WHAT IS PRAYER?
Matthew 6: 4-13
As I look at what Jesus says here in this passage, I have to confess that my prayer life is not what it should be.
You have heard it said that the “family that prays together stays together.”
In 1 Thess. 5:17 the apostle Paul says, “Pray without ceasing.”
In Colossians 4:2 the apostle Paul says, “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving…”
Then Luke 21:36, Jesus speaking of the judgment that was to come on Jerusalem tells His disciples; “Keep on the alert at all times, praying in order that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
And then Rom. 12:12 the apostle Paul says, “Be devoted to prayer…”
Whether it is a prayer of thanksgiving, or praise, or adoration, or confession of sin, or a personal petition, or intercession for the needs of others, or strength in a time of trial or persecution, prayer is essential to our spiritual growth and survival.
Now, for just a few minutes, to help us have a deeper, richer, more meaningful prayer life I would like to learn some things from this passage about prayer, perhaps to correct some misconceptions.
I have noticed that some of our men are hesitant to lead a prayer in our assemblies; I don’t know why for sure; but if you have some misconceptions like I did, hopefully our study will help you.
I want to begin by asking the question, “What is prayer?” Look starting in vs. 5:
“And when you pray, you are not to be as the hypocrites, for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners, in order to be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”
First, understand that scripture nowhere condemns public prayer; Acts 4:24-31 we have an example of public prayer.
What the Lord does condemn is ostentatious praying; praying intended to impress others or to attract attention to one’s self in order to be honored by men; to show how righteous and religious you are.
And when Jesus says, “go into your inner room and shut the door”, don’t take that to extremes.
Now, notice in verse 6, Jesus says that when you pray, you are to “pray to your Father.”
And who is the prayer to be addressed to? Jesus says, “pray to your Father.”
The Bible is God speaking to man…
Understand, prayer is not talking or communicating with other people!
Prayers are not intended to be sermons to the brethren about things that need to be corrected, or things that need to be taken care of, “and God you can listen in if You want to.”
If you or I used our prayers as sermons to each other about things that need to be corrected, or things that need to be taken care of, or things we need to learn, we just as well get up and read this (the Bible) because that is what this is all about.
If I am talking to God and my brothers or sisters listen in, that’s great.
Look at vs. 7: 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. 8 “Therefore do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need, before you ask Him. “Pray, then, in this way:
When I was a kid, periodically my mom would take me to church; and there was one man who, from time to time, would lead the opening prayer.
Here in vs. 7 Jesus is saying, “You don’t have to think that you have to pray long, lengthy prayers like the pagans do, for God to hear and bless you.”
This may be a hindrance for some who have been asked to lead a prayer for our assemblies and they are hesitant because they are not sure of what to say; and consequently their prayer won’t be very long; and their prayer may not be as eloquent as others they have heard.
He says, “Pray, then, in this way:
‘Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name.
10’Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
11’Give us this day our daily bread. 12’And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13’And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.]’
How long did it take to read that prayer?
I am not saying that a prayer should only be a few seconds long. What I am saying is, when it comes to public prayers, if they are too long, those who are listening in often quit listening.
And as far as a prayer needing to be “eloquent” enough; eloquent to who: God or people?
Now look at vs. 10: ‘Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
When my daughter came down sick I prayed and prayed that God would make her well; and when she didn’t…I lost my confidence in prayer.
I don’t know for sure what God is doing with her illness; I am confident somewhere He is using it for His purpose; perhaps to prove my faith; perhaps to teach me something.
Remember in Matthew 26:39, Jesus was in the garden and knowing that He would soon be crucified, prayed 3 times that God “would let this cup pass from Him” and remember what He said: “Yet, not as I will but as Thou wilt.”
Our will may not match up with God’s will and when it doesn’t we are often disappointed.
Our prayer should always be one of “not my will, but Thy will be done” and humbly accept whatever He wills.
So what are some things to pray for? Well, in 1 John 5:14, the construction of the verse in the Greek basically says, “Ask for anything you want; but allow God to mark things off your list according to His will.”
I have already mentioned somethings we can pray for: courage, wisdom, love, healing, provision, for forgiveness; peace. But look starting in vs. 10 again. Jesus says, “Thy kingdom come.”
In vs. 11 Jesus says, “Give us this day our daily bread.”
Vs. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And then vs. 13: And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
There is so much we can pray for…so much we need to pray for. We have a strong adversary and we need to devote ourselves to prayer and be alert in it.
Prayer is very important; it is essential; it is very much needed.