Matthew 6:9 ‘Our’


Sermon preached on February 10, 2019 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2019. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

Ever since I first heard Simon and Garfunkel's song, "
I Am a Rock" I've liked it. It talks about being a strong individual.

"I am a rock. I am an island."



If I understand the song correctly he's been hurt in love so he hardens himself against love, against friendship, in order to protect himself from being hurt.

But one of the great tragedies in Christianity today is the individualism that we've learned from our society. Many of us don't have a sense of community like we should. We view ourselves too much as individuals and we are primarily concerned about our individual spiritual growth. We're not so much concerned about others and their spiritual growth. Somehow, we many of us don't seem to get the truth of 1 Corinthians 12:25–26,

"there should be no division in the body,
but that its parts should have
equal concern for each other.
If one part suffers,
every part suffers with it;"

We need each other. We belong to one body and we should be caring for one another.

Isolation in many respects is not good. It impoverishes us.

Srinivasa Ramanujan was born in India in 1887 to a poor family. He was a mathematical genius. He has been compared to, (Hyerspace, by Michio Kaku, p.172)

"a bursting supernova, illuminating the darkest, most profound corners of mathematics."



But the problem was that he was so brilliant in math that he totally neglected his other subjects. And so he received but lost out on scholarships to both high school and university. Instead he worked in total isolation on math problems, prompted by one very out of date math book that he came across. It wasn't until 1912 that he sent a copy of his work to three well-known British mathematicians, hoping for contact with other brilliant mathematical minds. One of them wrote back, invited him to England and they started a wonderful 5 year collaboration in which Ramanujan did astounding work. Unfortunately he died in 1920. Kaku says of his work before he met other mathematicians,

"Working in total isolation from the main currents of his field, he was able to rederive 100 year's worth of Western mathematics on his own. The tragedy of his life is that much of his work was wasted rediscovering known mathematics."



Alan Turing, the father of the modern computer, wrote, (Andrew Hodges, Alan Turning: The Enigma)

"the isolated man does not develop any intellectual power. It is necessary for him to be immersed in an environment of other men, whose techniques he absorbs during the first twenty years of his life. He may then perhaps do a little research of his own and make a very few discoveries which are passed on to other men. From this point of view the search for new techniques must be regarded as carried out by the human community as a whole, rather than by individuals."



Just as isolation is not good in scientific or mathematical discovery, neither is isolation in prayer good. Notice the first word of the Lord's Prayer. It's 'our'. Jesus said, (Matthew 6:9)

"This, then,
is how you should pray:
'Our Father in heaven,' "

Note well that word,

'our'.

We are to pray, 'Our Father'. We are not so much to pray, 'My Father' but 'our Father'. This is significant and teaches us an important lesson.

We ought to be praying together.

Prayer is not just an individualistic thing. It is true that there is often an individualistic aspect to prayer. On the cross Jesus prayed, (Mark 15:34)

"My God, my God,
why have you forsaken me?"

It is not wrong for you to pray about your own troubles and for your needs. Indeed, in Matthew 6:5–6 Jesus encouraged His disciples to pray privately. He said,

"And when you pray,
do not be like the hypocrites,
for they love to pray standing
in the synagogues and
on the street corners to be seen by men.
I tell you the truth,
they have received their reward in full.
But when you pray,
go into your room,
close the door and pray to your Father,
who is unseen.
Then your Father,
who sees what is done in secret,
will reward you."

Jesus told us to go into our closets to pray.

But that's not all that there is to prayer. Jesus here shows us a different aspect of it. We are to pray with other Christians. Timothy Keller writes, (Prayer)

"Prayer is therefore not a strictly private thing. As much as we can, we should pray with others both formally in gathered worship and informally. Why? If the substance of prayer is to continue a conversation with God, and if the purpose of it is to know God better, then this can happen best in community."



In many places the New Testament shows us how God loves it when His people pray together. One example is in Acts 4:27–31. Peter and John had been arrested for preaching about Christ. The next day they were brought before the rulers, elders and teachers of the law. Those authorities ordered them not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus. When Peter and John insisted that they ought to obey God rather than men, the authorities made further threats against them and let them go. Peter and John then went to 'their own people' and told them what the authorities had said. When the Christians heard this, (Acts 4:24–31)

"they raised their voices together in prayer to God.
'Sovereign Lord,'they said,
'you made the heaven
and the earth and the sea,
and everything in them.
You spoke by the Holy Spirit
through the mouth of your servant,
our father David:
'Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth take their stand
and the rulers gather together
against the Lord and against
his Anointed One.'
Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate
met together with the Gentiles
and the people of Israel in this city
to conspire against your holy servant Jesus,
whom you anointed.
They did what your power and
will had decided beforehand should happen.
Now, Lord, consider their threats
and enable your servants
to speak your word with great boldness.
Stretch out your hand to heal
and perform miraculous signs
and wonders through the name
of your holy servant Jesus."

We then read,

"After they prayed,
the place where they were meeting
was shaken.
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and spoke the word of God boldly."

The place was shaken. God not only heard their prayer and granted their request but He confirmed it by giving them evidence of it. The place was shaken. Chrysostom suggests that the place was shaken to,

"make them the more unshaken."



God's presence was with them. So, too, He is present with us when we pray. He blesses corporate prayer.

We see something similar in Acts 12. King Herod had James killed with the sword. When he saw that this pleased the people, intended to do the same to Peter. He had him arrested and put in prison. Acts 12:5 tells us,

"So Peter was kept in prison,
but the church was
earnestly praying to God for him."

What happened? An angel of the Lord went to Peter in prison and brought him out. The chains fell off his wrists. He walked right past the guards and the door to the street opened for them by itself. Peter thought he was seeing a vision. But he was free. He went,

"to the house of Mary the mother of John,
also called Mark,
where many people had gathered
and were praying."

