Lesson 1

The Model Pray-er and the Model Prayer: Christ

(Luke 11, Matthew 6)
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Introduction: I just finished reading the book "Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire" by Jim Cymbala (Zondervan, 1997). It is a terrific book about prayer. The thesis of the book is that if you want a church to grow you need to cultivate the prayer life of the members. My timing for reading the Cymbala book was perfect because this quarter we begin a study on prayer. I need to improve my prayer life. If you need to improve your prayer life, let's jump into our new study!

  1. Approaching Prayer

    1. Read Luke 11:1. What do you think motivated the unnamed disciple for guidance on prayer? (It seems two things. First, he saw Jesus pray and was reminded of his need for help in that area. Second, it seems he knew that John's disciples had been instructed in this area, so he thought he deserved instruction on this from Jesus.)

    2. Matthew 6 parallels Luke 11 in reporting the model prayer. However, Matthew 6 has a further introduction, so let's look at it by reading Matthew 6:5-6. Is prayer a personal matter between man and God?

      1. Is public prayer forbidden here? If not, what is forbidden? (What is forbidden is "praying" to others and not God. If you are trying to make yourself appear more holy by your public prayer, then you are simply feeding your own pride. In that case the opinion of others is your entire reward!)

      2. See the picture painted by verse 6? You go into your room, close the door and do something secret. Why do you have to close the door? Why is prayer so secret?

        1. Why does Jesus mention that His Father in Heaven is "unseen?" (The whole idea is that prayer is a private matter between you and God. You are to be focused on the conversation with God. You are not praying to look good to others and you are unaware of the visible world.)

      3. Does this suggest anything about prayer groups? (There is no substitute for private prayer with God.)

    3. Read Matthew 6:7-8. Is your prayer life in a rut? Do you find yourself repeating the same things in your prayers all the time? Worse, do you find that your mind sometimes goes into "neutral" when you pray? Ever find yourself praying your "bless the food prayer" at bedtime by mistake?

      1. Does an unthinking prayer life fit the definition of babbling?

      1. Should our prayers be very concise? Or, is there some other message here?

      2. Verse 8 says God knows about our needs before we ask. Why do you think Jesus tells us that?

        1. Does this mean we do not need to explain our prayers to God?

        2. Why do we even need to ask if God already knows exactly what we need?

          1. Should we tell our children or our spouse that we love them if they already know?

          2. Is God like our family, He needs to hear positive things? (I don't think God is like our family. However, I think God is looking for a dialog with us - for our benefit. He specifically requires that we ask. See Luke 11:9-10.)

      3. Read Luke 6:12. We just read in Matthew 6:7 that "many words" are not necessary to be heard by God. How can Jesus pray all night consistent with the idea of limiting the number of words? (Since we know He was not babbling, He obviously had a lot about which He wanted to talk to God -- or something else is going on.)

      4. Read 1 Thessalonians 5:17. How can you pray continuously, with few words? (This suggests that prayer is communion with God. Maybe this is the "something else going on" in Luke 6:12. Prayer is not running our mouth all the time, it is communion with God.)

    1. Now that we have looked at a few general principles about how we approach prayer, let's study the model prayer.

  1. Model Prayer

    1. Read Luke 11:2-4. What kind of relationship does Jesus want us to know we can have with God? (He starts out telling us to call God "Father.")

      1. Sometimes I get a little nervous with the idea that God is just our Big Buddy. What does Jesus say to moderate this idea? (Right after Jesus tells us to call God "Father," He adds "hallowed be Your name.")

        1. What does it mean to "hallow" God's name? ("Hallowed" means to "make holy." It is the opposite, according to Vines, of "common." God is our Father, but He is not common or our buddy. He is God.)

        2. Do we have a role to play in making God's name holy? Isn't God's name already holy? What should you do (or pray to do) to help make God's name holy?

          1. Or is this an "attitude adjustment" instruction to us?

      2. Verse 2 continues, "Your kingdom come." Matthew 6:10 adds, "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." What are we praying for if we say these words?

        1. We can all understand praying that Jesus will come a second time to take us home. What is the goal in asking God's will be done in earth?

          1. What is our role in that?

        2. Why not just leave it at praying for the Second Coming? Why add the comment about God's will being done on earth? (The important point here is the practical one: God wants us to help change the world here. Christianity is not just some "pie in the future sky," it is changing the here and now.)

      3. Verse 3 (Luke 11) tells us to ask for our daily bread. What do you make of the order of this prayer? That we should wait to ask for bread until after we pray God's will be done on earth?

        1. Does this give us a priority here?

        2. Are you surprised that Jesus suggested we pray for food? (I'm grateful that Jesus suggests that we pray for material matters. It lets us know that God also cares about our physical needs and our material success.)

          1. What do you understand from the phrase, "give us each day" our "daily bread?" Do you want your food to be a "day by day" issue? (We need to consider our attitude about this. I prefer to have my finances planned and to work toward retirement in a systematic way.)

          2. Is Jesus suggesting He is more interested in us being daily dependant upon Him rather than having it all resolved in advance?

          3. Or, is Jesus just suggesting that God is interested in us eating EVERY day?

      4. Look at verse 4 (Luke 11). Is the forgiveness of our sins dependent upon our forgiveness towards others? (Read Matthew 6:14-15.)

        1. Do we have to forgive everyone?

        2. Do we have to forgive others when they do not ask for forgiveness?

        3. Can we forgive, but not forget? (Read Mark 11:25. This seems to require unilateral action. If we remember that we hold something against anyone, then we need to forgive that person.)

        4. Why do you think it is so important to God that we forgive others?

    2. Verse 4 (Luke 11)continues, "And lead us not into temptation." Is this something we have to pray about? Will God lead us into temptation if we do not beg Him to stop it?

      1. Matthew 6:13 says, "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one." The second part of this sentence sure seems right, but the first part is difficult to understand.

        1. Has God ever led you into temptation?

        2. When you compare God and you, who normally is the one who brings you into temptation? (We are generally the ones jumping into temptation.)

        3. Has God ever protected you from temptation? (I think God has many times shielded me from temptation.)

        4. How important do you think it is to pray about temptation? (I think God wants us to have an attitude that strongly opposes temptation.)

        5. Read James 1:13-15. What role does James say God plays in temptation?

    3. Friend, do you approach prayer with the right attitude? Are your prayers in line with the model? If not, will you study carefully and put into practice what God suggests for an improved prayer life?

  2. Next Week: Prayers of Despair: Job

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