We return in our study of the Word of God to the 11th chapter of Luke this morning, to what is commonly known as The Lord's Prayer, sometimes The Disciples' Prayer. Luke chapter 11 verses 1 through 4, and I will read the text just to set it in your mind again. Luke chapter 11 beginning at verse 1, "And it came about that while He was praying in a certain place, after He had finished one of His disciples said to Him, 'Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.' And He said to them, 'When you pray say, Father, hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us and lead us not into temptation.'"
There are the familiar words of the Lord's Prayer. The expanded version of that is in Matthew chapter 6 verses 9 to 13. We sang that expanded version this morning after our pastoral prayer and were reminded of the fullness of this prayer as given by our Lord at an earlier time in His ministry in Galilee, this later time in Judea. It must have been something that He referred to perhaps often, more than just the two times that is recorded in the New Testament gospel record. We have been learning about this prayer. We're going to learn a little more about it this morning.
The New Testament commands us to pray. It commands us to pray without ceasing. It commands us to continue in prayer. It commands us to pray always. It commands us in everything by prayer and supplication to make our requests made known unto God. And that is to say prayer is to be a way of life for us. It is to be constant. It is to be relentless. And we are given the glorious promise that whatever we ask in the name of Christ consistent with His purpose and His will, He will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. And so prayer for us is a constant, unending, daily way of life. It's sort of like spiritual breathing. It goes on all the time, not always in words formed by the lips, but perhaps most often in the cries upward of the heart. You could never pray too much since you're commanded to pray all the time. You could never pray about too many things since you're commanded to pray concerning everything. There is no limit put on your prayers. There are no confining elements to your prayers. You cannot say too much to God. Yu can only say too little. You cannot speak too often with Him. You could only speak too seldom with Him. You cannot rush into His presence and lay out your needs so that He becomes tired or wearied of your coming. That's impossible. He has commanded us to come all the time. In fact, in Proverbs 15:8 it says, "The prayers of the upright are God's delight." That is to say God loves our prayers. He delights in our prayers. And James says, "You have not because you ask not." The only thing you really can do to limit your prayers is not ask enough, not pray enough, not let your heart desires rise before God enough. Prayer then is a privilege for us, as well as a command. It is as well a passion based upon the realization that we depend on God for everything. We depend upon His wisdom, His power. We depend upon His purpose and His plan. Our deepest longings then rise up in our hearts out of the internal compulsion that God knows best, that God supplies everything, that God's plan is the perfect plan for us.
Praying then is critical to our existence, both as a privilege and a duty. And since it is, we need to know how to pray. And so the disciples bring up the question, "Lord, teach us to pray,” or “Would You teach us to pray? We need to know." I said last time that they had been raised in a Judaistic environment of apostate religion. They had been raised with heresy. They had been raised under the leadership of rabbis and scribes and priests and Pharisees and Sadducees who didn't know God. They thought they did but they did not, and so they had invented a false kind of praying; a ritualistic, vainly repetitious kind of praying. It was external, ceremonial that was used for hypocritical purposes to demonstrate one's supposed self-righteousness publicly. They had been cheated out of the examples of what it really is to pray. And as we saw, listening to Jesus pray here in verse 1, waiting till He was finished they were hearing a kind of prayer that was very different from what they were experiencing in the Judaism in which they were raised. And so one of them says, "Teach us to pray like You pray. Teach us to pray the way John the Baptist taught his followers to pray," which gives us a wonderful insight. John the Baptist, of course, was a true man of God, a true servant of God, a true saint of God, a true believer in God and so in the midst of apostate Judaism there were those true believers, John being one, who did know how to pray. And John's disciples had the same problem Jesus' disciples had, they had been raised in that apostate environment, they had been raised in the environment of false and hypocritical prayers and they also needed to know how to pray the right way. And John the Baptist had instructed them. Even the Pharisees comment on that in Luke 5:33, they say, "John's disciples always fast and pray." And so here the disciples of Jesus bring up the question: How are we to pray?
