Teach Us to Pray, Part 1

Scripture: Luke 11:1, Ecclesiastes 5:1-7, Proverbs 10:19
Date: 08/14/1999 
"Lord, teach us to pray." There is only one place in Scripture where this phrase is used. Christ, the perfect Son of God, needed prayer. How much more do we need to pray! This sermon looks at the Lord's Prayer. It provides a pattern for us to pray.
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Note: This is a verbatim transcript of the live broadcast. It is presented as spoken.

This may be the only place in the Bible where you find this exact phrase, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Lord, teach us to pray. You read in the book Desire of Ages evidently the context of this story, Christ had spent one of his many, many sessions of prayer where he maybe had been at one point it says he prayed all night before he appointed the twelve apostles. Other times is says a great while before it was day he would arise and go off by himself for his personal devotions. Jesus needing personal time of prayer for strength. Well, you would think that his faith would be inherently strong enough, but if Christ the spotless son of God needed personal time for prayer and intercession with the Father how much more do we weak, sinful mortals need our private times of devotion?

Lord, teach us to pray. Why don’t you say that with me? Lord, teach us to pray. Now I’ve been gone for a couple of weeks between Redwood Campmeeting and other appointments the ASI convention and one thing impressed me that I continue to hear as I would meet people at the camp meeting, at the convention, a couple of meetings I went to aside from that, countless people came up to me and they said, “Doug, we want you to know that we’re praying for you.” Now you know sometimes folks say that sort of as a, it’s conversational, it’s sort of a compliment, it’s an adage, a proverb, in other words we don’t always mean it specifically. I’ll pray for you. Matter of fact, I was convicted one time. People would say, “Pastor Doug, will you pray about this? Or will you pray about that?” And I would often say, “Yes.” And then I would realize later I never had or I’d forgotten. And so I started saying, “Let’s pray right now,” to make sure I didn’t forget.

Or I’d tell them, “I will try to remember to do that.” Because sometimes I forgot after promising I would and I wanted to be honest with people. But so many people came up and they said, “We want you to know we pray for you every day.” Well, I could tell they were being very specific. “We’re praying for the Net 99 program. We’re praying for your family.” And you know it really began to make an impression on me how many people were telling me they were praying for me. First of all, I didn’t feel like I deserved that much prayer. Secondly, I was very thankful for it. Thirdly, it was very scary to think what might be going on now if people weren’t praying for me as much as they are. But I was thinking a lot about prayer. There was a lady who met me as I was checking into our hotel in Orlando for the ASI Convention and she had a very determined look on her face. She said, “I need to talk to you later. I need to give you something.” So I said, “Ok.” Later on I ran into her again and she handed me a card and on the card she said, “Our ministry in New York wants you to know that we have people appointed who are going to pray for you every moment you’re preaching during the Net 99 program someone will be on their knees.” Now that is one of dozens of people who told me they have teams appointed just to pray while I’m preaching.

That’s encouraging. I was at Redwood Campmeeting and they appointed prayer partners. And every time before I get up to preach not only would we have our corporate prayer with the people on the platform but somebody specifically appointed to be a prayer partner would come up and put their arm around me and say, “Doug, I want to personally pray with you.” And I’ve just been thinking I don’t know very much about prayer. Lord, teach me to pray better. Well, these things had been sort of stewing in my mind. I went from the ASI Convention. I’ve had a very heavy schedule this year and I really do appreciate our congregation’s patience with me as I’ve been hop-scotching around the country and the world doing different appointments. And incidentally, next year, by God’s grace, I only know of two times I’m going to be out of town. And so I told folks that I’ve said I want to stay closer to my family and the church and do a lot less traveling and I’m doing my best to stick to that. And you don’t know how many times, you could ask Bonnie, my secretary right here, she’ll tell you how many invitations have come in and we’re saying, “Thank you, no, no, no.” Because it’s hard to turn down, you know when you’re invited to address the United Nations, but I said, “Nope, I’ve promised that I’m going to be at my church and I’m very resolved about that.”

That one hasn’t come in yet, but just I’ve already made up my mind when that letter comes that I know what my answer is. But I’ve been thinking a lot about prayer and again I’m talking to myself I am convicted I don’t pray enough, I don’t pray very well. I was reading about some of our founding fathers and how much time they spent in prayer. Matter of fact, I’ve got a couple of notes here that I entered in my sermon. Do you know that it’s been deleted from a lot of the history books how much time was spent in prayer in the formation of our country by those who signed the Declaration of Independence? The revisionists who sort of rewrite history would have you and I believe that they were all Pantheists or Deists or Agnostics and it’s just not true. If so those Agnostics prayed a whole lot more than Christians do today. George Washington, for instance, Robert Louis of Fredericksburg, Virginia, he was Washington’s private secretary. He during the first part of his presidency said he accidentally witnessed Washington’s private devotions several times. Both morning and evening he saw him kneeling with an open Bible before him.

