Sunday was Remembrance Day. It is a day we set aside to remember and honour the fallen, the veterans who survived and those who continue to serve and sacrifice so much so we can experience the freedoms we have in our country. I cannot imagine what our lives would have been like if 100 years ago, and subsequent wars since, if the results had been different.
War is something most of us have read about in history books but never experienced personally. We may have a relative who served, but even those are becoming fewer and fewer. The Syrian family we help are victims of war. The father’s first wife and one of his children were killed by a bomb. He understands war. Sadly, there are usually three outcomes of war… victory for one side, defeat or surrender by another and survivors left to try and piece together their lives from the devastation.
Our Sunday school class this week was talking about prayer, its effectiveness, and role in our lives. If I asked you, “Why do you pray?” how would you answer? I would suggest that you do not be too quick to give a generic Sunday school answer. Take a moment and think honestly, “What causes you to pray?”
I guess the answer to that question can be answered with another question, “When was the last time you prayed?” What I am talking about is our personal prayer life, not a prayer before a meal or during a small group meeting. How we answer that usually gives us a picture of both its purpose but also how we see God. I think that, at some level, we are tempted to view prayer only as a vehicle to bring God our list of wants, desires, or needs. If that is the case, we will only pray when something is outside of our ability to acquire it.
When we think of prayer, the passage that always comes to mind is Jesus’ model prayer for us in Matthew 6:9-13. Jesus says, “This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”
Do you see surrender in those words? I believe prayer is meant for that purpose. It is an act of surrender. We focus on the “asks,” but prayer is so much more. One of the things I love most – and that also challenges me the most – about The Lord’s Prayer is that it begins with and is themed by surrender. When we read, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” we often focus on the relational part, that God is our Father. But if we stop and think of what is behind our approach, there is a different nuance that often goes unnoticed.
This is a surrendering prayer. How do I come to that conclusion? I think there are four ways by which surrender is a theme of this prayer:
Firstly, prayer is surrendering to someone greater than you. Our confession of God as our Father immediately reduces ourselves to the level of a child. I think one of humanity’s greatest sins is its view of itself. We see ourselves as greater than we should partly because God made us the pinnacle of His Creation and He made us to have dominion over it, but another more devious and invisible reason is that of the sin of pride we carry in our hearts. Our view of ourselves and our view of God is often a picture of ourselves in the elevator going up and God descending down. Coming to God in an act of surrender is a recognition of our true place in the structure of the universe. It helps to keep us and God in our rightful places.
Secondly, prayer is surrendering to a plan bigger and better than your own. Prayer confronts us with the fact that we are not as smart or as powerful as we wish we were. I think all of us have been “put in our place” at some point in our lives. Maybe it was at school or in our jobs. Maybe we thought we knew the answers and discovered we were not so smart. We quote verses that God “works all things together for good…” which is true, but what we fail to acknowledge is sometimes the plan is different then what we expect or want. What prayer does is it reminds us that there is a Kingdom that spans from before Creation to beyond Eternity and includes everything in between. There is more to life than the here and now and how God works it out in our lives is His prerogative, not our own. This leads to the third point.
Thirdly, prayer is surrendering your right to live your life as you want. I think in our attempt to encourage people to pray more by “simplifying” it to being “talking with God” or “having coffee with Jesus,” we have taken the reverence part of whom we are conversing with? In essence, prayer is bowing our knee to the reality that we do not have any natural right at all to do what we want to do with our lives. We have been created to live inside God’s boundaries. Now many of you know I hate rules. Galatians teaches that the Law has no place in the Christian’s life. That being said, Paul also states that we are to live our lives in subjection to the rule and leading of His Spirit in our lives. As Jesus prayed, “Not my will, but thy will be done.” To yield to God’s Spirit will lead to a life that honours and glorifies God. When we allow God’s Spirit to lead and guide us, we will live within the parameters of God’s Word because God will not lead us anywhere contrary to it!
Fourthly, prayer is surrendering all your hopes and dreams in this life to God’s grace. All the petitions we read here are about God working in us and through us. “Give us,” is a plea for God to provide for our needs. “Forgive us,” is a plea for grace and mercy rather than the wrath we deserve. “Lead us,” is a desire for His guidance in how we live. “Deliver us,” is a call for His preservation from temptation and the evil one. In the end, this leads to calling out to God as our only hope in life. All we ask for is the generous, empowering grace of God!
We live in a world of turmoil where winning is the only acceptable outcome. But in the spiritual realm, the only way to win is to lose. Jesus said in Luke 9:24-25, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?”
So how do we respond to the Lord’s Prayer? I think the answer is both obvious and simple… we surrender. We know that in doing so, we will find true victory.