He had already taught His apostles to pray. He had already given this prayer in the Sermon on the Mount so we might conclude that this was a different group of disciples this time. Certainly there were some who had departed from Him and there were others who had been attracted to Him. We don't know specifically who these people were, but it may well have been as well that the others who knew the prayer when it was given in Galilee needed to hear it again here in Judea many months later. It's really important to know how to pray the right way. If we have access to all of the supply of heaven, if we have entrance given to us, if the gates to the treasure house of heaven have been kicked wide open and God has invited us to come and put no constraints or limits on our coming, we certainly know then how to access that is critical for us. They understood it and I think they heard the way Jesus prayed and it was different than the way they were used to hearing people pray. And they needed Him to teach them.
One of them asked the question, but verse 2 says He said to all of them, used this, as often, to teach all of them a question that one of them asked, though he probably asked it on behalf of all.
Before we look at what He actually said in the prayer, and we've already gone through a bit of introduction in our prior studies, but I want to approach this perhaps in a little different fashion. I want you to see what He did not say to them. I want you to understand what He did not tell them. When they said, "Lord, teach us to pray," there were some things He didn't say. First of all, He didn't say anything about their posture in prayer. He didn't say anything about their physical approach to prayer. There are those who believe that you are to take a certain posture to pray. You hear this all the time. You see it with various kinds of religion; even the Jews believe there's a certain posture in prayer. If you were to go to the Wailing Wall today you would see them take that posture and genuflect in a certain way. You might see them on other occasions in other postures which they think are critical to one degree or another for God to hear your prayer and answer your prayer. You see some religions that believe you have to go prostrate on the ground, put your lips on the earth and God is more likely to hear your prayer in that posture than any other. However, if you study the Bible you will find people who prayed standing, people who prayed with their hands up and their hands down, people who prayed sitting, people who prayed kneeling, people who prayed looking down refusing to look up, and people who prayed looking up refusing to look down. You will find people who prayed bowing low, people who prayed on their face, people who prayed with their face between their knees, people who prayed facing the temple, people who prayed smiting the breast, and on and on. There is no limit to the posture of prayer. If you're going to pray at all times about everything without ceasing, then posture can't be an issue.
Secondly, Jesus didn't say anything about the place of prayer. He didn't limit prayer to the temple or the courtyard. He didn't limit prayer to the synagogue. He didn't even limit prayer to the closet which He does refer to in rebuttal of hypocritical praying in public places to be seen. And, in fact, if you look at the Scripture you will find people praying everywhere. Some of them were praying in battle, in 2 Chronicles. Sometimes they prayed in a cave, sometimes in a closet, sometimes in a garden, as our Lord Himself did along with His disciples. Sometimes they prayed on a mountain. Sometimes they prayed in a valley. Sometimes they prayed by the sea. Sometimes they prayed by the river. Sometimes they prayed in the streets. Sometimes they did pray in the house of God. Sometimes they prayed in bed, sometimes at home, sometimes on a housetop, sometimes in a prison. One man prayed in a fish. Sometimes they prayed in solitude. Sometimes they prayed in groups. Sometimes they prayed in the wilderness. Jesus prayed on a cross and so did the thief. There's no limit to where you can pray, you pray everywhere at all times in any posture.
And Jesus didn't say anything about the times you pray. I remember going to a seminar some years ago in which we were instructed that biblical praying should occur in the morning and in the evening. Well that kind of thing always kind of catapults me into a Bible study to find out if that's really true. In studying Scripture I find people praying in the early morning, before dawn, in the later morning after the sun has arisen. I find people praying three times a day, praying in the evening, praying before the meal, praying after the meal, Deuteronomy 8. I find people praying at three o'clock in the afternoon, at bedtime, at midnight, day and night, all night.
There are no limits: any posture, any place, anytime. You say, "Well doesn't the Bible lay out some proper attitudes for prayer? Shouldn't we come to prayer with a...with a certain kind of attitude?" Well, there are some who prayed in a sad way, right? There are some who came to God manifesting sadness. These are prayers of penitence and prayers of grief over sin and sometimes people like that prayed wearing sackcloth, sometimes sitting in ashes, sometimes putting ashes on their forehead, sometimes shaving their head, Job 1, sometimes smiting their chest, sometimes crying, sometimes throwing dust on their heads, sometimes ripping their clothes, sometimes fasting, sometimes sighing, sometimes groaning, sometimes crying out loud, sometimes agonizing, sometimes the broken heart and a broken spirit, sometimes making oaths, sometimes offering sacrifices. There are all kinds of attitudes that come in the heart that prays.
