LARGER THAN LIFE
January 28, 2007
When LeeBeth, our oldest was three, Lisa was preparing to go to church. She was getting ready in front of the mirror and LeeBeth walked in and she said, “Mom, I want a brother or a sister.” She’d been watching “Sesame Street” and they were talking about families. Lisa said, “Well, LeeBeth why don’t you pray about that. You know, your dad and I have been praying about that.”
So Lisa watched LeeBeth toddle over to her little plastic phone, picked up the receiver and say, “Hi God, this is LeeBeth. I’d like to have a brother or a sister. That will be great. I’ll see you in a few minutes at church. Bye.” And she hung up the phone.
Wouldn’t it be great if prayer was that easy; if there was a high line to God? We could pick up the phone, “Hey God, I want this. I want that. Amen. Let’s dig in.”
But prayer is more than that though. Prayer is deeper than that.
We’ve been talking about prayer and we’re talking about really exploring the depths of this communication with God. In marriage, we cannot survive just with on-the-go” conversations, just casual conversations. If you’re going to have a great marriage, you’ve got to have intimate conversation. You’ve got to have those closed door conversations. You’ve got to have vulnerability and true connectivity.
Casual conversation just doesn’t kick it in marriage. You build your marriage on that and your marriage is going to be in the deep weeds.
Well, Jesus tells us when he talks about prayer that we can’t build prayer on just casual conversation. We can’t build it just like in a pedestrian or flippant manner. There’s more to it.
Jesus prayed a lot. He prayed publicly. But he prayed more often privately. And the disciples, these good Jewish boys, got to get up close and personal and watch Jesus pray. There was something about the way he prayed that was unique. There was something about the way that he prayed that was different. And it rocked them. It rattled their cages.
So in the Gospel of Luke one day, the disciples said, “Hey Jesus, teach us to pray.” They didn’t say, “Jesus, teach us to heal.” They didn’t say, “Jesus, teach us to preach.” They said, “Jesus, teach us to pray.”
And Jesus, in Matthew 6 and in other places, gave the disciples what is referred to as “The Lord’s Prayer.” It should be called “The Disciple’s Prayer,” but we call it “The Lord’s Prayer.”
Whenever I think about the Lord’s Prayer, I think back to my basketball days at Florida State. I had a lifetime average of 0.7 per game for the Seminoles. My freshman year, our team made it to the Mideast regionals of the NCAA championships. It was a nationally televised game. I was so excited to be there. I knew I wasn’t going to play.
I did, though, know I could get a good view and I could get in front of the camera just enough for my parents to see me. So I told them, “Mom and Dad, watch me. I’ll be right there on the bench and I’ll be kind of like waving when they call out the starting line up. So just watch for me, I’ll be there. I’ll be there, Mom and Dad.” And sure enough, they watched and they saw me.
Well, right before the game our coach gathered everybody together in the locker room and I said to myself, “Okay, he’s going to give us some incredible insight about basketball. This is it. This is major college basketball. I’m going to hear from my coach about what we’re going to do to beat the Wildcats of Kentucky!”
So the coach said, “All right, guys. Come here, come here, come here.” And here’s the only thing he said before this game, this Mideast regional, nationally televised game. This is the only thing he said, “Guys, let’s just go out there and have a good time.” Then he pointed at me (and my nickname was “Reverend”—my teammates were prophets, weren’t they?) and he said, “Reverend, come over here and lead us in the Lord’s Prayer.”
I always wondered why I received a full scholarship. I was the designated prayer. Every team must have a designated prayer, so I lead the team in the Lord’s Prayer. “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come…” and so forth and so on.
And I guarantee you, all of my teammates and the entire coaching staff thought that if we prayed this prayer, this formula; if we memorized these words and everybody said it together, then God would bless us and we would win the game. We lost by 35.
When Jesus taught us to pray, when he taught the disciples to pray, it was not some formula. It was not something to be just memorized. It was all about a flow. It was all about an outline, a grid if you will. We can throw these quick prayers up to God, and that’s cool. The “Microwave Prayer,” “The 9-1-1 Prayer,” the “God, I need help Prayer,” or the “God be with me Prayer,” or the “God bless me, protect me, help me and help me, and bless me, protect me” prayer. Whatever. That’s cool to do that.
Jesus, though, says we need to open the door to our prayer closet or to a special place. Close the door and talk to God. And Jesus says when we do it, we need to have a flow. And I want to talk to you about several aspects of this flow that are critical to our understanding.
