The Life of Jesus Christ: Jesus' Prayer Model

The Life of Jesus Christ: Matthew 6:1-21
June 21, 2020

We come today to our second study in selected parts of Jesus’ most famous sermon. Our text today is Jesus’ words on prayer, including the Lord’s Prayer.

“Any man who attempts to preach on the Lord’s Prayer must surely find himself in great difficulties. There is a sense in which it is almost presumption to preach on it at all. One should simply repeat these phrases and meditate upon them and consider them from the heart. For they themselves say everything, and the more I study this prayer the more I believe that if only one used these phrases as our Lord intended them to be used, there is really nothing more to be said. But, on the other hand, we are all frail and fallible, we are sinful creatures, and the result is that we need to have these things analyzed and enforced.”
—D. Martin Lloyd-Jones

I certainly feel the weight Lloyd-Jones’ statement. But prayer is so vitally important to the individual Christian’s walk as well as the corporate life of the church, it is absolutely necessary that we approach this text with attention, reverence, humility and need.

C. S. Lewis dedicates an entire chapter to the subject of prayer in his fictional The Screwtape Letters. Chapter 4, and later in chapter 27, includes these insights, written from the perspective of a tempting demon to another about how to successfully thwart his human “patients” attempts at growing spiritually in his newfound relationship with God.

“Whenever [the humans] are attending to the Enemy Himself [God, the Father] we are defeated, but there are ways of preventing them from doing so. The simplest is to turn their gaze away from Him towards themselves. Keep them watching their own minds and trying to produce feelings there by the action of their own wills… But of course the Enemy will not be meantime idle. Whenever there is prayer, there is danger of His own immediate action… The humans do not start from that direct perception of Him which we, unhappily, cannot avoid… For, if he ever consciously directs his prayers ‘Not to what I think thou art but to what thou knowest thyself to be’, our situation is, for the moment, desperate… In avoiding this situation - this real nakedness of the soul in prayer - you will be helped by the fact that the humans themselves do not desire it as much as they suppose.”
—Screwtape to Wormwood - C.S. Lewis

It is plainly obvious that prayer is both a subject of supreme importance in the Christian walk, as well as a practice involving great difficulty and confusion. The two truths are not unrelated. This is perhaps why Jesus takes up the topic directly, offering instruction (and teaching elsewhere), then a model prayer, as well as years of personal, disciplined examples in His own life.

Here’s a recap of the Sermon on the Mount thus far:
  • 5:3-12 - The blessings of God based on a God-fearing person’s character and heart
  • 5:13 - The intended presence of the God-fearing person in the lives of others
  • 5:14-16 - The intended influence of the God-fearing person in the lives of others
  • 5:17-20 - Jesus’ teaching is fully consistent with the Old Testament - but it is fundamentally different than the teaching of the Pharisees and Scribes
  • 5:21-48 - Six developed examples of Jesus’ consistent but different teaching
  • 6:1 - A theme verse for the next section: Jesus sets up a contrast of pure righteous acts to the posturing acts of the Pharisees and scribes
  • 6:2-4 - Contrast in the act of giving
  • 6:5-15 - Contrast in the act of praying
  • 6:16-18 - Contrast in the act of fasting

In our text today, Jesus sets up a contrast. The pure spirituality of the Son of God versus the posturing religion of Jewish leadership. The conclusion is a revival and revolution of the truth, the heart and the reality of engagement with the Living God.

While Jesus consistently connects giving, praying and fasting (see the parable in Luke 18:10ff), we will focus our study today primarily on prayer. Prayer is engagement with God. It is a tete-a-tete with your Heavenly Father, a face-to-face with the Living God. Without this reality at its heart, prayer can quickly become something unrecognizable, lost in ceremony, repetition, posturing and power-plays.

Jesus identifies two chief errors in his instructions.
1. Some believe posturing before peers is the purpose of prayer - instead of seeking the face of the Father.
2. Some believe a certain formula of words results in acceptance - instead of relying on the love of the Father.

The Pharisees and scribes engaged prayer, giving and fasting as symbols and practices of religious status. These acts separated them from others and God instead of connecting them to God and others. This posturing religion was its own reward.

Jesus model prayer, most often referred to as “The Lord’s Prayer,” is more precisely “the disciples’ prayer.” This is a model prayer He gave to them. Each line is indicative of the principles and glory of a conversation with the Living God.