But, on the other hand, and I'm not going to go through this, you read the Psalms and find out how many of those prayers were made at the epitome of joy and they came in celebration. They came singing their prayers out of this abounding joy. There are no limits to the attitude. You might come in an attitude of brokenness and penitence. You might come in an attitude of celebration and joy. All of that is acceptable in your prayers. There really are no bounds. There are no boundaries in terms of your prayers. You pray in all postures. You pray in all places. You pray at all times. You pray in all attitudes and all circumstances because you pray without ceasing at all times in everything. It's a dominant way of life. It's...It’s our spiritual breathing. You don't breathe once in the morning and once at night. You breathe all the time and you pray all the time. It's a matter of a heart that just opened to God. It may not get verbalized all the time, some people verbalize it more than others, but it's that heart rising up and offering its longings to God.
And they said, "How do we do this?" There has to be a way to pray whatever the circumstance, whatever the posture, whatever the attitude, whatever the circumstance, whatever the time and place. There has to be a way to pray that is acceptable to God which will access what it is that's on our hearts. And that's what they're asking here. And so Jesus says in verse 2, "When you pray, say..." Now Matthew's account, Jesus says, "Pray in this way..." which can express the idea, pray along this pattern; pray in this manner. And as I told you last time, Jesus is not giving us a prayer to pray, although it could be prayed and is prayed and beautifully prayed and sung. That is not the limit of this. He's not giving us a prayer to pray, He's giving us a framework and an outline and a skeleton for all prayers, for all the prayers we pray. And the focus of this praying is on the glory of God.
It starts out, "Hallowed be Thy name." That's the first request. Whatever exalts your name, whatever honors your name, whatever lifts up your name, whatever sets your name apart, whatever glorifies You. And as you will remember from the Matthew 6 prayer, it ends, "For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen." Oh it starts with the hallowing of God and it ends with the hallowing of God and everything in between exalts God. God is our exalted Father. God is the holy and hallowed One. God is the King over His kingdom. God is the Master who does His will. God is the provider who gives our daily bread. God is the Savior who rescues us from sin. And God is the protector and the guide who leads us in the direction opposite temptation. It all focuses on God so that true prayer is infused with worship. Whatever our requests are, they are contained in this context of exalting God.
There are so many illustrations of this. Let me just give you two. Because of time you can look more up on your own. But Psalm 86, I think, provides one illustration that is helpful. Here is a prayer. Psalm 86:1, "Incline your ear, oh Lord, and answer me." This is a prayer rising out of the heart of David and he's asking God to save him and to be gracious to him. And in verse 3 he's crying out to God all day long. In verse 4 he's lifting up his soul to God. And in verse 6 he says this, "Give ear, oh Lord, to my prayer.” Listen to me, God. “Give heed to the voice of my supplication. In the day of my trouble, I shall call upon Thee for Thou will answer me." And then he launches into the appropriate hallowing of God's name. "There is no one like You among the gods, oh Lord. Nor are there any works like Yours. All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, oh Lord, and they shall glorify Your name for You're great and doest wondrous deeds, You alone are God." There he is worshiping, hallowing the name of God. Verse 11 he continues, "Teach me Your way, oh Lord." I'm not asking for anything out of Your will. I'm not asking for anything apart from Your plan. "I will walk in Your truth. Unite my heart with Yours to fear your name and I will give thanks to You, oh Lord my God, with all my heart and will glorify Your name forever, for your loving-kindness toward me is great and You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol. You have saved me. I will come to You and acknowledge Your glory. Glorify Your name. I will rehearse Your great deeds. I acknowledge You alone are God.” I want Your truth. I want Your way. This is all worship. This is the heart of all prayer.
