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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:The perfect end to the perfect prayer
Text:LD 52 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Prayer
 
Preached:2021
Added:2021-07-11
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 65:1,2                                                                                            

Hy 1

Reading – Psalm 65; Luke 18:1-8; 2 Corinthians 1:12-22

Ps 106:1,22,23

Sermon – Lord’s Day 52, part 2

Hy 63:1,2,8

Hy 78:1,2,3,4,5

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


Beloved in Christ, many of us have busy lives. There are a lot of demands on our time, and we spend the week rushing from here to there, occupied by many things. Until another Sunday, it’s hard to find a moment’s rest. And even on Sunday our mind can be busy with work, and play, and projects, and commitments.

Because we lead busy lives, we’ve learned to do things quickly. We eat quickly. We shower quickly. We drive quickly. And, let’s be honest, we also pray quickly. We know we should do it, but there’s other things to be done too. So we say our thanks, make our requests, confess our sins, and then we’re about done. It’s a quick prayer that we’re used to offering up.

By the time we reach the end of our prayer, we’re ready to be finished. A few last phrases, and then ‘Amen.’ Perhaps I exaggerate a little, or perhaps I’m not far off. I too, have a busy life. I know what my own prayers can be like. But Scripture always provides a corrective to our habits. The Bible always reminds us of what God really wants.

About our prayer life, Scripture has a lot to say. Each part of our prayer—whether adoration, confession, thanksgiving, or supplication—each part is needed, and no part can be overlooked. Also when it comes to the end of our prayers, we must be mindful of what God desires. It’s not a time to lose focus, or to say some phrases that are empty of meaning. When we conclude our prayers, we have to do this in the right spirit before God.

When Jesus taught the Lord’s Prayer, He showed the need for a good ending. For He teaches us to pray to God in a worshipful and a confident way, right to the finish. It might take a little more time, a little more thought, but this is pleasing to God. So let’s see what Scripture and the Catechism teach us in Q&A 128-129,

Jesus teaches the perfect end to the perfect prayer:

  1. we give glory to God
  2. we have confidence in God

 

1) we give glory to God: The purpose of our life is to glorify God, to make much of him, to be satisfied in him, and praise him always. We must bring acclaim to the Triune God by the way we think, and how we speak, and what we do. This means that our prayers too, should be vehicles for bringing worship to the Lord.

In fact, we need to pray in the same way that we live: in humble adoration of our God in heaven. Remember that’s how we begin our prayers, with the petition “Hallowed be your Name.” That is, we should pray every time, “Father, be glorified in us. Make your name great in my life, through whatever you are pleased to do.” This is also how Jesus teaches us to end our prayers. We end with a beautiful statement called the doxology: “For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.”

You’ve probably learned before that a doxology is a short statement of praise. There’s a beautiful doxology in Romans 11. It comes after Paul has spoken for eleven chapters all about the riches of salvation in Jesus Christ. After teaching us about the deep sinfulness of sin, and the stunning glories of grace, and the mysteries of election, Paul breaks out in praise, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! From him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever!” (vv 33, 36). Another doxology is our Hymn 8, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.” These are powerful expressions of praise.

As we conclude our prayers, it is right that we pause and let our attention be directed toward God. This is good to do, because when we pray, it’s a constant struggle not to get caught up in other things, side-tracked from the activity of the moment.

What do I mean? As we pray, our mind retraces the steps of our day. With lightning speed, we start thinking about those sins we’ve confessed. As we pray, we start thinking about those things we’re thankful for: we think about our job, our nice car, or how special our kids are. In less than a millisecond, we’ve stopped talking with God and started admiring our nice life, or we’ve started worrying about our difficult condition. It’s very hard not to do this, but prayer is calling on God in humility and awe.

So we have to keep re-pointing our prayers in the right direction. Even at the end of our prayers, Jesus teaches us to confess to God in heaven, “For yours is the kingdom.” With these words, we’re not just tacking some praise onto the end because we have to. This praise we offer to God has everything to do with the things we’ve just prayed.

The Catechism explains the doxology this way, “All this we ask of you because, as our King, [you have] power over all things” (Q&A 128). We’re not talking to ourselves when we pray. We’re not talking to our loyal but limited friend. Remember this: we’re talking with the great King, glorious and majestic. This is why David starts his prayer in Psalm 65 like this, “Praise is awaiting you, O God, in Zion” (v 1). Praise awaits him, for He is worthy!

Jesus teaches us to praise the Father by saying, “Yours is the Kingdom.” At the end of our prayer, we glorify God for holding in his hand the power of life and death. If He wants to condemn sinners, He can. If He wants to judge the wicked, He can. Kneeling before our King at the conclusion of our prayers, it is right to feel a sense of our sinfulness and smallness.

Yet because God is King, He’s also free to relent and have mercy. And that’s what He does. We read in Psalm 65:3, “Iniquities prevail against me; as for our transgressions, you will provide atonement for them.” He will provide atonement, making restoration of a damaged relationship. He will forgive! The kingdom belongs to God alone, and He lets us come in.

