Sunday, October 6th, 2019 - AM - Who's Actually Hearing Your Prayers? (Matt. 6:5-8)
I love the Lord, because he hath heard My voice and my supplications. Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, Therefore will I call upon him as long as I live. The sorrows of death compassed me, And the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow. Then called I upon the name of the Lord; O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul. Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; Yea, our God is merciful.
The following quotation will suggest the right background for this introduction: ‘In the East the following phenomenon is often observed. Where the desert touches a river-valley or oasis, the sand is in a continual state of drift from the wind, and it is this drift which is the real cause of the barrenness of such portions of the desert at least as abut upon the fertile land. For under the rain, or by infiltration of the river, plants often spring through the sand, and there is sometimes promise of considerable fertility. It never lasts. Down comes the periodic drift, and life is stunted or choked out. But set down a rock on the sand, and see the difference its presence makes. After a few showers, to the lee-ward side of this some blades will spring up; if you have patience, you will see in time a garden. How has the boulder produced this? Simply by arresting the drift.’ (George Adam Smith.)
And a man shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest,- as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. (Isaiah xxxii. 2.)
Our Lord Jesus Christ is just that rock to God’s children. [Oswald Chambers, Christian Disciplines: Containing the Disciplines of Divine Guidance, Suffering, Peril, Prayer, Loneliness, Patience (London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1996).]
Who Hears Your Prayers has everything to do with who answers them:
When Only Others Hear, the Rewards Remain Only Here (Matt. 6:5)
When Only the Father Hears, the Reward Is Openly Given (Matt. 6:6)
When Only Yourself Hears, the Result Is Finite (Matt. 6:7-8)
Two Contrasts: Publicity and Verbosity versus Privacy and Simplicity (6:5–8)1 [1 David L. Turner, Matthew, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), 185.]
The self-sufficient do not pray, the self-satisfied will not pray, the self-righteous cannot pray. No man is greater than his prayer life. ~ Leonard Ravenhill [Bruce B. Barton, Matthew, Life Application Bible Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1996), 113.]
I. Thou Shalt Not Pray as a Hypocrite (Matt. 6:5)
A. Prayers May Be Religious, but Unavailing (Matt. 6:5a)
B. These Religious Prayers Will Be Rewarded, But Only Temporally (Matt. 6:5b)
II. Humble Prayers Are Heard Prayers (Matt. 6:6)
A. The Request Is Made in Secret (Matt. 6:6a)
B. But the Reward Comes in the Open (Matt. 6:6b)
III. Help for the Mistaken Mystic (Matt. 6:7-8)
A. Mystery, Babble-On, the Great (Matt. 6:7)
B. The Father Is Mindful Before Even Being Asked (Matt. 6:8)
IV. The Heavenly Model for Holy Prayer (Matt. 6:9-15)
I. Misdirected Prayers (Matt. 6:5)
I. Misdirected Prayers (Matt. 6:5)
Jesus is not deriding any particular posture, for in Scripture people prayed in every position—standing (Luke 18:11, 13), sitting (2 Sam 7:18), kneeling (Luke 22:41), and prostrate on the ground (Matt 26:39). Standing with hands upraised was the normal form for prayer, and kneeling or prostrating was done in time of serious need. Yet it is not the posture but the motive that matters. [Grant R. Osborne, Matthew, vol. 1, Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 224–225.]
Dr. Robert A. Cook has often said, “All of us have one routine prayer in our system; and once we get rid of it, then we can really start to pray!” I have noticed this, not only in my own praying, but often when I have conducted prayer meetings. With some people, praying is like putting the needle on a phonograph record and then forgetting about it. But God does not answer insincere prayers. [Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 26.]
And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
Religion devoid of a relationship is like a pacifier that a baby works hard to suck on, but from which no real nutrition flows.289[Tony Evans, Tony Evans’ Book of Illustrations: Stories, Quotes, and Anecdotes from More than 30 Years of Preaching and Public Speaking (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2009), 101.]
Long ago, a pastor was visiting at a couple’s new home out in the country. The pastor spent the night. He was awakened the next morning by the soft voice of a soprano singing, “Nearer, My God, to Thee.” He was impressed by the piety of the young hostess, since she evidently began her day in such a religious manner. At breakfast he spoke to her about it and told her how pleased he was. “Oh,” she replied, “that’s the hymn I boil the eggs by; three verses for soft and five for hard.”1123 [Michael P. Green, 1500 Illustrations for Biblical Preaching (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000), 300.]
We may even have too much to do in God’s house, and so hinder our prayers, by being like Martha, cumbered with much serving. I never heard of any one who was cumbered with much praying. 1192.508 [Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Exploring the Mind and Heart of the Prince of Preachers: Five-Thousand Illustrations Selected from the Works of Charles Haddon Spurgeon (Oswego, IL: Fox River Press, 2005), 532.]