Let me tell you something about this prayer, Disciples' Prayer. Nothing is in that prayer by way of what you'd ask for that God hasn't already promised to give you. He has already promised that He's to be your Father. He has already set apart His name. His name is already hallowed. He will do His will. His kingdom will come. He will supply your bread. He will forgive your sin. He will not lead you in temptation. And in the end He will receive the power and the glory and the honor. Everything in that prayer is really a rehearsal of what God already has affirmed to be true. So what you're doing is going into the presence of God, acknowledging His glory and lining up your heart with His promises. And you're asking, "Lord, this is what the cry of my heart is, this is what I'm pleading for and agonizing for. And, oh God, can You fit it in to Your eternal glorious purpose and plan?" When you ask God to hallow His name in your life, when you ask God to do His will in your life, when you ask God to manifest the glory of His kingdom through your life and circumstance, when you ask God to meet your needs, forgive your sin, direct you toward holiness, when you ask God to be glorified in your life, you're simply asking what God has already said He will do and you're lining your life up with Him and you're pleading for the little issues of your life, or the big issues, and saying, "God, if these fit in to these already revealed promises and purposes, then do this, then do this." And so you always start with worship and that's the way Psalm 86 starts. And after all of that expression of worship from verse 6 to 13, notice verse 14, finally he comes to a request, "Oh God, arrogant men have risen up against me and a band of violent men have sought my life and they have not set You before them."
He never gets to his problem until there. He's so busy exalting God, so busy worshiping, so busy displaying gratitude to God, so concerned that God be honored and God be glorified, that his heart be united with God's heart to reverence and fear the Lord, so consumed with whatever God's way is and God's truth is, finally he says, "God, here's my problem, if You can hear my prayer and answer this prayer and it fits into the eternal purpose which You've already revealed and which is best, do so, do so."
It was like the prayer of Daniel. Daniel comes before the Lord in the 9th chapter to pray this really great prayer, one of the greatest prayers in the whole of the Old Testament. Notice how he begins his prayer, Daniel 9:3, "So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplication with fasting, sackcloth and ashes." Verse 4: "And I prayed to the Lord my God and I confessed and said, 'Alas, oh Lord, the great and awesome God who keeps His covenant and loving-kindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments.'" God, he says, I come to You as my God, my great and awesome God, the God who keeps His covenant promise, the God who displays loving-kindness for those who love Him and obey His commandments. Here he comes with this expression of worship. Then he says in verse 5, "We have sinned, committed iniquity," and goes on to express the petition of his heart that God would be gracious and forgive His sinning people. But all prayer acknowledges the glory and honor of God. And you see this here. When you pray you're acknowledging God as your Father, God as the holy One, God as the King, God as the Master, God as the provider, God as the Savior, God as the protector and guide. And all your prayers are lining up with Him as you say, "God, however these needs in my life can fit into the display of Your glory and majesty, hear and answer my prayer." The disciples needed to learn to pray like that.
Now I want us to just look at the foundation in verse 2. "When you pray say, “Father.” When you pray say, “Father." In the teaching of our Lord in Matthew 6:9, He said, "Pray in this way, “Our Father who art in heaven,” “Our Father who art in heaven." God is called “Father” rarely in the Old Testament, as we pointed out in the past. Never is God called “Father” when He's addressed in a personal prayer. He is called “Father” in the creative sense or “Father” in the sense of being the progenitor the nation Israel. No individual ever goes to God and calls Him “Father.” That would have been viewed as some level of presumption. You come into the New Testament and that changes dramatically. God is called “Father” sixty-five times in Matthew, Mark and Luke and 100 times in the gospel of John. I think only a little over a dozen times in the whole of the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament. All of a sudden there's an explosion of this idea that God is Father, and always Jesus speaking to God calls Him Father, with one exception, Mark 15:34, "Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani," "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" The only time He didn't call Him Father was when He had turned His back on Him as He was bearing sin.
