Bremerton church of Christ in Bremerton, Washington
The Bremerton church of Christ, is on the Kitsap Peninsula of the Puget Sound. The Naval Shipyard there brings servicemen and their families to this part of the country during their military careers. Many Navy families have come and gone throughout the history of this congregation, and some have loved the Pacific Northwest enough to stay. For over thirty years, I’ve been visiting this congregation that’s about four hours north of my home in Oregon--- sometimes to be with family and other times to be with my best friend, Debbi McCown. Many Thanksgivings this bestie would host an open invitation “Friendsgiving” at her place, where anyone from the congregation could bring their favorite holiday fare and come on over to the feast while enjoying the panoramic view of the snowy Olympic Mountains outside the kitchen windows. Some of the members we got to know well enough that they’d join us and about 50 others for our annual camping trip near the dunes at Honeyman State Park or invite us to a hike with them through the Olympic Forest.
But one of my favorite memories throughout visiting this warm congregation was in 2017 when a sister in Christ and I were traveling through on our roadtrip we called the “Only God” roadtrip --- an 11,300 mile journey that put a book’s worth of stories in my heart. In my Toyota FJ Cruiser, we basically drew a rectangular route around the edges of the entire country from February 25th to April 22nd of that year. I was gone 57 days, traveled with 3 different sisters in Christ (off and on) gave away about 30 Bibles my church family had donated and handed out the rough draft of my book Your Fresh Start that One Stone publishing would publish the next year.
What I remember most was the circle of 7 sisters from the Bremerton church of Christ who in 2017 volunteered that Sunday afternoon, to bookmark, highlight, and insert handouts to prepare those Bibles for distribution and earnestly pray with us for the souls that would receive them. About a month into this Only God roadtrip, Debbie, the Bremerton bestie, would join me for the leg from Tampa, Florida to Washington D.C. where we toured the inside of the White House together, April 1st during the first year of the Trump administration (no joke).
For most of the years I visited this congregation, Dan May preached for this congregation. Not so many years back the Bremerton church of Christ outgrew their building and in faith’s anticipation of more growth, expanded their building to make room for more worshippers. The line in a familiar fantasy movie around baseball, “If you build it they will come” turned out to be true in their case.
Some preachers just speak your language, and such is often the case when I’ve listened to Dan’s sermons. I like his balance of head in heart, I guess you could say. The name of his sermon the Sunday we visited in 2020 was taken primarily from Luke 11:1-4 and was entitled “Lord, Teach Us To Pray”. It contained some valuable insights that stuck with me, and I think could do a lot of good. Dan was kind enough to share his notes from that day. I’ve italicized the sections that personally hit me the hardest. In this case, I will leave it in it’s outlined form.
What is Jesus teaching us in telling us to say: “Hallowed be your name?” He is teaching that the FIRST priority in prayer is PRAISE --- To not only come to know and recognize his greatness/majesty. But to DECLARE it The place we start in prayer to God is the declaration of his greatness. This is not for the benefit of God – to flatter him. God was doing fine before you and I came along --- even before the earth and the universe were created. He wants us to do this for OUR benefit--- To remind us of WHO our Father is to whom we are praying.
JESUS is the One telling us to start our prayers this way So WHY do you think that Jesus wants us to start with this? I think it is because whatever we have on our minds, what we are focused on, has a way of being magnified in our imaginations. Ponder: What are the things that we most often think about? Ourselves? Our problems? This pandemic? The present social and political unrest? These have become magnified in our minds – our problems, our fears, our temptations, our burdens. And we can (and are perhaps are already) overwhelmed by it all
HERE IS THE REALITY – as opposed to what we’ve imagined above. All of these things we think and focus on compared to the glory, majesty and power of God are nothing. Romans 8:18
Let me backup in our text in Luke 11 – Jesus went to a “certain place”, a place where he was not distracted by all the cares around Him. We need to find that certain place (wherever it is for you) And enter INTENTIONALLY into the presence of:
Elohim – the Creator God
YHWH – the Great I AM – the eternal one
El Roi – the God who sees all – Omniscient/Omnipresent
El Shaddai – the God who is the all-powerful Omnipotent
Abba – our Father
You have seen Him from history right down to your own life. You KNOW He is greater than all your problems, fears, & doubts. When you begin with a declaration of who & what God is – His greatness --- then all of these other things will shrink to their proper and real status.