He said he believed this was his daily practice. In the morning typically he would arise at 4 o’clock and go into his library for his private devotions. One day during the battle of Valley Forge when Washington and his troops were entrenched and starving and freezing a farmer who lived nearby was bringing provisions to the troops. On his way back through the woods he heard someone speaking. He went off and peered into the clearing and George Washington was there on his knees in the snow praying, tears running down his cheeks. And this farmer went home and he told his wife, “George Washington will succeed. George Washington will succeed. The Americans will secure their independence.” “What makes you think so, Isaac?” the wife asked. The farmer replied, “I heard him pray, Hannah, out in the woods today and the Lord will surely hear his prayer. He will, Hannah, thee may rest assured he will.” He was a Quaker, I think. Country was built on prayer. Now, I was traveling from Orlando, Florida to another appointment in Chicago and because of a miscommunication we thought there was a shuttle that would take me from the airport to the hotel. Actually we later found out that shuttle took us from the hotel to the meeting place. There was no airport shuttle. I had no rental car. The hotel is half an hour away. I’m there with my bags in hand, and I found out I had no way to get there. I said, “Alright. What am I going to do?” and I slid into my normal modes-operands. I can figure this out. I can hitchhike. I can. I can.

You know I’m sort of a driven person. But I’ve been thinking a lot about prayer and I thought, “Why don’t you pray? Maybe God has another plan.” When things interrupt your plan maybe it’s because God has his plan. And I said, “Okay, Lord, this was really unexpected. I don’t know why this has happened. I hate to spend our donor’s money.” You know whenever we rent a car it costs the ministry money and I said, “I hate to spend their money on a rental car to get to this meeting because I know there will be people there to bring me back to the airport.” And I walked over to the taxis. Take a taxi for half an hour in Chicago. I thought, “Well, it will be cheaper to rent a car.” And so I prayed a very short, but a very specific prayer. I said, “Lord, I don’t know what to do, but I’m hoping, I believe you’ve got another answer.” Well, lightening didn’t hit me and so I thought I’d better get on a shuttle bus to go get a rental car. And so as I got on the National shuttle bus that takes you to where their rental cars are I jump on the bus and I think the only other person on the bus as I turned around and sat down was the conference president from Northern California who I had been needing to talk to. And I said, “Elder Retzer!” And he said, “Brother Batchelor!” We had just seen each other at Redwood Campmeeting.

We’d just seen each other at the ASI convention. I said, “Are you going to this strategy evangelism program?” He said, “What?” I said, “Are you going to the same meeting as me?” He said, “No.” He said, “I’m going to interview pastors at Andrews University then I’m going to the camporee that’s in Oshkosh.” I said, “I’m going to this hotel called Clubhouse Hotel for a convention. It’s off Highway 294. You wouldn’t happen to be going anywhere near there?” He said, “Yes, I’m going right by Hinsdale Hospital which is on 294 and that’s where the hotel is.” I had just prayed, “Lord, I don’t want to rent a car and waste that money. I wish you’d show me some other way. I don’t want to spend a cab.” Right after I pray that prayer I get on a bus and the Lord provides the conference president as my chauffeur. Now would you call that an answer to prayer? And I was thinking. I said, “You know, Elder Retzer, I’ve got to tell you I just prayed that God would help me find some other way to get there.” And he said, “Oh, Doug, it feels so good to know I’ve been an answer to prayer.” So we picked up his wife with their bags and they took us to the hospital and we talked and there were several things I needed to discuss with him without the distractions we’d had at these conventions and I had him captive right where I needed him and was able to talk and he had to drive and listen. And so it was a wonderful example of how God answers prayer. Well, we went to the council meeting and I’ve got to be careful how much I say at this point.

I had just come from the ASI convention. You know what ASI is? ASI is the laymen of the church, the members of the church that are part of this organization of how they share the techniques and ways that they are sharing Christ through their daily lives, in their place of business, in the market place, and it’s inspiring and I’m more convinced than ever that the people who are going to finish the work are the members. I’m thankful that I’m part of Amazing Facts because a primary part of that ministry is providing materials and training for members to spread the gospel. I’m so thankful today that some people are missing here at Central. Do you know why? Some of our members are preaching other places today. And so I’m really glad that we are capturing that vision that every member is a minister here at Central. Anyway I came from that meeting where all of the members were praying together and dynamically sharing how they can do more to share Christ. I went to the other meeting that was the antithesis. It was the church organization, all the leaders, everybody denominational employees and they met at the hospital and you would recognize most of the names which I’ll not share with you. I arrived a little late, and not a lot, a little late. And they talked about how for the next four years are we going to evangelize North America? And they talked about doing this and doing that and publishing and Internet and some good ideas and good discussion. We had lunch, we talked some more, then they had a benediction and left. And I prayed, and said, “Alright, Lord, I need a ride back to the airport. I don’t have a car.” First person I asked said, “I’ll take you.” It was Carl Johnson from Seminars Unlimited, a good friend of mine. I said, “Carl, I came late.

Did they have a session of prayer together before the meeting?” He said, “Well, they had an opening prayer.” I said, “You mean we got all of the media leaders and ministry leaders of the church together, talked about Jesus’ coming, we’re not going to meet again for four years and we didn’t get on our knees and pray one time?” He said, “No, Doug, we didn’t.” And I thought, something’s wrong. I said, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Well, I get to the airport. I said, “This prayer stuff is really important. I’m going to try it again.” And I said, “Lord.” Incidentally, you notice in the sermon it said Part 1? That’s because I may talk about prayer for several weeks. I don’t want to be hurried. This is very, very important. You tell all your friends and enemies they’re welcome to join us because I think a revival always comes on the heels of prayer. When did God pour out the Holy Spirit in Pentecost? After they were on their knees ten days together, right? And I’d like to see that kind of revival here. Well, I’m on my way to the airport and you know there are a couple of things that teach a Christian patience. One is children, the other is airports.

