Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Lord's Prayer: Our Deliverer - 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 and Matthew 6:13

Today we are going to conclude our preaching series on the Lord's Prayer. Throughout this series we have been taking time to truly explore and understand what it is we are saying when we pray this prayer so we can move from recitation to earnest prayer. Our first week together we looked at the beginning, “Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name,” as we looked to God's perfect love and how this portion is our chance to express to God what God means to us. The next week we looked at, “thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven” and explored the nature of God's kingdom, where it is, as well as what it means to succumb to God's will on earth as it is in Heaven. From there we moved to, “give us this day our daily bread,” as we discussed how that began a new phase to this prayer and we sought to gain a better understanding of what we are asking there. Last week we looked at the phrase, “and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespassed against us,” to better understand what forgiveness really is and how forgiveness is a bridge between us and God. Well today we are moving on to the final phrase, “and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” as we discuss the influence evil has in our lives and how God helps us to through it.

Temptation is Everywhere
I recently read a story about a little boy named Bobby who desperately wanted to buy a new bicycle. His plan was to save his nickels, dimes and quarters until he finally had enough to buy a new 10-speed. Each night he asked God to help him save his money. Kneeling beside his bed, he prayed, ‘Dear Lord, please help me save my money for a new bike and please, Lord, don’t let the ice cream man come down the street again tomorrow!’”1

And then there’s the story of the “overweight businessman who decided it was time to shed some excess pounds. He took his new diet seriously even changing his driving route to avoid his favorite bakery. One morning however he showed up at work with a giant coffee cake. Everyone in the office scolded him, but his smile remained nonetheless. ‘This is a special coffee cake,’ he explained. ‘I accidentally drove by the bakery this morning and there in the window was a host of goodies. I felt it was no accident, so I prayed, ‘Lord, if you want me to have one of those delicious coffee cakes, let there be a parking spot open right in front.’ And sure enough, the eighth time around the block, there it was!’”2

Temptation is one of those things that unites all of us. We all understand it because we all experience it. In his book, The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck observed that the word “evil” is “live” spelled backwards. It’s part of being human; temptation is part of life. And as Christians, sin, temptation and the power of the devil still cause us problems. And doesn’t it seem that the closer to God we wish to be, the more we are seeking to live our lives by faith, the more that temptation plagues us? Jesus knew this. Remember he faced off against our greatest tempter, Satan, in the wilderness and he emerged victorious. Jesus knew we would face temptations and that we would need help in getting through them. Why else do you think Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”?

Where Does Temptation Come From?
So what are we asking for here? I believe that we are asking God to take us down the paths of life with the least temptation, to take our minds and our hearts and strengthen them to resist those things that make us weak. But we also have a role here and that is to not put ourselves in the position to be tempted and to do that, we have to know where our temptation comes from.

And one place our temptation comes from is from within. Each of us has our own specific points of weakness; events or food or habits that cause us to do things we later regret. And while we feel terrible after we fall victim to our temptations I think the bigger issue is that at those moments we are not being who God created us to be. We are not living the life God desires for us to live. Be honest with yourself. Whatever it is that has power over you, confess it to a friend, ask them to hold you accountable to it, have conversations with them about it on a regular basis, and shed light on it, look it in the face. Right now, with all of you looking at me, I have no problem not sinning. But alone it is a different story for all of us. I have often heard people say they feel like they are in Hell when their temptation gets a hold of them. Well I once heard a very wise man say Hell is the darkness that sin was given to hide. Shed light on your temptations, have other people help you, get it out in the open, and let God rid you of the desires.

I also think temptation comes from the outside. The people we keep company with, our family, our friends, our work partners, can all be of tremendous help or tremendous temptation. Be mindful of those interactions and the thoughts and habits that can come from those relationships. We all want to be loved and accepted by other people. But do not let that desire cause you to allow temptation into your life on a regular basis. It is hard to change or end relationships but sometimes that is a hard reality that we all must face. Now I am not advocating a life of loneliness, God wants us to have people we can have fun with. We just need to be mindful of the associations we keep. A life mired in temptation is a life not bathed in the presence of God.

I believe that temptation also comes from the sheer nature of life. And here is where we can learn a valuable lesson. People often say if God is so good then why does God allow all these bad things to happen. It is important that we understand something here. God does not cause the bad things in our lives. This is a fallen world that we live in where justice is not a right. God never promised us an easy life. God just promised that God will always be with us. When you struggle, turn to God. When you hurt, turn to God. When you are devastated, turn to God. God is there, always has been, always will be. Do not try and heal these wounds, these temptations alone. You can't do it. But God can. This life is hard, unforgiving, and arduous. But we serve a God that will see us through it, make us better people through our trials, and is working tirelessly to help us gain an eternity in God's presence. An eternity that is better than anything you can possibly imagine. We just have to allow it.

The Doxology: What is It?
In the Scriptural accounts of the Lord's Prayer, at this point we would be done. But each week we add what is called the doxology when we pray this prayer together. The part that says, “for thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever”. I would be remiss if we did not speak about this for just a moment. There are many different views about why we say this. Everything from a pious scribe adding it because the ending seemed too abrupt to a cultural praise ending that seemed to catch on and gain acceptance. But regardless of the reason I want us to focus on the position we are purposely placing ourselves in when we say, “for thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever”. We are saying that the Kingdom we are working to usher in, the power to conquer any and all things in this life and the next, and the glory that comes from all of this, belong to God. We are submitting ourselves to God, humbling ourselves in God's presence, and allowing all that we are to be God's. No ego, no pride, no remorse. I do not know about you but when I say those final lines in this prayer, I am so at peace that I add an extra ever in there, forever and ever. I know how much God has meant to me in my life, the way God has provided for me, rescued me, opened doors for me, and loved me in spite of me, that to give God everything I am brings me peace.

This prayer was and is revolutionary. It was the first time we humans were told to pray to God intimately as our Father. It is laid out in way that we not only praise God, but submit ourselves to God as well. It helps to keep us mindful that God is our ever-present companion in life. And if we need another reason for this prayer to be sacred, the fact that it was given to us by Christ himself should do it. My prayer for all us is that as we continue to pray this prayer, we no longer recite it, but look for ways to let it transform us, grow us, change us. Do not let this prayer be an ending, let it be a beginning. A beginning to a new chapter in your relationship with God, a deepening to levels you have never before experienced, to a relationship that beckons you to share it will everyone you meet.

No comments:

Post a Comment