The Pharisees prayed not in the Temple where God revealed Himself in the Shekinah glory that was manifested at the Mercy Seat. They went out into the public market place. We would readily conclude that this is a place perhaps the least conducive to praying of any place they could possibly have chosen, but it did accomplish what they set out to do; to impress people with their piety. So, they stood with their hands lifted heavenward, but addressed their prayers to the people who were passing by. Our Lord called them hypocrites because prayer is fellowship between a believer and God. It is not to be a communique between man and men. [J. Dwight Pentecost, Design for Discipleship: Discovering God’s Blueprint for the Christian Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1996), 78.]
The Lord tries to impress His hearers with the truth that prayer is essentially a private communication between a child and his Father. Two who are in love require privacy to properly communicate. Little real communications is possible in public. Volumes can be communicated in moments when there is privacy. In the busyness of life, communication with the Father is impossible unless there is privacy. That is why the Lord said if we are to communicate with the Father we must go to our room and shut the door. One prying eye can spoil communication. As soon as we are conscious of one observer, the privacy necessary to intimate communication is gone, and we become conscious of the observer rather than the Father with whom we are talking. Therefore the Pharisees could not communicate with the Father when they gathered an audience to hear their prayers. Prayer is private communication. [J. Dwight Pentecost, Design for Living: Lessons in Holiness from the Sermon on the Mount (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1999), 137.]
II. Meaningful Prayers (Matt. 6:6)
II. Meaningful Prayers (Matt. 6:6)
A. The Place
A. The Place
But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
R. V. G. Tasker points out that the Greek word for the ‘room’ into which we are to withdraw to pray (tameion) ‘was used for the store-room where treasures might be kept’. The implication may be, then, that ‘there are treasures already awaiting’ us when we pray.2 [R. V. G. Tasker The Gospel according to St Matthew by R. V. G. Tasker (Tyndale New Testament Commentary; IVP, 1961) 2 P. 73. [John R. W. Stott and John R. W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7): Christian Counter-Culture, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), 134.]
Our Lord’s first lesson in the school of prayer was, and still is: “ENTER INTO THY CLOSET” (Matt. 6:6). The “closet” is the closed place, where we are shut in alone with God, where the human spirit waits upon an unseen Presence, learns to recognize Him who is a Spirit, and cultivates His acquaintance, fellowship, and friendship. Everything else, therefore, depends upon prayer. To the praying soul there becomes possible the faith which is the grasp of the human spirit upon the realities and verities of the unseen world. [Arthur T. Pierson, Chapter XVI: Divine Efficacy of Prayer, vol. 4 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2005), 220.]
The power of maintaining close and glad fellowship with God all the day will depend entirely upon the intensity with which we seek to secure it in the hour of secret prayer. [Andrew Murray, The Inner Chamber and the Inner Life (New York; Chicago; Toronto; London; Edinburgh: Fleming H. Revell, 1905), 16.]
In a single sentence Jesus revises the whole OT cultus. It is no longer the Holy of Holies that is the special meeting place between God and the believer; it is the room with a lock. [Frederick Dale Bruner, Matthew: A Commentary: The Christbook, Matthew 1–12, Revised and Expanded Edition., vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007), 288.]
Secret devotions resemble the rivers which run under the earth; they steal from the eyes of the world to seek the eyes of God; and it often happens that those of whom we speak least on earth, are best known in heaven. caussin.
The closets of God’s people are where the roots of the church grow. And if the roots be not nourished, there can be no tree with branches and fruit. In many senses the root of the plant is the most important part of it. Men do not see it. It is hidden away down under the ground. Yet in the dark it works away, and in its secret laboratory it prepares the life which goes up into the plant or tree, and manifests itself in trunk and branches, in leaves and fruits. The beautiful leaf-fabrics are woven down in the looms of that dark earth-factory. The colors that tint the flowers are prepared in that lowly workshop. The little blocks that are piled in silence, one by one, as the fabric of the tree goes up, are hewn out in the secret quarries of the roots. He that would bless a tree must first bless its roots. So it is in the spiritual life. It is not the closet which men see. It is not a man’s secret, personal religious life which the world understands and praises. Yet it is in the closet that the roots of his life grow. And if the roots be not nourished, then the tree will soon die. j. r. miller. [D. L. Moody, One Thousand and One Thoughts from My Library (New York; Chicago; Toronto: Fleming H. Revell, 1898), 169–170.]
In the Closet (Matthew 6:6)
“Enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly” (Matt. 6:6). Of Mr. John Shepherd, it is recorded that he was greatly distinguished for his success in the pulpit. When on his deathbed, he said to some young ministers who were present: “The secret of my success is in these things:
1. The studying of my sermons very frequently cost me tears.
2. Before I preached a sermon to others, I derived good from it myself.
3. I have always gone into the pulpit as if I were immediately after to render an account to my Master.” All who knew that devoted man would have united in expressing his secret in three words—“In the closet.” [AMG Bible Illustrations, Bible Illustrations Series (Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 2000).]
