This is part 1 in the sermon series based on the Lord’s Prayer entitled, Fellowship with the Father.
My eldest child has graduated from college and lives in her own house in a different city. I no longer see her every day, every week or even every month.
When my phone rings and I see her name appear on my caller ID, my heart is filled with joy and anticipation of hearing from my daughter.
It is never a bother to hear from her. Whatever I’m doing in the moment, I put it down to enjoy time in conversation with Ann Ferris. If she calls, I’m never the first one to hang up.
This is the heart of God for us.
Prayer is just making the call.
Prayer is a conversation between a child and a Father. It reflects intimacy, assumes dependency, and leads to knowing.
This means that prayer is not an end in itself. The question is not, “Did you pray today?” (prayer is motivated by law, fear and guilt) The question is, “Did you fellowship with your Father today?” (motivated by love and grace).
In God’s word for us today, Jesus begins his lesson on prayer by revealing the priority of desire.
In Matthew 6:9-10, Jesus says,
Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
In these two verses there are three desires that Jesus wants to be unleashed in our hearts.
The Desire for an Exalted Reputation
We see this in verse 9 with the word “hallowed.”
The Contemporary English Version helps us understand the force of hallowed by translating the verse like this: “Our Father in heaven, help us to honor your name.”
We do this with athletes all the time by designating specific people as GOATs, an acrostic that stands for Greatest of All Time. Is Michael Jordan or Lebron James the GOAT of the NBA?
The challenge to praying this first part of the Lord’s Prayer is that I want to be the GOAT.
Even if not in basketball, I want to be the GOAT of… something. And even if not the greatest ever, I want to be greater than the other person in the room at the time–even if that person is just my spouse or a business competitor.
This desire stems from a deep longing for my name to be hallowed as the smartest, or the most talented, or the most attractive, or the most successful.
Maybe this desire for self-glory is why some of us overwork – when I am not satisfied with progress but become obsessed with perfection.
Essentially, this pursuit of self-glory is the pursuit of self-righteousness – and it is exhausting.
The prayer Jesus teaches us sets us free from the tyranny of having to achieve a name for myself. The secret is in calling God Father. In the common language of the day, the word meant Papa, a term of endearment, affection, and intimacy.
Having been adopted by grace, we are now his. We have his We are Christ-ians who have not only been forgiven through Jesus but have been declared to be beloved and righteous sons and daughters, not having achieved righteousness, but having received the righteousness of Jesus as a gift… as grace.
In this atmosphere of grace, my deepest desires are rewired.
My deepest longing is no longer for my name to be praised but for Jesus’s name to be exalted. It is at this point that I find myself finally free from the pressure to impress people, free from the fear of people’s opinions, and from the tyranny of perfectionism.
Like Paul in Philippians 3, I consider the pursuit of my own glory as rubbish compared to possessing the gift-righteousness of Jesus.
This new longing for the exaltation of God’s reputation as a God of grace leads to…
The Desire for Total Transformation
We see this desire expressed in the first part of verse 10, “Your kingdom come.”
C.S. Lewis describes what the coming of the kingdom of God looks like in his beloved story, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The lush and beautiful land of Narnia had endured 100 years of crippling winter under the spell of the evil Queen Jadis, the White Witch. But then the tide begins to turn when the Aslan the King, the Great Lion, returns to Narnia. The snow begins to melt, receding, retreating from Aslan’s presence. The grass begins to green, fresh leaves sprout on the trees, and the rivers begin to thaw and flow again. The renewal and restoration of Narnia had finally arrived!
This is how the kingdom comes. The enemy retreats. The effects of sin recede. Spiritual fruit such as love and joy and peace begin to bloom, were individual lives, families and communities experience total transformation.
This transforming thaw takes place where God’s deicer is spread. But what is that deicer? The deicer of God is the message of the Kingdom—the salt of the gospel. The good news that the King himself has given his own life and paid the death penalty for traitors. Traitors like you and me.
What is most astonishing about Lewis’s story is what he calls Edmund at the end. Edmund has been the traitor for whom Aslan gave his life on the stone table. When Edmund is given his new name, he is called “Edmund the Righteous.” The righteous!
This is what the cross is about — the king substituting himself for traitors so that traitors can be forgiven… and not only forgiven, but declared to be righteous and even adopted by the King, no longer as condemned traitors, but as beloved sons and daughters who call God “Father.” This is grace upon grace!
