From the Pastor's Desk 

The Real Lord's Prayer

1-7-18

 

            Let's pray.

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            Prayer.  It's kind of an interesting word, isn't it?  Is it just me or doesn't that word fill us with some mixed emotions?  There are obviously good, positive thoughts that we associate with this word.  We know prayer is good; we are grateful for the privilege of being able to approach God through our prayers; we know prayer works; it is our spiritual lifeline to the Lord.

            But doesn't it also fill us with some angst?  We know we should pray, yet I'm guessing that most of us, at least I know it's true for me, don't pray like we should.  So there's at least a little bit of guilt running through our minds when we hear about and think about the whole topic of prayer.

            Prayer is important.  It is vital to our lives as Christians.  We literally can't live in fellowship with God and walk effectively with Him without it.  Prayer is much more than simply lifting up those who are sick.  Prayer involves thanksgiving; praise to God; confession of sins; as well as our daily supplications.  Prayer expresses the soul's longing for God.  It is the cry of God's people to their gracious, compassionate heavenly Father. 

            There are lots of examples of prayer recorded for us in Scripture.  Abraham prayed for his son Ishmael, for Abimelech and for God to spare Sodom.  Abraham's servant prayed for guidance in finding a wife for Isaac.  Isaac prayed for Rebekah to have a baby.  Moses prayed that God would spare rebellious Israel.  Joshua prayed; Gideon prayed; Hannah prayed; Samuel prayed.

            David prayed a prayer of thanksgiving and he asked God to spare the son Bathsheba gave him, among many others.  Solomon prayed for God's blessing on Israel.  Elijah prayed that God would reveal Himself as the one true God.  Jonah cried out to God from the stomach of a large fish.  Jeremiah prayed; Ezekiel prayed; Nehemiah prayed.

            That pattern of course continues in the NT.  After Jesus ascended, His followers returned to Jerusalem where they continually prayed.  The early church leaders prayed in the face of persecution.  Peter prayed in prison.  Paul's ministry was marked by continual prayer.  The apostle also frequently asked others to pray for him and his ministry.

            Needless to say, the greatest pray-er is Jesus.  From the beginning until the end of His earthly ministry, Jesus spent frequent time in prayer.  But this morning, as we get back to our look at the gospel of John, we're going to start looking at a section that records for us the most profound and magnificent prayer ever recorded. 

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            We find what we're calling the real Lord's prayer in John 17.  We're going to get started by only reading verses 1-5 this morning, and we're actually not even going to look closely at all of those verses today.  John 17:1-5

            This prayer that Jesus prayed to the Father marks the end of the disciples' time with Jesus in the upper room.  A lot has happened for this group of men during the previous few hours.  The evening began with a foot-washing, in which Jesus Himself washed and dried the disciples' feet.  Remarkably, He even knowingly washed the feet of the one who would betray Him, Judas Iscariot.

            Next there was the final meal, the Last Supper during which Jesus revealed that Judas would betray Him, that He was about to die, and that Peter would deny Him.  The disciples were understandably shocked and dismayed by what Jesus told them.  Yet, Jesus spent much time comforting and consoling them.

            He did that by promising them future glory in heaven with Him.  He promised them the Holy Spirit, the Helper who would come to them after He left.  Though the world would hate them, just as it hated Christ, the Spirit would strengthen and guide them in the truth.  Though they would grieve for a short time, Jesus assured them that their sadness was only temporary.  They did not realize at the time that Jesus would rise from the dead only three days after His death.  They did not realize that His death was a necessary part of God's plan and had been for the Messiah all along.

            They were expecting the Messiah to come and overthrow the Romans and establish His earthly kingdom.  When Jesus triumphantly arrived in Jerusalem they thought that plan was finally coming to fruition.  Now they're shocked to hear that He is leaving them.  Rather than conquering Rome, He was going away.  Rather than building up a kingdom, He was laying down His life.  In the upcoming hours He would be betrayed, arrested, put on trial, abandoned, falsely accused, beaten, mocked and crucified.  The disciples' great expectations turned to shock, heartbreak and despair.

            It is in this context, after Jesus spoke these things recorded in the previous three chapters, that He graciously and fervently prayed for His disciples.  As they left the upper room and started their journey through the city and across the Kidron Valley to Gethsemane, the disciples would have been unable to separate this prayer from the solemn instructions they had just received in the upper room.  In fact, much of what Jesus had just told them is repeated in His prayer to the Father.

