We have had a prayer emphasis during this month, in which we set aside four hours each Wednesday for prayer.
Several months ago, I was considering this emphasis, and believed that I wanted to especially share from the Lord’s Prayer.
This prayer is something that I grew up hearing in church; and even in my school we said the Lord’s Prayer daily during elementary school (it was not a typical school situation).
We live in a different nation now than our nation was 53 years ago when I was born.But God has not changed during those 53 years, nor since the beginning of time.
God has always been the same.
Jesus is revered to be a “great teacher” by many who have never even read his teaching.
He taught many things, and his teaching on prayer is some of the most useful and revealing.
Today, I want us to look at the Lord’s Prayer as it is presented to us in the Gospel of Matthew:
9 “This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
The title of my message is “On Earth as it Is in Heaven.”
As we begin, let us pray the Lord’s Prayer, together, in unison.
I have updated the language of the prayer from how I prayed it as a child:
Our Father, Who is in heaven
Hallowed be Your Name
Your kingdom come
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever.
- How to Pray
This prayer comes in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount. It is surrounded by other verses about prayer and forgiveness.
-Don’t Pray on Display
Just prior to the prayer, Jesus tells us to not pray like the hypocrites who pray for display.
You know, I used to be worried about that, and sometimes I check myself, but I am ready to pray at the drop of a hat, I think.
I was criticized a few months ago for being so ostentatious or showy, so around that critic, I try to remember that even praying before eating a meal is more of an offense to them, now.
So, I’ll try not offend.
I think we can pray, publicly, as a means of helping people, but we should be careful not to draw unnecessary attention, and therefore become an offense.
Praying publicly can be a wonderful opportunity to share God’s love with someone, but let’s not pray to be on display.
When we pray, let’s remember that it is a conversation with God.
-Pray in a Private Way
Jesus also talks about privacy in prayer.
Pray in secret. This is the opposite of praying showy prayers.
This was Jesus’ example, as he was noted as one who would get up early to pray in a quiet place.
And, it is very therapeutic for people to spend time alone with God in prayer.
I encourage each of us to do this.
Set time aside when we can just pray, with no distractions; and Receive from God.
-Don’t Babble in Prayer
Jesus also says not to babble. Not to think that by the quantity of words we shall be blessed, and it is at this time that He said,
…your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Matthew 6:8
God doesn’t learn information through our prayers. He knows what we need, but He still asks us to pray.
He loves to have conversation with us, and the Lord’s Prayer is a pattern for prayer to help us in our conversation with God.
- Pattern for Prayer
The Lord’s Prayer is a Pattern and a guideline for prayer
- It begins with Worship
- It leads us to our personal petitions for what we need
- It reminds us of our relationship to forgiveness (we need it, and we must show it)
- It calls us to pray so that we don’t fall into temptation
- It declares our dependency upon God in our struggle against the evil one.
About 30 years ago, I was serving as a youth minister in a church near the Richmond Airport. The senior pastor really wanted people to pray.
He found a teaching about using the Lord’s Prayer as a guideline for praying for a whole hour. So, he encouraged the congregation to do this through his sermons and newsletters.
A few learned and began to practice this teaching, but he wanted everyone to pray this way. So, he bought video cassette tapes of the teaching, and this is what we watched on Sunday evenings at church. There were several tapes, and once people had watched 2 of them, they stopped coming to church on Sunday evenings.
So, Pastor decided that the Sunday morning format would change: We would sing only a couple songs. Children’s classes were canceled, even nursery. I remember this, especially, because Emily was a young baby, and we had to hold her for two hours while we watched two video tapes.
We watched two one hour cassette tapes on a Sunday morning. I remember it like it was yesterday. The room where we met was full of over 100 people.
The next week there were only about 50 people.
The third week there were about 25 people.
In the end, the pastor received what he wanted…the whole church was trained to pray for one hour at a time, but the whole church had dwindled to about 20 people.
Although the method was difficult and harsh that the pastor employed, the purpose was honorable.
He wanted us to be able to pray for one hour.
And I still believe that was an excellent teaching.
But it may not take too long to learn it.
If you want to try it, you just take the Lord’s Prayer and spend time expounding on each point for several minutes as we pray. Apply each point to every aspect of your life and of those for whom you are praying.
If you’ve never done this before, you may be surprised how long we can pray. So the Lord’s Prayer can be seen as an outline, or pattern for prayer.
As well it is a Script for Prayer.
- Script for Prayer
I was preaching a series on the Lord’s Prayer once, and found a suggested method of praying it:
- several times a day.
-Let it be the first thing you say
-And the last thing
-Let it be with every meal
-And before every meeting
I thought, “silly,” but I still tried it.
