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Learning How to Pray, part 1: The Importance of Listening to Our God

The Lord's Prayer. It's the prayer Jesus taught us to pray to God, right? Or is it rather the manner in which we should address Him? When we look at the passage in context, we see that Jesus was warning us against using it as a sort of magical, all-purpose recitation. Instead, it ought to remind us that before we can pray we must acknowledge that God is holy ? or ?hallowed? ? and engage with Him from a realization of His goodness and greatness.

Todd WagnerFeb 1, 2009
Matthew 6:1-10

Messages In This Series (8)
Learning How to Pray, part 4: The Provision, the Protection and the Power
Todd WagnerMar 1, 2009
Learning How to Pray, part 3: Recessions and Daily Bread... And Why We Need Them Both
Todd WagnerFeb 22, 2009
Learning How to Pray, part 2: Why We Want His Kingdom to Come
Todd WagnerFeb 15, 2009
The ACTS of Prayer: A Way to Enrich our Communication with God
Blake HolmesFeb 8, 2009
Learning How to Pray, part 1: The Importance of Listening to Our God
Todd WagnerFeb 1, 2009
Shut Up, Stand Up, and Stop Eating Cheetos: Our Greatest Hindrance to Effective Prayer
Todd WagnerJan 25, 2009
Rehearsing Truth so You Don't Move Counter to God
Todd WagnerJan 18, 2009
The Foundation for Prayer: The Real Thee Talking with the Real Thou
Todd WagnerJan 11, 2009

Some of you weren't here last week, so you have no idea what we're doing right now. Let me just explain to you. It's funny because in the back and behind me we have in this little room where all the folks who serve work the audio and the camera and the things. We have a little board back there with pictures of each of us that they move in and out, and the worship team and others who are involved on Sunday mornings so we can build a little community with ourselves.

Everybody wrote a little funny statement underneath their picture just to let folks get to know their personality a little bit. I had written mine. We were all supposed to write our own. Mine didn't make it. There was something else that made it. My little card back there has cheetle all over it. A few of you questioned my use of that word last week. I just want to tell you something.

It's because you're too young. There used to be a show. I forget the name of it, but they had a guy on there who came up with these things called sniglets, which are just words that we invent to describe things that have no name that we need a word for. I can remember cheetle was one of the words he invented. It was the orange, awkward stuff that gets on your hands when you eat Cheetos, so that's how I used it.

Anyway, my little card back there says, "Jesus loves Cheetos, and so do I." It has orange stuff all over it. That's what's underneath my picture. I just want to throw this out at you. You guys do know I was not talking about the Cheeto in the bag last week, right? I was talking about how that represents something much, much more.

If you weren't here, forgive us, but go back and check that out at Watermark Radio on iTunes or Watermark Video on iTunes. Either one. With video, you get a download of the video of the service to your iPod. With radio, you can get the audio to your iPod. As well as our website. You can check it out there.

In case I was not really focused enough on what I talked about, I walked into my office on Monday morning, and this is what I saw in my office. I'll show you a few pictures. There were over 300 bags of the large-sized Cheetos that were in my office that the good folks at Frito-Lay were grateful for the advertising, I guess. Rather than eat through them…

My assistant, Brooke, said, "I'll tell you what. For $1,000, I will eat nothing but Cheetos until every one of them are gone." So we quickly raised the $1,000, and she quickly recanted. About 1,500 calories in a bag here. Two a day would take you half a year, and that's with no other things but Cheetos, so she rethought that pretty quickly, and we gave her mercy. Don't we need it?

Listen, it's fun to drive this back. What we're going to do, just like poinsettias at Christmas, after the second service, we're going to tell folks to come grab a bag (they have a Watermark card on there), take them to their party, and talk about Christ. That's what we're going to do. We thought it would be a good way to look back this week and just have some fun. I didn't know what to do with them, so we did this.

But what I do know is that all of us are people who need mercy. All of us want to know how God wants us to connect and communicate with him. Sometimes, we just get sucked into what culture has taught us, maybe what we earned as kids, maybe what we learned in a thing called church, maybe what we thought we were doing correctly from Scripture in terms of praying when maybe that's not what God wants us to do at all.

So we put together a couple little more things in the arch to communicate the truth as we get ready to dive in together this morning. Watch this little video we made, and then listen to a modern-day retelling of the model prayer that Christ gave us. Check this out.