What’s that? And spouses. And so I get so tired of airports. For one thing, I hate crowds, the cattle mentality just makes me cry out for wide open spaces. And you know I have a small case of chronic claustrophobia. I’ll just let you know that right now. I’m not teasing. I really do. When I get on an airplane I say, “I need to have an isle seat if at all possible because I get up and down a lot.” If I get in one of those airplane seats especially a crowded plane, you already feel like you’re robbed of oxygen and then someone in front of you leans their chair back and if you sneeze you get a concussion because you have very little room. I bought a laptop so I could work on airplanes as I traveled. Now they keep cramping the seats closer and closer. Is it just me or have you noticed that? Either that or I’m growing taller. I can’t open my laptop now if the person in front of me leans their seat back so I got a Palm Pilot. You know what those are? The little bitty computers, but now you’ve got to type like this which is okay because I type with one finger anyway. But I found out that, I said, “Lord, I hope that my flights are on time.”

I was getting in about 11 o’clock at night. I just want to get home. I’d been on the road. Once I got home I know I’m not going anywhere until the Net New York program. It’s going to be so nice. And I get to Delta and I look at the thing and it says that my flight is cancelled. I say, “Okay, Lord. You’ve taught me to trust you.” I said, “I’m going to pray that you’ve got a better plan. There’s a reason that this is happening. I don’t know what that reason is, but, Lord, I’m not going to get upset. I’m just going to trust you.” I go to the Delta ticket counter and they say, “Well, we’ve got good news. You’re being transferred to United, but it’s a direct flight. You don’t have to change planes and so you’re getting back sooner.” I said, “Alright! Praise the Lord for that.” But I‘ve got a three hour wait, four hour wait which is okay because I can work on my laptop without a crowd. So I’m walking over to the United thing and I’m praying as I walk and I said, “Lord, I’m not sure what I’m going to do for the next four hours. If I can find a comfortable place to work…” I’m praying. You know sometimes you pray you just talk to the Lord.

I wasn’t on my knees and you know doing the rosary and a lot of these external things that people do for the prayer. I’m walking through a terminal, I’m talking to God. I said, “Lord, it would be nice to have a place, a comfortable place where I could work.” And then I added something. I said, “It sure would be nice to meet somebody I could talk to.” I didn’t say it out loud. You know how you pray in your heart. Right after I prayed that prayer, I’m in the Chicago Airport and Ted Wilson who’s the president for Review & Herald, son of Neil Wilson, I get this tap on the shoulder. He says, “Doug, fancy meeting you here.” “Ted!” I said, “It’s so nice to see you.” I just prayed. He says, “What are you doing?” I said, “Well, I’ve got about a four hour wait until I catch my plane to United, but I’m praising the Lord because I don’t have to change planes now.” And so he says, “Well, you know, I’m a member of the Red Carpet United Club.” He said, “You know Review & Herald buys that for us. We use our baggage expense so when we’re stuck in these airports we have a place to work.” He says, “I’m allowed to bring a guest. Would you like to be my guest?” I said, “Are frogs waterproof?” I said, “Sure, I’d like to be your guest.” So he takes me into the Red Carpet Room. I’d never been in the Red Carpet Room before.

Amazing Facts doesn’t provide that for its employees so we’re in there and they’ve got all these, these, you know like these gushy chairs. What do you call them? You know with the leather and the arms and then they’ve got the tables and the places to plug in your laptop and free drinks which I did not participate of, but it’s there. And they just it’s a very luxurious environment where you’re able to work and they’ve got the phones and kind of private bathrooms. It was very nice. See he says, “I’ll bring you in and then I’ll leave.” So I went in there and I thought, “Hey, this is great, but now I’ve got no one to talk to because he’s left. I guess I’ll do some work.” I made a few phone calls and then I thought, “I’m going to get out of my suit.” When I travel I wear jeans, t-shirt. I don’t think Jesus wore priestly robes, do you? I think Christ looked like the regular people. I’ve got biblical support for that. They couldn’t spot him in a crowd. He didn’t have a uniform. Now I wear a uniform because some of you would get bent out of shape if I preached in my jeans and my t-shirt. And when I travel and I got to meetings I wear my uniform, but I want you to know that I don’t like it. I don’t like wearing suits. You’ve got to keep them clean which is hard to do when you travel in cattle-carriers.

So I said, “There’s nobody here so I’m going to change.” And I had my t-shirt, and my jeans, my sneakers in my… you know when you travel a lot your feet swell. You can loosen the laces on your shoes. You can’t do that on these things. So I’m going to go put on my tennis shoes. I’m walking into the bathroom, the president for Pacific Press walks out which is Marvin Moore. He had just changed into his jeans and his t-shirt! He’s a good friend. Marvin used to be my senior pastor when I first started doing evangelism in Texas. Some of you don’t know that. And he’s worked his way up to, he’s in charge of the Signs and he works with Pacific Press now. “Doug!” “Marvin! Fancy meeting you here. What are you doing here?” He says, “Well, I’ve got three hours waiting for my plane.” I say, “Well I’ve got three hours waiting for my plane.” He says, “Well, let’s sit down.” Now Marvin and I don’t agree on every point of theology. He’s a good man, but he has some different views about prophecy. I though, “Here’s my chance to straighten him out.” And so I thought. So he’s a good Christian man, but we don’t agree on the seven trumpets anyway so we sit down together and you know what? I just need to tell you, friends. I don’t know the last time I felt such a real awareness of God’s presence.

