First time hearing prayer in a Bible Church like ours I was taken aback. You can pray not from a book? i had only heard group prayer in the Catholic Church I had gone to sporadically as a kid. So I was like, who are these people who freely talk to God? how do they know what to say? And especially, they must really know God to talk to Him so freely.
And I stuck around, and I became a Christian. Like, a real Christian. And a proud Christian. I looked down on churches that had formalized prayers. After all, I had been in a church with formalized prayers and never once heard the gospel. So I cam to believe that there was a difference between religion - stuffy, formalized, ritualized prayers, and churches that taught that you needed a relationship with God - which meant spontaneous, informal, personal prayers. And I hated recited religion-y prayers.
There was probably a lot of factors in my mindset changing a bit. Probably maturity helped. A lot. In many areas. But I really had a bit of a mindset change on Japan. Let me tell you about our church in Japan. The recited literacy was the only way to participate in the service. Gave me a language to pray.
That’s exactly what recited prayers are supposed to do - give us a language to pray, to literally teach us to pray. Not to become ritualistic, but to teach us how to do something that to be honest, many of us are not good at. How do we speak to God?
Canadians know about personal financial debt. A report this winter revealed that household debt levels higher than any other country. Statistics Canada reported that the ratio of household credit-market debt to disposable income rose to 171.1 per cent last fall. We’re deficit spending. We borrow from one to pay off another. We put the balance for our loans on our credit cards and fold them into our mortgages. Many people simply feel they can never keep up or are a step from financial ruin. The word “debt” in the Lord’s prayer suggests that we are in a state of moral deficit spending. That we owe God our perfect love, our perfect allegiance, our perfect righteousness, yes we fall short, we cross that line daily. And so we say, I know I fell short today, but tomorrow I’ll make it up and do better. But tomorrow comes, and we’re no better than we were today, so we just add to that deficit. We have accumulated a debt of sin that we can never pay off. It bears down upon us, and so we do with our moral debt the same thing that some people do with our financial death, we deny it and ignore it and bury it until the collector comes and we have no choice but to face financial ruin. And the reality of life is that each of us will have to stand before God and give an account of what we have done in our life to love and glorify him, and we will all be crushed under the weight of our moral debt.
That is the prayer of “And forgive us our sins” - I recognize the weight of my sins and my need for the grace of God. This is the forgiveness offered in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God has promised us that for the sake of the life of his son, he will offer to freely forgive any who come to him in repentance and faith. That through Jesus, death and resurrection, he has secured for us an eternal inheritance greater than the debt we owed.
I want to start today by mentioning two barriers to prayer that I think that today’s portion of the Lord’s prayer addresses.
First, Do you find that prayer is easier when you have a dire need, or going through trial, but that it is hard to pray when things are going well, went you don’t have any sever need? How do you foster a prayer life in the monotony of the work week, in the day in and day out, when we live in a country of relative safety, prosperity. It’s true that trial drives us to prayer, but how do we maintain prayer when we’re not driven to God through trial.
The second barrier to prayer, is often that we don’t know what to pray for when we come to God with petitionary prayer. Jesus told us that if we should ask anything in his name, according to his will, God would provide, but its that, “according to his will” part that gets us. How do we know that the things we pray for are according to his will? Some of us get so frustrated by that question that we give up in prayer.
I believe the first petition of the Lord’s prayer, “Hallowed be Thy Name” sets an agenda for our prayer that provides an explosive means of overcoming those barriers to prayer.
AGM Sunday. What kind of church are we to be? What is uniquely characterizes a thriving, expanding church? The Jerusalem church was a bold church. Remember that in Acts 2:42-47 we stated the Luke intends for us to see this Jerusalem church as foundational, as they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to the fellowship and to prayers and to the breaking of the bread, those are the activities that the church in every generation would participate in. Nows in chapters 3-4 we have this story of Peter and John in the temple, healing a man and its aftermath, and we get another characteristic of the Jerusalem church - its a church of bold proclamation. If the church of Jesus Christ fails to be bold in its proclamation, then we might as well give up - we will not make disciples if we’re not bod enough to proclaim the gospel. In Acts 4:1-22 we saw last week the boldness of the apostles, in Act 4:23-32 we see a portrait of a bold church.
What Do You Do When You’re Not Doing Anything? In our culture, we're not very good at pausing. Yet what we do in our downtime matters. As we continue the series we began last week in the Book of Acts, we see the Apostles in a moment of pause. Yet these apostles had been trained by Jesus, and they knew what to do when they were doing nothing; Christ’s People Fill Period’s of Pause With Prayer and Preparation.
"Is the gospel for people like me?" - I've often heard this question asked, especially in sharing the gospel with people from different backgrounds. Many people think that Christianity is a Western religion for Europeans, yet in the ancient world the perception was exactly the opposite. To the Roman "European", Christianity was an Eastern, Jewish religion. The Book of Acts was written to one such Roman believer to assure him that Christianity was indeed a faith for all people. In the Book of Acts, Jesus continues his ministry through His Spirit-empowered church to save people from every nation for the glory of God.