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Author:Pastor Keith Davis
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Congregation:Bethel United Reformed Church
 Calgary, Alberta
Title:A Family Prayer
Text:LD 45 Matthew 6. 5-15; LD 45 (Q& (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* Song of Praise: “Jehovah Is My Light” # 27B:1-5
God’s Holy Law
Assurance of Pardon
Song of Response: “Remember Not, O God” # 79B
Congregational Prayer
* Song of Preparation: “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” # 429

Service of God’s Holy Word
Scripture Reading: Matthew 6:5-13 Lord’s Day 45 (Q&A 119)
Sermon: “The Family Prayer”
Prayer of Application
* Song of Response: “Before the Throne of God Above” # 277
Offering: Reformed Faith and Life
* Benediction
* Doxology: “Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow” # 568

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

A Family Prayer

Matthew 6. 5-15; LD 45 (Q&A 119)


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ, imagine for a moment the torment, the frustration of wanting to say something, of having words to say, of wanting to communicate our thoughts, our needs, our wishes, but we don’t really know what to say or how to say it.


That’s the difficulty we often face when we meet people who speak a different language. Several months ago, I went to Tim’s to meet a Chinese pastor here in Calgary who is reformed in doctrine. And although his English was much better than my Chinese, the language barrier was a real thing. He mentioned the names of pastors he listened to on YouTube, RC Sproul and John Piper, so that was familiar. But the way much of the conversation went was as you might expect: one person spoke, while the other politely smiled and nodded in agreement.    


When you think about it, that is what “prayer” can be like for a new believer, for someone who’s unchurched and never really prayed before. Prayer can seem like a different language. They may have heard others pray, but they don’t really know what to say or even how to say it.   


Yes, people have needs, hurts, pains, burdens and brokenness. And yes, we sing: ‘Take it to the Lord in Prayer” but our problem is we don’t know how to pray – we don’t speak the “language of heaven.” We don’t know how to communicate with God in such a way that we can bring our petitions and prayers to God.   


This is why the disciples asked Jesus to teach them (and us) how to pray. It’s because they didn’t know how to pray. They didn’t know what to say or how to say it. And all around them they had the terrible example of the Pharisees who were praying for all the wrong reasons and saying all the wrong words – even thanking God that they weren’t like other men, you know, those “sinners.”  


So Jesus patiently, lovingly, graciously and very SIMPLY taught them and us how to pray – so that even fallen sinners like us could learn how to speak to God, how to give voice to our petitions, and how to approach God, and even what we should expect from God as we pray. This morning, we’re going to see that prayer is really nothing more than a conversation – it’s a family conversation between God and His children. He Jesus teaches us that the Lord’s Prayer is a Family Prayer. It is a Family Prayer that is: 

1. Prayed to the Father of the Family

2. Prayed Collectively, by Brothers and Sister of the Family

3. Prayed (and Perfected) by Christ, the Elder Brother of the Family


1. It is Prayed to the Father of the Family

The occasion and context within which the Lord teaches us this prayer is the Sermon on the Mount. This is where Jesus reveals himself as the one who has come not to abolish the law (Matthew 5.17), but rather to fulfill the law.


This is also where Jesus taught the people of God the true meaning of the Law of God. For many generations God’s people had been abiding by what could best be described as their version or their interpretation and application of the law of Moses. Thanks to the church leaders, especially the Pharisees, they had written their own commentary on the Law of Moses, called the Midrash, and the Midrash contained multitudes of other laws and rules that were supposedly designed to help God’s people maintain their allegiance to God’s law.


But in the end, the only thing those laws did was to make the life of the child of God more miserable, more burdensome and difficult – as they had to follow rule upon rule, and law upon law. Over the years, God’s people came to the point where the substance of their religion was simply outward conformity to the law.


Absent from their religion was any sense of sincerity, any sense of true love and devotion to God or to their neighbor. God’s people had forgotten spiritual graces like mercy and kindness and justice; they had essentially forgotten how to worship and how to pray and even how to obey.