The Greek for "father" is pater, pater, but the Jews spoke Aramaic and their word was abba, abba. And that was the most intimate term used by children. Hebrew speaking families today still call their father abba. They call the mother emma, emma, abba. And the rabbis said that those words were the first words of weaned babies and that's where they came from. They're not sophisticated words. Listening to my little grandson the other day and he's starting to form his little words and when he refers to me and Patricia as well, we both sort of come out abba, babba, babba, babba. Well that's where that came from, abba, emma, father and mother, terms of the most tender endearment. This is the model and the pattern and the format where prayer begins. It begins with an intimacy with God in which we are allowed to call Him Abba. Romans 8:15 says that we're to go and say "Abba, Father." Galatians 4:6, we're to go and say, "Abba, Father." We come and we speak to Him as if we were His born children, as if we were the tender children of His own heart, as if we shared His own life because in fact spiritually speaking we do. God is the creator, that's true. God is the sovereign. God is the transcendent, eternal Spirit.
And yet at the same time we address Him not as Creator, not as sovereign, not as eternal, transcendent Spirit, but we rush into His presence and the first thing out of our lips is “Father, Abba, Abba. “Our Father,” that possessive, “our,” is a deathblow to the liberal teaching of the universal fatherhood of God and brotherhood of man. God is not everybody's Father, He's our Father. He's not the Father of all human beings. Jesus said in John 8 to the Jewish leaders, the Pharisees and the scribes, He said, "You are of your father (whom?) the devil,” the devil. God is the Father of humanity in the sense that He created humanity. He's the Father of Israel in the sense that He gave life to that as a nation. But in the relationship sense He is only the Father of those who are His children who possess His life which is granted only through faith in His Son.
So say this, "Our Father," because He is your Father. That is a deathblow to the universal fatherhood of God. God is not the Father of everyone. That is why Jesus, praying the magnificent high-priestly prayer in John 17 says very clearly, "I do not pray for everybody." He says, verse 9, "I ask on their behalf, I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom Thou hast given Me for they are Yours." I'm praying for Yours, I'm not praying for the world. I'm not praying for everybody. I'm praying for the ones who belong to You and Me. And if you're not in the family, you have no access to the Father. You can pray till you're blue in the face and God has no need to hear your prayer. If you're not His child by faith in Jesus Christ, He is not bound to answer any prayer you pray. You can pray all you want with all the passion you can muster, with all the concern, with all the grief or sorrow or whatever it is that generates that prayer, but if you are not a child of God, He is not your Father, you have no premise on which God is going to answer your prayer. You hear all the time people in our society talking about praying to God, praying to God. It's pointless, it's useless. God is not bound to hear or answer the prayers of any other than His own children. He certainly isn't bound to answer the prayers of the children of the devil. Let them pray to him; unless the children of the devil are ready to pray the prayer of repentance and faith in Christ.
“Our Father” then is an affirmation that we are live in God's eternal family. “Our Father” is an affirmation that we bear His life; that we possess His nature. We belong to Him. Though we are sinful, we are still His beloved and redeemed children and He has given us eternal life, His life. This is the foundation of all our prayers. We have a right to go there. We have access. We are His children. The best of men without Christ cannot call God their Father. And the worst of us with Christ God calls His children. Pharisees and scribes, the best of men, could not call God their Father. Publicans and sinners, the worst of men, God was pleased to call His beloved children. He does not hear the prayer of anyone who does not possess His life. But for those who do, He hears. And on the basis of that union of life, He answers.
Turn to Matthew chapter 7, also the Sermon on the Mount, later on in that sermon, and hear the words of Jesus. Matthew 7 verse 7, "Ask,” this is praying, “Ask and it shall be given to you, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you." That is an absolutely staggering statement by our Lord. You ask; it will be given. You seek, you'll find. You knock, it will be opened. Verse 8 sums it up, "Everyone who asks receives and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it shall be opened." This is amazing.
To who does this apply? Verse 9 puts an illustration here that makes that clear, "What man is there among you when his son shall ask him for a loaf will give him a stone?" Hey, we're talking in the context of a son and a father. "Or if a son asks for a fish, will you give him a snake? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father who's in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him?" There's the qualifier. Ask, you shall receive; seek you shall find; knock it will be opened, but only if He's your Father. Don't expect God to answer your prayers. You have no claim on God. You have no interest in God. You have rejected His Son. You live in disdain of God. You live in rebellion against God. You live in refusal to embrace Jesus Christ. You live unwilling to confess your sin and acknowledge the need of salvation. You are the enemy of God, not the child of God, no matter how religious you may be. That's why Jesus said to the Jewish leaders, "Where I go you'll never come. You will never come." But for those of us who have come to Christ, not because we're the best of men, we're not, but because we have the life of God through the forgiveness of God's grace by faith in Jesus Christ.
