How We Ought to Pray

by Jeffrey W. Hamilton

Text: Luke 11:1-13

I.         Being creatures of habit, we often fall into a pattern of doing certain things in certain ways.

            A.        There is nothing wrong with a habit, so long as it is a good habit.

            B.        In fact, we ought to cultivate good habits to carry us over our weak moments

            C.        But sometimes we begin to think that the way we currently do something is the only way it can be done.

            D.        Jesus was asked by his disciples to teach them to pray, like John taught his disciples - Luke 11:1

                        1.         Have you stopped to think that these are Jewish men?

                                    a.         Shouldn’t a Jew know how to pray to God?

                                    b.         Consider how many prayers are mentioned in the Old Testament

                                    c.         Prayer wasn’t something new to a Jew

                        2.         Rather, I think that they, like most of us, tend to feel that our prayers are not adequate.

                        3.         Seeing the power of Jesus’s prayer, the disciples wanted to be able to do the same.

II.        What is prayer?

            A.        Philippians 4:6; I Timothy 2:1-3

                        1.         Supplication - a request regarding a need

                        2.         Prayer - to worship

                        3.         Intercession - an interview, a request on behalf of another

                        4.         Giving thanks - gratitude

            B.        It is the way followers of God talk to their Creator

                        1.         To ask

                                    a.         Cannot receive unless you first ask - James 4:2

                                    b.         Ask according to Christ’s authority - John 16:24

                                    c.         Ask help for others - II Corinthians 1:11

                        2.         To ask pardon

                                    a.         For self - I John 1:9

                                    b.         For others - James 5:16

                        3.         To praise

                                    a.         Hannah’s prayer - I Samuel 2:1-10

                                    b.         Ethan’s praise - Psalms 89:5-14

                        4.         To thank

                                    a.         David’s praise - Psalms 66:19-20

                                    b.         Thankful in everything - I Thessalonians 5:18

                        5.         To seek fellowship

                                    a.         Drawing near to God - James 4:8-10

                                    b.         Confident access to God - Ephesians 3:12

III.       When we teach a child to pray, we often assume a particular position and we encourage our child to do the same.

            A.        Interestingly, when Jesus instructed His disciples, he never mentioned a physical position.

            B.        When we look at prayers recorded in the Bible, we find those praying in many positions

                        1.         Standing - Mark 11:25; Luke 18:10-14

                        2.         Sitting - I Kings 19:1-5; Nehemiah 1:4

                        3.         Lying down - II Kings 20:1-3

                        4.         Kneeling - Luke 22:41-42; Acts 9:40

                                    a.         Kneeling with hands spread toward heaven - I Kings 8:54; Ezra 9:5

                                    b.         Kneeling and bowing down - Psalm 95:6; Ezra 10:1

                        5.         Bowing down - Psalm 35:13-14

                        6.         Falling on their face - Matthew 26:39; Numbers 16:20-22

                        7.         Face toward God - Dan 9:3; Psalm 5:3

                        8.         Uplifted hands - Psalm 28:2

                                    a.         Lifting up holy hands - I Timothy 2:8

                                                (1)       Not necessarily literal because of the use of “holy”

                                                (2)       The idea is to come before God with hands free from the guilt of sin, such as Proverbs 6:17

                                                (3)       Zophar had the wrong idea about Job, but he did understand the need to approach God properly - Job 11:13-15

                                                (4)       Job’s hands were innocent of sin - Job 31:7

                                                (5)       James 4:8 - James is not speaking of a literal washing

                                    b.         Position of hands

                                                (1)       Hebrews 12:12 - Hanging down, ashamed, weak

                                                (2)       Lamentations 3:41 - Lifting heart and hands

            C.        There is no one required position.

                        1.         The various positions take signified the petitioner’s attitude at the moment of prayer

                        2.         Or it was just the position they were in when they needed to pray

IV.      To whom should we pray?

            A.        Foremost, prayers are directed to God, the Father - Matthew 6:9

                        1.         The Father has foremost position - I Corinthians 15:28; 11:3

                        2.         Thanks goes to God the Father - Colossians 1:3; 3:17

            B.        Prayers have been directed to Jesus

                        1.         Jesus is God and it is proper to worship Him - John 1:1; 9:38; Revelation 5:12-13

                        2.         Jesus is to be honored, just as the Father - John 5:23

                        3.         Paul sought the Lord about his thorn in his flesh - II Corinthians 12:8

                                    a.         “The Lord” usually refers to Jesus, especially in Paul’s writings

                                    b.         Notice in II Corinthians 12:9-10 Paul’s boast is in the power of Christ, which defines who is being discussed

