So last week we looked at our approach to prayer, specifically, how we come, and who we come to. The truth that Christians need to understand the most about coming before God is that we are coming to Him as a Father. We used to be His enemies, we used to be hostile to Him, but now we are His children, and His friends. We come to Him out of our need to be with Him, not our desire to look important, or to sound eloquent to others.
Today we are going ot talk about apprehension in prayer. i love this word because it has several meanings. It can mean to be afraid, or anxious about something, and it can mean to understand something. I would say that as we discuss the practice of prayer, it might be fair to say that we are all somewhere on a spectrum from apprehension, to apprehension. You might totally fear prayer, and are not sure even how to start, or you may truly understand what it is and have no trouble at all praying to God. Well, wherever you are on that spectrum, my goal today is to move you just a little bit closer to understanding, and away from fear. You don’t have to move all the way over to full understanding, just an inch will do. If you have every had the thought, “I wish someone would teach me to pray.” well, you are not alone, the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray in our text for today. Well, I hope today’s message will be the answer to that prayer for you. lets read the text. Luke 11:1-4
Today we are going to look at an acrostic that is a very popular, and useful tool as a pattern for prayer. Now, the danger with something like this is that any time you introduce a pattern, or a tool, or a principle for anything, there is a possibility that people will begin to think of that tool as the Pharisees did, or as the Pagans did. This is neither a notch on your prayer belt, nor is it a magic spell.
Also, it is important to note that prayer is a very active thing. R.C. Sproul, in his book called “Does Prayer Change Things?” says: “Prayer is action. While it may be expressed in a spirit of serene quietness, it is action, nevertheless. When we pray, we are not passive observers or neutral, detached spectators. Energy is expended in the exercise of prayer.”
The practice of prayer is not like the practice of meditation. In meditation, you are trying to empty your mind, in prayer, you are focussing all your attention, and energy on what you are doing. It takes thought, and observation, and knowledge. All of which should be applied, not removed from your mind in prayer.
With that said, lets look at this acrostic.
Adoration- Jesus began his lesson on prayer with the words, our Father, who aren’t in Heaven, Hollowed be thy name… This may not sound exactly like adoration, but that is what it is. Jesus is saying, in a very succinct way Holy Holy Holy, is the Lord God almighty! He is declaring the worth of God’s name. He is reminding his own heart of the God, and Father that He is praying to. When we come to God, we must recognize that we are coming to our Father, yes, that is the first thing we are aware of, and that awareness should cause us also to praise Him, and adore Him for who He is and all that He has done. If your prayers do not consist of adoration. They are incomplete prayers.
Now there may be reasons why your prayers do not consist of adoration, let me suggest a few possible reasons. 1. is that you don’t have the words to say. If that is the case, I would suggest that you study the Psalms… 2. You may not understand the depth of what God has done for you. You may not see His greatness. Now, when I realize that my lips are reluctant to praise him, it is usually not a problem with my lips, but my heart. It may be that I am focussed so much on my “needs” and my problems, that I have forgotten the amazing grace that He has poured out on me. Most vividly through the Cross.
Wen I fail to adore God, it is most often because I have failed to remember His work. I think you may also find that the less you adore God, the less likely you are to desire to follow Him into difficult situations.
“The complaint that church is boring is never made by people in awe.”
~ RC Sproul
So, the first thing to do when you pray, is to praise. The words of Psalm 100 say it best.
Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
Serve the LORD with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the LORD, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.
Confession- “Forgive us our trespasses…” When we are enraptured by the holiness and Majesty of God, it is very natural to see very distinctly the contrast of our sinfulness. The beauty of that realization is that we are not left to be condemned. We have an opportunity to be forgiven, but in order to be forgiven, we must confess.
“Confession should be a daily activity for the Christian, whose entire pilgrimage is characterized by the spirit of repentance. The principal reason why confession must be on a daily basis is because our sins against divine law are committed on a daily basis. We do things we ought not to do and leave undone those things God commands us to do. We run up a daily indebtedness before God. Consequently, our daily prayers must include genuine acts of confession.” -Sproul
“1. Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said Poenitentiam agite (Repent! Mt. 4:17), willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.
2. This word cannot be understood to mean sacramental penance, i.e., confession and satisfaction, which is administered by the priests.
3. Yet it means not inward repentance only; nay, there is no inward repentance which does not outwardly work divers mortifications of the flesh.
