Session #044 When You Pray
Scripture Matthew 6:5-9
Summary Many books have been written about prayer. But what does Jesus, the King, say about the topic of prayer? Through seven points about prayer, this teaching from Matt 6:5-9 will help you review your prayer life and focus as you seek to align with the Father’s heart and mind for the things of the kingdom of God.
“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by mean. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. 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. In this manner, therefore, pray:…” Matthew 6:5–9
Many books have been written about prayer. But what does Jesus, the King, say about the topic of prayer? Through seven points about prayer, this teaching from Matthew 6:5-9 will help you review your prayer life and focus as you seek to align with the Father’s heart and mind for the things of the kingdom of God.
What is prayer and why should we pray? Prayer is talking to God or having a conversation with God but more accurately, it is a petition, an appeal, a request that is beyond ourselves, outside of our abilities, talents, or understanding. We are presenting such requests to God.
My humble definition is “Prayer is an acknowledgement of our great need for God to intervene and reign in every area of our lives.” When we pray, I acknowledge my weakness, hopelessness, and acknowledging His greatness. I acknowledge His love, mercy, grace, and faithfulness. I need His rule and His reign, His direction, His will, His purposes. That is called faith and trust.
But where do I fit in in His larger scheme of things? When I do not pray, what does it indicate then?
Notice the place of prayer, it is right in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount. Kingdom initiatives must be birthed out through prayer. A right understanding and interpretation of the Law are enabled by prayer, aligning with the heartbeat of the King. Kingdom living is only possible through prayer.
Is prayer a priority in your life? Do you think you need to pray? Is prayer central? What do you pray for?
Privacy (Presence) Not Performance
“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly (Matthew 6:5–6).
Pray is similar to giving alms, it has become a show, a performance, to demonstrate how spiritual, religious and pious one is; but God is not impressed with these hypocrites. Their reward is the admiration of others and that is all.
There is a place for corporate, congregational, and public prayer. Here, the point is that of personal relationship and intimacy with the Father. God desires His children to spend time with Him, one on one, to bring their requests personally. If you will have your secret rendezvous with God, He will reward you openly.
Jesus was one busy man with a growing ministry. And yet, He spent time alone with His Father (Mark 1:35–37 and Luke 5:16). Jesus does what He sees the Father doing. He hears and speaks as His Father directs. He does only the things that please the Father, obedient unto death (John 8:28-29). Kingdom assignments are received and executed, in and out of the presence of God, through our times of prayer and intimacy with Him.
When and where do we pray? Have a private, and personal space, it may be in the morning, afternoon, or night. Developing a lifestyle of prayer, of talking with God. Pray unceasingly. Personal and private times of prayer must be scheduled as a discipline.
Precision Not Platitudes Nor Pretense
And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen does. 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).
“In prayer, it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart. ” John Bunyan
Avoid vain repetitions, many words; and a fixed, empty, rote repetition. Long prayers do not mean more spirituality or more impressive (Matthew 23:14).
Do not be like the heathens, gentiles, or pagans (1 Kings 18:20ff), for it is not how long you pray, it is how you pray.
Be precise and specific. There is no need to be colourful, flowery, or overly spiritual. God understands. Your Father already knows what you need (not want).
In this manner, therefore, pray: (Matthew 6:9)
A pattern, in this way that is not to become a vain, rote, empty repetition that means nothing. Many do not understand what they are praying, but they can repeat the Lord’s Prayer by heart and sing it as well.
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
Traditionally the passage above is referred to as the Lord’s Prayer. I prefer to know it as the Disciples’ Prayer. It is a Kingdom Prayer.
Luke 11:5-8 is about persistence for others. The key phrase: “for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him.” Be persistent, ask for God to make you a channel of His kingdom blessings. This is a Kingdom principle.
In Luke 18:1-8, speak of persistence in asking God for justice, to avenge the elect. Be persistent for justice and righteousness’ sake which is another Kingdom principle.
Keep asking, seeking and knocking for the things of the kingdom (Luke 12:31–32) for it is the Father’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom.
Our problem is that we are missing the kingdom. Asking for things with wrong motives, for own pleasure (James 4:3).
As disciples of Jesus, we need to ask for the Holy Spirit as we pray, we need the Spirit of the King as we move in our assignments (Luke 11:9–13 and Acts 1:8).
After Jesus ascended, the disciples gathered for a prayer meeting, waiting for the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. They needed the Holy Spirit. It is not just about speaking in tongues. It is about praying Spirit-empowered prayers that are powerful and prophetic. Pray in the Spirit, cry out in weakness and desperation for the things of the kingdom, for justice, for power, for deliverance by the Spirit. Otherwise, our prayers will be dead and dry repetitions.
Present Yourself Before prayer is a petition, it is a posture of presentation. The very first aspect of prayer is presentation, the conscious act of disengaging ourselves from the 1,001 things that distract us that we may present ourselves before God. This could mean physically walking to the side of the bed and kneeling down, or simply closing our eyes and tuning out the cares of the world. This posture of presentation enables us to focus on God, acknowledging our great and desperate need for Him.
Rest in Him Before you rattle off your prayer list, take a moment to rest in His presence. Pause for a moment, even if those two or three seconds of quiet might seem like an eternity to you. But it is important as it allows perspective to move from yours to His. Strangely, amidst the anxiety and flurry of your thoughts and concerns, you will experience a peace that surpasses your comprehension. Enjoy the rest. You need it. You may not have said anything yet, but your time of prayer has already begun.
Ask Boldly Ask, petition, question, complain, weep, cry. Table your needs, present your case, ask the toughest of questions. Once again, posture and perspective. It is one thing to ask and demand like a spoilt brat, fussing and kicking his legs all over the place; and yet totally another to come as a son and a servant who trusts and rests in his Father and Master. The former’s boldness is misplaced whilst the latter’s rightly positioned and presented.
Yield to His Will The prayers of the saints and psalmists in the Bible, always leave room for God to have the last word. Prayer is not so much getting our way as it is aligning to His. This may not be what you want to hear, but it just is. However God chooses to answer — whether yes, no, or wait — it requires a yielding to His sovereign will. A prayer that closes with this understanding positions the saint for much deeper work in his life because he is ready to surrender and submit to a situation that may not result in the way he expected. And yet, because he knows that God is in control, he is able to keep on serving faithfully from a position of rested-ness, trusting wholly in the One who holds everything in His hands.