How many dads do we have here? If you’re a dad, lift your hand. Dads, there is nothing like our kids running up to us and saying, “Dad, dad, dad.” We love it. No matter what our kids say, no matter what they ask for, we love it. Even though it might be ridiculous and self-serving, we still say, “Just come on, come on.” I love for my kids to say, “Dad,” and for them to ask me for stuff.
In my office, I have a direct line. And the only people that have that number are my family members. Every time the phone rings, I know it’s either Lisa or one of our four kids. I was getting ready for a service recently, and right before the service the phone rang, I picked it up and it was one of my kids. I love hearing their voices.
Our heavenly Father loves hearing your voice and mine. Just multiply that exponentially and into infinity. That’s how much God loves for you and me to connect with him; to close the door and talk to him in prayer. Jesus said, “Let me tell you how to pray. Let me teach you how to pray”.
Look at Matthew 6:9 (NKJV). He said, “In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name…”
When Jesus said the word, “Father,” it just exploded all the Jewish stereotypes of God. Because the Jews had this unique view of God. They reverenced his name to such degree that they wouldn’t even really write it. They wouldn’t even articulate it. And now Jesus is saying, “Our Father”!
The word, “Father” is literally “Dad.” Hey Dad, how would you like it if your kids walked up to you and instead of “Dad,” what if they said, “Thou greatest Father; the one who escorteth me to select soccer practiceth and to balleth”? We’d say, “Come on! Call me ‘Dad’. Talk to me in English and words that I can understand and use intimate terms. We’re related!” That’s what we would say.
Well, God says the same thing. We can call him, “Our Father.” We can call God, “Dad.” It’s that intimate; it’s that rich; it’s that deep.
“Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name…”
We don’t reverence the name of God anymore, do we? We don’t reverence God’s name. What do we say? “Oh God!” “Oh my Lord!” “God damn it!” We trash the name of God. We curse the name of God. We abuse the name of God. So every time you say something like that, you’re taking his name in vain. You are abusing something that is so precious and so holy and so divine and so loving. And it hurts and breaks the heart of God. So we must reverence the name of God.
We must say, “Our Father.” Now how can we say, “Our Father”? How can we say that? The reason I can say that and the reason you can say that is… Well, Hebrews 8 tells us it is because of what Christ did for us. Jesus died on the cross for our sins and he is our High Priest. Scripture says that Jesus is sitting at the right hand of the Father right now praying for you and for me.
That’s why, when I pray, I can say, “In Jesus name, Amen.” I get to God through the Son. And because of that, I can tap into his inheritance.
During this fast, a lot of people have confessed their sins to me. “Ed, I want to confess something to you. I had some cheesecake the other night.”
That’s okay. Take that up, you know, with God. Don’t worry about me.
“Oh Ed, I want to tell you something I did. I had coffee cake.”
I love coffee cake, too. But that’s between you and God. I mean, that’s cool.
I called a friend of mine last night. He was cheating on the fast; he was eating tacos, and I happened to call him on my cell phone. I said, “Busted! You got 24 hours left, my brother.”
“But these tacos are good, man!”
You don’t have to confess your sins to me. I don’t have to confess my sins to you. You don’t have to go to a priest. I don’t have to go to a priest. You don’t have to go to a pastor.
Jesus is our High Priest. So 24/7, anytime day or night, I can get to God the Father through the Son. In Jesus’ name; that’s how I’ll get to God. Isn’t that great? That’s just really freeing. Jesus is our High Priest.
Do you think God wants you to succeed in life? Do you think God wants you to live larger than life?
I’ve never met a father who said, “You know, I hate it because my son scored the winning touchdown. It makes me sick, Ed. My daughter was elected to student council. My son has started a real estate company and he made his first million last year. That’s just ridiculous.”
I’ve never had a parent say that to me. God wants you and me to succeed. He wants us to live larger than life. He wants us to walk in his will. When we do his will; when we activate his will in our lives through his power and grace, we will succeed. He’s a proud heavenly parent. He wants to hear your voice.
So the first part of any prayer where we have real time to pray should be the adoration piece. We adore God. We express our love to God. We worship God. We basically say, “God, you’re God and I’m not. You’re in charge; I’m not. It’s your agenda, not mine.”
Now the second piece of this prayer is found in Matthew 6:10 (NKJV). Jesus said, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
So we need to say, “God, it’s not my thing-dom, but your kingdom.” Give me some love on that; that was funny.
“God, it’s not my thing-dom, but your kingdom.”
“Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. God, I want ‘there’ to happen ‘here.’ That’s what I desire.”
So part of prayer is adoration. The second part is alignment. It’s not just asking. It’s getting under those things God has put over us, so we can get over those things God has put under us. And so often we never know what’s under us because we never get under the authority of God. We’ve never gotten under the will of God.
So as I pray, I say, “God, not my will for my relationships, but your will. Not my will for my marriage, but your will. Not my will for my career, but your will. Not my will for my fiancés, but your will.”
Maybe you’re a single woman and you’re thinking, “Okay, I think he’s the one. I’m not really sure, but he’s the one. This could be my last train, you know, to jump on. I mean, it’s a guy. I can get married. So I’m just going to hold onto him. God, I’ll give you everything. It’s just your will for my life—except now my dating relationship. I have got to get married.”
Give him to God, too. Because when you give him to God, you’re giving the last piece of your heart to God. You’re not really giving just him to God. You’re giving everything to God.
A lot of us guys keep score financially. “Money, money, money, money, money, money, money, money, money, money, money.
“God, it’s your will and everything. My marriage and my career and my recreational pursuits. But money? That’s mine, God. This money is mine.”
God says, “Give it up. Give it up. It’s my will, son. It’s not your will. It’s mine.”
And for many guys here, that’s the last piece of your heart to give up. Give it to God and say, “God, not my will, but your will.”
Prayer is not just asking for what I want. That’s part of it. But true prayer is coming to a point where we want what God wants. His desires are our desires.
“God, your will be done. I want ‘there’ to occur ‘here.’”
Do you pray like that? Do you spend time in adoration? Do you realize who it is you’re talking to? Do you put God’s interest before your own? Or do you just say, “Oh God, help me, bless me, protect me. And also bless me, protect me, and me, me, me; I, I, I”?
The Lord’s Prayer is interesting, because there are no singular pronouns. You won’t find one.
How long should I pray? People ask me, “Well, how long should I spend time in this prayer closet, in this place, in this location? How long?”
I answer by saying, “As long as it takes you to surrender your will to God’s will. Sometimes that can be five minutes. Other times it might be 45 minutes.”
In John 11, Jesus showed up late. People were all in his face, “Jesus, why did you show up late? Your close friend Lazarus is dead. You could have saved him. You could have healed him. Now he’s dead. He’s dead!”
You know what Jesus did? He prayed a prayer. And here’s Christ’s prayer. Read it in John 11. He said, “Lazarus, come forth.” And then Lazarus comes back from the dead.
Do you know why he said, “Lazarus”? Because if Jesus said, “Just come forth,” all the dead would have risen. “Lazarus”, he said, “Come forth”. That takes what, three seconds to say that? Maybe two seconds?
Later on in life of Christ, the night he was arrested, Scripture said he stayed up all night wrestling with God. Finally, he got to this point. After literally sweating drops of blood, he said, “God, not my will, but yours.” It took him all night.
Throughout this series, we’ve been interviewing Hulk Hogan. And last weekend, I met a guy that comes to our church who’s a professional wrestler. I won’t mention his name, but he’s like 6’9”, 290 pounds. He’s a towering guy and just ripped. Hulk Hogan and this guy spend a lot of time wrestling. And they’ve spent time with all the holds and the maneuvers and all the different things that wrestlers do.
Prayer, in many ways, is wrestling with God. We’ve got to come to a point where we say, “God, I am under your authority. I know you have the best in store for me. I know you want me to live on the next level. God, I know that you want me to live larger than life.”
God wants that in every single slice of your existence and mine. We’re not going to discover it, though, until we pray.
When you pray, pray like this. Use this as a flow, as a pattern, as a grid. First adoration. Then alignment. And the “Ask” is the third part of this prayer.
Matthew 6:11-13 (NKJV): “Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”
During this fast, we have discovered how dependent we are on bread. It’s cool to ask for bread, to ask for God to meet our needs—not our greeds, but our needs.
So often, I come to God with my greeds. But after spending time adoring him and after spending time with the alignment deal and then after asking, suddenly my greeds change. And I see what God wants my needs to be. And prayer is the way I apply the answers to my requests in my life. It’s God’s way of talking to me, of helping me live out those answers.
“Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” This is like a declaration of our dependence on God. We’re asking for forgiveness and we’re forgiving others.
