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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
Title:How to end your prayer
Text:LD 52 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Hymn 6

Psalm 141:1-3

Hymn 63:1,7,8

Hymn 1

Psalm 81:1-3

Scripture reading: John 15

Catechism lesson: 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 the Lord Jesus,

Once again we’ve come to the end of the Lord’s Prayer and the end of our Catechism.  Next week it’s back to Lord’s Day 1.  But for this afternoon we want to consider prayer one last time, specifically the sixth petition and the conclusion of our prayers.  It’s important to begin our prayers properly, but it is equally important to finish our prayers properly.  Our Chief Prophet and Teacher gives us instruction about how to do that.  We’ll learn about how Jesus teaches us to prayerfully confess:

  1. Our weakness
  2. God’s sovereign might and majesty
  3. Our faith

The church father Augustine once said that the whole life of a Christian is temptation.  Day after day, temptations come our way.  They come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes, sometimes even apparently custom-made for the individual being tempted.  The sixth petition addresses this reality.

Our Lord Jesus teaches us to pray to God our Father that he would not lead us into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.  Over the centuries, there’s been a lot of discussion about this.  Can our heavenly Father lead us into temptation?  Does he himself tempt us?  Well, we know from James 1:13 that God doesn’t tempt his children.  “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.”  Yet we know from elsewhere in Scripture that God does sometimes permit temptations to come our way – and we can think here of the classic example of Job.  In his wisdom, God permitted Satan to torment and tempt Job, but he himself did not do that. 

So, God may lead into temptation, he may allow temptations to come our way, he may allow us to face enticements to sin, but he himself doesn’t tempt us.  When we pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” we’re asking that God would if possible keep temptations away from us, and also that he would give us strength for when temptations are permitted to come our way.  And by asking for strength, we’re also admitting our own weakness.

Last week, we considered Lord’s Day 51 and the forgiveness of sins.  Praying for the forgiveness of our sins is instrumental in producing the godly fruit of humility in our lives.  This petition does the same thing.  By praying in the spirit or manner of the sixth petition, we’re confessing to God that we are weak and helpless.  We’re in a spiritual war and in this war we depend upon the power of the Holy Spirit.  We have nothing of our own resources.  Without the Holy Spirit, we would be finished.

Our Lord Jesus taught along these lines more than once.  One instance was in John 15.  He speaks of himself there as the true vine and us as the branches.  That’s referring to our union with Christ.  We are in him – we’re the branches grafted on to the vine.  The branches that bear fruit, that are truly and organically connected to the vine, they’re the ones that get pruned by the Father.  That pruning takes place through various means.  One of those means is the permitting of temptations in our lives.  Through these things he teaches us to depend on him all the more and to recognize that of ourselves we are weak and helpless. 

That’s really the point of verse 5 as well.  Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches.  Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”  If the branch gets cut off from the vine, or if the branch doesn’t receive attention from the gardener, or if the branch doesn’t have sap flowing through it, it’ll never bear fruit and it’ll die.  When our Lord Jesus said this, he wanted us to open our eyes to the reality of our total dependence on him.

When our Master Jesus taught the sixth petition, he wanted us to open our eyes to the reality that we’re weak.  We have sworn enemies intent on destroying us.  We have the devil.  Peter says Satan is a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  We have the world which Jesus says will hate us because we are in him.  And to round out this three-headed monster, we have our own sinful flesh which Paul says wars against us. 

Bernard of Clairvaux was a medieval theologian who had a lot of influence on John Calvin and other Reformers.  Bernard once said that everyone is Satan to himself.  That’s not to deny the existence of an evil angel named Satan, but to say that everyone has a traitor in his or her own heart, everyone has an enemy or adversary within.  After all, that’s what Satan means – enemy or adversary.  Everyone is Satan to himself.  We have these three enemies and they’re not to be trifled with.  And we don’t have the resources within ourselves to resist them.  In our natural state, we’re helpless and hopeless.

So what do we do?  Our Saviour teaches us to make it our habit to call out to God our Father for help.  We’re taught here to pray and ask God to uphold and strengthen us with his Holy Spirit so we can resist these powerful enemies until the day we finally obtain the complete victory.  And when we pray in this way, we can be sure God will hear us and answer us.  He’ll preserve us.  He who is faithful will do it.  And he will use means to do it.  He will instruct us and lead us.  You’ve been praying that God would give you strength for the fight.  He is here this afternoon doing that very thing with his Word and the Holy Spirit.  Let me mention a few things his Word teaches us about resisting temptation.  I’ll mention five, although many more could be mentioned.

First, resisting temptation begins with looking in faith to Christ – fixing your eyes on him constantly.  You need to be daily preaching the gospel to yourself.  Think about it:  the more we look to Christ in faith, resting and trusting in him, the better equipped we are to resist sin and temptation.

Second, be zealous to cut off sin in your life.  In Matthew 5, the Lord Jesus teaches us the practice of radical amputation.  If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.  If your hand causes you to sin, chop it off.  If there’s anything in your life that’s tempting you to sin, get rid of it and the sooner the better.

Third, beware of idleness and boredom.  It’s sometimes been said that boredom is the devil’s playground.  Isn’t it true?  Someone else once said, “The bird that sits still gets shot.”  Boredom and idleness open the door to temptations.