[Video]

Male: Lord, my boss will not leave me alone. Either change him or give me a new job.

Male: Lord, let Jenny notice…

Male: God, thank you so much that I'm not like them.

Female: God, please don't let me be pregnant. I didn't even know him.

Male: God, help Vick understand how young he is.

Female: God, I deserve a husband too.

Female: Would you please make that neighbor's dog shut up?

Male: Lord, just give me a good parking space.

Female: If you let me win this lottery, I will…

Female: Lord, if you just give me an A on this exam, I promise I'll…

Male: God, if you take away my guilt this morning, I promise that will be the last time.

Male: God, I need your help.

Female: God, if there is more to life than what I know, please show me.

Male: Lord, help me remember that it's your money and not my money.

Female: God, help me be patient with my friends.

Male: Father, help me to realize my pride.

Female: God, please guide my marriage and be…

Male: Lord, help me understand how to be a better husband.

Male: Father, people help me to work hard for you.

Female: Help me to be more like you.

[End of Video]

Father, thank you so much that I'm getting to live a dream, that I get to gather like this corporately with people once a week and not do what we think we're supposed to do, but we just reach out together. I thank you for creative people and the way they make ancient truths, eternal truths, so relevant and pleasing and fresh to my ear today.

Lord, I don't want my ears tickled. None of us do. We pray that working to have this message be fresh the way that we do, the way gifted artists do, that it would just go to where it should go, that we would have ears to hear, and it would change our hearts. So, Lord, if nothing else happens today, I pray we would know you paid it all, that in following your Word there is great reward, that you have mercy on us because your love is strong and you are good.

I know there's someone here today, Lord, who just isn't experiencing that, so we have efforted to remind them of truths. We pray that you would minister to them now, that Jesus would be lifted up, and that your people would experience how mighty you are in your salvation. Meanwhile, thank you for the joy that fills my heart as I hear the choir sing, as I hear your Word creatively presented. Change me. Amen.

I mean that. Isn't it just good? Do you know why we do this? I just want to say it right here. We don't go to church. We are the church, and because we are the church, we come together every now and then to do what Scripture tells us to do: to encourage each other day after day as long as it's still called today, lest any of us be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

That is why we drive you to community. That is why we drive you to journey through God's Word individually. That's why we encourage you to blog back and forth with each other about what you're learning. That's why we encourage you to serve together. So day after day, in smaller groups, we can spur each other on to love and good deeds and remind ourselves that we shouldn't grow weary. In due time, we'll reap if we don't grow weary.

I really love when we get together like this, and we just together say, "We're not crazy. There is truth that God in his grace has revealed to many, and you're part of a family who will love you and care for you. Be his hands and feet and declare his truths together. All of us together are better than any of us alone.

I just want to say again, Father, thank you for this building, that we can gather this way. Thank you for these friends that when they come they don't come to a building, they come to build me up, and build each other up, for your glory, for your kingdom, that we might live in your will from now and forevermore, amen.

We have been having some fun just looking at the idea of what prayer is. We've been trying to get across this one idea that what God wants us to do is to remember that he is God and we are not. Prayer is one of those moments that we are most elusive in our understanding of that great truth.

What I mean by that is when we have an attitude of prayer, when we are praying at all times in the Spirit, when we are walking in humility as God wants us to walk, we are reminded that unless his Word guides us, his Word that is all those things that we read at the beginning of this service, that in following his Word, there is great reward.

When we live that way with that mindset and that understanding, it is well with our soul. That's what our Father wants for us. He doesn't want us to cry out in articulate, beautiful ways, "Have mercy on me," and then get back up and live our way. He wants us to be people who pray this way. Look at Matthew 6 with me if you have your Bible.

I want to walk you through what is a very familiar prayer to you. Can I tell you something that's pretty amazing? I don't think if I got any of my six kids up here that… I am doing everything I can to teach them to follow Christ and to love him and to really just model for them why it's good and pleasant to walk with the Lord.

I don't think a single one of them could give you the Lord's Prayer. I don't think they know it. I'm not necessarily proud of that. I've just noticed it. The few times that I've been, and I say, "Hey, let's do the Lord's Prayer," and they look at me like, "What is that?" It reminds me of a time when I was with my kids.

We were actually at an assembly for one of my other sons who was playing in a basketball league who had this year-end celebration. It happened to be in this church sanctuary in a classic church. This was about three years ago. In their entire life, we had never done anything but done church in a high school.