“Well Ed, you don’t understand my ex-spouse said about me or did to me. I’m not going to forgive this card carrying idiot. He’s going to have to come back to me. He’s going to have to crawl back to me and say, ‘I was wrong. Will you forgive me?’ I’m not going to release him.” Or, “This coach hurt me. I’m not going to release her. I’m not even going to think about it. She’s going to come back to me.” Or, “My friend,” or, “This guy who ripped me off…”
Hey listen. We’ve been greatly forgiven of all of our junk and funk. Jesus commands us to forgive. Unleashing unforgiveness is unbelievable. And it should be unending.
What kind of grudge are you holding onto? What kind of unforgiveness are you latched up to? Because later on, Jesus concludes this prayer by saying, “Hey, if you don’t forgive others, you think God is going to forgive you.”
Yeah, we’ll receive the forgiveness of God. “Oh yeah, that’s incredible, God. You’ve forgiven everything—past, present and future. But my ex-spouse or that coach or that teacher…”
You have got to release them. Ask for the daily bread. Ask for forgiveness. Ask God, even if you have mixed motives or you come to God with some baggage. He understands. He will tweak those things and change those things.
In Matthew 6:8 of this text, it says your father knows what you need before you ask him.
People like, “Well, there you go. Why even pray? God already knows it!”
Well, prayer prepares us for the proper use, for the proper application of the answer. If we’re not praying, we’ll never see how to apply it.
Now, I thought something was very interesting later in Matthew 6. You might want to flip over to Matthew 6:22. This verse just blew me away. Because in this chapter, remember Jesus is talking about the three pillars that every Christ follower should pursue. He said, “When you pray…” We’re talking about that. He said, “When you fast…” Many of us have fasted. Then he says, “When you give…” And he says, specifically, give to the poor.
When we do those things, what’s going to happen? Well, check this out.
Check out Matthew 6:22 (NIV): “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”
Okay, hold that thought for a second. Let’s go back to “The Disciples Prayer.” You might call it “The Lord’s Prayer”.
Matthew 6:13 (NKJV): “Do not lead us into temptation…” Well, God doesn’t do that. He can lead us around it. “…but deliver us from the evil one. For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”
We do those three things, what’s going to happen? We’ll have light. We can see temptation, because the Bible doesn’t say if we’re tempted, or we might be tempted, or some people are tempted. It says, when we are tempted. And if we’re doing those three things and living on the next level and larger than life, we’ll have the discernment to take a wide berth around the temptation. We’ll be able to see past the temptation to the result of it. If we’re walking in darkness we’re in trouble.
Adoration, alignment, and going for the ask—three elements of this pattern of prayer. What potential we have!
Cliff Barrows, you might recognize that name if you kind of grew up in the church world, lead the music and the worship for the Billy Graham Crusades for decades and decades. And when I was like nine years old, we became close friends with Cliff and his family. And we’ve known them for a long, long time. In fact, my brother’s named after Cliff. And Cliff is a wonderful, wonderful man of God.
You ought to Google his name, “Cliff Barrows” this afternoon. He is a phenomenal guy, one of the best Christian men I have ever known.
One day, Cliff told my father a story of a friend that he knew in New York, a very, very wealthy individual. And Cliff said that there was a super rich guy and he had this giant empire. His only desire was for he and his wife to have a child, because they wanted someone to pass their great wealth to. But they couldn’t get pregnant.
When his wife was like 40, she finally became pregnant. They were elated. Nine months later, during child birth, she died. She gave birth to a horribly mentally and physically challenged boy. This whole experience just rocked this wealthy man. And he put all of his energy and effort into this child. And he hired a staff of nurses to help and assist.
When the boy was 12, he died. And about a year later, this wealthy man died of a broken heart. So an auction date was set for this man’s empire and the “Who’s Who” flew in to be a part of the auction.
When the auctioneer began, he began in a unique way. He held up a large oil painting of this severally handicapped child and he said, “Let’s start the bidding.”
“Let’s start the bidding on this painting.”
And finally, a voice in the back said, “$5.00.”
And the auctioneer said, “Do I hear $10.00? $5.00 going once, going twice, sold to the woman in the back.”
And the woman got up from the back and made her way forward. And a lot of the wealthy people recognized her as one of the nurses who cared for this handicapped child.
Well, she received her painting. And then the auctioneer pulled out an envelope from the back of the painting. It was a notarized letter that was written in the handwriting of the wealthy individual. And it read, “Whoever loves my son enough to buy this portrait, I will give that person my entire inheritance.”
And with that, the gavel hit the lectern and the auction was over.
Whoever knows the Son can tap into the inheritance and the riches of the Father, our Father who art in heaven….
[Ed leads in a closing prayer]