We’re in the Chicago Airport. Do you know it’s like the second busiest airport in the world? A very busy airport and I’m just through prayer I keep running into all my personal friends and I’m getting the red carpet treatment, so to speak, by the Lord, you know getting a direct flight, and I’m praying all the time. And so Marvin and I visited and we shared and finally I said, “Well, I need to go and check in.” I find out my plane is absolutely loaded. I wanted to know if… I have all these miles because I fly a lot. I wanted to know if I could upgrade. They said you couldn’t upgrade. I said, “Oh, come on, Lord. We were batting a thousand up until now.” And so I had a middle seat. Now, friends, you don’t understand how hard this is for me. But I was on an overseas flight once where I got a middle seat, I’m talking about like a fifteen hour flight, and I nearly came out of my skin. If the stewardesses had known how near distraction I was they would have landed the plane. But it’s really hard for, my brother had claustrophobia too.

I don’t mind when I know I can get up and move around. I’m okay. But when I’ve got someone on the right and someone on the left and they both go to sleep and the seats are back and I can’t get out I have at times climbed out of my seat over the person standing on the armrests because I didn’t want to wake them up and I couldn’t sit still. Do you know why I became a pastor? It’s so hard for me to sit there like you folks do for an hour and a half. That’s not true, but it is hard for me sometimes. But in any event so I had a middle seat and so I’m praying. I say, “Oh, Lord.” And then I heard them say, “Folks, please put all of your bags if you have any space under your seat this is a full flight.” I thought, “Oh.” You know every now and then there’s an empty seat. As everyone got on the plane all the seats began to fill up, I was in the middle but it was empty on the right, and it was empty on the left. And gradually they’re getting ready to shut the doors every seat in the plane was full except the one on my right and my left. And the Lord knows I’ve got this problem. Doesn’t the Bible say he will not allow you to suffer above what you are able to bear? I was claiming that promise. Then a man came back with a pilot’s uniform on and he said, “They’ve told me to take any available seat.

Do you mind if I sit here by the aisle?” I said, “Well, a matter of fact, I do. Do you mind taking the window?” He said, “No, that’s fine.” It was a pilot who was what they call deadheading. You know pilots from different, he was an American Airlines pilot he was hitchhiking on United back to Sacramento. So he took the window and I scooted out to the aisle. I was happy as a clam. I was able to open up my laptop in the empty space there. And I was praising the Lord because I actually had more room than they have in first class because in the coach section, you’re learning a lot, aren’t you? In the coach section you can lift up the armrest and you’ve got a lot more seat room. In First Class they can’t lift it up, see? And so all these little things. But for me, all of this was evidence of God’s watching over me and answering prayers. And I came back and I thought, “Man I haven’t been praying very much. I need to pray more.” And then I saw that scripture this week where the disciples saw Jesus coming from his episode of prayer. His face was shining with the light of heaven.

He looked like he had been energized with the Holy Spirit and just looking at what prayer did to him they said, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Now you know who it was who was saying that? People who had been going to church all of their life. The apostles went to the synagogue. They had been uttering prayers. They had prayed the repetitive prayers they had heard in the synagogues, the written prayers that the priests used to recite. And they realized they’re missing something. That when Jesus came from prayer he was empowered. When Jesus came from the prayer he took the presence of the Father with him and just the vision of what prayer did for him solicited from them a prayer. “Lord, teach us to pray.” You know it’s my conviction that there may be one in a hundred among us, I’m including myself, who really knows what it means to really pray. Prayer is probably the most neglected opportunity and privilege. Jesus said, “You receive not because you ask not.” He wasn’t saying we never pray. He’s talking about we do not really ask. Now we’re going to talk about prayer for at least the next couple of weeks.

I thought it would be appropriate to look at the pattern for prayer the Lord gives us in his prayer, sometimes called The Lord’s Prayer. How many times is this found in the Bible? Two times, the gospel of Matthew chapter 6, Luke chapter 11. There are slight variations in the way that it’s given by Matthew and the way it’s given by Luke. Most of us when we say the Lord’s Prayer together, we recite the Matthew version. There is no command in the Bible that tells us that one is better than the other. That’s just by tradition the church typically recites the Lord’s Prayer from the book of Matthew. Spurgeon said, “All the Christian virtues are locked up in the word prayer.” One of the principal businesses of the Christian is that we are called to pray. You know what prayer is? Communion with God. The Bible says Enoch walked with God. He was the seventh from Adam and he was translated. I think there is a lesson there for you and me. How many of you would like to be translated when Jesus comes, to be caught up to meet him in the air? We must learn what it means to walk with God. We studied this morning about Noah in Sabbath School. Do you know not only does the Bible say Enoch walked with God, the Bible says… Very few people does it say this about. It does not even say this about Moses though I think it was true.

It says Enoch walked with God and it says Noah walked with God. When God said to Noah, “Noah, you’ve found grace in the eyes of the Lord. I want you to build an ark.” I think that Noah was in such a constant state of communion with the Lord that God spoke to Noah’s heart. Sometimes these cartoons and Hollywood renditions of the flood have got Noah as sort of a secular carpenter and the one day he gets a blast of light and God says out of the blue, “I think I’d like you to build an ark because I’m going to destroy the world because things are wicked.” And it just shocks him like he had no idea. I think that Noah was aware that God was going to do something and that God finally told him through their constant communion what to do and he gave him the plans much as he did Moses the plans for the temple on the mountain. William Kerry was a missionary to Burma, India and the West Indies, but he was also a shoe cobbler and sometimes he was criticized by people that he was neglecting his business as a cobbler because he spent so much time in prayer, supplication and thanksgiving. William Kerry said, “Cobbling shoes is a sideline. It helps me pay expenses.