So we're in this place, and our little girl Landry, who at the time was probably 6 or 7, goes, "Dad, what is this?" I go, "This is just a deal for Cooper. It's an end of the year celebration."

"No, what is this?"

"This is an assembly of all the teams that play. They're just talking about what really the season was about when you use sports as a means to talk…"

"What is this?" She said it kind of loud. Everyone turned around and looked at her. I go, "You mean where we are?" She goes, "Yes." I go, "Sweetie, this is a church." We were in pews. There were paintings on the ceiling. There was an altar upfront. The folks who I'd coached looked at her and looked at me. They're like, "She doesn't know this is a church?"

It was just curious because she'd never been in a building like that where people can authentically worship God. Because the architecture doesn't really matter, right? Pews are great. Altars are fine. Choirs are great. As long as they are not just default pictures of what we think we need to do. If that's the way people are going to express and love God through other mediums, just like we used Switchfoot and Christina Aguilera this morning, great. God doesn't care. This is what he's after.

I've never taught my kids the Lord's Prayer. In fact, that's the name we've given it. It really is the disciples' prayer. It's the prayer that Jesus gave his disciples so they might learn how to talk to God. They wanted to learn, because they saw this was something Jesus was pretty into (talking to God, that is).

This is the same Jesus who says, "Look, your Father in heaven knows what you need before you even ask him," but that statement that Jesus made for, whatever reason, did not discourage him to still talk to his Father. Isn't that the way it often is, though, with my kids? I, a lot of times, know what my kids need, but I'm not going to be somebody who hovers over them who micromanages them.

I tell them, "I love you. I want to help you through junior high. I want to help you through high school. I want to help you through courtship. I want to help you through buying your first home. I want to help you through managing plastic. I want to help you through everything. But I'm not going to mother you in a controlling way. It pleases me when you ask. I know what you need, but until you really want it, until you ask for it, I'm wasting my breath."

When they're really little, you obviously inject more specific leadership. That's exactly what God did. But as people grow into relationship with him, he backs off, and you live under the law of love and a heart that desires to please your Father. Let me very quickly point out some basic things in this little text right here.

What you're going to see is that God wants you to stop performing for him. "Cease striving and know that I am God." Which is to say, "You have to vacate your ability to make yourself acceptable in my sight. You can't do it. So you have to let me be God. Acknowledge that you need mercy. In other words, be still. Don't worry about being spectacular in the way you do things."

I want to show you a couple of reasons we do some things the way we do here in this community. Matthew 6. "Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them." Let me just say this. Jesus is going to say something here in these next eight verses. If they were the only time that Jesus spoke on these things, it would change how we do life. We would never share with each other about how we are stewarding our gifts. We should, in the context of community.

Jesus will tell us that where our heart is, there our treasure will be. So if the number one thing that illustrates where our heart is, if we isolate that from other people, we're in a world of hurt. If we are only to pray in private and never in public, then we're making a huge mistake. If we're only to do righteousness in secret and night, then we can't let our light shine before men. So don't jerk these verses out of the context of Jesus' life teaching but catch them for what they're worth.

He is talking about certain aspects of practice, certain aspects of prayer, and certain aspects of the way that we share what God has resourced us with. He's specifically coming against those who are only concerned that other people think they are spiritual, so this is what he's speaking against. Jesus did pray publicly. Jesus did, at times, repeat himself in prayer. But watch what he's going against. Here we go.

"Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven." In other words, what he's going to say right here is this. "Who you are in private is much, much more important than how spiritually you appear in public." Our very name cries out that we want to be authentic people. People who don't try and look at a certain way here but then go back to our own mode somewhere else.

Verse 2. "So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full." I love what Spurgeon said. He said if you want to have a lasting legacy, then don't carve your name into marble. Carve the love of Christ into the hearts of men.

Too many folks sometimes give to have a building named after them or a wing named after them. God's saying, "You go, girl, but there's your reward." He says, "When you give to the poor, don't let your left hand know what your right hand is doing." What he's trying to say there is this. "Don't try and draw attention to yourself."

That's, by the way, one of the reasons we do and give the way we do here. We are not at all embarrassed by the right response to worship that giving is. It's a critical part of us participating with God and giving back to him what he's given to us for his kingdom's purposes and to support what he sees going on.

