“Reframing God: Why Pray?” by Jamie Schwarz

At Gateway Church in Austin we continued our new series called “Reframing God.”

Most of us pray. Even those of us unsure about God still pray, especially when we are in the midst of a crisis. Prayer can be a powerful experience in our lives, but we need to reframe how we view God. Prayer is not about telling God what to do. Prayer enables us to share our hearts with God and realign ourselves to who He is and what He has for us.

Message Discussion:

Work through the following questions and scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner,  life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.

Next Steps

Message Video:

Message Notes from Carlos Ortiz and Jamie Schwarz:

As we talk about reframing God, this week we wanted to address the act of prayer, and how we interact with God.  

Trying to pray all night while in college

Discovered the need for hitting singles instead of a grand slam every once in a while

Let’s be clear, today we are not going to teach you how to pray in all of its forms and functions.  But today we ARE going to walk away with two things: 

1. A better understanding of God’s heart towards prayer 

2. The model of Jesus’ call to prayer

  1. God’s heart towards prayer

There are countless definitions of prayer, dozens of ways that people approach prayer.  Books on prayer, training on prayer, classes, conferences, podcasts, websites, entire ministries geared towards prayer, and yet, prayer is one of the most elusive parts of knowing God.  So let’s be clear and simple as we talk about prayer and connecting with God.  God’s heart towards prayer is in three parts:  

God wants to be known

Since we believe that God wants to have a relationship with us, he is not elusive by nature, and He IS the knowable God…

Jeremiah 29:12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

…then our goal is to know God, to have a relationship with God. In that case, prayer becomes the communication part of the relationship, the conduit that flows back and forth between our thoughts and desires and God’s heart and desires for us. 

Jeremiah 9:23 This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, 24 but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD.

God wants alignment with him

As we grow into learning and knowing God, it is vital that we then align ourselves with him.  If we’re not careful, we can move forward in our spiritual journey with a notion that God conforms to us, but the truth is that we are made in God’s image and we are to take steps to be more like the image God had intended for us.  When we walk in addiction, yes, God is with us, and wooing us into a right relationship with him and to step away from the toxic patterns that destroy us and the image of God in us.  But now that we are clean, and working our steps, we cannot assume that a return to toxicity is anywhere along the path of growing in God. 

Proverbs 26:11 – As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly

So alignment in our heart and in our actions keep us walking the path we were intended to walk all along.  Let me ask you a question, “Do you really trust yourself with your entire life?”  I sure don’t.  I know that I am halfway smart, have some talent(s), I can make a living for myself and I can get some wins along the way.  But I DO NOT trust myself to become the full version that I was created to be.  

So prayer is the humble act of saying, “I cannot do this on my own.  God, I need you to be my North star.”

1 John 5:14-15 – 14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

“Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays.” – Kierkegaard

Prayer is not a communication tool that works for us, it’s a communication tool that changes us.

God wants healthy relationship with us

I read St. Teresa of Avila’s description of prayer years ago, and it reminds me of how practical this thing we call “prayer” can be.

Prayer is “…frequent solitary conversation with Him who, as we know, loves us.” – St. Teresa of Avila

I Thessalonians 5:16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 

What this is saying is that a healthy relationship with God (as it is with other humans) has a consistency to it.  We’ve created unhealthy patterns in our human relationships that we have to keep fighting culture to stay healthy.  

For example, if you as a spouse celebrate your spouse on New Years, Valentines, your anniversary, birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, yearly vacation, first time you met, first time you kissed, first time you held hands, first time you made love, every child’s birthday and so on and so on…you’re only celebrating your love a handful of times out of 365 days a year.  You might feel good about sending the flowers, buying the gifts, eating the chocolate, enjoying the vacation, but that doesn’t equate to real relationship with the person you say you love the most.  What about the other 300+ days a year?!  

So let’s take that and talk about God.  If you come to church once a month, Christmas, Easter, and Throwdown…you’re talking about 15 times out of 52.  Multiply that times the other 300+ days a year in which we do or do not communicate with God, and we’ve just put God, the creator of the world, the one who formed you, loves you unconditionally, in the same category as an earthly relationship.  AND neither one is actually a healthy relationship. 

So if God’s heart is that he wants all of you, and all the time, how do we respond to him in a way that is pleasing and healthy?