“Yours is the Kingdom.” With this praise we’re saying that God knows his people, and He loves his people. What He decrees from his throne is always good. What He commands is always for our benefit. He’s a good king!

“Father,” we confess, “yours is the Kingdom.” When I am done praying and I continue with my day, I ask that God would help me to be a good citizen of his kingdom, a loyal soldier, a faithful servant. I pray that He would help me to work for the kingdom, until it comes. Often times we pray with one eye on our own wealth, our own success, our own kingdom. But we should pray with the conviction that we’re not on earth to build ourselves up, we’re here for the LORD: “All this we ask, for yours is the kingdom.”

And to God belongs all the power. Our God is Almighty, and He has perfect strength. The Catechism puts it this way, “[You have] power over all things” (Q&A 128). In our family prayers, and our personal prayers, and praying together as church, we have this certainty: Our Father has unfailing strength. He is able, more than able. He can glorify his name through pandemics, He can increase his church even when the church is hated in every place, He can stop the schemes of the evil one.

God can do amazing and global things. And He can also help me, his little child, leading my little life. He is concerned for something as small as my plans for tomorrow, my sore knee, and my daily bread. As David sings with praise to God in Psalm 65, “You provide…grain, for so you have prepared it” (v 9). Grain is a simple gift—and we need it—and God will give it. Fill your prayers with the certainty that the Father can provide you with everything you need, just as you have asked, just as He has promised.

So as we ask his help against temptation, for more strength against the devil, we praise God saying, “You have all power.” God can deliver you from the lurking serpent. God can uphold you  even in the moment when it seems you’ll fall. He will help you stand, help you be holy, help you trust. “All this I pray, for yours is the power.”

And God’s is the glory. See how that’s built right into this doxology of the Lord’s Prayer. It’s a reminder that in all things we should be focused on bringing praise to God. Even at the end of our prayers, and at the end of our day, we need to say this: “Yours, O LORD, is the glory.” Say it, because you still like to take credit yourself. We ask for growth in faith, or for a good job, or a successful exam, or for a blessing on a project at work. We ask, we receive, but do we remember to give God our thanks?    

Jesus tells us to end with a confession to the Father that his alone is the glory. As the Catechism puts it, “Not we but your Holy Name should receive all glory forever” (Q&A 128). Not we, but you! God wants to be in the centre of our life, and at the centre of our thanksgiving, because He is the living God, enthroned in heaven above.

God delights in our praise. And we can delight in praise! For when we make this our habit in prayer, when it becomes the habitual movement of our heart, we actually find a lot of comfort and strength in praising God. Listen again to how the Catechism explains the doxology: ‘All this we ask of you because, as our King, having power over all things, you are both willing and able to give us all that is good’” (Q&A 128).

When we pray with praise, when we draw near with doxology, God is giving a quiet reminder that He can do it! He is reassuring us that with him, nothing is impossible—telling us that we can do all things through him who give us strength. Even as I have brought my burdens to God, and I have poured out my sorrows, and confessed my ugly sins, I know that this God is ready to come near and to help: He is “both willing and able to give us all that is good.”

So don’t forget that second last piece of the perfect prayer. In fact, I encourage you not to leave this piece to the very end. Let doxology dominate. Let praise proliferate. From the start to the finish of your prayer, remember that you’ve entered the very presence of God, the God who is your Father in Jesus Christ. We share in David’s worship in Psalm 65 when we pray, “By awesome deeds in righteousness you will answer us, O God of our salvation” (v 5). He will answer us, and for this we praise him.

The language of praise is taught on so many pages of the Scriptures. Read the Psalms, like Psalm 65, and pray through the Psalms. Take a look at what you can learn from all the doxologies in the book of Revelation, or from all the praise-filled prayers in the letters of Paul. We can learn these doxologies, imitate them, and use them to make our own. When we pray, let’s give time to praising our awesome God in heaven. He is the one in whom we may have complete confidence.

 

2) we have confidence in God: We might neglect to praise God in our prayers. We might struggle to find the words to express our troubles. But I’m sure that few of us ever forget that final word: ‘Amen.’ When little children first learn to pray, that’s actually the word they start with: ‘Amen.’

When we say it sincerely, it’s a powerful word. Jesus taught us to end prayer in this way because it expresses great confidence. The word is from a Hebrew noun that means ‘truth, reliability, faithfulness.’ It describes certainty. And in prayer, it expresses confidence: ‘Amen’ – “It is true and certain” (Q&A 129). It’s not just a word, it’s an attitude. God delights in our prayers when we pray in full assurance.

It means praying in the same confident spirit as David in Psalm 65. Notice what he says in verse 2, “O you who hear prayer, to you all flesh will come.” As David draws near, He is certain that God is listening to him and preparing to answer!

I wonder if we always have that same awareness in our prayers, that we are fully conscious that God is hearing us? My prayers can be lame-sounding. They can be cliched. They can be offered out of a sense of duty, and little more. I’m not sure that I’d want God to hear some of these prayers! Do I always remember that God is interested in what I am saying?