The reason we don't do that is we don't want you guys to give because you're prompted or because of pressure or because you want people to see your hand a certain way. We have places that folks can give here very discreetly carved into walls and carved into the website. It's not about what we see you do. It's about what you do between yourself and your Savior. Watch where we're headed now. Look what he says.

He says, "When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men." The idea there is not that it's wrong to pray in public. In fact, we're commanded to do that in 1 Timothy 2:1. The idea there is if you're doing it just to be seen by men, then they'll see you, and that's enough. If that's what you want, you just got what you did it for.

What the Scripture says is if you don't do it because your heart knows that you desperately need a relationship with God, then God says, "This doesn't mean that much to me." Verse 6: "But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you." I love this. "And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words."

In other words, don't default to the routine. Don't reduce yourself, as C.S. Lewis said in The Screwtape Letters, to the parrot-like prayers of your youth where you just repeat back what you've heard others say before. I am teaching my kids to pray all the time. One of the things I do when we get done praying as a family is I ask them, "Was that a good prayer?" I do. I say, "Was that a good prayer?" They've learned that the answer I'm looking for is this. "If you meant it from your heart, it was a great prayer."

Sometimes what kids do, and this is normal, is they want to pray like they've heard others pray. So too many times over meals or when we're praying I get stuff like this. "Father, I just want to thank you for today and for the provision of today." If I hear that two or three or four times in a row, when we're done, I'll say, "Were you trying to remember what you were supposed to say or say what you really felt?

I know we should every day thank God for his provision and all of that, but I want to make sure you know, God's not looking for a set order of words. God wants you to talk to him. It would discourage me if every time I came home, you lined up like Mary Poppins' children and said, 'Hello, Father. We're so glad you're home,' and then after I've inspected you, you dashed upstairs. That would discourage me."

One of the greatest things that happened to me was this. I walked in the house the other day, and my little 5-year-old whose still at home (he's not at school yet) looked at me, and he went, "Yay!" I thought, "That is awesome. What an unbelievable way." Sometimes, you know a way to start praying is to go, "Yay, God. Yes, I love you," as opposed to this King James language that we think is somehow more spiritual. He's a person, and he wants your heart.

I wanted to say this. Repeating things is not necessarily wrong. Jesus repeated things. Paul repeated things. See Matthew 26. See 2 Corinthians 12, where both Paul and Jesus had said the same thing in a very short compressed period of time. It's not just about saying the same thing. What he's saying is, don't do meaningless repetition.

There are a lot of people, and it goes back really to the book of 1 Kings where Elijah is talking to just the pagans who they believe that their gods had a lot going on. I mean, it's tough to manage the world. So sometimes, you need to wake your god up or get his attention because he was distracted. They would have to often scream. That's why they would cut themselves. To get their god's attention.

Jesus is saying, "You're not going to get my attention by some extended chant or by doing a certain number of Our Fathers or Hail Marys or Glory Bes or anything else. You're going to get my attention by being humble and engaging your heart with me," so this is what he says. "So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him."

It's still good to ask because it acknowledges his goodness, and you acknowledge your dependence. So he says this. "Pray, then, in this way…" The word way means "in this manner." This is really not the Lord's prayer. These aren't the words that God really loves. This is really a prayer for the disciples to learn how to pray.

Is it wrong to say these words? Of course not. There's nothing wrong with quoting Scripture. There's nothing wrong with just reciting the text, but God never honors us, he never blesses us because we know Scripture. In fact, he tells you, "If you hear what I say, you can even memorize it, but you do not apply it to your life. You are building your house on the sand." He says that one chapter later.

So saying an Our Father (what some people call it) is not what he's looking for. He's looking for not you to go through God's Word but for God's Word to go through you. I like to tell people as we journey through God's Word, the greater question is…Will God's Word journey through you? Read it through, pray it in, live it out and pass it on. Jesus says, "You guys want to learn to pray?"

We know in Luke, the disciples specifically came to him and said, "Teach us how to have the intimacy with God. Clearly, you think prayer is important." Jesus said, "Okay. When you pray, pray this way," and this is what he said. We could spend weeks on this. I literally could break this down. I could do a week on each phrase, and I'm not, but I'm going to get us started. He says, "When you pray, start this way."

