How to Pray and Live
Jesus has already made it clear in Matthew 6 that the single most important influence on the way we live the Christian life is how we think of God. For Jesus, theology (how we think about God) determines practice (how we live our lives). In particular Jesus stressed how important it is for us to think of God as Father, and to know the intimacy of a Father-son relationship with him. J.I. Packer summarized it in these words:
“You sum up the whole of the New Testament teaching in a single phrase, if you speak of it as a revelation of the Fatherhood of the holy Creator. In the same way you sum up the whole of the New Testament religion if you describe it as the knowledge of God as one’s holy Father. If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all.”
That is precisely what Jesus is saying in Matthew 6 when he exposes the religion of the hypocrites and pagans for what it really is: ignorance of God. The way they speak in prayer underlines the fact that they do not know God as Father. The essential difference, then, between pharisaic, pagan, and Christian praying lies in the kind of God we pray to. Other gods may like mechanical incantations; but not the living and true God revealed by Jesus Christ. Thus, the contrast between them and those of us who belong to the Kingdom of God is that we are to know the Great King as Father in heaven.
This coming Lord’s Day we will look at the ‘Lord’s Prayer.’ The ‘Lord’s Prayer’ was given by Jesus as a model of what genuine Christian prayer is like. It is a model of real prayer, the Christian prayer, in distinction to the prayers of Pharisees and heathen.
To be sure, one could recite the Lord’s Prayer either hypocritically (Pharisaic) or mechanically (pagan) or both. But if we mean what we say, then the Lord’s Prayer is the divine alternative to both forms of false prayer.
Thus, Christian prayer is seen in contrast to its non-Christian alternatives. It is God-centered (concerned for God’s glory) in contrast to the self-centeredness of the Pharisees (preoccupied with their own glory). And it is intelligent (expressive of thoughtful dependence) in contrast to the mechanical incantations of the pagan. Therefore, when we come to God in prayer, we do not come hypocritically like play actors seeking the applause of men, nor mechanically like pagan babblers, whose mind is not in their mutterings, but thoughtfully, humbly, and trustfully like little children to their father.
The ’Lord’s Prayer,’ though, not only provides a model prayer, an easily memorized outline, that serves as a lesson in how we are to approach God as Father and how we are to speak with him. It also serves as an outline of the whole Christian life by providing certain ‘fixed points’ of concern for the family of God. It underlines life’s priorities and helps us to get them into focus.
Join us this week as we look at the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ and learn how to focus on a Christian’s life priorities.
As you know we are working toward particularization, and one of the first steps we must take is nominating candidates for the offices of elder and deacon. In the years prior to COVID, we were training a group of men in preparation for this role, and we have several men who completed the training and are thus qualified to be nominated. This Sunday, your worship guide will have an insert with the names of those eligible to be nominated. You will have a couple of weeks to pray and nominate those eligible.
Following nomination, those nominated will be tested (for biblical knowledge) and examined (interviewed) by our provisional session. Those who qualify will then be presented to the church for confirmation to the position determined (The men will then await their ordination at the particularization service for the church).
We covet your prayers as we continue to move forward to particularization and as we strive to grow the Lord’s church for his glory.