One night a disciple happened upon Jesus while he was praying privately. He may have watched him in silence for a few minutes. Maybe he saw Jesus’ genuineness or his earnest intensity as he prayed. Whatever it was this disciple witnessed, when Jesus finally got up from praying the disciple said to the Lord: “Lord, teach us to pray.” (Luke 11:1) He saw in Jesus something he wanted for himself. He knew he didn’t know how to pray like Jesus…but he wanted to learn.
If we are honest with ourselves we would have to admit, that we are like that disciple. We too need to learn how to pray. The amazing thing is that Jesus wants to teach us to pray like He prays! That’s right you too can learn the Prayer Principles of Jesus!
Right in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus teaches His disciples HOW TO PRAY…Matthew 6:5-13. In this most famous sermon, Jesus teaches His prayer principles. The sermon in its entirety focuses on genuine righteousness from the heart…because the culture of the day…focussed on external religious behaviour as a sign of piety and religiosity. But where religion focusses on external behaviour and showing obedience to rules…Jesus focusses on the heart…because YOUR HEART IS WHAT MATTERS TO GOD…especially when it comes to prayer! This passage stands out among the passages on prayer as one of the most detailed lessons on prayer.
Pray in SECRET…
“…and when you pray…”Matthew 6:5-6
Susannah Wesley, the mother of 19 children of whom John Wesley and Charles Wesley are the foremost known and have impacted literally millions of people for Christ. Their mother Susannah is known to have sat in the middle of her kitchen with her apron up over her head. When the children saw their mother seated with the apron on her head they knew not to disturb their dear mother. What a precedent setting action which I am sure left indelible marks on her sons future life and ministry.
Jesus’ first point makes a DISTINCTION. Here in Matthew 6:5-6 Jesus identifies 2 types of prayer…
First, there is the showcase prayer…is the first example Jesus uses…where a person prays…in order to draw attention to himself. In this guy Jesus was addressing the two faced hypocrisy of the Pharisees, religious leaders who were putting a legalistic requirement on the disciplines of the spiritual life. They wanted to be seen as “the religious elite“. They wanted to be seen and known as “spiritual”. But Jesus said very clearly “Don’t be like that!” These people pray to be seen and heard by others. . Their reward is public applause and acclaim.
What might that look like today in my life? Some possible WARNING SIGNS of show case prayer may look like:…
- When I am…more concerned with what people think of my prayer rather than what God thinks…
- When I am…wanting to be seen/known as “spiritual and holy”…
- When I…feel the need to use lots of elegant words that I don’t normally use…
- When I…have a personal agenda that I want my prayers to accomplish…speak to people, tell them what I think.
- When I…use public prayer as a source of gossip. “Please God. Help Brother So & So with temptations this week, You know how he struggles.” Or “Sister So & So…help her Lord to resist that guy…he is such bad news for her.”
By the way, beware of your public prayer of any kind without a private prayer life. It is a given that if you are not speaking to the Father when you are alone, there is no good speaking to Him publicly.
By the way, it is not wrong to pray in public in the assembly of God’s people…there are plenty of Scriptural examples of public prayer…In Acts 12 there were the gathered believers who were praying together. Timothy and the early church were encouraged to pray for all men and kings and those in authority. Jesus prayed in John 6:11 when He blessed the bread before the people ate…(See also John 11:41-42; Acts 27:35; 1 Timothy 2:1ff)
SECRET…Instead Jesus says v.6 “But you, when you pray go into your room, shut the door and pray to your Father who is in the secret place.” THIS IS TO PRAY SECRETLY!
Jesus’ example for His disciples…He went to…the mountain at night…He went frequently to the Garden of Gethsemane that’s why Judas knew He would be there
So Jesus says…find a secret place, go for a walk, go into your room, shut the door…find a closet, empty office, the workshop in your garage…get away from people and be alone with God.