"Our Father…" First of all, he's not just your Dad. There are more people in the family than just you, so don't make it just about you. Realize this. He is your Father. You have the ability to pray because of the relationship you have with him. The relationship you have with him is not by your choosing. Just like I didn't choose my earthly father, you didn't choose your heavenly Father. God, in his goodness, brought us forth as he revealed to us his grace, and we, in humility, responded to what was so. He says, "Just remember this. He is your Father. You are the child, and he is the Father."

One of my favorite little deals that I got… A buddy of mine who played baseball a long time ago for the Cardinals. He made his own baseball card, and on the back of it, he put this little statement. This was on the back of his card that he would give the kids who asked for autographs. It just has this.

"Dear Son, as long as you live in this house, you will follow the rules. When you have your own house, you can make your own rules. But in this house, we don't have a democracy. I didn't campaign your father, you did not vote for me. We are father and son by the grace of God, and I accept that privilege and awesome responsibility.

In accepting it, I have the obligation to perform the role of a father. I am not your pal. Our ages are too different. We can share many things, but we are not pals. I am your father. I also am your friend, but we are on entirely different levels. You will do in this house as I say, and you cannot question me because whatever I ask you to do is motivated by love. This will be hard for you to understand until you have a son of your own. Until then, trust me. I am your father."

I like to read that every now and then because there's never going to be a time when I move into my house. The Scriptures tell me, "I don't care where I go. I can't hide from my Father. This is my Father's world." My wife sometimes likes to say to me, "Bro, this is your world. I'm just living it," which is her way of saying vacate. "You are the head of this home. That is your title, your role, not your rank, Mr. Wagner. So vacate. Serve me as great leaders have always done."

But I don't say that to God. I don't go, "This is just your world. I'm living it, big boy." I go, "This is your world, and I am so grateful I am living in it. By the way, Lord, I know this is not the world you intended it to be because you have many of us who have gone our own way and have rebelled against you. So this house is not in order.

I thank you, though, that you will reclaim it. Until that day that you reclaim it, I can be in this house speaking to other brothers who are making a wreck of it and bringing dysfunction and incest and abuse and infidelity into this home and speak truth to them, remind them of the forgiveness of who you are, and do all I can to restore order until you come back home one day.

This is your world, Lord, in terms of sovereignty, not your world in terms of current state. I am grateful I can be here in advance of your coming with the Spirit of my Father living in me, reminding each other of things that are so." When you pray, you remind yourself who he is and the fact that your relationship is what gives you the ability to talk to him. You don't have to impress him, he's your Dad. He wants to talk to you as a father wants to talk to his son. Not with dead formality but with a heart that's engaged. Now, watch this.

He comes back from that, and he says, "Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed…" Right there, that word hagiazō means separate, altogether different than me. He is not like me. We often think of holiness as moving ourselves away from sin and darkness and death and perversion.

Rightly so, we move ourselves away from those things in terms of participating with them, but for too many times, believers have somehow developed this idea of monastic holiness, which is, "I will go and build a small place in the wilderness, and I will live there. None of the world will come into me."

Jesus did not call us to monastic living. He didn't call us to separate ourselves horizontally. He said, "I want you to be in the world but not of the world." What he called you to do is to be separate, not horizontally by isolating yourself. You be in the world, but not of it. You be separate from that world. You live above it.

A boat is worthless when it's not at sea. That's what a boat is built for. A boat is also worthless when the sea is in the boat. "So you get in that ocean of despair and rebellion, and you sail through it as you loved me. You remember this. You are nothing like me. So when I do things that don't make sense to you, or I don't do things you think I should do, know this. I am strong, and I love you.

This world is not spinning out of control. I know it's difficult for you to see, but I am not like you. I am not impatient. I am not bound by time. I am never overwhelmed or anxious. I am wholly different than you. I am your Father. I am your heavenly Father, and my ways are not your ways, just as much as the heavens are not a part of the earth. You just remember who you're talking to."

I love this. He says, "Lord, may I remember your name is holy." This is really significant. He said, "When you speak of me. This gets back to where we were in James last week. In James, it talks about, "Don't ever let what you see happening get you discouraged to where you doubt the goodness of God."

Remember how he says, "When you pray, start by reminding yourself of things that are true." You have a relationship with God by grace. He is nothing like you. He is your Father. You are a child, and he is wholly different than anything you will ever get your arms around. All you can do is accept what he's giving you about himself.

