“We Believe in Prayer” – Part 4

This is the last article on the series on “Prayer”.  I have been blessed to be able to attend the Sunday School teaching hour at Crossroads Christian Church in Grand Prairie, Texas.  In previous articles, we have covered the topics of “The Power of Prayer“, “The Passion for Prayer“, and “The Purpose of Prayer“.  Now we will try to touch on “The Practice of Prayer“.  Of course we will never be able to completely cover this topic, and we will be fortunate to just mention key ideas here right now.

The lesson for the day came from Matthew 6:5 – 13 which covered what we call today “The Lord’s Prayer”, and also includes the preamble of Jesus just before He uttered what is perhaps the best well-known prayer in the world.  And the Lesson Overview given to us is quite straightforward, “This lesson is to show us what vibrant, effective prayer looks like and how we can deal with the things that hinder our prayers.”

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Here is what we can learn from this passage:

1.  We Need to Pray Privately (vv. 5 – 6)

In these two verses, there is a parallelism that puts two very opposite practice of prayer into sharp contrast.  The ritually religious leaders of that day would have the habit of standing up in public and delivering loud and elegant prayers in the presence of many witnesses.  Even if their prayers were genuine petitions before God, it is clear that their motivation was to be seen in public, and to be considered “highly religious” in the eyes of the average person.

The bottom line for the religious leaders was that they wanted to be seen publicly and so receive the praises of men.  This form of outward religious performance is the very opposite of what God wants from His children.  His desire is that we withdraw from others when we pray to God, because He wants us to put our full attention on the Lord, and not seek approval or admiration from men.  Such people who do that Scripture says they already have received their reward (people’s approval), but we are to seek an intimate relationship with God, and He in turn will bless us here in this life, and also grant eternal life in the next.

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2.  We Need to Pray Effectively (vv. 7 – 8 )

In this next short section, before Jesus tells his disciples how to pray, He first reminds them of how not to pray.  Jesus says that we are not to babble when we pray to God.  The picture here is that when “pagans” (unbelievers) pray, they continuously mumble repetitive prayers to God in the false believe that if we pray the same stuff endlessly to God, then surely He will hear our many prayers and He will have to answer.

In effect though, these people are trying to manipulate God and believe that God will eventually give in to whatever they want.  In contrast to this, Jesus tells the disciples that God already knows what our needs are.  And in fact, Jesus says that God already knows what we need even before we ask Him.  Remember, God is omniscient, and He is motivated by love.  Part of the purpose of prayer is to recognize our needs and our true dependence upon God.  That is often the time that God pours out His richest blessings to us, when we are humble, obedient servants who bow to His authority.

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3.  We Need to Pray Specifically(vv. 9 -13)

In this model prayer, which we call “The Lord’s Prayer”, Jesus shows how we can have an intimate time to talk with our Father.  But he clearly demonstrates for us that we need to be very specific in our prayers.  We can’t be like our little children who often start out a prayer life by simply uttering a catalogue of names and events and then asking God to “bless them”.  No, we need to be carefully and specifically mindful of what we are actually saying when we repeat the Lord’s Prayer:

  • Person: we must always remember to whom we are praying.  But also rejoice that even as we pray to God, we can call Him and pray to Him in the intimate of ways by saying, “Our Father…”
  • Perspective:  when we say “who is in Heaven; Hallowed be His name”, we perceive ourselves more accurately that we are just the creation, but He is pure and holy Creator God.
  • Presence: above all else, we want His Kingdom to come, for Scripture tells us in the book of Revelation that when Christ comes next time, it will be an everlasting presence of God among us.
  • Purpose:  But considering that not all things are rightly in tune with the Father here on earth, then is should be our passion to seek for people to come to God and follow Him and His ways.
  • Provision:  It is finally at this point, when we recognize and honor God and seek to help establish God’s kingdom here, then we have the right to come and ask God to meet our daily needs.
  • Pardon:  And the key to all of the above is that God forgave us our sins and allowed us to have a relationship with Him.  And in like manner, we are to pass on this forgiveness to all others.
  • Protection:  Then finally, we must pray for God to help us and protect us in the spiritual battle that we are engaged in with the author of our sin and our greatest enemy, Satan.
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This is quite the awesome prayer, isn’t it?  What’s truly amazing is how simple this prayer is in reality.  But I challenge you to follow the pattern of this prayer and to practice it, in the quiet part of your home and life, and see if you might just discover that the God of Miracles, and the God of Great Power is in fact still present with us today.  We simply need to unleash Him through our reverent and faithful prayers.
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