Matthew 6:9a; Psalm 103:1-5, 11-13, 19-22
Victor Lyons, pastor
First Avenue Baptist Church, Rochelle
Today we begin a study of prayer, highlighting the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6) and supplementing it by a second passage of Scripture.
Whether one feels satisfied, inadequate, or resistant to prayer, it is always good to rethink our practice of prayer.
We each must ask, “How is my prayer life?”
A healthy and daily prayer life can add value, quality, and depth to our lives. Our belief in God and our understanding or lack of understanding of God’s nature will determine our interest in the practice of prayer.
When I was a boy, my grandmother would sprinkle the phrase “God willing” to anything that referred to a future activity. She would say, “I’m going to visit my sister in Athens next week, God willing.” I told her that I was going to start college in the fall, and she added, “God willing.”
This principle is underscored throughout Scripture: A man’s heart plans his way; but the Lord determines his steps (Proverbs 16:9). Commit your activities to the Lord, and your plans will be achieved (Proverbs 16:3).
Today the phrase God willing is virtually unknown. Another phrase – “if there is a god” – has surfaced. One hostess on NPR insists on it. Whenever anything is attributed to God, she will add, “If there is a god,” casting doubt on the entire enterprise of faith. She is advocate of a Buddhist worldview. Her concept of prayer would be self-meditation. There is no God in heaven and the object of her faith begins and ends in human consciousness.
Two great options are in the public arena. Either creation is eternal and has no beginning and no end, and is in itself all there is, or there is a Creator behind all that is created. This is the great religious battleground of our days.
The One we pray to desires only good for us.
Matthew 6:9a; Psalm 103:1-5
The Lord’s Prayer begins by addressing God in what R. Kent Hughes calls an absolutely revolutionary way in Jesus’ day, namely as Abba Father, Dearest Father (The Sermon on the Mount: Message of the Kingdom, 158-163).
Fourteen times in the Old Testament, God is called the Father of Israel. However, the term “Abba Father” on the lips of Jesus springs from a new level of intimacy that is found throughout the ministry of Jesus and ends with his words on the cross, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46 as modified from Psalm 31:5).
Hughes writes that Jesus addresses God as Father so that our approach to Him is one of confidence, simplicity, and love (Sermon, 163).
Verses 1-5 of Psalm 103 highlights five benefits that come from God: the forgiveness of sin, physical healing, deliverance from death, his love and affection, and an existence filled with good (Leslie C. Allen, WBC: Psalms 101-150, 17).
It is this last benefit that captures our attention. God’s goodness in our lives refreshes as if one’s youth returns or as if one is a soaring eagle. Here we see no capriciousness of pagan gods and goddesses who do harm as often as they do good things for those who believe in them.
The Psalmist David calls out for one to bless God with all one’s whole being, sometimes translated “Oh my soul.” The lyrics of an old Billie Holiday song come to mind:
Me, myself, and I are all in love with you.
We all think you’re wonderful we do.
Me, myself, and I have just one point of view.
We’re convinced there’s no one else like you.
This song speaks of romantic love, much like the Song of Solomon. Christian songwriters could easily transform it into a viable praise song about Jesus. Indeed, there is no one else like Jesus.
Psalm 103:11-13. The One we pray to is our compassionate Father.
God’s compassion is seen in the way he forgives us so completely of our sin: as far as the east is from the west.
The One we pray to is Almighty God.
In contrast to presidents and prime ministers whose authority comes and goes, the authority of God is established and eternal.
The authority of God is established and eternal.
Live it Out
Before praying, recall some of the names and attributes of God.
When teaching new Christians, or our children/grandchildren to pray, we should help them understand to whom they are praying.
In public prayer as well as private prayer, we should remember the object of our prayer.