He is hallowed, and don't ever make his name anything less than completely separate from anything you can imagine. The love of God is so radically beyond anything you can imagine. The redemptive nature of God is so radically beyond anything you can imagine. The justice of God is coming, and it's so radically beyond anything you could ever imagine.

That's why he says, "Let vengeance be mine. I am altogether different than you, and don't forget it. You run to what you know about me. Don't shift in your understanding of who I am. When you pray, start by reminding yourself that the one that you talked to is radically different from anything you could ever imagine." Don't ever dumb him down to incompetence or petty or needy. He is none of the above.

I just did a small little study on the name of the Lord. It's all throughout the Scripture, but let me run you through a few of them. In fact, in Psalm 9:7-10, we'll start there. This is just what the psalmist was reminding himself of.

"But the LORD abides forever." This is who he is. "He has established His throne for judgment…" It's not shaken. "…and He will judge the world in righteousness; He will execute judgment for the peoples with equity." He's reminding himself of who God is, that he is altogether different. His justice is perfect. Isn't that what people want? "The LORD also will be a stronghold for the oppressed…" That's his name. He's a deliverer for the oppressed. "…a stronghold in times of trouble; and those who know Your name will put their trust in You, for You, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You."

Watch this. Those who know your name and what it means, they're going to put their trust in you because they know they're crazy to put their trust anywhere else. So as you start to pray, Jesus says, "Re-center yourself." When you find yourself in a precarious situation, start by reminding yourself of the intimacy you have with the holy one. Remember that he is holy and that his name is good, and everything that is good can be found in his name.

It says in Proverbs 18, "The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous runs into it and is safe." That doesn't mean when you say the name Jesus or Jehovah or Yahweh or Adonai or HaShem or whatever you want to call him or Allah, that that name has some significant supernatural power. The person has the power. The person of God has the power.

That's why I have no problem when I'm talking to an Arab about Allah, but I want to tell them, "You don't know Allah. You have labeled him wrongly. He is not looking for you to perform deeds of righteousness and five pillars. He has performed the only deed that could ever be righteous enough for him. You have misnamed Allah. When you know who Allah is and you see him as Father, it will change your heart." It's the name of the Lord, what he represents, who he is.

Look at this. Genesis 16:13. I love this one. "Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her…" This is Hagar. This is the concubine of Abraham. She had been abused and scorned and mistreated, and she cried out to God. She is a foreigner, a non-Jew. It says God heard her. This is the name of God. This was one of the names that Hagar gave God. Isn't this a great name? "My God is a God who sees." That's the name of your Lord.

Isaiah 40:27-31 says, "Do not assert, O Israel, do not cry, O Jacob, that my way has escaped the notice of my God. For he does not grow weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He does not sleep." So you don't need to wake him with endless repetition. This is the name of your Father. You have a Father who sees.

Do you remember what Jesus said? "Your Dad knows what you need before you ever even say it, but it's okay to say it." One of the things I love when my kids are hurting is to have them crawl up in my lap. This is why blasphemy is such a problem. Blasphemy is when you give somebody a false name, or you assign things to their name that are not true, or you take away things from their name that they should have.

Leviticus 24:16. "Moreover, the one who blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death…" That's not a judgment. That's just a fact. Whenever you don't think God is where you should go for life, this is the idea. Prayer is reminding yourself who God is. When you pray, remember it's about the relationship that your Father, who chose you, has given you, and he's altogether different than you in his name.

If you don't know him for who he is, you're not going to go to him. When you don't go to him, you go somewhere else. Since he is the author and giver of life, when you go to somewhere else, what do you get? The opposite of life. God cannot offer you life apart from him because life does not exist apart from him. That is why blasphemy, both in actuality and in truth, is really consequented by death.

It says, "…all the congregation shall certainly stone him." Do everything you can to drive that false idea of God out. Look at this about the name of the Lord. Deuteronomy 5:11: "You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain." This means when you represent God…

Sometimes we think it's just a cuss word. When you say, "Goddamn," you go, "You took the name of God in vain." There are certain things that God says, "I want to damn, I want to eradicate forever," but God doesn't want us to do that callously or flippantly. If we knew what hell was really like, we wouldn't want to damn anything to hell. We know that's God's business, but we want to call out to them to repent and have mercy. This is not the idea here. There's a reason we don't do that people and say that to people.