When I experience this grace, a third and final desire begins to grow in my heart. Which is…
The Desire for Personal Submission
Submission simply means to be “sub,” or under, someone else’s stated mission. Thus, sub-mission. Submission does not imply inferiority but rather speaks to a volitional desire to follow and trust someone else’s plan – even when we don’t necessarily understand the method to what seems in our eyes to be madness. After all, that is how the original disciples would have viewed the cross.
In the second part of verse 10, Jesus shows us that our response to the grace of God in Jesus will culminate with the desire that, “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
One of the most dreaded days in a parent’s life is when you hand over the keys to your teenager and get in the passenger seat. At that moment, you are willingly and consciously giving up control. Your life is now in their hands.
This is what we are doing when we pray for God’s will to be done. We are handing over the keys of our lives to Jesus. We are surrendering control.
But how can I know whether I have truly handed over the keys?
Let me give you two, simple diagnostic questions to consider:
- Do I seek God’s revealed will when making decisions? In theology, we distinguish God’s revealed from his hidden will. The hidden will of God is his sovereign providence, where he controls the flow of all history to fulfill his ultimate plan for history. The revealed will of God is what we have in the Scriptures. It is not nebulous or mysterious. It is usually clear and objective. This revealed will of God is the expressed wisdom of God for living as followers of Jesus and concerns all kinds of decisions when we come to forks in the road.
Many of us will face the fork of deciding whom to marry? The Bible speaks to this issue.
It speaks to how we are to react to an offense when sinned against? And how to deal with my own sin when I’ve hurt someone else?
And then there are financial decisions, parenting decisions, etc.?
Whatever fork you face, are you seeking God’s wisdom?
2. Do I ACT on God’s revealed will (even when my flesh resists or when I expect the world/my peers to mock me)?
How I answer these questions will be the difference between making a wise decision or a foolish
How I answer these questions will be the difference between living in submission to God’s wisdom or living in rebellion to and defiance of God’s wisdom.
This issue in every decision and at every fork is, “Will I go God’s way or will I go my own way?”
According to the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, we all have gone our own way. More than we would want to admit. He writes,
“We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way…
BUT the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.”[i]
This passage in Isaiah, written 600 years before the incarnation of Christ, is foreshadowing his death by crucifixion. And it was the very night before his crucifixion, in the most extreme form of submission that Jesus expressed his deep desire for the Father’s honor and glory when, in emotional anguish, he exclaimed, “Not my will but yours be done.”
Justin Wren eventually would pray the same thing. Justin was an All-American wrestler in college who achieved notoriety in the world of Mixed Martial Arts. But as his success and popularity skyrocketed, so did Wren’s addictions. Eventually, he hit rock bottom and was kicked out of MMA.
But grace flowed downhill and found its way to Justin at that low place. After receiving Christ, Justin began to desire more than MMA fame. He wanted to spread God’s fame – especially among those whom he called forgotten people.
He started volunteering at local ministries and prisons, sharing his story with anyone who would listen. Then he offered the prayer: “God, I’m yours. If there anything you want me to do, I desire to do your will, not mine.” His desire to minister to forgotten people led him all the way to a Pygmy tribe in the jungles of the Congo.
He writes, “I knew I couldn’t help them unless I understood them first. So, I moved in with the tribe, becoming one of them. I slept in a twig-and-leaf hut. I ate their food and suffered from the same diseases. One bout with malaria nearly killed me. Eventually, I was adopted into the tribe and given a new name: Eféosa M’buti MangBO.”
“M’buti MangBO” means, “The Big Pygmy,” which is appropriate, because at six-foot-three, Justin towered over the average four-foot-seven Pygmy tribesman.
But get this. The name “Eféosa” means, “The Man Who Loves Us.”
I wonder what Justin did to receive such a name? Did he use his height to reach high hanging fruit? Did he use his strength to help build shelters? Did he help with community chores? Probably all the above. He gave all of himself to them… to bless them… to love them.
He wanted to be like Jesus for them.
The Jesus who came to live among our tribe of humanity, becoming one of us, giving all of himself for us, as the ultimate “Eféosa,” who proved his love by choosing the way of the cross, where his demonstration of sacrificial love unto death provides the fuel that changes us at the deepest level of desire where we really can pray with sincerity and conviction, “Our Father in heaven, help us to honor your name. May your kingdom come, may your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
[i] Isaiah 53:6 (NIV)