                        4.         Stephen at his death - Acts 7:59

                                    a.         Some try to call this an exception or that he was addressing Jesus because of his vision

                                    b.         But the point is that Stephen did make a request of Jesus. He did pray to Jesus.

                        5.         Asking in Jesus’ name - John 14:13-14

                                    a.         “In my name” means with Jesus’ approval or authority

                                    b.         “Me” in verse 14 isn’t in all texts, but the evidence is heavily in support that it should be there

                                    c.         Regardless, note that Jesus says he will personally respond to what is being asked. Therefore the request is of Christ. (Compare to John 16:23)

            C.        Prayers directed to both

                        1.         I Thessalonians 3:10-13 - Request to both and a request to the Lord

                        2.         II Thessalonians 2:16-17 - Paul desired this to be answered.

            D.        Access to the Father, through Jesus, by the Sprit - Ephesians 2:18

                        1.         The Holy Spirit helps in our prayers - Romans 8:26-27

            E.        Note that our songs are also directed to Jesus - Ephesians 5:19

V.        More important that physical position is the position of our hearts toward God

            A.        Sincere

                        1.         Matthew 6:5 - Some make a show of their religion. Such is not needed for God, who sees everything.

                        2.         What we say must be consistent with what we think - Matthew 15:8

            B.        Humble - Luke 18:10-14

                        1.         Not for attention like the priests of Baal, who thought they could get their god’s attention through noise and self-mutilation - I Kings 18:19-39

                        2.         Not for the attention of others - Matthew 6:5-6

            C.        Acceptance and confession of our faults - I John 1:8-9

                        1.         Many ask God for things without a willingness to change

                        2.         Many ask God for the forgiveness they are not willing to extend to others - Matthew 6:12, 14-15; Mark 11:25-26

            D.        Fervent

                        1.         Elijah - James 5:17

                        2.         Epaphrus - Colossians 4:12

                        3.         Jesus - Luke 22:44

                        4.         These are not casual, lukewarm prayers. Being worth bringing up to the Almighty God should mean it is something you strongly desire.

            E.        Persistent

                        1.         If something is worth having, it shows in our consistency in bring the matter before God - Luke 18:1-8

                        2.         Pray without ceasing (I Thessalonians 5:17) means praying without giving up - Romans 12:12

            F.        Watchful - I Peter 4:7

                        1.         Pray expecting an answer - Ephesians 6:18

                        2.         Watch for opportunities

                        3.         But it also means that because we brought a matter up before God, we do not then let down our guard against Satan - Mark 14:38

            G.        With understanding - I Corinthians 14:15

                        1.         The words of our prayers ought to contain the meaning of our hearts

                        2.         This why we should not recite rote prayers as many do

                        3.         Nor do we need to inflate the length of our prayers as if that will make them more significant - Matthew 6:7-8

                        4.         Some of Jesus’ prayers were quite short - Matthew 26:39, 42, 44

                                    a.         This wasn’t vain repetition, but a fervent desire and a persistence in communicating that desire.

            H.        With faith - Hebrews 11:6

                        1.         Why pray if you don’t believe in God and His ability? - Ephesians 3:20

                        2.         James 1:5-8 - Without doubt

                        3.         We will receive as we believe - Matthew 21:21-22

            I.         Thankfully

                        1.         Always giving thanks - Ephesians 5:20; Colossians 4:2

                        2.         Thankfulness is a sign of respect - Luke 17:11-19

                        3.         Jonah recognized this - Jonah 2:9

            J.         With praise

                        1.         Give God the glory for who He is - Revelation 19:1

                        2.         Give God the glory for His answers

                        3.         Paul’s example - I Timothy 1:16-17

VI.      How do you pray? How ought you pray?

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