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This Week's Teaching: "Try Praying This Way"
Someone said to me recently that they pray all the time. They love to pray , but they said, "But I don't know if I'm doing it right." And it reminded me how often I've had that same conversation with many people. Oftentimes people, they value prayer, but they say, I don't know how to pray. I'm not sure I'm doing it right.
My first inclination is to say, "Ah, if you're talking to God, you're doing it right." But as I reflect on that, and as I reflect on what many people talk about as prayer, they're simply meditating in order to find some sense of spiritual peace. And that could be a well-guided meditation or it could be a misguided meditation. If I'm just meditating to find a sense of peace, I could be inclined to engage the God of the universe, or I could be inclined to just talk myself into feeling better about myself. I could chew on things and worry. I could try to find a more positive outlook on life. And simply the power of positive thinking is going to make me feel better about my circumstances. And that is not necessarily the same as prayer.
Now, if I'm talking to the God of the universe, I might end up at those same places. I might end up with those same consolations. But it's through the power of the one I'm talking to, not just me talking to myself, meditating, or trying to feel at one with the universe or whatever that is.
So I was thinking about the difference between meditative prayer and praying to God, between just the common prayer that many people do, and actually talking to the Lord, who created us, who watches over us, cares for us and is powerful to effect change, and who we do well to submit to.
This is the difference.
Jesus disciples came to him and they said, teach us to pray. And he said a few things which we commonly refer to as the Lord's Prayer, but he wasn't giving a prayer for them to memorize and pray. Although it's fine, it's helpful that many of us have memorized the Lord's Prayer.
It's helpful. But he wasn't giving us a prayer to memorize and pray as some sort of an incantation that gets things right. He was saying, when you pray, pray for these sorts of things. Pray like this. And he starts that off by saying, when you pray, don't just throw a whole lot of words at God, as if by your constant babbling, he's going to hear you more.
He's like, that's what pagans do. They think that the power is in their praying. They pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray. He said, don't be like that. When you pray just keep it simple, but keep it earnest. He says, when you pray, pray like this:
"Our father in heaven." Remember the relationship. You're talking to someone. You're not just thinking thoughts. You're talking to someone who exists, the Lord God. I know it's weird to say "someone" and talk about him as a "person." That's somewhat technical. But he is someone who exists. See that someone just happens to be the God of the universe. He exists before everything and is eternal and is the only all powerful God.
"Our father in heaven." He has begotten us. We are his children. I am his child, and so when I go to him, "Thank you Father. I,'m talking to you as my father." There's relationship there.
"Our father in heaven, hallowed be your name." I recognize you as holy. May your name be recognized as holy in this world. That's what it truly is. You are good, loving and powerful. Hallowed be your name.
"Our father in heaven. Hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come..." meaning his reign, his sovereign rule and reign where he has the power to do whatever he wants to do and he has the authority to command whatever he wants someone to do. And in heaven, when he gives the command, it is done. The angels do whatever it is he says.
Now we as humans, we resist that. He gave us the freedom to resist that, and there's an ultimate plan in that for our redemption. But in heaven, he says, do it and they do it.
Your kingdom come, your will be done on Earth as it is in heaven. I believe this is calling out to our father in heaven, hallowed be your name. You are holy. Your kingdom come. May your kingdom be established, your rule and reign be established in my life, even as it is in heaven. May your will be done in my life willingly as I submit to you. As I obey you. Your kingdom come, your will be done here in my life, even as it is in heaven, and then collectively here on earth, even as it is in heaven. Lord, this is my desire that your rule and reign would be established here.
Now you're hearing the difference between this and just meditating to find peace in the world.
Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. May you rule and reign be established here on earth." This would be beauty. This would be the wholeness of the universe. This would be the reestablishment of purity and wholeness to all things that are wrong.
"Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread."
Lord, I am dependent on you for even the things that I eat today.
Give me wisdom to make good decisions so that I can eat, so that I have something, I'm not gonna worry about tomorrow. Lord, give me today my daily bread. Give us today our daily bread.
"And forgive us our sins."
This is confession. Lord, I confess that I have sinned against you, against others, even against my own conscience.