He was freed by the angel, in part, because the church was together, praying for him.

We have another example in Acts 16:25–26. Paul and Silas had been arrested and thrown in prison in Philippi. We read,

"About midnight Paul and Silas
were praying and singing hymns to God,
and the other prisoners
were listening to them.
Suddenly there was such
a violent earthquake that
the foundations
of the prison were shaken.
At once all the prison doors flew open,
and everybody's chains came loose."

Another that shows how Christians are to pray together is Acts 1:14. Just before Jesus ascended into heaven, He told His disciples not to leave Jerusalem but to wait there for the power of the Holy Spirit to come upon them. We read,

"They all joined together
constantly in prayer,
along with the women and
Mary the mother of Jesus,
and with his brothers."

All of those passages show us how Christians should pray together, with each other. God especially uses such prayers. In Ephesians 3:20 Paul wrote,

"Now to him who is able to do
immeasurably more than
all we ask or imagine,
according to his power
that is at work within us,"

The reference is to what 'we', (plural tense) ask.

There is great benefit in praying together with other Christians.

In prayer, we get to know God better and we get to know other Christians better.

Timothy Keller writes, (Prayer)

"C. S. Lewis argues that it takes a community of people to get to know an individual person. Reflecting on his own friendships, he observed that some aspects of one of his friend's personality were brought out only through interaction with a second friend. That meant if he lost the second friend, he lost the part of his first friend that was otherwise invisible. 'By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets.'



The example that Lewis uses is this: (C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves)

"if, of three friends (A, B, and C), A should die, then B loses not only A but 'A's part in C', while C loses not only A but 'A's part in B'. In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets. Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald's reaction to a specifically Caroline joke. Far from having more of Ronald, having him 'to myself' now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald."



What Lewis wrote is true. A few weeks ago I mentioned a that my roommate from college, Earl had died. When we were roommates I knew Earl well. We lived together, we had classes together, we hung out together and sometimes he would even invite me to go home with him on weekends. We had many good times together.

One day near the end of the school year something happened between Earl and someone else that showed me a side of Earl that I never knew. Our dorm was playing softball against one of the other dorms. It was a really close and exciting game. If my memory is correct, during one inning I was the first base coach and Earl was at bat. He hit a grounder and ran as fast as he could to first. It was a very close play. Very close indeed. The umpire called Earl safe. But when Earl walked back to the base, he paused when he got there and then said to the umpire,

"No. I was out."



And then he continued walking back to the sidelines! I was shocked. I tried to talk him out of it. But he was adamant and wouldn't go back to 1st base. That interaction that Earl had with the umpire showed me a side of Earl that I had never seen before—that he had great integrity and outstanding honesty. He called himself out—something I had never seen anyone do before or since. I got to know Earl better through his interaction with that umpire. I saw deeper into his character.

In the same way, we get to know God better through the prayers of others.

Consider King Hezekiah's prayer in 2 Kings 19:14–19. The Assyrian king was besieging Jerusalem and he sent a message to King Hezekiah that said, (2 Kings 19:9–10)

"Do not let the god you depend on
deceive you when he says,
'Jerusalem will not be handed over
to the king of Assyria.'"

He insulted the God of Israel. When King Hezekiah heard this he went up to the temple of the LORD and prayed to God. He said,

"O LORD, God of Israel,
enthroned between the cherubim,
you alone are God over
all the kingdoms of the earth.
You have made heaven and earth.
Give ear, O LORD, and hear;
open your eyes, O LORD,
and see;
listen to the words Sennacherib
has sent to insult the living God.
It is true, O LORD,
that the Assyrian kings
have laid waste these nations
and their lands.
They have thrown their gods
into the fire and destroyed them,
for they were not gods
but only wood and stone,
fashioned by men's hands.
Now, O LORD our God,
deliver us from his hand,
so that all kingdoms on earth
may know that you alone,
O LORD, are God."

Can you imagine the effect that had on the people of God listening to King Hezekiah's prayer? Do you see what His prayer told them about God, about His power? Can you see what it told them about the king's faith in God? Tim Keller writes, (Prayer)

"If it takes a community to know an ordinary human being, how much more necessary would it be to get to know Jesus alongside others? By praying with friends, you will be able to hear and see facets of Jesus that you have not yet perceived." "Knowing the God of the Bible better can't be achieved all by yourself. It entails the community of the church, participation in corporate worship as well as private devotion, and instruction in the Bible as well as silent meditation. At the heart of all the various ways of knowing God is both public and private prayer."



In Isaiah 6 the seraphs were crying out, "Holy, Holy, Holy" to one another. Each was communicating to the rest part of the glory of God that they saw. In prayer we can do that.

Christians, pray together.

Gather together and pray. Through prayer you can get to know God and each other better. Together you can strengthen each other's faith.

Yes, there are all sorts of dangers in group prayer. We can be like the Pharisees and try to impress others. People can try to impress with their prayers. People can also look down on you if your prayers aren't as good as theirs. Timothy Keller said in his book on prayer. (Prayer)

"A pastor and friend of mine, Jack Miller, once said he could tell a great deal about a person's relationship with God by listening to him or her pray. 'You can tell if a man or woman is really on speaking terms with God,' he said."



How did Keller respond to that? He wrote,

"My first response was to make a mental note never to pray aloud near Jack again."



That's funny. But Keller actually agreed with Miller. He wrote,

"You can't manufacture the unmistakable note of reality that only comes from speaking not toward God but with him."



It's not for you to worry about what others may think of your prayers. No. It doesn't matter what they think. God is your Father. He loves you. He wants you to pour out your heart to Him. Don't be afraid to do it with other Christians. There is such blessing there! Jesus has given us such access to God.