What he's talking about here when he says, "Use the Lord's name in vain," is when you represent God, when you respond to him, when you live, and you say you know him, if you don't live as he would have you live, that is saying, "I do what I do in the name of the Lord." If it's not what God would have you do, that's a problem. "People are going to figure out who I am by the way that you behave. I don't appreciate you misrepresenting me."

How many people do you know who will throw this at you? "Oh yeah. How many wars have happened in the name of God?" A bunch, right? Well, God's not happy about that either. God's saying, "You be very careful when you move forward into absolute certainty that what you're doing is in my name. You get my name wrong, you misrepresent my name, we're going to have a chat."

We do that all the time. We take very seriously our name. When people misrepresent us or when people mislead people, we're showing up to have a conversation because a good name is to be more desired than great riches. God says, "I care about my name. I care deeply about my name." All throughout the Scripture, there are more of these ideas.

As we start, here's what God is saying, "As you start praying, you start by reminding yourself that ours is a relationship. I don't want you to perform your way into my presence. Be still, not spectacular. You remember I'm nothing like you, and that my name is good. Don't let the Enemy or your circumstances pull you away from the truth of who I am. Once you know that my name is good, remind yourself that what you really want more than anything, more than your daughter being healed of cancer, more than that relationship being restored is my will.

You might even know that your will is to have that relationship restored. You just do what you can. I will take care of my will in other people. So just worship me. Make sure you're doing everything you can as much as you are able to be at peace with men. You pray that my kingdom will come, that my will be done, and you make sure that you are in tune with it."

Do you hear that, so far, we have not asked for a single thing? We have just re-centered our hearts. Jesus says, "When you pray, pray in this manner. Remember who I am, and remember that I am good and strong and that I love you, and stay with me. Worship me." You and I were made for worship. That's where's life is. When we worship, you and I will see that's who we were meant to be. At peace with our Father.

Lord, we're going to have a fun day today because we're going to try and meditate throughout the day that we have a relationship with you. So we're going really just say, "More than anything, Father, let me represent your name rightly around the Super Bowl. Let me represent your name rightly in the way I love and reach out to others. Let me represent your name rightly in the thoughts and the meditations of my heart." Let me not be discouraged or frustrated as the world spins different directions, because you're not discouraged or frustrated.

You're the God who sees. A lot of what's going on out there we see is really messed up because the world does not know who you are. So we want your world to come. We want your kingdom to be here. My job is to do everything I can to live as you would have me live in your kingdom. I know as dysfunction circulates in the house all around me that you'll take care of that. Let me be salt and light. Let me bring light into some rooms of darkness.

I'm so thankful, Lord, you know all about the world you've put me in and this moment to serve you. I want to serve you well. I don't ever want to have parrot-like prayers. I want to have constant meditation in my heart about who you are and a right response to it. Make me that kind of worshiper for you.

Let's stand and pray that prayer together.

Jesus says, "When you pray, pray in this manner. Embrace surrender. Vacate. Worship me. Rest in the goodness of who I am. Don't change my name. Don't make me something I am not. Follow me for I am good. I am strong, and I good."

If you're here today, and you don't know the goodness of God expressed through Jesus Christ specifically, we invite you to come and let us talk with you. Check the box on that little perforated section that says, "I want to know more about how to have a relationship with this Father who mercy on me if I just ask." You may think you can't be forgiven because of what you did last night, but you couldn't be more wrong. This is a gracious God who has already provided for you. You just need to ask.

For those of us who know him, as you go out forgiven and free, I pray you love. I pray you enter into rooms where there is still dysfunction, incest, infidelity, isolation, and hatred and you remind them that their Father wants them back in the house where there's peace. Grab a silly bag of Cheetos. Use it as a means to share his love. Have a great week of worship. We'll see you.


About 'Vacate'

Prayer. What is it, after all? Reciting words from a prayer book? Presenting God with our requests? Or desperately crying out to Him in our time of need?<br /><br />In this series, Todd Wagner shares the one word that most accurately sums up the Bible's teaching on prayer: VACATE. Could it be that prayer is really about abandoning our own agenda and efforts and &nbsp;allowing God to lead. Or taking a break from our plans and trying out His?<br /><br />In this series you'll hear friends and theologians alike all testifying to the same truth: that life is found in being still before God in prayer. And that when we VACATE, we?ll find a right perspective on who God is and why we all are in need of a Savior.