Learning to Pray

By Rev. Brent Russett – Asbury Free Methodist Church

April 23, 2023 – Matthew 6:9-13

            We are starting a three-week series on prayer today. In some ways, it is just a prayer primer. I am hoping that your faith will be built and that you will get a glimpse of what prayer actually does. It is also my hope that you will be inspired to pray more.

            I was reading a book this past week by Tyler Staton called “Praying Like Monks, Living like Fools,” which is a great title and an even better book. The book asks this question, , “If God gave you everything you asked for last week, what would happen?

            I prayed for a lot of people to be blessed. I prayed for a lot of people to be strengthened and helped. I prayed for a few healings, but sometimes those were prayed for in the sense that God would help the doctors do what they need to do get it right. I did pray for a couple of people by name that they would come to know the Lord. But overall, if I look at my prayers from last week, I could’ve prayed for bigger things; I could have prayed for more things.

            How about you? If you knew that God would say yes to all your prayer requests this coming week, would your prayer life be significantly different than it was last week? I suspect so. I know mine would be. I would not only be more specific in my prayers, I would pray a lot more.


            I want to take you back to the beginning of the Bible for a moment because it answers the question, “Why are we here?” God created a good world. He put humanity on this world with His Spirit in them. Then God gives us our job description.

Genesis 1:26 (NLT)

26 Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.”

            Why were you created? The biblical answer is to rule or reign. This is not some self-serving, power-hungry, manipulative kind of rule. We were made in the image of God. We were made to participate with God to lovingly oversee this world. We were given the honour of joining with God, bearing his authority to rule with selfless love.

            If you follow the story, Adam and Eve walked with God and named the animals. We were made to walk with God, and be God’s managers here on earth.

            Well, that went sideways, didn’t it? Our natural resources are being pillaged. Our environment is falling apart. Half the world is dying of starvation, while the other half is dying of obesity.

            The Bible tells us that this dysfunction is because of deception and sin. You and I lost who we are. We forfeited our role as Co-managers of his creation. We gave up our ability to walk with God. The ability and authority to rule over God’s creation, given to you and me, was handed over to Satan.

            It is like a paraplegic. They were made to walk. But something happened, and they lost authority over their legs. They were made to be managers of their legs, but they no longer have the ability to control that.

            But Jesus came into the world to redeem us and reconcile all things to himself. He came to restore our authority. On the night before he was crucified, he said,

John 16:24 (NIV)

24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

            To pray in Jesus’ name means to pray with recovered authority. To pray in Jesus’ name is more than putting a tagline at the end of a prayer. It means that we have been given back the authority that we were meant to carry in the first place. As Tyler Staton puts it, “You are not Jesus. But if you’re a follower of Jesus, every single time you pray, you come before the Father clothed in the robes and crown of a ruler. In the eyes of heaven, you are filled with Jesus’ status and standing.”

            Here is the thing, “When God won your authority back, God was winning prayer back.”

            Some of you are familiar with the term intercessory prayer. That is the kind of prayer we pray for others. That is the kind of prayer we pray when we want God to fix something that is broken in our world.

            Karl Barth, a Swiss theologian, said, “To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.”

            I love how “Praying like Monks” puts it.

            When we engage in intercessory prayer, we are loving others on the basis of heaven’s resources. Prayer is heaven’s high-security clearance – free access to stroll right into the heavenly vault, gather up whatever we can carry, and hand it out to the world. We are rulers, calling the shots for how heavenly resources are distributed, and intercession is a way of saying, “Oh, we’ve gotta have some here. Look, there’s something missing over there.” It is the distribution of God’s resources in the familiar environments that comprise our disordered world – among coworkers, roommates, neighbours, and strangers; add bars, cafes, and soup kitchens at high rises, housing projects, homeless shelters and prisons.

            But here is the worst-kept secret in the church. Most Christians don’t like to pray. Oh, we do it out of obligation or habit or obedience or guilt. We pray because we know it is good for us. Prayer is kind of the spiritual equivalent of eating a Kale salad.

            But what if we have never plundered the riches stored in heaven’s vault. What if we have never pushed back the curse alongside God?

            Here is the thing. God doesn’t need intercessors to manage his creation. He is now somehow overwhelmed with the responsibility of overseeing the world. He is all-knowing, all-powerful. God doesn’t need intercessors; God chooses intercessors.[1]

            So, back to the original question, “If God gave you everything you asked for last week, what would happen?


            We read the “Lord’s Prayer” found in Luke 11. I am going to take you to the one recorded in Matthew 6. Today, I want to focus on just a couple of phrases.

Matthew 6:9–13 (NIV)

“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.’

            Jesus says, when you pray, or this is how you should pray – say “Father.” That would have been a mind-blowing way to address God in Jesus’ time. We take it for granted. But it is wonderful that if you have invited Jesus into your life and asked for your sins to be forgiven, you have been adopted into the family of God. You can call God your Father.