So, from the opening beatitudes in chapter 5 to the closing parable of the wise and foolish builders in chapter 7, Jesus is re-introducing the people of God to true religion. He exposed the weak and faulty foundation of those who sought to attain salvation by their own efforts, and he highlighted the need for true faith in the God who freely and graciously provides their salvation.  

Another significant emphasis in the Sermon on the Mount was Christ’s restoration of the Father/Son relationship between God and the believer; the restoration of the intimacy and sincerity between the believer and God – where we call God our Father.  


In fact, if we look at vs 1-18 Jesus mentions the Father 10 times in these verses! The Father in heaven is mentioned right at the end of verse 1. Then again in vs 4 – the Father who sees what is done in secret.


Then in verse 6, Jesus mentions the Father twice; and again in verse 8, vs 9, vs 14, vs 15, and in vs 18 he is mentioned again twice.


And notice something else. In these verses, Jesus is contrasting the way that the hypocrites give, and the way they pray and the way they fast over against how God the Father wants us, His children to come before him in our prayers and other acts of devotion.   


For example, if I can draw your attention back to chapter 6:1 a moment. Jesus issues this warning: Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men, to be seen by them. By ‘acts of righteousness’ Jesus is referring to what we might call our ‘piety’; our religious duties.


The Greek word that Jesus uses when speaking about ‘being seen/noticed by men’ is a very interesting word. It is the Greek word thea-omai, from which we get the English word theater.


These hypocrites had turned their faith-life, their devotion to God, into religious theater. They were not seeking to worship their heavenly Father; or to call upon his name in prayer, to enjoy communion and fellowship with the heavenly Father. No. They their motive was entirely sinful and selfish. They sought the praise and the reward of men.  


In exposing this hypocrisy, Jesus was teaching us that prayer and worship is not something we do in the sight of men, to impress others; but it is something we do in the sight of God, our heavenly Father. He is our God and we are His children. Philip Ryken explains that when we pray like this, “we are realizing our fundamental identity as a Christian – that we are a son or daughter of the Most High God!”


It is Jesus, God’s own beloved Son, who came to earth to bring us to heaven, who came to earth to suffer and die for our sins, who has secured for us this fundamental right, this great honor and privilege of praying this family prayer, and of calling God our heavenly Father.


2. The Lord’s prayer is Prayed Collectively, by our Brothers and Sisters.

Secondly, we notice that the Lord’s Prayer is a Family Prayer that is prayed collectively – by our brothers and sisters.


I mentioned last week (when we looked at Daniel’s prayer in chapter 9), the prayer he lifted up to God was a prayer on behalf of all of God’s people. There was a corporate nature to it. And we see the same approach when Jesus teaches us to pray here in Matthew 6. In every petition, in every phrase, Jesus teaches us to pray in the plural. (This teaches us to pray selflessly and sacrificially as we think about others).


In Philip Ryken’s book on the Lord’s prayer he shared a clever poem he found about the Lord’s Prayer. It goes like this:

You cannot pray the Lord’s prayer and even once say “I”;

You cannot say the Lord’s prayer and even once say “My.”

Nor can you pray the Lord's prayer and not pray for another,

for when you ask for daily bread you must include your brother.

For others are included in each and every plea –

from the beginning to the end of it, it never once says “Me!”   


And while it’s certainly not wrong to pray on certain occasions for ourselves – remember how Jesus prayed did in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; but not my will, but Thine be done”, the “pattern” that Jesus teaches us in the Lord’s prayer is designed to make us think beyond ourselves; Jesus wants us to look beyond our individual needs, beyond our own stomachs, beyond our own hurts, and pains, and griefs, beyond our own health and welfare, beyond our own business and household, and even beyond our own church and nation.


Remember again, this is a family prayer. We are praying to our heavenly Father. And now Jesus teaches us to pray with our whole family in mind – all of our brothers and sisters in the faith! As Ryken later explained – Jesus is teaching us that “to pray is to practice the communion of the saints, which is the spiritual fellowship all Christians everywhere enjoy in Christ Jesus”.