And I confess that I'm not the one to forgive myself. I can't forgive my-- who am I to forgive myself. I can let God forgive me and I can align with that. I can agree that I am now forgiven. I can choose, and I need to, I need to choose. Once I am forgiven, I need to stop living as if I haven't been. And so oftentimes we talk about that as you need to learn to forgive yourself, but I'm no one to forgive myself.
I have no authority to forgive myself. I'm the one who did the wrong. When I wrong God, he has authority to forgive me. Lord, forgive my sins, forgive my debts. I confess my sin, and I ask you to let it go. To erase it so that it no longer stands against me. And this is just this bold, audacious request.
Some of us have done some grievous sins and we're not saying, Lord, pretend it didn't happen. We're saying, Lord, look right at it. And would you, in your gracious, compassionate love, just erase it? Because, Lord, I wish I wouldn't have done it. I wish I wouldn't have done it. Lord, can you press a reset button?
"Lord, forgive my sins, even as I forgive those who sin against me."
Lord, teach me your compassion, your mercy. Lord, I'm not asking you to do something for me that I'm not willing to do for someone else. I'm not asking just for a get outta jail free card. I'm not asking for just a buy. I'm not asking for a freebie. I'm asking Lord, show compassion on me and I will show compassion on others. Show compassion on me even as I have shown compassion and mercy to others. I repent of my sins and I am bearing fruit in accordance with that repentance.
"Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us. And lead us not into temptation."
Lead me not into temptation. Lord, I'm prone to wander. I'm easily seduced by the things of this world. Lord, lead me down a path that is not fraught with danger. That is not overloaded with temptation. Lord, you understand my weak nature, Lord, by your Holy Spirit, empower me to be righteous. I want to be righteous.
"Lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from the evil one."
Lord, you are my savior. You are my provider. You're my protector. You are my king, my father. Lord, lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from all the ways of darkness, all the powers of evil that would try to get me to wander and that would work evil against me. Lord, I trust you and I bow down before you in worship. You are my God. You are my Lord.
And so this is the difference between the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray, the Christian prayer where we talk to God and we align our lives with him, and we ask him to come and lead us to teach us new ways of doing things so that we can go and be aligned with him, that we can live for him.
The difference between that and just spending time thinking thoughts, prayerfully meditating in order to find peace in life.
I wanna be honest. Meditate to find peace in life? Like just think thoughts? You can find peace. You can reestablish peace, but you could reestablish peace around a lie. You can talk yourself -- I can do it -- you can talk yourself into being at peace with things that you should never be at peace with. If you meditate, talk to yourself long enough, you could find yourself being at peace with things that are not at peace with God. That is the most dangerous place you can be.
But if you meditate on the things of God, spend time in scripture and go through it. If you meditate on the things of God and talk to God and align your life with God and ask him to influence you, and ask him to provide for you and to protect you, if it's a conversation with God rather than just a conversation with yourself, then you will find that you are one who is becoming righteous in life. And you are finding peace in life. And your life is filled with joy, a rooted joy, not just happy circumstances. And love, because you were receiving love from the God who created love, from God who loves you perfectly, and you're learning to love others in the same way.
When we treat prayer as talking to God about these things, rather than just meditating, now it makes sense that Paul would write in Colossians about how Epaphras "is always wrestling in prayer for you that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured."
If prayer shifts from just meditating to find peace in life, and it actually shifts into engaging the God of the universe and aligning myself with the Lord, now I can do work with God. I can wrestle in prayer for people that I care for. And I believe this is a growing edge for many of us, and I would encourage you to lean into that growing edge.
So, you don't have to wonder whether you're doing it right. Just do it right. Talk to God, your father, who you are in relationship with. Desire His holiness to be made known in the earth. And his kingdom to be revealed everywhere â€”in your life, his rule and reign to affect everything about you, to be established here in this earth. Entrust your needs to him. Confess your sins to him. Forgive others as you've been forgiven. And ask him to lead you down the path of righteousness, away from temptation, away from the evil one. Commit yourself to prayer this way and it will go well with you.
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