When You Pray – Matt 6
5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 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.
Three times in Matthew 6 we find these words “when you pray”. Jesus has the expectation that each of us will pray. As believers and followers of his, we need to pray because prayer is actually the natural communication between humans and our creator. So, we should practice it wherever and whenever we can. We do not need to use holy words nor do we need to pray for a certain length of time. Remember, God hears all of our prayers no matter what words we use.
Prayer should not be about making a public show of how good we are or how holy we have been. Genuine spirituality is focussed on God and not on us. So, here are some keys that we can learn from today’s text.
- Prayer is to be private and intimate. The reward for prayer is in the relationship that we build with God. It is good to pray with other people, but the prayer that changes us, is that which is done when we get alone with God and let him examine us. The psalmist wrote, search me and know me. This kind of prayer scares me because it exposes ‘the me that others don’t see’ to the God who sees and knows everything. When I pray this prayer, I am required to get honest about my sins and my failings so that I can obtain mercy from the God who loves me.
- Prayer is not just about saying the same thing over and over. It is about genuine communication with God. Prayer should be similar to talking with a friend or someone that you are in a close relationship with. If a friend or a parent wouldn’t want to hear you nag about something, why do we think that God would? Prayer is not a formula! Nor is it an abracadabra that makes God do what we ask. It is positioning of ourselves in a place that acknowledges that God is God and we are not. Prayer says to our self, we need God whether we want to admit it or not.
- It is good to bring our prayer needs to God, but let it be done from a place of relationship. And don’t forget, the God who loves you, knows what is going on in your life.
Do not Worry – Seek God’s Kingdom and Righteousness first.
Matt 6: 25 – 34
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Why do we find it so easy to worry and so difficult to trust God? This is the question that we are forced to examine when we look at the words of Jesus from Matt 6. The problem is that worry seems so natural. It is easy to do and at times it may even seem rewarding. When we don’t know how to solve a problem or an issue, we do the thing that we do know how to do…we worry. Here we need to hear the words of Jesus to our situation. “Do not worry!”
Prayer makes God our priority. It refocuses us from our worries and concerns and reminds us of our dependence upon Him. It is not wrong to wonder how to provide for genuine needs but when it becomes our obsession, it obscures God from our view. God wants us to rely on him and trust him. Prayer is one way that we remind ourselves of these very facts. God is bigger than our problems, bigger than our sickness and bigger than our needs. God, the creator of the universe is interested in each one of us and promises to take care of our needs. Trust him!
One final thought here, the prayers that we pray in the tough times are not necessarily the best indicator of how we are doing spiritually. It is also how we pray and how we seek God in our good times that equally tell the story. Don’t wait until you know that you need God, seek him and love him even if your need has not become fully obvious.
Ask, Seek and Knock. – Matt 7
7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
I have found over the years that the way I think about God affects the way that I pray. If I don’t believe that God wants to heal me, then I will not ask him for healing. If I think that God is mean spirited or angry with me, then I will find that I have absolutely no confidence to ask God for anything, In fact, I would be unlikely to even bother praying because I might believe that God doesn’t really care about me. Into this context Jesus explains to crowds of people that God cares for their needs. Jesus encourages us to ask, to seek and to knock.
I remember a conversation with a friend of mine from school who was brought up a Catholic. He had been taught that it was wrong to pray for our personal needs and that we should only pray for others. I am sure that not all Catholics believe that, just as I am sure that some Protestants do. Such a belief is wrong because Jesus himself teaches us to ask God for our needs. You see, God is a good God! We need to know this and to experience this fact because a bad concept of God affects our relationship with Him and it affects our confidence in spending time with Him in prayer.
For many of us, we might pray for a need once or maybe even twice. After which, we would probably give up, but we should realise that Jesus wants us to ask and keep on asking, to seek and keep on seeking and to knock and keep on knocking.
Ask, seek and knock! Don’t give up asking. God is a good father who wants to give his children good gifts!
Praying in the Name of Jesus
Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. John 14:13
Often when we pray, we will finish the prayer with 6 words by which we really mean that the prayer is now concluded. These 6 words are “in the name of Jesus, Amen”. We use these words because Jesus said to pray in his name! Honestly, how could we go wrong with that?He also promised to answer all these prayers, yet, if we’re honest with ourselves, many of them remain unanswered. Why is that? Well to put it simply – formulas don’t work with God. When we try and put God in a box, we treat him as though he is a genie and not the Almighty God that He is. Can I remind us, God is Spelt G O D and not D O G. He does not have to do our bidding.
Unfortunately, sometimes when we pray, we use the name of Jesus in the same way that people might use the word abracadabra. That’s not what prayer is for. Prayer is and always will be about relationship. Praying in the name of Jesus was never meant to be a phrase that we add to the end of our prayer just to make sure that God does what we want. Our prayers need to be about glorifying God!
A better way to understand praying in the name of Jesus is praying as his representative. The old-time police shows would often have a policeman standing with his hand outstretched, while saying “Stop in the name of the law”. Whether the policeman uses the words “In the name of the Law” or not. His actions were always in the name of the law! The same is true when we pray in the name of Jesus. Whether you say it at the end or during your prayer it won’t really make any difference. Praying in the name of Jesus is praying as though Jesus was praying this prayer. Praying for things that Glorify Him
Two agree as touching – the handshake of heaven.
Matt 1819 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”Praying with others adds a new dimension to our prayer lives. Something powerful happens when we pray with others. You see, Christianity was never meant to be just about God and me. It has always been about God, you and me. Truthfully, the Bible knows no form of Christianity that exists outside of community. But does this mean that I need to attend prayer meetings? The short answer is no! And if you are one of the many people who feel lost or intimidated when other people pray, I am sure that you are breathing a sigh of relief right now.
A more complete answer though is, where else are you likely to learn how to pray than with some other people who have themselves had to learn this practice previously? Praying with others should not be so scary! Maybe the best way to overcome a fear of prayer, is to pray with 1 or 2 other people. People who you know and trust. People who won’t embarrass you and force you to pray out loud. People who pray for you and people that you would like to pray for (so ideally a friend or friends).
What happens when we pray with others? Well, when we agree with others in prayer, we are praying in accordance with God’s will. Jesus wants us to pray with others. We are also agreeing with God at these prayer times. This is when another powerful things happen. God presences himself with us and He promises to take action on the prayers that we pray. We are not only praying in agreement with another person, but also in agreement with God. This is what I sometimes refer to as the handshake of heaven.
Don’t forget that prayer is about building relationships. Dr. Edwin Cole said that when we pray “we grow closer to those that we pray with, we grow closer to those that we pray for and closer to the one that we pray to!”
So, Let’s Pray.