When we pray, we must remember we are never alone. We are one among millions of brothers and sisters in Christ who are lifting up prayers and petitions to God our Father. While the prayer of even one righteous man is powerful and effective, just imagine the power and strength and effectiveness of all of God’s children who are in their secret place, their prayer closet, with eyes closed, heads bowed, and hearts uplifted—crying out and pleading to God as one family.


The wonderful thing is, this pattern of prayer also follows that Gospel pattern of living that Jesus taught us, to put the needs of others before our own. When we pray like this, do you realize what happens? I pray for you  all, and you all pray for me. In that way, our individual prayer needs are met by praying collectively for each other – as we follow the perfect pattern of prayer that Jesus gave us.  


One of the most precious and loving and spiritually mature things we can do as a church, as a family of Christ, is to pray for one another; to lift up the needs (the sorrows and heartaches and griefs and pains) of our brothers and sisters, asking God our Father to help, to heal, to save, to bless or whatever it might be. That is what the family of God does. A family that prays together stays together.      


3. The Lord’s Prayer is also the Prayer of our Elder Brother

There are some who suggest that the prayer which Jesus gave us here in Matthew 6, and which he taught his disciples to pray, is technically not the Lord’s prayer. If we want to see how Jesus prays, we could turn to John 17 where we find the High Priestly Prayer of our Lord.


But the truth is, this prayer that Jesus gave us to pray is also a prayer that he himself prayed while he was on earth. Jesus prayed every petition in one way or another. Jesus always prayed to his Father in heaven. Jesus always prayed Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. John 6:38: “I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.”


And in the end we know what that meant for Jesus. Jesus was obedient to His Father’s plan of salvation – He went all the way to the cross for us; he suffered and died for our sins so that we could be set free. Jesus left nothing undone; he perfectly carried His Father’s will.


And Jesus also prayed, “give us this day our daily bread”. Before he fed the 5,000 Jesus prayed. And while Jesus was breaking bread with his disciples in the Upper Room, we read that Jesus took some, gave thanks, and then broke it, and then gave it to his disciples. (Matt 26:26).


But what about the petition: “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” No, Jesus had no sins of his own, and yet, Jesus was the one upon whom the Father imputed all our sin, and in whom the Father punished all our sin. As one commentator argued, couldn’t it be said that on the cross, in his work of salvation, in his actions but also in his words -- Jesus was asking the Father to forgive us of our sins. And remember how he called out on the cross: Father, forgive them for they know now what they do.


Jesus also prayed “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one”! Jesus would have prayed that as he was tempted in the wilderness. Jesus prayed that very prayer for Peter. Jesus told Peter that “Satan requested to sift him as wheat.”  But then Jesus told Peter to take heart for he prayed for him to be delivered from the evil one.


And yes, Jesus also prayed for the kingdom, and the power and the glory! In John 17 Jesus prayed for the Father to glorify the Son, so that the Son could glorify the Father. So in that way, Jesus did give us the prayer that he also prayed – in various ways and times.


But don’t forget this. Now that Christ is high and exalted at the right hand of God, Jesus sits at God’s right hand as our heavenly high priest, as our mouth piece; Jesus lives to make intercession for us before the throne of God; Jesus takes our feeble prayers, our weak words upon his lips, and he sanctifies and purifies what we say, and Jesus takes our purified petitions and prayers and he speaks them into the Father’s ear.


Hebrews 7:24-25 because Jesus lives forever, his priesthood lasts forever. “Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf.”


You see, Christ has come not only to save us from our sins, but He has come to restore to us the benefits of Sonship – of calling on God in prayer. For His Father is now our Father! And because of Christ finished work on the cross for us, and because of Christ’s ascension into heaven where he sits at God’s right hand, we can be assured that God the Father hears our prayers.


Christ has restored our voice; he has removed the language barrier between us fallen sinners and our Holy and transcendent God. He has taught us the language of heaven. So that now we may give voice to all our heartaches and sorrows, as well as all of our praises and petitions. And we may know – with all confidence and boldness – that no matter how simple, no matter how ordinary our prayers may be, Christ perfects them, and our Father hears them and will answer them. Amen.    


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
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