You come to the time of Jesus and the gap was widening between God and men. The Pharisees had no connection to God at all. They prayed constantly all the time through the days these ritual, routine prayers, recitations that many of them still recite even today in modern times. They might as well have been shouting at a vaulted ceiling, never got past that. Certainly God had no need to hear. They sensed the widening of that, the transcendence of that, probably because their prayers weren't answered. And so they began to think of God as far, far away. And in contemplation of that, they decided that God was so high and so lifted up that they wouldn't even speak His name and so it was forbidden to say the name of God, Yahweh. It was not to be used in public speech or prayer. You couldn't even say Yahweh. You couldn't even say God's name, let alone say, "Oh God, my Father," as if God had some intimate connection of shared life with you. And along comes Jesus and He did so many things to agitate the apostate leaders of Israel, not the least of which He kept calling God His Father. And He did it over and over and over again every time He prayed and every time He referred to God, He called Him His Father, as I said, 100 hundred times in the gospel of John alone. And the Jews finally said, "This man blasphemes because He calls God His Father." God was His Father and God is not only His Father, God incredibly enough, is our Father, too because we're in Christ.
In John 20 verse 17, Jesus had come out of the grave, Mary Magdalene had come across Him, you remember, in the garden there by the tomb. She wanted to hold onto Him, make sure He didn't disappear. And Jesus said to her, John 20:17, "Stop clinging to Me." You can't hold Me here, Mary. "I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to My brethren,” the disciples, “and say to them, 'I ascend,’ this is good, ‘to My Father’ and what? ‘and your Father, to My God and your God.'" God is our Father. He gave us life. He drew us into His family. He calls us His children. And He sustains His children as a loving Father. And if you ask for bread, you're not going to get a stone, and if you ask a fish, you're not going to get a snake. If you know how to do good who are evil, to your children, how much more will God who is good do good to His children? And by the way, in Matthew 6 verse 8, before the Lord gave the disciples’ prayer in the Matthew 6 account it says in verse 8, "Your Father,” love that, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him." You're rushing into His presence, you've got all these issues in your life, you're glorifying and honoring Him and asking only what's consistent with His will and His purpose, you're rushing in with all the aches and hungers of your heart and all the passions of your soul, you're delivering your soul to God and He already knows everything.
And so you come to one who is fully informed. He knows more about it than you do. And He knows all the contingencies that you don't understand and He knows the end from the beginning and the future as well as the past and the present, and it's all in perfect harmony in His mind and yet we're told to come, pour out our hearts and watch how He hears and answers our prayers when they are consistent with His will and weaves all the little issues of our lives into the ultimate fulfillment of His own eternal purpose. “My God,” Philippians 4, “My God,” I love that, “My God,” Paul says, you weren't allowed to say that, "My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus." “In glory,” means “in heaven.” He's “our Father who art in heaven.” That puts Him above our circumstances, outside the limitations of time and space and material elements. He is there. His grace is without limit. His treasure house of benedictions knows no boundaries. He is up there in glory and “My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” And in response, God gives this wonderful doxology, "Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen."
Every believer celebrates the idea that God is our Father. We understand that. He gave us life. He sustains life. He cares for us. He supports us. He deals with us in compassion, tenderness, loving-kindness. He is near to us. He is a friend that sticks closer than a brother. He will never leave us or forsake us. All of His limitless resources are at our disposal without limit. He gives us out of the riches of the abundance of His grace. All we have to do is ask. Psalm 103:13 and 14 says, "As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities them that fear Him for He knows our frame, He remembers we are dust."
You know, it's...it’s like a father with a tiny little child who understands the weakness, the mental limits, the physical limits, who knows how frail and fragile and how much care and how much tenderness and how much kindness and how much forgiveness and how much patience has to be exhibited. God knows that infinitely. He pities His children, not in some kind of condescending sense, not as we might use the word pity, but it simply means He has a heart of compassion toward us. He knows our frame. He knows our humanness. He knows our weakness. He has not forgotten that we're just dust. Jeremiah 31:9 says, "They will come with weeping and with supplications will I lead them. I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way in which they shall not stumble." Why would I do this? "For I am their Father": What a great statement.
