Dangerous Prayers

sfw1-aa714*This is our third “by request sermon in our “You Asked for it” Series. The question asked was: Who should we be praying in/to- the Father or the Son?

Well, Jesus taught us to pray “Our Father”… straight forward enough right? We are told to pray in the secret place to our Father.

But is it that simple? Well, of course not. If things were that simple, I’d be out of a job.

Prayer, we need to understand, is not where we go to God a honey-do list. We don’t just ask God for stuff, and thank him for other stuff. We should do that. But prayer is way more than that. It is where we draw close to God to encounter him, and experience his presence- and we experience the presence not just of God the Father, but we experience God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in prayer.

Jesus also told us that when we ask in his name, we will receive (John 14:13-14). Jesus is at the right hand of the Father, interceding for us, but also, when we gather, we are told he is here with us. So yes, when we pray, we are interacting with and through Christ. “Jesus, intercede for me” “Jesus help me” “Jesus meet me here” is a valid way to pray.

Paul wrote (Romans 8:26-27):

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

The Spirit enables prayer, and prays with and for us. Praying to the Spirit for help with prayer is a valid prayer. “Holy Spirit, help me pray.” “Holy Spirit, pray for me.” “Holy Spirit, give me the words.”

Yes, we pray to the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit. That sounds confusing, but basically, prayer is inherently Trinitarian.

We worship and pray in Trinitarian ways. There isn’t one way to pray. We’re going to look at two prayers of Scripture to unpack this, the Lord’s prayer, and one of Paul’s prayers.

When Jesus gave his disciples the “Lord’s prayer” it wasn’t a case of these are the words you must pray. It was a “here’s a suggestion”; “here’s a good way to pray”. It’s more about the posture of prayer than the actual words. When teaching about prayer in the preceding verses (Matt. 6:5-8), Jesus is talking about the posture of prayer and the methods, not the specific words themselves. He says don’t carry on publicly. You aren’t praying to be noticed or admired. Prayer is not performance. Go inside, shut the door, avoid distractions or feeling like you have to “perform”. Go and pray simply and honestly. God knows you and what you need. Just go and pray simply and straightforwardly. No eloquent words or repetition is needed. Just pray with sincerity and authenticity. That’s what counts. A well scripted prayer which is faked is of no value. A trembling and ineloquent but sincere prayer can move mountains.

In other words, the Lord’s prayer follows teaching on the right methods and motivations of prayer, and thus the Lord’s prayer illustrates that teaching. The Lord’s prayer is meant to be a demonstration of how a short prayer can be profound in reorienting us towards faithfulness to God. It is designed to reenforce that God is God and I am not. The Lord’s prayer is a dangerous prayer, as it threatens our own ambitions and focuses us on a radical change to our all-too-often complacent devotion to God. Jesus instruct his followers to pray in ways which are scandalous for his time. Compare Jesus’ prayers to the prayers of the Old Testament or the Second Temple period. Jesus was rocking people to their core when he taught his followers to pray this way.

Let’s walk through this:

“Hallowed be your name;”- Your name be sanctified on earth as it is in Heaven.

May your name be recognized as Holy. May all the people of the earth bow at your name. May your name be revered and honoured as it deserves to be. May my life bring honour to God’s name. May my earthly existence exemplify heavenly glory.

Are you willing to get out of your comfort zone and let God’s holiness shine through you?

“Your Kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven.”

May you rule earth as our rightful King. May you reign uncontested among mankind. May heaven invade the earth. May you have no opposition. May we all bow to your authority as God and King of life itself. May everything about my life be in full allegiance to you, my Lord and my God. May I have no allegiance besides you Lord. May I cast everything else which draws my allegiance from you or distracts me in any way.

“Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”

May all thing be done according to your design. God do as you will, and teach us to be obedient to your instruction. God break our disobedient hearts, so that your good design may be realized as opposed to this mess which results when we do it our way.

See what Jesus is up to? Praying the Lord’s prayer is serious business. This is not just something we ask lightly. Hallowed be your name is a big request. Your kingdom come is a big request. Your will be done is a big request. The implications are something we need to understand when we ask. These few simple words have huge implications.

This is dangerous prayer.

Do you really want and are you really ready for God’s will? If God’s will is done, it will mean your existence as you know will be rocked to it’s core.