So…WHY would Jesus say that? Why should I shut the door?
a. MAKE THE TIME…A very practical reason for this SECRET prayer…top hindrance to prayer is time…here Jesus is implying make the time…be intentional. When it comes to prayer all of us have the same 24 hours in a day.Be deliberate to make the time to pray.
b.ELIMINATE THE DISTRACTIONS…you name it…dog barking, phone notifications going off, voices, birds, a busy schedule…anything can cause me to lose my focus and concentration. Jesus knows I am like that…so leave your phone alone. Get away from distractions…and find quietness, alone time with God.
c. PRAYER IS RELATIONAL…Someone has said: “Prayer is not a spectator sport“…in other words, not prayer is not something we use to get attention or applause. If you want to be noticed by your praying…Forget it. It is all about your relationship with the Lord Jesus.
“And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.”Matthew 6:7-8
Not only did Jesus teach His disciples to pray in SECRET but He also taught them to pray SINCERELY. “Do not use vain repetitions…” What is “vain repetition”? Saying something over and over and over again…with little thought put into it. W. Weirsbe describes it as: “…only a babbling of words without a sincere heart desire to seek and do God’s will.”. Don’t fall in to the habit of babbling of words…without a sincere desire to seek and do God’s will. Sincere prayer is…thoughtful prayer…taking the time to think through what we are presenting before God and what we are asking God for…thoughtful, meaningful prayer…straight from the heart.
Knowing and believing that God hears every word…but not only hearing every word but the thoughts and intentions of my heart.
So if my heart is not in what I am saying…I just put up words that seem pious, seem holy and seem right without thinking them through…He knows the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
God is not looking for a pile of impressive phrases…He doesn’t want us to use phrases with no meaning…He wants us simply to talk to him as to a friend or father… Authentically… Reverently…Personally…and Earnestly.
“In this manner, therefore, 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 this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever, Amen.”Matthew 6:9-13
Besides praying PRIVATELY and SINCERELY…Jesus also taught His disciples to PRAY SPECIFICALLY. He showed them what He meant by giving them a model prayer…the prayer we have come to call “The Lord’s Prayer”.
“Our Father”…never forget that if you are a child of God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ…you are praying to a Father who cannot love you more than He already does…
“In Heaven”…a reminder that God is sovereign…majestic and all powerful. Nothing is too difficult for Him. He is the mountain mover…He is bigger than any concern/problem/issue in your life that you could possibly bring to Him. Fix your eyes on Him on His character His ability.
“Hallowed Be Your name…” you are pointing out His holiness, His set apart-ness…He is not some cosmic Santa Claus where you sit on His knee and ask for whatever you want. Worship Him acknowledge His worth ship praise Him when you come to Him in prayer.
“Your Kingdom come…Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…” you are submitting to His will…put His will first in your life…in your marriage, family career, ministry money, body, relationships…and church.
“Give us this day our daily bread…” this is a prayer request. Paul wrote in Philippians 4:6 to be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication make your requests known to God…lay out all your needs…all your concerns…whether big or small…if you need a miracle…ask for it without shrinking back.
“Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors…” this is a heart matter confess your sins to Him…receive His forgiveness and begin to grow. because David the psalmist wrote: “…if I regard iniquity in my hear the Lord will not hear me.” And forgive others…live with a forgiving spirit toward others…nothing hinders our prayers than unforgiveness in our hearts…
“And do not lead us into temptation…but deliver us from the evil one…” Pray for protection from evil…pray for victory over temptation.
“Yours is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever, Amen.”
Please understand…this is a wonderful prayer model for us to follow but it was never meant to be a magical incantation to get God’s attention! Jesus didn’t give the Lord’s Prayer to us for it to be recited mindlessly…Yes…even the Lord’s prayer can become babbling repetitively.
A good way to learn to pray specifically is to WRITE OUT your prayers and then read them out loud to God. Often times you can concentrate better when you are writing things down…and not only that you can have a written record of your personal prayers…and you can go back and read them…maybe when you find yourself down in the dumps…it helps to see how God has answered prayer in the past.
REMEMBER God’s prevailing power is released through the simple faith full prayers of His people diligently seeking His face. Know first that He is interested in you and your needs…and He is ABLE to meet any and all of your needs and He has invited you and I to pray.
Jesus, His Son, the expert on prayer… has given to us instructions so that we know just how to pray.
For the miracle of prayer to begin operating in your life…only one thing remains…You MUST PRAY! We can listen to sermons for hours…and you can read about it in countless books and articles…but sooner or later believer…you have to PRAY Then and only then will your adventure in faith really begin. START TODAY TO PRAY!