This is where we move on to Jesus’ model of prayer for us:

The contextual beauty of learning to pray, according to Jesus model found here in Matthew (and you also find it in the book of Luke) is that he’s teaching his disciples to pray.  This isn’t a message on discipleship (a person fully positioned and submitted to become a follower of another person and/or ideology), but in this context we understand that discipleship is a “how to” process.  So we can take Jesus’ words literally as next steps.  So let’s read and then break it down.

Matthew 6:6 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. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

9 “This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,

10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

11 Give us today our daily bread.

12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’

What can we learn from this passage?

  1. Prayer that builds a relationship with God is done in private
  2. Authentic language from the person praying is imperative 
  3. There are different ways to pray

Before he even starts to pray Jesus first addresses how we approach prayer, he addresses our motive. 

He’s not really making a judgment about public versus private prayer, as if one is better than the other, instead he’s helping us understand that the focus of this type of prayer is relationship. The way he is about to pray is about remembering who God is, aligning with God, and drawing near to him. It’s not about being super spiritual or being seen and gaining power and reputation.

It’s also not about performance. Notice he’s already referring to God as Father. This reminds us of the nature of our relationship with God. We are not his employees that if we perform really well then he owes us and has to answer our prayers. That type of relationship is conditional upon performance. God is our heavenly Father, and he hears us and responds to us as such. 

When a loving Father’s child messes up or makes a mistake or even just doesn’t do something well, does the father fire them from the family? No, because he loves them and that’s not how a loving family works.

[This Section is by Jamie Schwarz:

Jesus calls us to approach God daily, quietly, and privately as a loving Father who we are seeking to connect with and draw near to. This type of approach is proactive relationship building.

How might approaching God this way change the way you see him and connect with him?

Now as Jesus starts his prayer, I want you to notice a few of things:

Jesus’ prayer reflects what he himself has said is the greatest command…love God and love people. The first part of the prayer focuses on God and the second part of the prayer focuses on people. Jesus has structured his prayer this way intentionally in order that it reflects his values and priorities.

Also notice he says “our” and “us” in his prayer not “my or me”. 

If he was teaching us to pray a personal prayer, he could have focused simply on the individual, but he didn’t. This is a reminder that it’s not just us. God is not just my father, he is our father, and we are a part of his family.

When Jesus prays his prayer reflects that. He is teaching us to that it’s important to remember daily that we are a part of God’s family, he is our father, and we are his children.

As Jesus shared this prayer it is reasonable to believe that he intended this prayer to be

something his followers would pray and meditate on daily. This prayer was meant to be used as a daily reframing of God and of our approach to this life.

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…”

Jesus starts with our Father which is meant to remind us of who we are talking to. His prayer starts with an everyday reframing of who God is to us. Clearly this is so important for us to remember as we come to him.

Then he prays for God’s name to be hallowed, meaning holy, unique, set apart. 

Jesus is ultimately praying for God’s name, his reputation to be restored to its rightful place. 

Why? God created humans in his image to bear his image in the earth, to be his representative. But what happens to someone’s reputation and good name when those who are sent to represent them don’t do it well? Their name and reputation are damaged.

Jesus came to be the perfect image of God, the perfect representation of God here on earth and through him to restore God’s image bearers (that’s us) and therefore ultimately restoring God’s name and reputation.

Vs. 10 – “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Here Jesus is praying for and reminding us of the goal of full reconciliation and restoration between God and humans and heaven and earth. 

As we pray this we are aligning our self with God will and plan instead of continuing to pursue our own. It’s easy to start our days getting caught up in our to do list and totally losing sight of the bigger picture and greater meaning of our life. But by praying and meditating on this we are reminded of something much bigger and higher that we get to be a part of. Remembering this reframes not only how we see God but how we see our day. It infuses each day with purpose and meaning.

vs . 11 –  “Give us today our daily bread.”

Does anyone remember a story in the Bible of people who had to rely on God for their daily bread? 

The Israelites did as they were being led by God through a desert wilderness. Each day God provided them with just enough bread (manna) for the day. They couldn’t store it up or it would go bad. They learned through this to rely on God and to trust him for their provision.

This line is helping us reframe how we look at our stuff. Every good and perfect gift comes from God and when we pass on from this life, we can’t take our stuff with us. This encourages us to be grateful to God for what we have and to be generous and share it with each other.