4. The penalty [of sin], therefore, continues so long as hatred of self continues; for this is the true inward repentance, and continues until our entrance into the kingdom of heaven.”
Martin Luther. “Martin Luther’s 95 Theses.”
Regular authentic confession of sin in prayer does two things. 1. Humbles our hearts and 2. Reminds us yet again how much we need to receive grace. Confession should never leave us feeling condemned. it should always provide freedom. 1 John 1:5-10 reminds us…
“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”
The reason we must confess our sins is that to live in sin is to live in the dark, but to confess them is to bring them into the light where they can be dealt with.
Let me tell you, confession is hard, especially when there are so many secret sins. And so many hypocrites willing to jump all over you for them. But let me tell you this, living with unconfessed sin, is way harder than confessing it, embracing Christ’s forgiveness, and walking in fellowship with him instead of separation.
Also, pay very close attention the this very strong warning in verse 10. If we say we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar, and HIs word is not in us. Check your hearts brothers and sisters, if you bristle at the thought of confessing to God, and also to one another, you may not be outright calling God a liar, but your heart may be painting that picture.
Now, while we are on the topic, most of us know at least inherently that there are two types of confession. My buddy R.C. calls them attrition and contrition. Attrition is how you confess when you are outs for your sin. You weren’t convicted, and then confess, you got caught and then were forced to confess. Like a child, or a politician getting caught in sin and having to make some statement to the public. You are pretty sure they didn’t mean it. That is attrition. It is counterfeit, it is often blanket apologies for unspecified things.
Contrition is the recognition that we have sinned against the Holy God of the universe. It is heartfelt, and honest, it doesn’t hold back for fear of looking bad. It is true, gut level, raw, and real. Attrition says, “I’m sorry if I hurt you.” Contrition says, “I have sinned against you, and against God. My actions were bad, but my heart was even worse. I put myself on the throne of my heart, and placed your wellbeing on the alter of my selfishness. My actions have slapped you in the face and given God the bird.”
So, if you aren’t sure how to pray, you can grow in your understanding by confessing your sins to Him. and remembering His forgiveness.
Thanksgiving- We live in a thankless society. I hear so very often how entitled the next generation is, and how they expect everything to be handed to them. It is a problem. They aren’t willing to work hard. I hear a radian story recently on the relationships between the millennials and the baby boomers. They were talking to even some Millennials who had distain for their own generation. The story though went on to say that every generation has the same feelings for the next generation.
You might interpret this entitlement to coincide with a lack of thankfulness, since they expect things to be given to them. While that may be true. I have also observed that the primary complaint about entitlement is often followed by a recounting of how hard the previous generation worked to get what they have. Do you see the folly in that mindset? it is self reliance. They may not feel that they deserve things by being born here, they feel that they deserve what they have because of how hard they have worked.
1 Corinthians 4:7, “For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?”
The difference between the thankful, and the non thankful is not their entitlement mentality, it is that they don’t see all that they have as coming from the hand of God.
Every day, you have hundreds of reasons to thank God. If you are breathing, you have reason to be thankful. If you can see, you have something to thank God for. If you had breakfast, you have something to thank God for.
If you have a hard time thinking of things to thank God for, it is because you have not recognized the source of everything you have!
“Ingratitude is a serious matter. The Scriptures have much to say about it. The failure to be grateful is the mark both of the pagan and the apostate.
In Romans 1:21, Paul calls attention to two primary sins of the pagan. He says, “For although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him.” Honor and thanksgiving may be distinguished, but not separated. God is honored by thanksgiving and dishonored by the lack of it. All that we have and all that we are we owe ultimately to the benevolence of our Creator. To slight Him by withholding appropriate gratitude is to exalt ourselves and debase Him.” -R. C. Sproul. “Does Prayer Change Things?
“If God never grants us another glimpse of His glory in this life, if He never grants us another request, if He never gives us another gift from the abundance of His grace, we still would be obligated to spend the rest of our lives thanking Him for what He already has done. We have already been blessed enough to be moved daily to thanksgiving. Nevertheless, God continues to bless us.” -R. C. Sproul. “Does Prayer Change Things?.”
Supplication- I really don’t have to teach any of us how to ask God for things. It seems we are born with the ability to ask for things. The first three things are the difficult aspects to prayer.
Ask Specifically: James says, “You do not have, because you do not ask. 3
Ask Humbly:You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”
Ask Biblically:I will say though that the important aspect to asking God for things is that we ask him according to His revealed will that is contained in His Word.