Starting our prayers like this allows us to repair a great misunderstanding. We see the context of our lives as the problems, phobias & pandemics. In reality, God is the context in which we and all these things exist. I’m not saying they are not here. I’m not saying they are not real – for now. But God is the context in which everything exists yesterday, today, and tomorrow. See Psalm 90:1-2 “from everlasting to everlasting He is God.” So, when I begin my prayers with this – in this manner, then I know: “God has this!” – He is in control….When it is all over – God will know exactly where we are because He NEVER lost sight of me or of you. Notice how Moses put it in his final speech to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 33:27b – God is our refuge, and underneath IT ALL are His everlasting arms. Praise needs to be the priority, otherwise we will not be able to see the things around us as they truly are – in their proper perspective.
All the noise will distract us and those things will become larger than they are – magnified by our imaginations and fears. God gives us the choice: We can magnify our Father in heaven or our problems here on earth. Think: hasn’t God done some amazing things – in history & in your life
Think about the greatest pyrotechnic shows you’ve ever seen --- Then compare to the Sun, moon, and stars – or NEOWISE comet. Think about the mountain of sins in our (my) life
Insurmountable, blocking my access to God. Then he came in the flesh in his Son and threw that mountain into the sea and restored that relationship.
LISTEN: There is no God like YHWH. We must not skip or even skim over this part of prayer. Perhaps that’s part of the problem we have in prayer---we’ve failed to linger here, and prolong this part of our prayers. And we need to, in order to get our minds and hearts where they need to be your focus on the characteristics and nature or God and sense & appreciate the enormous majesty of God. We must DECLARE with our mouth – the Majesty and Glory of God
Now prepared to move to the next priority of prayer: “When you pray, say.. “Your kingdom come.” Again, Matthew’s account on the Mount enlarges. There it was the multitudes, Here it is His disciples. But again, the basics are the same with regards to this, the greatest obstacle in my life, the part that tends to be the most out of balance (and maybe you can relate to this in your own life). Is my concern for the “Kingdom of Dan May” (insert your own name). As king, people under me need to do what I want. Things in my land need to work out the way that I want them to, and when things in my kingdom go differently than I want – then I go to God in prayer to fix those things. So, when I begin my prayer with “Hallowed by your name – with reverence, praise, and worship of God – the next step, Jesus said, is to prioritize God’s kingdom. Again, I can see times when the kingdom of God and Dan May don’t line up together
The things I value, that I think are important and my priorities are not always the same as those of God. So, when I skim over the praise part of my prayer and rush to my laundry list of things in my kingdom I want God to fix…
Is it any wonder that I do not see a lot of answers to prayers? (Which in turn can discourage me from praying at all?!) When that happens – I have missed the point of Jesus’ teaching here YOUR kingdom – Your rule, Your reign need to come into MY life. Your will be done in MY life, and the lives of those around me, and in our nation and world. Thus the Second priority in prayer: In a word – Surrender
It is a reminder to yield my will to that of my Father in heaven. Again, I do not have to do outrageous things to get his attention. Remember the priests of Baal in 1 Kings 18? All of their gyrations and cutting themselves. All these were attempts to get their god to do THEIR will
We need only bow our knees, and bend our necks. My kingdom is built on sand (Matthew 7) and when storms come – and they will come – it will fall God’s kingdom is built on the rock and that is where I want to reside. All through time God has shaken the kingdoms of men, whether personally, culturally, or nationally. So we will see them for what they are and rid ourselves of depending on what CAN BE shaken, and hold on to what CAN’T – God’s kingdom (Hebrews 12:28). When we pray as Jesus taught, it is THAT kingdom – God’s – that we are concerned about, and learning to prioritize that in our prayers.
Praise and Surrender – those are things of top priorities in prayer according to Jesus’ teaching here. How long does this take to accomplish – to learn to pray like this? As long as it takes. It will take some time to get where we want to be. God is patient and longsuffering – another quality of hallowing Him. But if you and I learn to pray like Jesus taught, you will never again doubt the efficacy and power of prayer. When you see it move the mountains of pride and selfishness and your stubbornness against relinquishing your own will – you will be convinced
Teaching this is one thing – living it out is another. Turn to John 12. Here Jesus is near the end of his ministry – the forces of evil are pressing in, and he is feeling it – and so what kind of prayer should He pray. Read verse 27 – see Jesus’ teaching applied and in action in His life. What if you and I fulfilled the purpose of God in our own lives: to reflect the image of God in which you and I were created --- To bring glory to His name, and for God to be glorified in your life and my life ~ Dan May