            Jesus goes on to say, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name.” Holy is your name. You are set apart. While Father blows the mind of 1st-century people, we have trouble with “hallowed.” God is not only your Father, but he is God of the universe. He is not the man upstairs, nor is he your buddy – although he wants to be your friend. He deserves your greatest respect and awe, and admiration.

            But it is the next couple of verses I want to focus on. The first is

Matthew 6:10 (NIV)

10 Your kingdom come,

your will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven.

            Your kingdom come. That is another way of saying we live in a broken world, and God we are asking you to fix it. When you look around your life, and you see relational breakdown, and you pray for God to intervene, you are praying, “Your Kingdom Come.” When you look at your company going in the wrong direction, and you pray for change, you are praying “Your Kingdom come.” When you see the problem of people going hungry, power being abused, and conflict caused by selfishness, and you pray about those things, you are praying, “Your Kingdom Come.”

            Most of our intercessory prayers for others fall under “Your Kingdom Come.” When you are praying for the things that are broken in this world, you are praying the way Jesus has taught us to pray.

            Then Jesus goes on when he teaches us to pray to say, “

Matthew 6:11 (NIV)

11 Give us today our daily bread.

            I want to read you a story that Taylor Staton tells about himself,

We circled the parking lot for a second time. I was sitting in the back seat of my mother-in-law’s SUV in a well-to-do suburb a couple days after Christmas. The sprawling shopping center was dotted with chain restaurants and chain stores, and we weren’t the only ones needing to make a quick return or two from our Christmas morning gift exchange. She slowly circled, waiting to pounce on any vacant patch of concrete the instant someone’s reverse lights clicked on.

That’s when I heard her say it to no one in particular. Well, technically, it was to someone in particular. She addressed the statement very personally, but it rolled off her tongue like an afterthought. “Jesus, help us find a parking spot.”

             Are you kidding me? I thought to myself from the back seat.

We are operating an unnecessarily large vehicle for reasons I assume are aesthetic, despite the well-known fact that vehicles of this size overconsume limited natural resources, and you’ve got the audacity to plead help from the God who created this world we’re so thoughtlessly plundering?

            We are waiting approximately 120 additional seconds to walk inside to exchange a few garments we don’t need anyway. And you’re gonna ask the God whose arrival provoked the command that “anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none”1 to help you pick out something more tasteful for our overstuffed closets?

With a straight face, you’re gonna ask God to bend the arc of the universe in the direction of your shopping convenience when 690 million people are going hungry today, and we’re probably gonna let the leftovers in our overflowing holiday fridge go bad? Don’t you think God is too busy addressing the hunger pangs of those people to worry about our wait to get into the shopping mall?

             My internal monologue (thank God I didn’t say any of that out loud) was interrupted by her voice. “Yes! There’s one. Thank you, Jesus!”

This story is mostly hyperbole. All the facts are true, but I’m not quite that unbearably judgmental. Close, but not quite that bad.

            This is where so many of us get hung up when it comes to prayer—the asking part. Jesus insists on it, though. Jesus insists on “world hunger” prayers and “parking space” prayers alike. He won’t have it any other way. Right in the middle of a prayer as cosmic as “hallowed be your name,” as apocalyptic as “your kingdom come,” as contrite as “forgive us,” and as spiritual as “deliver us from the evil one,” Jesus includes the unavoidably practical, circumstantial, and immediate “give us today our daily bread.”[2]

            Intercessory prayer, in its simplest form, is asking God for help. But what should we ask God to help with? I have run into so many people who struggle with this question. Some will pray for other people, but they have trouble praying for themselves. Others will ask God for big things but won’t ask God for little things. Some, out of good motives, don’t want to be selfish, so they don’t want to ask God for what they want.

            How should we pray? What is worth praying about, and what is just life?

            One of the striking things about the Lord’s Prayer that we tend to overlook because we read our English translations is that it was given in the language of the people. It was prayed in the language that you would hear at the grocery store or Tim Hortons or when you are out for a meal with your friends.

            Contrast that with the stained glass prayers we often hear. O Lord, I pray that you would grant me thy peace. We use a language that is different than the spoken word that we use every day. You will remember that God’s name is to be hallowed, that he is to be respected. The other side of that is that He expects us to come before Him as we are, as ourselves. He does not expect us to put on airs and become someone else.

            One of the things that I have noticed about my own spiritual life is that the further I feel from God, the more formal my prayer language becomes. The closer I feel to God, the more my prayer language is congruent with how I would talk with other people. It is like I talked with my earthly dad.

            When you talk to God, are you yourself? Now being yourself, what are the things that you care about in your daily life? Do you care about parking spots and finding things that you misplaced? If you do, then it is a matter of prayer. When your prayer language stays grounded, you stay grounded.