Fourth, practice often with the Sword of the Spirit.  Ephesians 6 tells us that the Sword of the Spirit is the Word of God.  This sword has two edges, you can use it against that enemy within, and you can use it against the enemies outside.  But to use it well, you need to pick it up and practice with it.  You can’t pray in the manner of the sixth petition and then leave your Bible to collect dust for days on end.  God will deliver you with his Word.  That’s how he works.

Finally, pursue humility.  We need grace to resist temptation.  In 1 Peter 5, Peter quotes Solomon, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”  Humility is crucial if we’re to receive grace to prevail against temptations – we need to humble ourselves before God and one another.  We need to not only call for his help, but accept the help he gives in his Word. We ought to pray for the Spirit to work a deeper humility in our lives.  Remember:  lofty towers crash with a heavier fall and lightning strikes the tops of mountains.  God gives grace to the humble.    

So, our Lord Jesus teaches us to confess our weakness.  He also teaches us to confess the sovereign might and majesty of God.  This is the flip side of the sixth petition.  We are weak, but God is strong.  God’s Holy Spirit has power to equip us for resisting temptation.  God is the one who can uphold and strengthen us.

But then our Saviour takes us further with the conclusion to his prayer, “For Yours is the kingdom, and the power and the glory, for ever.”  When our Lord Jesus added this, he was building on another prayer.  He was building on the prayer of his ancestor David in 1 Chronicles 29.  Our Saviour was teaching us to confess that God is a sovereign King – he rules over all things, has power over all things.  Everything is in his hand.  He is able to give us everything good.  And he’s also willing.  In other words, he not only has a hand of power, he also has a heart of love.  This God is not only our King who rules over us and all things, but also our Father who loves us. 

Our prayers can always rest on that confidence.  We believe that God is both good and powerful, and that all good things must be sought from him.  God’s sovereign might and power are there for our good and for his praise. 

His praise is what Christ taught us to seek at the beginning of the prayer, “Hallowed be your name,” and his praise is also what Christ teaches us to seek at the end of our prayers, “For Yours is the Kingdom and the power and the glory, for ever.”  God’s glory, praise, and honour are what we’re all about.  It’s what we’re about when we’re going about our daily business, and it’s what we’re about when we’re on our knees.  Psalm 115:1 says it beautifully, “Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and faithfulness!”  That should be the spirit or manner in which we always pray.

Do you know what happens as we pray in that way?  Yes, God is glorified in our words, absolutely.  But his Spirit also continues to transform our hearts.  By nature, we all have a bad case of spiritual scoliosis.   Scoliosis is a disease where the spine is curved in a way that it shouldn’t be.  Spiritual scoliosis is the disease that we’re all afflicted with by nature.  We’re all curved in on our ourselves.  We all tend towards being narcissists.  We want to make the world all about us, making the universe revolve around us.  The doxology of the Lord Prayer’s along with the other prayers in Scripture, point us outward, outside of ourselves to the God who made us.  We’re pointed to the God who saved us in Christ, the God who restores us and who will someday glorify us.  We’re pointed outside of ourselves.  Prayer for God’s kingdom, power and glory is part of God’s cure for our spiritual scoliosis.  As we get straightened out, what results is yet more praise and honour for God – the very reason we were put on this earth in the first place.

That brings us to the last word of the Lord’s Prayer, “Amen.”  “Amen” is perhaps the most well-known Hebrew word in the world, with maybe “Hallelujah” coming in close behind it.  But even though it’s so well-known and so frequently used, I wonder how many people actually know what “Amen” means.  My guess is that many people think it means, “It’s over, it’s finished.” But our Catechism draws our attention to the true meaning of this Hebrew word, “It is true and certain” or “This is sure to be!”  The word “Amen” is a word of faith. 

That’s demonstrated in Genesis 15 when God covenanted with Abram.  After God made the promise of numerous descendants, we’re told that Abram “believed the LORD,” and the LORD accounted it to him for righteousness.  In Hebrew, the word “believed” is a verbal form of the word “Amen.”  You could even paraphrase it, “Abram said his “Amen” to the LORD...”  “Amen” is a word of faith, trust and certainty.  By saying “Amen” at the conclusion of our prayers, we’re saying we believe God has heard us.

How can we be so certain?  Because we have our Lord Jesus Christ interceding for us at the right hand of the throne of God.  Jesus speaks for us and urges God to hear us, and he always does in response.  We can also be certain because we have the Holy Spirit who perfects our prayers and makes them acceptable to God.  Our prayers are imperfect and weak, also stained with sin, but because of the ongoing work of Christ and his Spirit, we can be confident and can say, “Amen!”  I can be sure that God my Father always hears me.  In my heart, I desire what I’ve asked of him.  But that desire pales in comparison to the love that my Father God has for me.  My desire is weak compared to the strength of his love!  When you say, “Amen,” that’s meant to be a confession of faith in your God. 

So, as we say that word at the end of our prayers, let’s not say it mindlessly, but with faith and confidence.  Let’s be sure we always keep in mind what that little word means.  In so doing, once again, just with that little word “Amen,” we’ll continue to grow in our faith and dependence on our heavenly Father.  A beautiful little four letter word is also part of our growth in grace and knowledge, part of our sanctification.

That brings us to the end of the Lord’s Prayer and the end of another round through the Catechism.  It’s good that we’re regularly reminded of these important truths of the Christian faith.  It’s good that our children are regularly exposed to these truths and grow in them.  Our confidence is that God will use all this teaching for our benefit and for his glory.  AMEN – it is true and certain!

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

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