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            This prayer was spoken by Jesus just hours before He went to the cross.  As we look at it closer over the course of the next few weeks, its significance is difficult to overstate.  Here we have recorded for us the words of the second member of the Trinity.  He is speaking to His Father about the nature of their communion; the outworking of their eternal plan of salvation; and about the way in which the disciples and all believers fit into that plan.

            In hearing this prayer, the disciples were allowed to listen in on the most holy and profound of conversations.  As we read this prayer, we are ushered into the Holy of Holies where we find our Great High Priest interceding on our behalf.

            This is the longest and most significant of Jesus' recorded prayers.  We refer to Christ' instruction on prayer in Matthew chapter 6 as the Lord's Prayer.  Yet that isn't even a prayer of Jesus.  Rather, it is a model given by the Lord to His disciples for how they should prayer.  Disciples prayer would be a better title.  What we are reading in John chapter 17 is an actual prayer of the Lord and from that perspective is the true Lord's Prayer. 

            As He uttered this prayer shortly before the cross, Jesus rejoiced.  He knew that the redemption that had been pre-determined in eternity past was about to come to fruition in time and space.  Jesus understood that the hour had finally come for the fulfillment of that which God had promised from before time began.  He was ready to face the cross.  The cost would be immense, but the glorious result would be eternal.

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            The disciples may not have wanted to hear all that Jesus had been saying to them, but they needed to hear it.  The Lord was preparing them for the events that were about to take place.  He had told them what to expect; He warned them of the persecution they would face on His behalf.

            He worked to prepare them in a number of ways.  He told them of the Holy Spirit's coming and the work He would do in their lives; He assured them of His love for them; He told them to love one another and He even modeled that love by washing their feet.  Now, He was getting ready to model that sacrificial love once again.  This time, He would show them love by publicly praying for them. 

            All of what Jesus said to them and all of the promises that He had made, are summed up in the final verse of chapter 16.  He ends that chapter by declaring, "I have conquered the world."  It is no coincidence that this prayer immediately follows that declaration.  Jesus said that He had won victory over the world, then He immediately turned in submissive dependence to the one who would ensure His triumph. 

            It's hard for us sometimes to sit back and try to get a big picture of what is going on here or to try to look at it from the disciples perspective without the benefit of knowing what is going to happen.  But if we could do that, it wouldn't look good.  You take all that has happened, all that is going to happen; if you were to collect all that Jesus said; all of His dire warnings and predictions, and from a human perspective, things looked bad.

            But we don't get the sense of any sort of remorse, or sorrow, or negativism or pessimism from Jesus' prayer.  This petition to God was anything but pessimistic.  Of course, Jesus had absolutely no reason to be negative or pessimistic.  His focus was on God and God's plan.  So His prayer was a confident declaration of undying faith and certain glory.

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            He began His prayer by looking up to heaven.  Looking upward is a common and familiar posture that many people take when they pray.  It acknowledges God's throne in heaven.  It also reflected the confidence of Jesus' heart.

            Just think of the significance of looking up.  When someone is guilty of something or unsure and lacking confidence, they generally tend to look down and to avoid eye contact and look away.  But someone who is innocent or confident, looks at you; they look you in the eye and engage you.  Jesus had no trouble looking at God and facing Him because He was pure and holy and perfect.  He was confident in His relationship with the Father.

            By addressing God as Father, Jesus acknowledges His submission to God.  He also expresses His dependence upon Him.  This was much more personal and intimate than the Jews tended to be with God.  They didn't look at their relationship with Him as a close, personal, intimate one.  They would commonly refer to God as "Our Father."  Jesus here refers to Him as "My Father." 

            Because of what Christ has done for us, we do have a personal, intimate relationship with God.  Anyone who is a genuine believer is granted the same spiritual intimacy with God that Jesus had.  That means we can approach His throne of grace with boldness.  We can pray to Him and make requests of Him.  We can relate to Him and interact with Him.  Through all of that, we need to always maintain a reverence and an awe for God because He is holy and perfect; He is God and that will never change.  But we also have a closeness and an intimacy with Him.  That will also never change because our status as His children will never change.

            This is another area where we are presented with truth concerning the Trinity.  On the one hand, we see Jesus here making Himself equal with God by claiming to be the Son of God.  On the other hand, He was also demonstrating His distinctness from the Father since He was clearly not praying to Himself.  This is the truth concerning the Godhead:  The Son is equal to the Father yet distinct from Him.  He is equal to the Father in essence, but He is also a distinct person within the Godhead. 