They come with their aches and pains and scrapes and hurts. They come weeping. They come with their requests. And I will lead them and I'll have them walk by the rivers of waters and I'll put them on a straight path and take them off the convoluted trail they're on and I'll lead them in a way that they will not stumble. And why will I do this? I'm their Father. I'm their Father.
You can think about this. You might get a little bit sentimental. You don't want to over-sentimentalize this kindness and this fatherliness of God so you need just one little reminder. If God is going to be a Father to you, you need to show Him the respect that you should show a father, right? This doesn't preclude obedience, living a godly and righteous life. I'll tell you one thing: There is one thing that will cut off the supply of God's fatherly grace to you. “If,” says the Old Testament, “I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” We don't want our prayers hindered, as Peter writes.
Turn to Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament, there's a good illustration of this there. Malachi chapter 1 and just verse 6 would be enough to give us this insight. "A son," Malachi 1:6, "a son honors his father." I mean, that is an axiom, self-evident truth. "A son honors his father. If I'm a father where's My honor?" It's so sad, so sad. Malachi is sadly bringing the oracle of the Word of the Lord to Israel and he's telling them about judgment. He's telling about God's wrath. If you read that prophecy, you're going to see the tragic judgment, the coming of the Day of the Lord, and you're also going to see all the sins that these people in Israel had indulged in. And God just sums it up by saying, "I'm your Father. Where's My honor? I've given you life. I've supplied everything. I've dealt with you with pity and compassion and tenderness. Where is My honor?"
If you expect God to respond to you in a fatherly way, you’d better respond to Him as a son would respond to a father whom he respected and loved. There's no premium here on disobedience, just the opposite; no excuse for sinning. The fact that God is a loving Father, a gracious, merciful Father, never gives license to sin. Hebrews chapter 12 says, "Whom the Lord loves He chastens, and every son He scourges in order that He might produce the peaceable fruit of righteousness." Jesus here is teaching us a new intimacy, really an incredibly wonderful intimacy in prayer that God is our loving Father. He's not apathetic and indifferent. He's not detached. He's a compassionate, loving Father and it is the fatherhood of God over His children that is the premise or the foundation on which all prayer is built.
There's some things I want to just wrap up to help you kind of make this practical. This concept that God is our loving Father, which is the basis of our prayers, settles the matter of fear. It settles the matter of fear. It settles many things. First of all, it settles the matter of fear. Missionaries will tell you one of the greatest gifts Christianity brings to the heathen is the end of fear, is the God who is a God of love, a God of mercy, a God of grace, a God of tenderness, a God of compassion, a God of kindness, a God who seeks to provide for His children all that they need. No such God exists in the history of world religion because all the gods of the nations are demons, the Bible says. They're demon impersonations of gods and no demon is going to manifest that kind of fatherly, loving, compassionate, tender-hearted attitude. Heathen live in a horrible kind of religious environment in which their gods are either absolutely indifferent, or threatening and fearful. They live, for the most part, in the terror of their gods, haunted by them, not helped by them. There's an old Greek legend of the god Prometheus that gives you a little bit of an insight into how the pagans viewed their gods. All these Greek gods sort of were the accumulation of the gods of all the ages. It started really in the Babylonian mystery religions and Prometheus was a god and in the days before men had fire, life was very comfortless and life was very bleak. Prometheus felt sorry for people because they didn't have any fire, so he took fire from heaven and he gave it as a gift to men. In so doing, he had breached the code of the gods and the code of the gods was not to help anybody. And Prometheus had overstepped his bounds and Zeus, who was the king of the gods, was furious, so mightily angry was he that this gift had been given to men that Zeus took Prometheus, chained him to a rock in the middle of the Adriatic Sea where he was tortured with the heat and the thirst of the day and the cold of the night. And then Zeus sent a vulture to rip out his liver, and according to the bizarre legend, it kept growing back and the vulture kept coming and ripping it out every time it grew back. And it went on and on, ad infinitum, ad nauseum. That's what happened to a god who tried to help somebody, who breached the code of the gods, either apathy or terrifying.
