Lesson 10

The Promise of Prayer

(Matthew 6, Luke 11)
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Introduction: How is your prayer life? If you are like me, I've struggled over the years with exactly how I should pray. These days, I think that I am in some sense "in tune" with God during much of the day. It is hard to describe, but it is looking for what God has in mind as various situations arise. On the other hand, except for my morning walk on the beach, I don't spend a lot of time in focused, formal prayer. Clearly, I've got a lot to learn and I'll bet you do too. Let's jump into our study of the Bible and examine what Jesus teaches us about prayer!

  1. The Authorized Prayer?


    1. Read Luke 11:1. Why do you think this disciple was moved to ask Jesus for instruction on how to pray? (It was something about how he saw Jesus praying.)


    2. Read Luke 11:2 and Matthew 6:9. When Jesus says, "When you pray," or this "is how you should pray," does He mean this is how we should say every prayer? (Perhaps, but I'm doubtful because I am certain God does not want us to say memorized prayers without thinking. Imagine if your friends memorized what they would say to you and repeated it every time they saw you. You would not like that.)


      1. If Jesus is not saying "use these words," what is He saying? (At a minimum, Jesus is giving us a pattern for prayer. If we keep this pattern in mind, instead of just repeating it mindlessly, I think we are following Jesus' instruction.)


  2. The Prayer Pattern


    1. Let's explore the pattern of prayer that Jesus gives us. Read again Matthew 6:9. What does calling the God of the Universe "Father" suggest about prayer? (A normal father/child relationship is very close. The child knows that the Father loves and wants to help.)


      1. What does this suggest about the reasons for us going to God in prayer? (If you would go to your father or mother for help, then you should go to God for help. The idea is that God is there just like a godly parent would be there for us.)


      2. What is the first message that we should bring to God in our prayers? (That we want a Father/child relationship with our God, but we always remember that He is holy.)


      3. Why should we add God's location? (This reaffirms that God is Lord over all.)


    2. Read Matthew 6:10. What should we tell God about our primary hope? (That the Kingdom of Heaven will come soon. We want to be closer to God.)


      1. In the meantime, what should we offer to do? (We will be part of God's will being done (not just dreamed) here on earth.)


        1. What does that mean about your life? (You are praying that your life will reflect God's Kingdom of Heaven here on earth.)


    3. Read Matthew 6:11. Notice the order of the prayer pattern. Praise to God who cares about us. A welcome to His coming kingdom, and a desire to live now like kingdom subjects. Next, we talk about our needs. Is that selfish? (This is such an encouraging verse. Jesus teaches us to ask for those things we need. This is not the last subject, it is one of the first subjects. That teaches us that God cares about our needs and wants to hear our requests.)


      1. Read James 4:2 and Luke 11:9. What additional wisdom do we find about praying for our needs?


    4. Read Matthew 6:12. When I was a kid, those teaching me religion would scare me by saying that I had to be good to have my prayers heard. If that is true, why does Jesus put confession here, as opposed to being the first thing in our prayer? (God wants us to confess our sins, but He wants to hear our praises, our plans and our needs first.)


      1. How important is it for us not to hold grudges and hard hearts towards others? (It is essential. God's forgiveness to us turns on our forgiveness towards others.)


        1. Why are we held to God's high standard of conduct? (Read Matthew 6:14-15. God died for us. He died in a very painful way because of our sins. Our sins against God are much greater than any other person's sin against us. For an illustration of this, read Matthew 18:23-35.)


    5. Read Matthew 6:13. This is a puzzling verse. The first text that comes to mind is Matthew 4:1 where it records that the Holy Spirit led Jesus into temptation. What do you think it means to ask God not to "lead" us into temptation? ( James 1:13-14 tells us that God does not tempt anyone. It is Satan's agents, our own evil desires, which tempt us. Jesus may mean "keep Satan's agents from testing us." Read Luke 22:42 for an example.)


      1. We cannot control Satan or God. What important practical lesson should we take from this portion of the Lord's prayer? (We need to avoid temptation. We foolishly do things or say things that lead us and others into temptation and sin. This is a reminder to steer clear of those things which lead us into sin.)


    6. Look again at the last part of Matthew 6:13. Is our deliverance from evil linked to avoiding temptation? (Satan wants to hurt us. The whole point of temptation is to separate us from God and separate us from the good things in life. We want to avoid temptation so that we can avoid evil.)


      1. Why is this prayer about being delivered from evil last? When you consider your prayers, do you make it first?


        1. If you make your request to be delivered from some sort of evil first, is that a mistake? (I believe the order of Jesus' prayer is important. Perhaps our highest goal is to live like citizens of the Kingdom of God even though we live in the midst of evil on earth.)


    7. The King James Version ends with a glorious tribute to God. Because this does not appear in the earliest copies of this prayer, it was added by some scribe who was inspired to add his own unauthorized tribute to God. Every one of us, after reading Jesus' prayer, should feel the same way - that our Father's Kingdom, power and glory is eternal!


  3. Prayer Attitudes


    1. Read Matthew 6:5. Have you ever seen someone who fits this description? I recall at one religious school graduation, the person giving the main prayer mentioned the oil production statistics of his country! At an earlier graduation, a parent giving the main prayer recited the history of his child growing up. Why does Jesus call these people hypocrites? (Because the prayer is about praising people, not God.)


      1. What is the effectiveness of such a prayer? (If you want to be seen, it is just fine. If you want God to be involved in your life, it is does not work. Your reward is simply being seen and heard.)


      2. We have a praise and prayer request time in our church. Some people take this time to give a mini-sermon for the rest of us. Are these people like the hypocrites?


    2. Read Matthew 6:6. What does this tell us about public prayer? (The most important prayer time is when we are alone with God.)


      1. Why do you think this is true? (We are not influenced by our consideration of those listening in.)


      2. I hear of husbands and wives who pray together. What do you think about that?


    3. Read Matthew 6:7-8. Against what is Jesus warning us? (Do not mindlessly repeat the Lord's prayer. Do not mindlessly repeat the prayers that you make every morning and evening. God wants your brain engaged. Pray like you are speaking to another person.)


      1. How should the fact that God already knows our needs impact our prayers? (Recall how Jesus started praying. He did not begin with His needs or suggest that we begin by confessing our sins. Asking God for stuff, is not the primary point of prayer. A relationship with God is the primary point of prayer.)


      2. People tell me that we need to keep bringing our requests to God. Jesus says God already knows, don't babble on. What does this suggest? (Read Luke 18:7-8. We can hardly restrain ourselves from repeatedly crying out to God. I don't think that is what Jesus is condemning. Heartfelt, fervent prayers will result in justice.)


    4. Friend, we can approach the God of the Universe with the same boldness as we approach our parents. How can you miss so great an opportunity?


  4. Next week: God as Artist.

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