Jesus is God’s Kingdom bearer, and the change he brought about in the people he encountered is a foretaste of the Kingdom. Praying your Kingdom come is asking God to completely reorient your life. To completely undo everything you think you know about the world. It is calling on a revolution which starts in you but goes way beyond you.

Praying for God’s name to be sanctified means praying for the revelation of the fullness of God which is far beyond our comprehension. It is the full revelation of power and glory.

Are you prepared to stand in front of that?

Feed us, deliver us from temptation, and forgive us. Simple, but profound requests. May we look to you for provision, for strength and for redemption. May we depend on you for all things.

Second Temple Jews believed that Messiah’s appearance depended on their obedience. If Israel would repent fully and obey, Messiah would deliver Israel (See e.g. tractate Ta’anit 1:1.II:5, and Jacob Neusner, Judaism When Christianity Began. Louisville: WJK, 2002, 172-3). Now the Messiah is teaching his people to pray for deliverance here and now, in the midst of sin. Now Messiah is saying I will come to sinful humanity and help them find victory. Messiah will defeat sin on our behalf and lead people away from temptation.

So what does all this have to do with Trinity? It still says “Our Father”.

Praying in this way is about experiencing God in all his fullness. Although this prayer begins “Our Father” we are reaching out to the fullness of God- which is expressed in Trinity. I would argue Trinity is implicit in this prayer even though it is not explicit. It is through Christ that Kingdom comes, and it is by the Spirit we discern God’s will. Thus, even though we address God the Father, we are pleading for the work of the Trinity to be done in us. We are looking for an encounter with the Godhead- three in one.

In the Lord’s prayer, Trinity is veiled or implicit. In Paul’s prayer, Trinity is more obviously there (Eph. 3:14-19):

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Prayer is a conversation, an interaction of the Trinity, into which we enter. We participate in a conversation not just with the Father, but with the Trinity.

Paul bows before the Father in prayer asking that the Holy Spirit might fill the Ephesians with power, and that Christ would dwell in them.

Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3 is what Darrell Johnson calls “the boldest prayer imaginable” (Experiencing the Trinity, Vancouver: Regent College Press, 2002, 87ff).

Bowing his knees before the Father, Paul pleads that according the the riches of His glory– according to God’s infinite glory, the unending love of our Almighty Father- we might be strengthened in our inner being with the power of the Holy Spirit.

In other words, Paul is praying “Holy Spirit come upon us and surround us and enfold us and indwell us and breathe the power at the centre of the universe into the centre of our lives. May the power which guides the universe guide my life.” The power of the centre of the universe indwelling each of us. That’s bold.

That Christ may dwell in us– The Lord and Messiah, the word of God incarnated dwelling inside of us. Paul is praying that Jesus Christ, the Son of God would be at home in us. God’s eternal logos, by and through which the creation exists, living and being at home within us.

As you are being rooted and grounded in love. Lord make love the foundation of everything we are and everything we do. Not our comfort, our status, our desires, our stuff, but love. May we find our lives to be grounded in love.

Paul prays that we might fathom the full breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ– to know the love of Christ which surpasses all knowledge. Wait, to know that which surpasses knowing. Paul is praying that we experience and understand something impossible to know. To know in this sense is just to have mental awareness of, but to actually encounter and meet and experience. God do the impossible in us! Help us, your finite people, to experience the infinite.

So that we might be filled by the fullness of God. We might have all of God filling us. May we be Temples of God’s fullness.

Our calling when we pray is to pray simply, but boldly. To approach the Trinity. To encounter God in his abundant love and grace. We don’t just go with our spiritual shopping less. God bless so-and-so and God’s help me understand and learn. We can pray God fill us with you abundant love. God dwell richly in us. God your Kingdom come. Yes we approach with humility, but with the knowledge that Christ has indeed opened to us full access to God.

When you pray, the details of the choices of words is not the core prayer. Beautiful wording won’t make God more or less inclined to respond. But when we pray, we are to pray based on our encounters and experience of God. We encounter God who has made himself available to us. To freely come, not just to ask for something, but to hear from him, to experience him, to be filled with his presence and be united to him.

Prayer is less about asking God for something, as it is about sharing with him. And this is something we do in Christ, and it is something which the Holy Spirit facilitates in us.

So in answer to the question who should we be praying to- we should alter our question- who are we drawing near to in prayer?

Who are we seeking in prayer?

And the answer to that is of course the Trinity.

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