That's the heathen idea of god. That's not the God that we know, is it? When we talk about fearing God, we're talking about reverencing Him for His grace and mercy. We rush boldly into the throne of grace in the time of need to receive grace when we need it. Having God as your loving Father, is the end of fear.
It's also the end of the matter of hope, or hopelessness. The world lives in hopelessness. If you have a God like that, what hope do you have? The best that you could hope for is that life won't be as bad as it could be. You have no hope for anything beyond that. Look at God as if he's a mocker at your calamity. Sometimes these religions develop iron laws like Islam that are just broken at the...at the peril of the soul who then is catapulted into the reality that he's going to spend forever in hell. That's the kind of god he has and there's no salvation, no offer of salvation, no redemption in Islam because there isn't in any god outside the true and living God. You have no hope. God is not a loving father. But He is a loving Father, the true and living God. No matter how bad things get in this life, we have hope in the life to come, right? And no matter how bad they get in this life, we know that He's going to work them together for good even here.
It also settles the matter of loneliness. I sometimes wonder how lonely people are in this world. And I'm talking about a kind of cosmic loneliness. I don't mean a momentary feeling like you wish you had somebody around to share your company. I'm talking about this cosmic loneliness, living in a universe that is your enemy, and unable to find a powerful almighty friend, living with loneliness and bitterness, despair, self-pity. We don't live like that. We have the God of Jeshurun who rides to our help. We have, as we saw in the Psalm we read, the God who is our refuge, the God in whom we hide and find our comfort, the God who said, "Lo, I am with you always." All the issues are settled.
It also settles the matter of resources. Since our Father is in heaven, all of the eternal riches of glory are at His disposal on our behalf. We fly from this world into His presence. Arthur Pink said, "If God is in heaven then prayer needs to be a thing of the heart and not of the lips, for no physical voice on earth can rend to the skies. If we are to pray to God in heaven, then our souls must be detached from all of earth. If we pray to God in heaven, then faith must wing our petitions. Since we pray to God in heaven, our desires and aspirations must be heavenly." It's not a matter what you say with your lips, it's what rises before the awareness of God out of your heart, the petitions of your heart.
All the issues are settled. Fear is gone. Hope is established. Loneliness is eliminated. All the resources are there available for us simply because God is our Father. And every time we say, "Our Father who art in heaven," we know we are not lost in the crowd. He knows us by name. God said to Moses in Exodus 33:17, "I know you by name." Isn't that great? "I know you by name." He even said to Cyrus, "I am the Lord, I call you by name, Cyrus," Isaiah 45:3.
Did it ever strike you as you read the Bible all the genealogies? How many people God knows by...? I mean, that's just an example, He knows everybody's name and especially does He know the names of His children and especially does He run to meet their every need. The foundation of all prayer, God is our Father. Let's pray.
This is precious truth to us, our Father, precious beyond words. How the preacher struggles to find the words that can say it and some way convey the magnificence of this reality. We don't deserve to be Your children, we know that. We don't deserve to have You near us. We don't deserve Your grace and mercy. We don't deserve Your companionship. We don't deserve the joy You give. We don't deserve all Your promises and covenants. We don't deserve salvation and eternal life. We don't deserve to be called Your children. But we are so grateful that we can call you Father, that each of us can say, "My Father, Abba," and rush into Your presence to receive grace and help in time of need. And we can come all the time, in every posture, in every place, in every time with any and every attitude. You're there and You're waiting. The only barrier is the sin that we cherish and will not release. And so, Lord, cleanse us even now. Take out any barrier that would be between us and Thee, that we might come in joy and our prayers be not hindered. And as the cries of our heart come before You and as all the little issues and big issues of our lives that are raised before You and our prayers ascend, and as You hear the cry of each of Your children whose name You know, all we ask is that You would answer in a way that would hallow Your name, bring Your kingdom, do Your will, fulfill Your promise to meet our need, forgive our sin and guide us in righteousness so that in the end You will be glorified. Amen.