So when we pray, we should be confident in the God who hears our prayers. We should do so, says the Catechism, believing that “God has much more certainly heard my prayer than I [even] feel in my heart that I desire this of him” (Q&A 129). His willingness is greater than my desire. His attentiveness is keener than my longing at that moment. His listening ear is more than ready for my weak words, and ready to answer them in grace and mercy.

Remember Lord’s Day 45, about what belongs to a prayer which pleases God. There we said, “We must from the heart call upon the one true God” (Q&A 117). Or think of what James says of us when we pray, “When he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind” (1:6).

Not doubting, but believing—that’s how we must pray. And when we pray in faith, our ‘amen’ expresses in a beautiful way our confidence in God. We say it with conviction, we say it with meaning: ‘Amen. It is true and certain.’

We’ve said God is both willing and able to hear our prayers, and to give us all that is good. This confession is a great encouragement. Knowing what we do about our God, there’s no reason to be half-hearted when we pray. This is what David says in the midst of his praise to the LORD, “You…are the confidence of all the ends of the earth” (Ps 65:5). God is our confidence, He’s our certainty, our reason for conviction. We can pray to God persistently, we can pray to him with steadfastness.

This was the lesson of the parable about prayer in Luke 18. Recall how Luke introduces it, “[Jesus] spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart” (v 1). And what was the story He told?

There once was a widow who kept pleading with a judge for mercy. Perhaps someone had taken advantage of her, exploited her weakness. She needed the help of another, an outside authority, so she approached the judge. He clearly wasn’t interested in helping a nobody like her, but she kept going to him. Even though he was unrighteous, she kept pleading, because she was confident that this judge had the power to make things right. She persisted—and for her persistence she received her reward, for he answered her.

Reflect on Jesus’s simple but emphatic lesson for our prayers: ‘You always ought to pray and not lose heart.’ Go to him, for your God is not an unrighteous judge. He is perfectly righteous, and He is Almighty, and for the sake of Christ, God is love. So how constantly you can pray to him! He can heal. He can forgive. He can teach. He can encourage you on your worst days. He can provide in every way that you need. Pray, and do not lose heart. You will not wear him out, not ever. When you ask, perhaps He will say ‘yes.’ Perhaps ‘no.’ Perhaps He will tell us to wait. But He won’t put us off. When the Father hears the prayers of his dear children, He is moved with compassion.

With our ‘amen,’ and with every word, we pray to our God from the heart. We do this, said LD 45, “[resting] on this firm foundation that, although we do not deserve it, God will certainly hear our prayer for the sake of Christ our Lord.”

That is the whole key to prayer, its true power. Our Father is willing to hear and to answer, because of our Lord Jesus Christ. By ourselves, we’re nothing. Our words should fall to the ground. Propelled by our faith alone, our prayers will sink, because our faith is so weak. But God hears us for Christ’s sake.

Paul describes the certainty of prayer in 2 Corinthians 1:20. He writes, “For all the promises of God in him are Yes, and in him Amen, to the glory of God through us.” We know that Christ fulfilled every prophecy (hundreds of them), and in a similar way, Christ fulfills every promise. Whatever God has vowed, He’ll grant because of Christ.

Are you asking for a knowledge of God’s will, for true wisdom for your life? God will grant it. Are you pleading for the complete forgiveness of all your sins? He will give it. Do you request your daily bread? You can be certain that it’s yours. Are you looking for strength to say no to the devil’s daily temptations? For Jesus’s sake, God will grant this. Are you hoping to receive a place in God’s eternal kingdom? It is yours in Christ.

If we ask God for anything that He has promised in his Word, we’re confident. We are confident, because Christ has opened up the treasure house of God’s favour. Through Christ, the Father looks upon us as his own children, precious sons and daughters. Says Jesus, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:13).

Come to think of it, that’s another thing we hardly ever forget. We know we have to end our prayers by asking ‘through Christ.’ It’s what young children learn too, to always say “for Jesus’ sake.” But once more, it’s not just about the right words, but about the right attitude: praying with a sure confidence through Christ.

Let this kind of humble faith fill your prayers, where you know: “God doesn’t have to hear me. God doesn’t have to answer me, for I’m just a sinner. I have failed God more times than I can count. I don’t deserve his listening ear or his gracious hand. But I know He will hear me, because of Christ. I rest on Jesus as my firm foundation!” In that spirit we pray. We have every reason to pray persistently, to pray confidently, to pray expectantly.

We conclude our prayer. “For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.” We’ve said that this is the perfect end to the perfect prayer. It’s perfect because we know it’s what God wants. It’s perfect because it’s what our Lord himself taught us.

Yet we know that our prayers are still far from perfect. We pray, distracted by our busy lives, our life of faith so often stretched thin by our schedules. We pray, so often focused on ourselves. We pray out of a confidence that’s less than full, and with a praise that’s less than sincere.

But God doesn’t hear you because of you. He hears you because of Christ! So rest in him. Build on him as a firm foundation. And your Father will answer you for Jesus’s sake.  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2021, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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