I was surprised.
The words of the Lord’s Prayer have a centering effect on me, and they help me to see difficult situations through God’s eyes.
Once, when I was about to have a very difficult conversation with someone, and I had already prayed specifically about the situation, but I had a couple minutes before the conversation was going to start. I took that time to pray the Lord’s Prayer, RAPIDLY….and it helped me to see the person in a MORE favorable light, as I knew that I was praying to Our Father, not just My Father.
I’ve since recommended it to many people, and they thank me for it. Those who are under stress or temptation or in impossible situations, have taken peace from God by means of this prayer.
- On Earth as it Is in Heaven
This is the perspective of the Lord’s Prayer, and I think it is so insightful for us.
The earth has been spoiled by the sin of man, and though we receive our physical sustenance from the earth, we are poisoned by the spoiled earth.
Earth represents human governments and societies.
It represents the physical realm of all matter, too, I believe.
Jesus told us to pray this pattern,
On Earth as it Is in Heaven.
He wants us to see the spoiled earth as the scene of redemption.
But he doesn’t arm us with
- physical weaponry or
- political power or
- scientific ingenuity
Jesus was not calling man to rebel, but to repent.
This same group of people had just heard Jesus bless the Meek, as the Inheritors of the earth.
So, in prayer, Jesus calls us to make a change to the earth.
We change the earth by praying according to the Will of God that is always at work in the kingdom of heaven, and that it would happen, too, on earth.
In this case heaven means the realm of God.
- What on Earth as it is in Heaven?
What are we to do on earth as it is already done in heaven?
- Hallowing of God’s Name
- Welcome God’s Coming Kingdom
- Submit to God’s Perfect Will
When Isaiah saw the vision of God in the Temple, he was overwhelmed. The Temple was filled with the majesty of God, and there were angels known as Seraphim who were worshiping God because of Who He Is:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.” Isaiah 6:3
When John saw the throne room of heaven, he saw and heard something similar.
He calls them “Four Living Creatures” and they said these words:
“‘Holy, holy, holy
is the Lord God Almighty,’
who was, and is, and is to come.” Rev. 4:8
When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he taught them to direct their prayers to their heavenly Father, and to Hallow His Name.
When we hallow God’s Name, we are making it holy. We are praising it, honoring it, worshiping His name.
It is not meant to be merely an instantaneous honoring of God (meaning for the moment that we pray those words), but it is meant to be our declaration that God’s Name be Hallowed, be Worshiped, Be Praised, Glorified and Honored.
A few words later, Jesus adds the phrase, “On earth as it is in heaven.”
Often when we pray this prayer, it seems that the points about God’s Kingdom and Will are meant to be understood this way, but this first point of honoring God’s Name is meant here, too.
Hallowed is Your Name!
In heaven, God’s Name is Hallowed, always, but what about on earth?
Not so. There are places where God’s Name is hallowed, but many more where it is not hallowed.
There are those who will try to legislate morality, and I do believe that there is a place for Christians in the political realm, but when we pray,
“May Your Name be Hallowed,”
…we must think of the area under our control: our beings.
“Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” begins in the heart of the one who follows Jesus’ teaching on prayer. May Your kingdom and will find their place in my heart, Lord, and may I be used to share Your Kingdom and Will on earth as it is in heaven.
In essence, these three points of
-Hallowing God’s Name
-Welcoming His Kingdom
-Submitting to His Will
Are all the same.
How do we make God’s name Hallowed or Holy?
-Obedience to God’s moral law
-Intentionally being in His presence
And Sharing His presence
-Regularly praying and communicating with Jesus
-Trusting in God for
So, as Jesus wants to change the world, He begins with enlisting us to pray for change.
And he expects us to follow what we pray.
So, let the change come to me and to you, today.
Let it reach out to those around us, and make a difference in this world for the glory of God.
On Earth as it is In Heaven
- Pray it
- Do it
- We’ll see it
This message today has been much more about application of this Scripture, so let’s conclude recapping this application:
- As we pray, let’s recognize the Authority of the Kingdom of God over our lives. We are subjects of His Kingdom, thus let’s be people who worship God and submit to His Rule and His Will. We don’t always know His Will, but when we do, let’s do it. His Rule is very clear in the Bible, so let’s follow it. And He is to be praised not just as a response but because of Who He Is.
- Let’s pray the Lord’s Prayer several times a day, rapidly (but not as a mindless mantra). Repetition is one of the best means of teaching and learning, and meditation upon the Word of God is one of the best ways to begin the application of God’s Word to our lives.
- When we pray, perhaps once a day or once a week, let’s use the Lord’s Prayer as a guideline for our prayers