Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 5 Study # 3
Thesis: Prayer actively "includes" God.
Introduction: Last week we looked into the issue of Jesus' baptism as a public declaration that the theology of John was exactly on target. Jesus was not "baptized" to reinforce the flawed beliefs of those who think that their actions recommend them to God. "Baptism" at John's time in history was not about "gaining credit with God" at all. In those days, people were baptized as a statement of agreement with the teaching of the baptizer. The "notion" that God is "impressed" and "swayed" by the actions of those who are attempting to exalt themselves over others is a development that took place later. Without exception, those who are "baptized" in order to obtain favor from God are seeking to elevate themselves above others -- an effort that is as wicked as can be imagined. Thus, last week we took courage from the fact that Jesus, by being baptized, was forcefully declaring that all those who come to God by way of repentance for the purpose of being forgiven are accepted by God and cleansed of their sins. This, of course, makes the issue of "repentance" a very large issue, but we have addressed that over and over so that we will not go further into it again at this time.
What we are going to go into at this time is Luke's next comment on Jesus' behavior. His words to Theophilus are that, not only had Jesus been "baptized" by John, but while that was taking place, Jesus was "praying". It is this issue -- the fact that Jesus was praying -- that we are going to zero in on this morning. Our question is this: why does Luke "buttress" his message that Jesus powerfully affirmed the legitimacy of John's "theology" by recording the one further aspect of Jesus' activities -- that He "prayed" -- while ignoring all of the "other" things Jesus did at that time?
May 21, 2006
- I. The Larger Issues of "Prayer".
- A. A working definition: prayer is the deliberate inclusion of God in our lives by means of our words.
- 1. This definition only works as we understand that our words are "prayer" when we are addressing them specifically to God.
- 2. This definition only works as we possess the conviction that God is within hearing distance.
- B. A serious problem: Luke 18:11.
- 1. The Word of God -- His explanation of reality -- tells us pointedly that, though God is within hearing distance, He is not actually being "included" by our words when we are "talking to ourselves".
- a. Our words are all "heard" and "recorded" (Matthew 12:36/Revelation 20:15-19), but they do not actively bring God into fellowship-participation with us when we are not talking to Him (James 4:2).
- b. Our words are not "heard" by God -- i.e., He does not enter into fellowship-participation with us -- when they are expressions of either arrogance or despair (Luke 18 and James 4:3).
- 2. The Word of God does not lend any credibility to the idea that just because God "knows" already, He will enter into fellowship-participation with us just because He is not ignorant of our situation.
- a. God is a mind/heart-reader and He knows exactly why we seek to address Him -- or not.
- b. God is not the least bit intimidated by our angry demands that He "do what needs to be done without our verbal involvement with Him." It's the prima-donna in us that insists that others "treat us like we want to be treated" even when we do not include them in our "fellowship" by means of our words.
- C. Other problems as well...
- 1. Matthew 6:7 tells us that we are not "talking to God" when we are simply multiplying words and calling it "prayer".
- 2. Luke 20:47 tells us that we are not "talking to God" when we are using a posture to impress men.
- 3. Matthew 6:9 and following tells us that we are not "talking to God" when we are not interested in what He is "about".
- II. The "Application" of These Facts to Luke's Record of Jesus' Action of Prayer.
- A. It is crucial that we understand that Luke recorded Jesus as "praying" because he wanted Theophilus to understand why the things happened that happened.
- 1. Heaven was opened because Jesus expressed His desire to include His Father in His affirmation of the legitimacy of John's theology.
- 2. The Holy Spirit descended visibly because Jesus expressed His desire to include His Father.
- 3. The voice spoke from heaven because Jesus expressed His desire to include His Father.
- B. It is just as crucial that we understand that Luke recorded Jesus as "praying" because he wanted Theophilus to understand that the things that happened are fantastic evidences that our faith is not just "wishful thinking" or "self-fulfilling words".
- 1. There is a lot of both running around in the guise of "faith".
- a. Our words tend to direct our minds in ways that "enable" us to "interpret" events as "answers to prayer" -- and they often are -- but we must be aware that God is not "into" serving our self-interests.
- b. Events are "answers to prayer" when those events are the result of our inclusion of God in our pursuit of His interests.
- c. People who are constantly "boasting" of their "prayer life" are clearly in violation of Jesus' caution about trying to use prayer to impress others with ourselves -- and all of the things to which they point when they are boasting are not answers to prayer at all.
- 2. But, when we actually seek the will of God and talk to Him about that searching, we should expect His action in whatever form He takes.
- 3. Jesus' prayer resulted in the Father's "evidential affirmation" of the legitimacy of Jesus' action in validating John's theology.