Prayer is my real business.” And he was mightily used by God to convert many. Martin Luther said, “As it is the business of tailors to make clothes and cobblers to mend shoes so it is the business of Christians to pray.” If we say we’re Christians and we are not praying we’re not really Christians, and I’m not talking about praying like the shopping list we give the Lord of all that we want. Those are upside down, selfish prayers. A lot of people pray like sailors on a ship. We don’t man the pumps until the boat is leaking, and our prayers start to happen when we’re in a dilemma. That’s not Christian prayer. Christian prayer is a perpetual state of seeking after God. Now first of all I want to reiterate a pet peeve of mine. One thing we discover when we look at the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus in Matthew he says, “In this manner, pray.” Matthew 6:9 is where you’ll find that. “In this manner, pray.” That means it’s a type of prayer. It’s a pattern for the perfect prayer and we’ll look at more closely. Nowhere are we told to just say that prayer over and over again. I’ll get to that in a minute. But I especially want you to note that when Jesus said, when they said, “Teach us to pray” and Jesus said, “Pray in this manner” he prayed for them publicly. It takes about thirty seconds. Public prayer should be short. I warned poor Brian.

He was on the platform. I wanted to make sure he wasn’t embarrassed. I said, “Now, Brian, I’m telling you in advance. Nothing personal, but” I said, “I’m going to talk about short prayers. If you pray a long prayer today you’re going to look conspicuous.” So his prayer was about fifteen seconds, bless his heart. You could have prayed a little longer than that, but you did just fine. But you know Jesus talks about the hypocrites. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees,” Matthew 23:14. “For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers.” Ecclesiastes chapter 5, you read verse 1 through 7. It says, “When you go to the house of God… let your words be few.” Now it’s ok to pray in your heart, but the long public prayers not only weary people I think it wearies Heaven. Some prayers are pretentious. Proverbs 10:19, you may want to write some of these scriptures down. I have a lot to share with you. “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.” A simple principle public prayers, and Jesus when he said, “When you pray do not pray in public like the hypocrites” was not saying it’s wrong to pray in public. Are you aware of that? It’s ok to pray in public. Jesus prayed in public. How else do you think we got his prayers recorded, John 17 and the others?

How do you think we got the prayer of Hannah, the prayer of Daniel, the prayer of Solomon and so many in the Bible? They were prayed publicly and recorded. It’s not wrong to pray publicly but do not pray publicly to be heard publicly. When Christ said, “When you pray enter into your closet and shut the door” he is saying that the most important prayer is the personal prayer. Was Christ saying that when we pray privately you must pray silently? Not necessarily. Some people have thought, “Well, we know the Bible says, ‘God and God only knows the hearts of the sons of men.’ Christ can read our minds. The devil can’t so if I pray quietly the devil doesn’t know what I’m praying about. I don’t want him to know what I’m asking for. I don’t want him to know his temptations are succeeding so I’m not going to let him hear me pray.” Wrong. There is nothing inappropriate with praying out loud privately. Matter of fact, I think it’s healthy if your children happen to hear you praying for them. The devil trembles when we pray. I don’t think there is anything about our prayers that we should have to hide from the devil. When you’re praying for victory over sin, I think that gives, and the devil and you pray out loud, I think that gives Heaven even a little more incentive to show the devil. They’ve asked, we have a right to answer. And so don’t be afraid of praying out loud even in your private prayers. It doesn’t mean you need to shout and bother your neighbors. But it’s ok to pray in your heart too.

The Bible talks about Nehemiah praying in his heart and others praying in their heart. But typically our private prayers should be the ones that are more enduring. The Bible says Daniel prayed three times a day, morning, evening and at noon. King David said, Psalm 55, he would pray three times a day and that’s talking about appointments for specific prayer. Now, how often should a Christian pray? Without ceasing. That’s sort of what I had a taste of when I was going through the airport and this experience last week. I was by myself and I’d spent a lot of time talking to God and I kept seeing all these answers and it’s amazing. We should be praying without ceasing. That doesn’t mean you’re on your knees with your hands folded and your eyes closed. Show me the scripture that says you’re supposed to fold your hands and close your eyes. I know what I’m going to say. I’m just wondering whether or not to say it. Sometimes we’re afraid of doing certain things because we’re going to look like other groups we don’t agree with. Biblically, and I’m a Bible preacher, it’s not inappropriate to lift your hands when you talk to the Lord.

There’s a number of cases in the Bible. Solomon lifted his hands. The Bible says lift up holy hands unto the Lord. I do not think we should ever lift our hands in prayer for the purpose of being a spectacle. Do not pray for the purpose of those who are listening or watching. I get aggravated, matter of fact, I’ve been on the point of stopping people when they were praying before because they weren’t talking to God they were trying to impress me. That bothers me and I think it bothers God. It’s not real prayer. It’s hypocrisy. I’ve had people pray and when they’re praying they’re praying these long sentences that tell me about what they’re doing in their ministry. You know what I’m saying? That’s not prayer. Talk to God! You’re talking to me. It’s kind of like the parents who kneel down with their children and say, “Dear Lord, thank you so much that you’re teaching Johnny not to steal so he won’t go to jail and eat bread and water.” And you know they’re not talking to God. God already knows what happens in jail.