  • Our Father - Recognize the fact that, by faith, the Living God is also Father
  • Who is in heaven - Your Father is wholly separate from you and all earthly limitations
  • Hallowed be Your name - A petition for all the world to acknowledge the fullness of God
  • Your kingdom come - A petition for God’s full reign and glory to be realized and revealed
  • Your will be done, on earth as it is heaven - A petition for earth to be a glorious as heaven
  • Give us this day our daily bread - A personal petition for daily provision
  • Forgive us our debts as we forgave our debtors - A personal petition for mercy
  • Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil - A personal petition for deliverance and grace
  • For Yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory - A final acknowledgement of God

It is important to note that asking for forgiveness from God, as in this model prayer, as a person of faith in Jesus, DOES NOT keep you saved or safe. Asking for forgiveness from God, as a person of faith in Jesus, DOES NOT depend on your perfect forgiveness of others. But rather, as in 1 John 1:5-10, asking for forgiveness, as a believer, DOES keep you close to God and clean in your secure relationship with Him. Asking for forgiveness DOES remind you how critical it is to extend forgiveness to others, just as you have been forgiven by God (see Ephesians 4:32).

Prayer. It’s hard. It’s so important. In many ways, it is the lifeblood of your walk with Jesus. It is your language, your air. “Prayer is beyond any question the highest activity of the human soul. Man is at his greatest and highest when, upon his knees, he come face-to-face with God.” D. Martin Lloyd-Jones

You do not give God a report of needs when you pray. He already knows all of your needs. Neither do you engage in some magical formula or incantation that releases a flood of blessing. You pray and ask God in prayer because in the asking your heart opens. And God is really interested in full access to your heart.

Spend some time on this prayer and the principles and truths it reveals. Use it as a skeleton that you fill out and dress with your own thoughts, needs, cries and petitions. Examine your heart, using prayer as a scan. What does your prayer life reveal? How can you grow?

Family Discussion Questions:
1. Have you ever noticed someone trying hard to “pretend” to be important, or smart or even spiritual? Share a story?
2. When have you been tempted to do the same thing? When have you actually done it?
3. Do you enjoy prayer? Be honest - no judgment. Why or why not?
4. What are the most repeated words in Jesus’ comments about prayer? (Read Matthew 6:5-15 out loud to help; Answer: the word Father is used 6 times, see also the words hypocrites, reward and secret) What is Jesus’ point?
5. What is interesting to you about Jesus’ model prayer - what we call the Lord’s Prayer?
6. Identify one way that you can pray with more joy and more regularity as a family.
7. Identify one way that you can personally pray with more joy and regularity. Share it with your family.

Small Group Discussion Questions:
1. Share with your group some of your spiritual or church-culture “pet peeves.” Please keep this short and clean. Supposed to be a fun question. Don’t go all crazy on me.
2. When have you been tempted to or actually given in to any of these “pretending” or “posturing” actions or attitudes? Share a story.
3. Jesus discusses three subjects: giving, praying, fasting. Why do you think He links these subjects together? What is the common denominator?
4. What is your experience with regular, faith-based, financial giving to the church? Share with your group.
5. Jesus takes an inordinate amount of space in the Sermon on the Mount to talk about prayer. What is your general disposition on the subject of prayer? How would you rate it on a personal scale of importance or engagement - 1 to 10? (10 being extremely important and present) Why did you rate it that way?
6. What is the chief contrast that Jesus is setting up in his sermon remarks on prayer? See them again in Matthew 6:1, 2, 5, 7, 16.
7. Why does Jesus repeat the words “Father,” “secret,” and “hypocrites” so often in this section (6:1-18)? What is His point?
8. Do you know someone that you believe is a “person of prayer” or a “prayer warrior” or a committed intercessor? What about this person do you admire and why?
9. What are your thoughts and experience with adding periodic fasting to prayer? Share.
10. Identify three ways you can personally engage prayer in a more joyful way. Share with your group.

Weekly Reading Plan:
During the Life of Jesus Christ teaching series, I think it is best to choose a Gospel account and begin reaching through it slowly, finding time to do so each day. I recommend beginning with Matthew and reading it through, again, slowly. After Matthew, I recommend jumping over to John and doing the same thing.

As we are in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ most repeated and famous sermon, it may also be good to spend some time in Matthew 5-7, reading slowly and working through the steps of bible study methods. For help on this check out Sit With Me Volume 2 on our website, a bible study written just for you and Faith Bible Church.
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