The cart was so full you undoubtedly have everything you need. After you check out, load the car, unload the car, and put everything away, you suddenly realize you forgot something. What can you do to help you not forget? Whether it is the grocery store or the home improvement store, the best way to ensure you do not forget anything is to take a list.
How important is it to pray according to the Lord’s model prayer? Maybe you say, “I pray on my own just fine.” Just like forgetting the milk at the grocery store, sometimes we overlook essential requests in our prayer life which is why Christ provided the instruction on prayer.
Please understand, mindless chanting is not prayer. So saying the Lord’s Prayer from memory may not actualize the spiritual awareness of your needs. Prayer is a conversation with God. It should not be feared for we are His children (Romans 8:15ff). However, we are also His subjects and He the Sovereign dignitary, so in respect of His auspicious audience should we not humbly enter, boldly prepared to present our requests?
Luke records the Lord’s model prayer and in the same chapter, he unveils the need for such a prayer. First, Jesus affirms the Father’s delight in giving good gifts. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17). It is His joy to dote upon His children, but the request is necessary. “Ye have not, because ye ask not” (James 4:2).
Second, Luke illustrates our need to be aware of God’s kingdom work. Without the prayer, “Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth,” our minds are clouded with earthly wisdom and we will fail to see God’s program at work (Luke 11:2)! If the people had asked for such heavenly insight, would they have accused Christ of casting out devils by the power of Satan? Obviously, we need the divine perspective which is wisdom from above. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5).
Lastly, Luke illustrates our need for forgiveness and guidance. The Pharisees and the lawyers could not see their brokenness for their self-congratulating righteousness. We are told to come to the throne of grace boldly, but we still come acknowledging our brokenness. Our bold entrance is to request in the time of need mercy without reservation for it is mercy which broken people desperately need.
Do we need to model our prayers after the Lord’s Prayer? No, as long as you don’t mind leaving some blessing or provision behind while you are in the audience of the King of kings.
When your phone or any other piece of technology is on the fritz, what do you do? You refresh the gadget by powering it off and turning it back on. You put it to sleep and wake it back up, hoping it will go through the proper start-up sequence.
Matthew 11 is a chapter full of confusion. Everyone is spiritually on the fritz! John the Baptist sends messengers to Jesus because he is confused. “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another” (Matthew 11:3)? The people are confused because they are not sure how to respond to Christ’s message. John and Jesus at times seem to be pointing to the same thing, the Kingdom of God, yet their messages seemed different. The cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum were confused and refused to accept Jesus’ message. As a result, they would suffer a tragic fate.
Jesus pictures the confusion beautifully by describing a scene in the marketplace. Maybe around the corner of one building, you would find children performing a play. At times the children are frolicking with joy, and at other times they are mourning the tragedy. However, the entertainment freezes and the children are perplexed because their audience does not respond emotionally. It is here where Jesus tenderly diagnosis the listener’s problem—they are broken people.
When John preached, people should have sensed the need for repentance. On the stage of God’s story, the drama cues the mournful response to man’s sinfulness. However, the world injects into their system the drugs of entertainment and frivolity. They pursue entertainment more out of fear of repentance than a love for amusement. They are repulsed by the emotion. “Life is about happiness,” the world says. However, one finds the path to eternal joy through the door of mourning.
When Jesus preached, he preached the gospel. It was the good news to the poor. “The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them” (Matthew 11:5). With such a message, the crowds should have been filled with joy! But they weren’t. Since they shortcircuited happiness in their lives by pursuing other things, they could never process the message of joy which only comes by repentance.
The fact is we are all broken and confused people, but Jesus always has the answer. He calls to the His listeners, “Come unto me” (Matthew 11:28). This is Jesus’ favorite invitation. In order to repair what is broken about us, we must be refreshed. When Jesus promises rest, He is not promising a peaceful slumber. Oswald Chambers describes rest as the “perfection of vital activity.” So few come to Jesus only because it requires the shutdown of pride. We must genuinely mourn our condition and brokenness. “Blessed are they that mourn,” Jesus said, “for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).
Will you allow Christ to refresh your soul? By coming to Jesus, you have begun the start-up sequence in your life which will lead you to heavenly joy.
Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost. — Romans 15:13
The work is great. You see a need and you are compelled to answer the need. You hold in your hand the answer for so many people, but how will you get it into their hands? Who will help you make it a reality? Why should you even bother? The entrepreneur is plagued with these massive questions. The task is great, and the resources to accomplish the task is proportionally greater. A venture capitalist provides the resources to make the concept real.
At the end of Matthew 9, Jesus looks out and sees the multitude. The ocean of faces is full of needs, physical and spiritual. His recently commissioned disciples very well could be planning their escape. The work requires physical resources to minister to so many, but it’s a spiritual work so there is another dimension to the task. The work of God is truly overwhelming. Sometimes the difficulty of the tasks drags you to the bottom of the lake with the stone of discouragement tied to your ankle. Sometimes the resistance pushes against you like swimming against a river’s current. With each stroke, you feel you are slowly drifting downstream. Sometimes, armed with a teacup, the task is the size of an ocean which you must drain.
Anyone who is focused on the work of God has experienced these feelings. How can you do the work?
Notice the Lord’s credentials—He is the Lord of the harvest. He is an expert at harvesting the souls of men for eternity. The Bible is His story of how he wishes to redeem all people from the slavery of sin. No work is too great. The infinitude of God wraps his arms around the immensity of the task. By fixing our eyes on the Lord instead of the labour, we are focusing on the one who is capable of completing the task rather than the complexities of the task.
Notice the Lord’s call—He has labourers. Hidden in the wings of the Lord’s work are labourers. You could not be certain where His labourers would come from, but your step of faith to do God’s work stirred the waters and the faithful took notice. The Lord’s reinforcements come just as the day is dawning after the sleepless night of wondering.
Notice the Lord’s compassion—This is His work. You may have to convince a venture capitalist to sponsor your world-changing widget, but no convincing is needed to earn the Lord’s investment. You have just aligned yourself with God’s mission, and His compassion moves Him to support the initiative.
Hudson Taylor once said, “I used to ask God to help me. Then I asked if I might help him. I ended up asking Him to do His work through me.” You have access to the greatest asset for the greatest activity through the greatest act—”Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:38). “With God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37). “According to your faith be it unto you” (Matthew 9:29).