You know what I’m saying? That’s just… I could go on and on on that issue, but there’s a lot of times when we pray we’re so self-conscious of those who are watching and listening we forget that we’re talking to God. So if you’re going to pray and if you feel constrained by the Holy Spirit to lift up holy hands, I want to emphasize don’t lift them up if they’re not holy hands, but if you’re going to lift up holy hands unto the Lord be sure you’re doing it because you’re praising God and you’re not trying to make a statement to those around you. You’re not trying to distract. Matter of fact, if you are distracting those around you, keep your hands down. Bible says, if you do anything that makes your neighbor stumble, don’t do it. You can pray without your hands up just as effectively if it means your neighbor is stumbling because of your physical posture when you pray. And while we’re talking about posture, this is very important; we need to kneel more when we pray. Notice how I worded that. I was disappointed that when the leaders of the church gathered for prayer we never pushed aside our chairs and knelt to pray.

I think when we come before the Almighty that we should humble ourselves. Even in the animal kingdom your physical posture, they say a large part of communication is your body language. You’ve heard that? Somebody told me just this last week what percentage it was. I forget, but a lot of percent of what you communicate when you’re talking to somebody is your posture. Your physical posture says something. If you’re talking to somebody and they’re leaning and listening forward when their hands that means they’re saying, “Hey! I’m into it. I want to…” If they’re leaning back and their arms are folded, what does that mean? Resistance, I’m not with you, I’m putting my feet down, not interested. I mean, you know the physical posture says a lot about communication. Now if that’s true with each other, how much more is it with God? I think it is appropriate when you’re with your children to tell them to fold their hands.

The Bible doesn’t say you have to do that, but you know why we tell our children that? Kids get busy. For one thing if you have more than one in your family they like to get to know one another with the Braille method during prayer time. And they’re poking and they’re prodding or they’re looking around for a toy or something to fiddle with and it really helps sometimes to avoid distractions if you say, “Fold your hands.” You’d be amazed how much a kid can do with their hands folded! Why do we ask them to close their eyes? To try to tune into the Spirit of God in prayer and avoid visual distractions. There’s already enough distraction. So it’s not inappropriate to close your eyes, to fold your hands, but kneeling. What does it say when a person kneels? When a person bows before another it represents humbling yourself. You know dogs have a pecking order in dog packs, this is true in wolves and coyotes and a number of the canine breeds. The lead dog needs to from time to time assert its position in the pack by going to other potential rivals, growling and they roll over. They get down.

They either crouch or they roll over and expose their neck and they humble themselves before the lead dog. Now that I know is an imperfect illustration, but what I’m saying is even in the animal kingdom it’s understood that when you lower yourself you humble yourself it’s not a posture of attack, it’s a posture of submission. And I think that since we’re already naturally by our carnal nature rebels against God it’s appropriate for us to kneel when we pray. In my office every morning my habit is, and I’m not saying that you all need to do what I do, I sort of first wake up. You know, I don’t pray well when I first wake up. I used to try and pray in bed when I first started becoming semi-conscious in the morning, but your prayers are sort of surreal at that time. You’re sort of floating in and out of consciousness and your prayers end up getting wound up with whatever you were dreaming a few moments ago. So I’d think this isn’t working.

I need to wake up. Praying in bed, some people can do it. I don’t do it well. And so I get up and I go downstairs, I drink some water and sort of get my scruples together and then I get down, I kneel in my office and I’m just uncomfortable enough that I’m able to remember why I’m on my knees. If you get too comfortable in prayer it’s easy to daydream. I’m not saying you’re supposed to flog yourself. But I get on my knees there in my office and I pray. And I kneel and I pray. Now you do not always have to kneel and pray. I think that you need to remember in our worship service you notice that we have an invocation at the beginning. We pray when we open God’s word together. That’s biblical. The Bible says they stood; they opened the word of God. The Bible says that Solomon stood and he blessed the people. Of benediction and invocation standing that’s appropriate. But when we come before the lord with our heartfelt supplications I think it’s important to humble yourself for him before him as much as possible. Notice something else it says here. He says, “When you pray,” Luke 11:2. “When you pray,” Matthew 6:7. “When you pray…” You notice that Jesus never says if you pray. He says when you pray. It is unthinkable to God that his followers would not pray. So his instruction is given on the basis of the understanding that we are a praying people.

He says, “Pray in this manner.” Now let’s look real quick at the Lord’s Prayer and we’re going to come back in a future study and evaluate it piece by piece in a little more detail. The Lord’s Prayer is comprised of seven petitions. Those seven petitions are divided up very much like the Ten Commandments. The first three petitions dealing with “thy name,” “thy kingdom,” “thy will” are God-ward. The last four petitions or the last sixty-percent deal with the horizontal relationship. Just like the first four of the Ten Commandments deal with our relationship with God the last six of the Ten Commandments deal with our relationship with each other. The Lord’s Prayer is divided very much the same way. Something else is what comes first? God. What’s the great commandment? “Thou shalt love the Lord.” You notice you never hear the great commandment “thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself and thou shall love the Lord with all your heart, mind and soul.” That’s backwards. It’s like when you recite the colors of the flag. What colors are in the American flag? I never heard anybody start out “White, blue and red.” Have you? We always say, “Red, white, and blue.”

