does it mean that our prayers are heard?  It means that our prayers have come to God’s attention.  He has not ignored us.  He is not indifferent to us.  Put in human terms, his ear is inclined to us.  Our Father cares to know what his children have to say to him. 

His hearing our prayers also means that he answers those prayers.  No, he doesn’t always answer our prayers the way we want.  Sometimes he answers our prayers with a “No.”  He knows that what we are asking is not good for us or that it does not tend to his glory.  Sometimes he answers our prayers with a “Not yet.”  He has a perfect timing for everything that he has ordained.  We have to learn to content ourselves with his timing and this way in which he answers our prayers.  Still at other times, he answers our prayers with a “Yes,” and in exactly or almost exactly the way we’ve desired it.  But brothers and sisters, never forget that our Father in heaven ALWAYS hears our prayers and ALWAYS answers our prayers.  He always answers them in some way or other, even if it is not the way we would have liked.  Our calling is to see our Father’s answer, to be confident of his love, and to content ourselves with his answer. 

That attitude of contentment allows us to conclude our prayers with a confident and hopeful, “Amen.”  To help us in saying that word meaningfully and from the heart, it can sometimes be good to say the words of the Catechism right afterwards, “It is true and certain.  God has heard my prayer” or something to that effect.  Ending your prayer like that can help to drive home the confident attitude of hope that we’re taught by our Lord Jesus.

So as we end our prayers, and as we end the Catechism, we do so with faith and confidence in God.  We can do that because of Christ.  Because our only comfort in life and in death is in him alone.  The gospel is our great solace in this broken world and it gives us hope for a renewed and restored world.  Loved ones, let’s continue praying and living in eager expectation for that day and that world.  AMEN.    

  




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Please direct any comments to the Webmaster


bottom corner