            Let me give you another way of determining what you should pray for. Gratitude. What would or should you be thankful for. Gratitude indicates what to pray for. Would you be thankful for a safe drive home, a problem solved, a resolution to an uncertainty – then pray about those things.

            If we pray for the war in Ukraine to end but neglect to give thanks for tonight’s dinner of chicken fried rice, we miss out on a lot. If we are praying for a great revival in our area but miss praying about the little encouragements in our spiritual life, we miss so much. If we pray for the people overseas but fail to pray for those who serve us at Tim Horton, we are missing the Daily Bread kind of prayers.

            If we only bring the big issues of life to God and not the small issues, our God is too small. (That kind of thinking says that I don’t want to burden God with my little requests because he has such big requests to deal with. When we say that we are saying that the almighty eternal God doesn’t have the bandwith to deal with both at the same time. If you think that your God is too small.

             If we are sure we know the priorities of God and rule out parking spaces in favour of starving kids in Africa, our God is too small. It is not an either/or; it is a both/and. God is big and mysterious, and when we think that we can only pray for the big things and not the daily bread kind of things, then our pride in our knowledge of God has outstripped who God really is.


            I started off today talking about how we were given authority to rule and reign with God in this world. We were given the authority to be co-creators and co-managers with God in this world. But because we were deceived, because sin came into the world, we gave up our authority and handed it over to the evil one. But, because of what Jesus did, we who have given our lives to him have been given the right to use his authority to pray. In Jesus, our authority has been restored. We have the right to plunder the vaults of heaven.

            But many of our prayers have become restricted. I can only pray for the big things and not the little things. I can only pray if I am really, really sure that my motives are not selfish. I can only pray if the prayer is spiritual in nature. When we get to the place where we pray churchy kind of prayers and not Tim Hortons kind of prayers, we have restricted ourselves. In doing so, we have restricted what God wants to do in our lives. What James said is true; we do not have because we do not ask.


            So, here is your challenge for this week. I want you to develop the habit of praying “Daily Bread” kinds of prayers. Here is your challenge. Every day this week. I want you to find 12 daily bread things to bring before God in prayer. That is less than one an hour while you are awake. If you go out, pray for the people you come in contact with. If someone comes to your mind, pray for them. If you need something small or big, ask God for it. If you have a meeting or an appointment, pray about it before you get there. If you have a decision to make, pray about it. Twelve things every day.

            If you do this it will help you cultivate the godly habit of bringing the things that you encounter in your day to God in prayer. I want to help you live out Philippians 4:6

Philippians 4:6 (NLT)

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.

            Try to practice this discipline throughout the day. But if you get to the end of your day and you realize that you haven’t done it – then ask God to bring 12 “daily bread” kind of things to your mind so you can pray about it at the end of your day. If you need help, set the alarm on your cell phone that goes off every hour – and when it goes off – ask yourself have I prayed for something this past hour – if you haven’t, pray for what you missed in the last hour.

            Of course, when God answers prayer, be sure to give thanks. Some of you will pray for way more than 12 things. Awesome, but I am asking that you aim for at least 12.

            The disciples said to teach us to pray. Jesus did. But the only way to learn to pray is to pray. What I am talking about here is normal Christian living.

            So, will you attempt to pray for 12 things throughout the day this coming week? Continual pray will change your life, your community, your heart.

            It wil make a difference in your world. Can you imagine if everyone at Asbury started doing this all the time. Our town would be come well prayed for. We would be raiding the vaults of heaven for our area.

            Are you willing to give it a try?

[1] Staton – Living like Monks – pg 106

[2] Staton, Tyler. Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools (pp. 116-117). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Sermon Questions for

Learning to Pray – Matthew 6:9-13


1. What are you giving thanks for this week?

2. What are you praying about this week?

Digging in

3. Read – Genesis 1:26 – What is the job description of humanity? What does that mean for how we were meant to live?

4. What went wrong? Who claimed the authority that we once had?

5. Read John 16:24. What does this say about our authority in prayer now? What does this tell us about our salvation from the results of the fall?

6. Read Matthew 6:9-13 – How was addressing God as Father controversial in the first century? How is “hallowed be thy name” controversial in our century?

7. vs 10. Your kingdom come/Your will be done. – What kinds of prayers do we pray now that ask God for this?

8. The sermon told Tyler Staton’s story about parking lot prayers. Have you ever struggled with praying about little things? Why or why not?

9. Vs. 11. Give us this day our daily Bread. – What are daily bread kinds of prayers? Why do you think that God wants us to pray these kinds of prayers?

10. How do we sometimes restrict how we pray and what we pray for?

11. Read Philippians 4:6. (The New Living Translation is a great translation for this verse.) How does this verse fit into the “Daily Bread” kind of praying? How does this verse tell us to pray?

12. The sermon suggested that you should make 12 Daily Bread kind of prayers your goal. Are you willing to try to reach for that goal?