Do you know why there is that sequence? Do you know what the colors represent? Sacrifice, purity, loyalty. Those colors come from biblical meaning. Before you can be pure you must accept the sacrifice, the red, the blood. The white, purity. The blue, the loyalty both to one another, to the country, to God. And so those are what the symbols of the colors, but I’ve never heard anybody say, “Blue, white, red” or “White, blue, red.” It’s always “Red, white, blue.” Same thing with the Ten Commandments, same thing with the Lord’s Prayer. There is a reason for the sequence. There is a sequence in salvation. God comes first. Ok? So you’ve got “Thy name, thy kingdom, thy will” dealing with the first forty percent to God, and then it says, “Give us, forgive us, lead us, deliver us,” the relationship that we have with one another. Something else that I’ve learned. I’ve talked about the Lord’s Prayer here before, but I’ll tell you something I’ve never shared with you before. How many petitions deal with God? Three petitions. I just told you that. Three petitions deal with God, our relationship with God in the Lord’s Prayer. How many members of the godhead?

First petition deals with the name of the Father, “Our Father, thy name.” The second petition deals with the kingdom, that’s the Son. You know how many parables Jesus talked about the son going away to receive a kingdom? Jesus is coming as king of kings. God the Father is making him to reign. That’s a theme that’s consistent all through the Bible, New and Old Testament. Principal theme in the book of Daniel is that the Son will ultimately reign. “Your will.” Who is it that leads us into the will of God? It’s God the Spirit. The Spirit is the one who impresses the will of God and helps us recognize the will of God. And so you’ve got the Father, the Son and the Spirit represented in the first three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer. Something else I don’t want you to miss is the Lord’s Prayer begins by telling us how near and how far God is. How does it start? “In this manner, therefore, pray, ‘Our Father which art in heaven.” “Our Father,” now that is very close. “…which art in heaven,” that’s very far. Why do you think God does it like that? First of all, the concept that God is our Father is not just a New Testament concept. That goes all the way back in the Bible.

Even in the Old Testament it says one of his names is “Wonderful, Councilor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father.” I mean, God as Father was understood. He was the creator of all life. But it was also a patriarchal society in the Bible where the father was the protector and the priest of the family, the provider. And so God is seen as our El Shadai, the one who supplies all of our needs. Do you know what El Shadai means? It means the many-breasted one and it’s synonymous in the Bible with a mother’s need to supply all the nourishment for her children. That was one of the Hebrew terms for God. The Almighty, the all-sufficient, the great provider, he’s the omnipotent, the all-powerful, but he’s our Father so we can approach him and yet it says, he’s not our earthly father. He’s our father in heaven. Now, how many of you remember when Jesus said, “Call no man father for you have one Father which is God in heaven”? Why did he say that? Because it was a custom in Bible times to call the religious leaders “father.” Do you see any example of that in the Old Testament? Remember when Elijah ascended to heaven what did Elisha say? “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and the horseman thereof.” Now Elisha had a right to say that. Do you know why? Elijah had adopted him. Elijah never got married.

You never hear of Mrs. Elijah or any other little Elijah’s do you? No, he lived with a widow. His wife never would have gone for that. And so he went from place to place, lived in the wilderness, Elijah never got married and he went to heaven in a fiery chariot. Why do you think Elisha asked for a double portion of his spirit? Because the Bible says the firstborn son had a right to a double portion of the father’s inheritance. What was it that Elijah had to leave? His spirit. So when Elisha said, “My father, my father” that was not just a religious term. He was quite practically his father; he had sort of adopted him. But when Elisha died of a sickness the king of Israel came in and you know what he said? “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and its horseman thereof.” That wasn’t appropriate. The king of Israel also was a pagan. He was worshipping statues, but he looked upon Elisha as sort of the spiritual leader of the nation and the Bible says we should not call spiritual leaders father for Christ said, “you have one Father who is in heaven.” Now there are some churches that completely throw that out the window.

They don’t pay attention to that at all and that’s not biblical. I have had some people go to the other extreme and they think we’re not supposed to call our daddy father because the bible says “call no man father.” Jesus is speaking in the context of religious leaders. Ok? It’s ok to call your dad father. Now when you say, “Our Father which art in heaven,” another reason the Bible says “our Father which art in heaven” is because a big problem we have, I have, my kids probably have is that we often need to make a distinction between our earthly fathers and our heavenly Fathers. Our earthly fathers are human, frail, carnal, by nature of being human we have sinned. And there is a natural tendency, listen very carefully, there is a natural subconscious tendency for us to superimpose on God our relationship with our earthly father. Those who have earthly fathers that are jovial and permissive end up thinking that God the heavenly Father is permissive, Santa Clause.

Those on earth who have earthly fathers that were tyrannical and exacting their picture of the heavenly Father is he’s an exacting judge. We without even trying have a tendency to take the model of our earthly father and to put it on our heavenly Father which is a very unnerving truth for those of us who are parents because you are the first image your children will receive of God. Was that true? Can I get some endorsement here? You to your parents, I know I’ve got biblical and inspirational endorsement for that. You to your parents represent their first image of God. That ought to really make us think. We have to spend a lot of time in prayer asking God to overrule the mistakes we have made. I’m doing the best not to reproduce the mistakes of my father, but I’ve got my home breed of mistakes. The reason it says, “Our Father which art in heaven” it’s giving us permission to make a distinction between our heavenly Father and our earthly fathers. Now there’s hope for you. You know in the Bible it’s interesting to note some of those in the Bible who were the godliest men, name some godly men for me. Joseph, in the Bible.

