Tuesday, December 8, 2015
Scratching the Surface
The Perfect Pattern for Prayer
(A Brief and Incomplete Guide to The Lord’s Prayer)
Prayer is best when done not discussed.
The Rev. Harold F. Mante (RIP), my home pastor, often urged, “Just talk to Him. He doesn’t care about your grammar or language or stammering or stuttering or anything. Just talk to Him. He’s your Dad and just wants to be with you.”
Yeah, there are patterns.
Question and answer #98 of The Shorter Catechism is helpful: “Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, for things agreeable to His will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgement of His mercies.”
We know the ACTS acronym and its meaning as a guide to prayer: Adoration (heralding the great graciousness of God), Confession (admitting our awful behaviors that insult God and injure others), Thanksgiving (expressing gratitude for everything that He has done for us from here to eternity, like forgiving our awful behaviors by grace through faith in Jesus, and pledging to enflesh gratitude in creeds and deeds), and Supplication (asking favors for others and ourselves).
Of course, The Lord’s Prayer is the perfect pattern for prayer.
When Jesus was asked how to pray, He provided the perfect pattern as recorded in Matthew 6:9-13.
Mother Teresa: “How do we learn to pray? When Jesus was asked by His disciples how to pray, He did not teach them any methods or techniques. He said that we should speak to God as our Father, a loving Father.”
Let’s take a look.
“Our Father, who art in Heaven” – This is our appeal to the only One capable of caring for us now and forever because only He is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.
“Hallowed by Thy name” – God’s name is holy, holy, holy. He is unparalleled as Almighty Source, Starter, Sovereign, and Savior. We are reminding ourselves to honor His holiness in thoughts, creeds, and deeds.
“Thy Kingdom come” – We want God’s gracious reign now!
“Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven” – God’s perfect patterns for belief and behavior as personified in Jesus and prescribed in Holy Scripture are obeyed perfectly in Heaven. We want Him to be obeyed thusly right now right here on earth.
“Give us this day our daily bread” – This request recognizes our emotional, intellectual, spiritual, material, and physical needs and dependence upon God to meet them.
“And forgive our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us” – This is the only part of the prayer that Jesus explained immediately in Matthew 6:14-15: “If you forgive others of their sins against you, God will forgive you of your sins against Him and others. If you do not forgive others, God will not forgive you.” This part of the prayer can be explained in two simple equations: Forgiving = Forgiven…Unforgiving = unforgiven.
“And lead us not into temptation” – Many bad things taste good. Knowing bad things that taste good always lead to spiritual indigestion and disruption of holy communion with our Lord, we beg His help to avoid anyone and anything that always hurt us by hurting our relationships with Him and His.
“But deliver us from the evil one” – While we know with Luther that its doom is sure, we beg God’s protection from and triumph over Satan.
“For Thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever” – We know God wins sooner or later and definitely in the end; and we win with Him! This is our glorious declaration of His grace for our ultimate experience of His final and forever victory.
“Amen” – This is our prayerful punctuation with passion: “That’s right!…So be it!…Yes!”
One more word.
It comes from Paul: “Pray constantly!…Pray without ceasing!…Pray persistently!”
Or as Robert Schuller liked to say, “Prayer is like a VW with an open sun roof.”
Using solitude as an approximate synonym for prayer, Henri Nouwen explains the reward for the effort: “Solitude/prayer is the furnace of transformation. Without solitude/prayer, we remain victims of our society…As soon as I decide to…[pray]…confusing ideas, disturbing images, wild fantasies and weird associations jump about in my mind like monkeys in a banana tree…The task is to persevere in my solitude/prayer, to stay…until all my seductive visitors get tired of pounding on my door and leave me alone…We…
[pray]…to meet our Lord and to be with Him and Him alone…to keep the eyes of our mind and heart on Him who is our Divine Savior.”
Tony told me about a woman who castigated him for the earthy language in his prayers. He responded, “Listen, lady, I wasn’t talking to you!”
Then there was the fellah who complained to me about not hearing from God when he prayed. I asked, “Could it be that you talk too much and listen too little? How can you hear from God when you’re always talking to God?”
I’ve come to realize the best prayers are when I shut up and listen.
Really, God already knows what we think, feel, want, and…
So maybe the perfectly perfect prayer is the one offered by Jesus in Gethsemane, “Your will not mine be done!”
I’m not saying we should not talk to God about whatever whenever whyever; but I am saying it’s better to spend more time waiting/listening for His perfect words/will.
Moretheless, if we repeat His perfect pattern for prayer known as The Lord’s Prayer and meditate on it, the blessings of increased intimacy will flow, fill, and satisfy/save us.
Blessings and Love!