V. 12 – “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

As Jesus was hanging on the cross, not long before he would die, he prays to the Father asking him to forgive his enemies. Jesus consistently modeled forgiveness throughout his life and even at the point of his death. He chose to let justice fall on him so that he could give us grace. 

There is no greater sign that the grace of God has really come home in our hearts and minds than our willingness to forgive others the way we have been forgiven. Praying this daily helps us remember what we’ve been forgiven and choose to willingly walk in forgiveness and to let the grace of God overflow from us to the world around us.

V. 13 – “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”

We live in a fallen imperfect world and this last line reminds us of that. In this part of the prayer Jesus acknowledges we will face temptation, but he prays fom the Father to lead us away from it, to provide us with a way out. And lastly, he prays for deliverance from evil. In the face of temptation and evil he is asking his heavenly Father to help him resist and to remain faithful to him.

Jesus’ prayer is a gift to us, and we are meant to come back to it over and over again, praying it many times daily, as much as we need. My hope is, after going through this together, that you have a renewed and refreshed perspective of prayer. And I hope that you will pray and meditate on Jesus’ prayer daily as a way to reframe how you see and connect with God, as well as the world around you.]

I compiled a list of common expressions of prayer that help us to Frame God rightly.  It may not be the most exhaustive list, but it is one that Christ followers from all backgrounds can agree upon.  

What you’ll notice is that the Lord’s Prayer encompasses all 7 of these aspects in it. 

Adoration

The first of these seven types of prayer is adoration. Adoration is praising God for who He is. God is the Lord of all and deserves our praise because of that alone.

Psalm 104:1- “Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, you are great! 

Lament

The next prayer type is lament. God wants us to bring our fears, doubts, and despair to Him. In 1 Peter 5:7, we are told to cast all our anxieties on Him. We see countless examples of lament in the Bible, where faithful followers of God wrestled with doubts, difficulty, and even depression. An entire book of the Bible is called Lamentations, after all! 

Lamentations 5:1-3 – “Remember, O Lord, what has befallen us; look, and see our disgrace! Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers, our homes to foreigners. We have become orphans, fatherless; our mothers are like widows. 

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is the next of the types of prayer. Similar to adoration, but thanksgiving is giving God praise for what He has done. God has done so much for each of us, not the least of which is sending Christ to save us from our sins. When praying, think of the things that God has done in your life and recognize Him for that by giving thanks. This will also help you build an attitude of gratitude in your daily life. 

Petition

The fourth of the types of prayer is petition. Petition is what many people imagine when they think about prayer. It means asking God for something, whether for yourself or someone else. And God certainly wants us to do this! Philippians 4:6 tells us to let our requests be known to God. But prayer is not just about asking God to do things for us — it’s just one of the many ways that He wants us to communicate with Him. 

Deliverance

The next prayer type is deliverance. Prayers of deliverance are similar to prayers of petition. They are requests made to God to save us or others from difficult or even dangerous situations. But they are also an acknowledgement that we can do nothing apart from God, and that He has the power to save. 

Luke 22:41-42

And he (Jesus) withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.’”

Contrition

The sixth type of prayer is contrition. Contrition is the feeling of remorse and the desire to repent of sin. You are probably familiar with prayers like this, ones that ask God for forgiveness for things we have done. They are important prayers that allow us to confess our wrongdoing and reconnect with our forgiving Heavenly Father. Psalm 51 tells us that when we mess up, God desires “a broken and contrite heart” from us. 

Psalm 51:1-4

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.”

Guidance

Similar to prayers for deliverance, these conversations with God allow us to acknowledge God’s sovereignty. We can express that He knows best and that we trust him to direct our lives when we ask Him for guidance. Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us that we should not lean on our own understanding, but instead trust in the Lord with all our heart. Check out these three prayers from the Bible for examples of prayers for guidance.

ALL OF THESE TYPES OF PRAYERS are not meant to confuse you…on the contrary. All of this is to encourage you, that there are multiple ways to go before God, and that having everything in order and right is NOT a prerequisite to prayer.  You come as you are, with the intention of walking away better than you were. 

I’ll say it like this…communication with God has multiple entry points.  From God’s perspective it doesn’t matter which way you come in, as long as you come open, humble and ready to be made a little bit more in his image.

So why pray?

We need more of God in our life.

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