Does it ever tell us how godly Manasseh and Ephraim were? Name someone else. Daniel had no children. He was a eunuch. I can’t use him. Alright let’s talk about Moses. You ever hear of Moses’ sons and what great leaders they were? What about Samuel? What happened? The Bible says the sons of Samuel were not like their father, but they took bribes. What about David? Some were winners like Solomon. Some were losers like Absalom, Adonijah, Amnon. Hezekiah, was his father good or bad? He was pretty much wicked. What about Hezekiah, was he a good man or bad man? Good man. What was his son’s name? Manasseh. Good king or bad king? You know what that’s telling me? The reason I’m going to great lengths to try and illustrate this is children will not always necessarily reproduce the behavior of their fathers. Some very godly fathers had bad children. Who was the son of Manasseh? Josiah. Good king of bad king? Very good. Father, very bad. Grandfather, very good.

Alright so when the Bible says, “Our Father which art in heaven” it’s telling us that sometimes you’ve got to leave your genealogy aside and know that he is your model and that you can approach him directly as your Father. You don’t have to go to God through your family. You know what else it tells us? That he’s willing to adopt us. “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called sons of God.” “Our Father which art in heaven.” What a beautiful truth. When Christ said this is our pattern for prayer that we can come before him and we can address him as our Father. It’s telling us that we can be called sons of God that we can share in the inheritance of the Almighty just as verily as Elisha shared in the inheritance of Elijah. God wants us to give the inheritance he gave Jesus his Son. When God the Father said, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” when Jesus was baptized were those words and promises just for Christ or can we expect to hear that by faith when we’re baptized? Do you and I now become sons of God when we are baptized into the family of God? You know what else? He said, “This is now my beloved son.

This is now my beloved daughter in whom I am well pleased.” That’s a wonderful promise. Steps to Christ page 94, wonderful, wonderful book. “The darkness of the evil one encloses those who neglect to pray. The whispered temptations of the enemy entice them to sin and it’s all because they do not make use of the privileges that God has given them in the divine appointment of prayer. Why should the sons and daughters of God be reluctant to pray when prayer is the key in the hands of faith to unlock heaven’s storehouse where are treasured the boundless resources of omnipotence? Without unceasing prayer and diligent watching we are in danger of growing careless and deviating from the right path. The adversary seeks continually to obstruct the way to the Mercy Seat that we may not be in earnest supplication and in faith obtain grace and power to resist temptation.” Let me read that again. “The adversary” what’s his name?

The adversary is constantly seeking to obstruct the way to the Mercy Seat. Can I rephrase that? The devil is going to do everything he can do to keep you from praying. He wants you to get busy, sometimes so busy doing Christian things you forget about Christ. It’s possible to get so busy doing the work of the Lord you forget about the Lord of the work. That’s what’s happened to me. Sometimes I get so busy with these grandiose projects I forget personal communion with the Lord. The devil is doing everything he can to obstruct it and yet prayer is the key in the hand of faith to unlock the treasure house of heaven, to give us access to all of the resources of omnipotence and we pray so little. Jesus said, “You receive not because you ask not.” I was so thankful that I prayed, “Lord, I don’t know how I’m going to get to Hinsdale Hospital, but I believe that you’ve got a plan.” What do you think it did for my faith when I hopped on the bus and there was the conference president to chauffer me to my location? You know what? That makes you want to pray more! So the more you pray, the more you get answers, the more you want to pray. You know I was reading this week about how when some of the first missionaries entered the jungles of Africa and they succeeded in winning a number of converts.

Sometimes whole villages were converted to Christianity. They would go off every morning for devotions. They’d sometimes pray for an hour, personal devotions. And they would find their own little Bethel, their own little place in the jungle, in the woods where they would pray, and there were all these little trails that kind of went off like spider webs into the jungle and everybody had his own trail. And you could always tell when somebody was starting to get slack in their private devotions because the grass would grow on their trail. And they would lovingly remind their brother or sister and say, “Brother or sister, we see grass is growing on your trail. You’re neglecting your devotions.” You know I think a lot of us if we had a place in the woods we would find that there is some pretty tall hay that’s growing up in the path. We’re neglecting our opportunity to pray. I think that we need to echo the prayer of the apostles to Jesus this morning. “Lord, teach us to pray.” Is that your desire? Lord, teach us to pray. Please turn in your hymnals to your closing hymn and then we’re going to close this service with a session of prayer. That’s 492 “Like Jesus”. Let’s stand together as we sing.

Teach me, Father, what to say; Teach me Father how to pray; Teach me all along the way How to be like Jesus. I would be like Jesus, I would be like Jesus! Help me, Lord, to daily grow More and more like Jesus!

Before we sing verse three some of you may have special needs you’d like to bring in a more distinct way before the Lord. I’d like to invite you to come to the front. You might have something, some burden on your heart for your own soul. You might be bearing a burden for a loved one. It may be a health need, financial need, but just something that’s weighing you down, you’d like to cast your cares on him today. We invite you to come to the front. We’re going to pray together as we close as we sing verse three.

Teach me that the time is short, Teach me how to live and work, Teach me that to never shirk Is to be like Jesus. I would be like Jesus, I would be like Jesus! Help me, Lord, to daily grow More and more like Jesus!

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