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            We looked earlier in John's gospel where Jesus had said a couple of times that His hour had not yet come.  In chapter seven, His brothers wanted Him to come public with His ministry, but He said that His time had not yet come for Him to do that.  Then back in chapter 2, Jesus' mother wanted Him to do something about the wine running out at a wedding.  At that time He also said that His time had not yet come.

            Now, however the time was right.  Now His hour had come.  That means that it was now time for Him to consummate His earthly ministry and finish the work He came to do.  Now it was the time for Him to complete the job and the work and the ministry that God had sent Him to the earth to do.

            There are a lot of different aspects of this that are all coming together to be accomplished at this time.  Again, it can be helpful to try to step back and get a big picture view of what is going on.  The unfolding drama of redemptive history had reached its climax.  Plans that were made in eternity past were finding their culmination in time.  The hour had come in which the Son of Man would offer Himself as the perfect and only sacrifice for sin.

            The hour had come when the sinless one would be made sin for believers.  2 Cor. 5:21.  Jesus the sinless one took our sin so that we could be righteous in the sight of God.  The hour had come for Christ to cancel the debt of sinCol. 2:14.  Whatever debt we owed God because of our sin, Jesus paid in full.  The hour had come when OT prophecies would be fulfilledGen. 3:15.  Jesus is the seed of the woman who struck the serpent's head.

            The hour had come for Jesus to be crushed for usIsa. 53:5.  There is a lot going on in that verse.  He was pierced and crushed and punished, because of that we are healed spiritually.  The hour had come for the shadow of OT sacrifices to give way for the final sacrificeHeb. 10:14.  Jesus is the one perfect offering to atone for sin.  The hour had come for Jesus to triumph over the kingdom of darkness.  Heb. 2:14.  That is exactly what Jesus did:  destroy the Devil.  The hour had come for God through Christ's sacrifice, to defeat sin and death and Satan and to redeem a people for Himself.

            With the hour of supreme suffering and even greater victory at hand; with His terrified and heartbroken disciples still surrounding Him, the Lord lifted His eyes to heaven and prayed.

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            What was the first thing that Jesus prayed for?  God's glory.  The first thing He asked was for the Father to glorify the son so that the Son could glorify the Father.  All throughout His life on earth, all during His earthly ministry, Jesus' focus was always on glorifying His Father.  He always perfectly submitted to the Father's will in everything, all the way to the end.

            Jesus' prayer highlights His absolute confidence in and submission to the perfect will of God, even though He knew perfectly well what it would cost Him.  Therefore, He prayed that the Father's will would be done; that the master plan of redemption would be accomplished; that the Father would bring to reality all the promises He made to His disciples.

            Because He was consumed with the glory of God, Jesus viewed the cross from an eternal perspective.  He wasn't dispassionate or stoic about it.  He was fully dependent on His Father's care and wholly submissive to His will.  He knew there was going to be pain and suffering.  But He also knew of the triumphant glory that would result.

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            Let me start to wrap things up this morning by asking you all a question:  Are you consumed with the glory of God?  Is glorifying God and advancing His kingdom your number one priority in life?  Is that what you're living for?  Is that the goal that you're aiming at every moment of every day?

            I genuinely believe that is how we should be living.  Yet, most of us fall far short of that goal.  Most of us are lucky to maybe occasionally glorify God here or there.  I think for me some of the time that I glorify Him is almost accidental; I don't set out to do it.  That obviously needs to change.

            I think a big part of changing that in my life is changing my prayer life.  We have spoken this morning about Jesus offering up this prayer to God.  We all know how important prayer is; we've all seen it works in our lives and in the lives of others.  So why don't we spend more time praying?  Why is it so hard, even for those of us genuinely born again by the power of the blood of Christ, to spend adequate amounts of time in prayer each day?

            We also need to pray like Jesus did:  for God's will to be done.  We don't always know what God wants in any given situation.  But we need to pray.  We need to pray that the sick are healed physically and that the lost are saved and forgiven.  But we also need to pray for God's will to be done, that is most important.

            Last week, I encouraged everyone to read the Bible.  Not to make a commitment to do it or to set a resolution to do it, but to actually just simply do it.  Today, I make the same exhortation regarding prayer.  Don't make a commitment in your life to pray more; don't make it another probably someday soon broken resolution to spend more time in prayer.  Pray.  Pray more.  Pray longer.  Pray more effectively.  It simply comes down to us needing to pray more, so let's just all do it.

            As our singers and musicians come now, we invite you to publicly respond to God's working in your life right now as we stand and as we sing.

 

            Prayer.