The divine region of religion
But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret. Matthew 6:6.
The main idea in the region of religion is—Your eyes upon God, not on men. Do not have as your motive the desire to be known as a praying man. Get an inner chamber in which to pray where no one knows you are praying, shut the door and talk to God in secret. Have no other motive than to know your Father in heaven. It is impossible to conduct your life as a disciple without definite times of secret prayer:
“But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions.…” (v. 7). God is never impressed by our earnestness. He does not hear us because we are in earnest, but only on the ground of Redemption. Prayer is not simply getting things from God, that is an initial form of prayer; prayer is getting into perfect communion with God. If the Son of God is formed in us by regeneration, He will press forward in front of our common sense and change our attitude to the things about which we pray.
“Everyone that asketh receiveth.” We pray pious blether, our will is not in it, and then we say God does not answer; we never asked for anything. “Ye shall ask what ye will,” said Jesus. Asking means our will is in it. Whenever Jesus talked about prayer, He put it with the grand simplicity of a child; we bring in our critical temper and say—‘Yes, but …’ Jesus said—“Ask.” But remember that we have to ask of God things that are in keeping with the God Whom Jesus Christ revealed. [Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest: Selections for the Year (Grand Rapids, MI: Oswald Chambers Publications; Marshall Pickering, 1986).]
Prayer choice and prayer conflict
When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and pray to thy Father which is in secret. Matthew 6:6.
Jesus did not say—‘Dream about thy Father in secret,’ but ‘pray to thy Father in secret.’ Prayer is an effort of will. After we have entered our secret place and have shut the door, the most difficult thing to do is to pray. We cannot get our minds into working order, and the first thing that conflicts is wandering thoughts. The great battle in private prayer is the overcoming of mental wool-gathering. We have to discipline our minds and concentrate on wilful prayer.
We must have a selected place for prayer and when we get there the plague of flies begins—This must be done, and that. “Shut thy door.” A secret silence means to shut the door deliberately on emotions and remember God. God is in secret, and He sees us from the secret place; He does not see us as other people see us, or as we see ourselves. When we live in the secret place it becomes impossible for us to doubt God, we become more sure of Him than of anything else. Your Father, Jesus says, is in secret and nowhere else. Enter the secret place, and right in the centre of the common round you find God there all the time. Get into the habit of dealing with God about everything. Unless in the first waking moment of the day you learn to fling the door wide back and let God in, you will work on a wrong level all day; but swing the door wide open and pray to your Father in secret, and every public thing will be stamped with the presence of God. [Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest: Selections for the Year (Grand Rapids, MI: Oswald Chambers Publications; Marshall Pickering, 1986).]
Dr. Reuben A. Torrey, the great Bible teacher and evangelist, used to say correctly that “we should never utter one syllable of prayer, either in public or in private, until we are definitely conscious that we have come into the presence of God and are actually praying to him.”1 This is supported by Dr. Torrey’s own description of how he learned this principle. He writes, “I can remember when that thought transformed my prayer life. I was brought up to pray. I was taught to pray so early in life that I have not the slightest recollection of who taught me to pray.… Nevertheless, prayer was largely a mere matter of form. There was little real thought of God, and no real approach to God. And even after I was converted, yes, even after I had entered the ministry, prayer was largely a matter of form. “But the day came,” Torrey writes, “when I realized what real prayer meant, realized that prayer was having an audience with God, actually coming into the presence of God and asking and getting things from him. And the realization of that fact transformed my prayer life. Before that prayer had been a mere duty, and sometimes a very irksome duty, but from that time on prayer has been not merely a duty but a privilege, one of the most highly esteemed privileges of life. Before that the thought that I had was, ‘How much time must I spend in prayer?’ The thought that now possesses me is, ‘How much time may I spend in prayer without neglecting the other privileges and duties of life?’ ”2 [1 Reuben A. Torrey, The Power of Prayer (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1955), 75. 2 Ibid., 76–77. [James Montgomery Boice, The Sermon on the Mount: An Expositional Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2002), 160.]]
B. The Promise
B. The Promise
The Shutting of the Door
The bible has much to say about doors, both open and shut. God got Noah and his family into the ark: "... and the Lord shut him in" (Genesis 7:16). Through the centuries the ark has symbolized our eternal safety in Jesus Christ. After the resurrection and before Pentecost the disciples met "when the doors were shut.... for fear of the Jews" (John 20:19), but our Lord appeared, giving them His commission that would soon get them outdoors as His witnesses. The church is too often in that same sad plight today and needs to hear her Lord say: "... as my Father hath sent me even so send I you" (v. 20).
The five foolish virgins came back from buying oil to find the door to the marriage feast shut (Matthew 25:10). Many an evangelist has dwelt on the fearful predicament of the man who waits too long and finds heaven's door shut when his day of grace is past.
There are doors we need to close behind us. Paul wrote about "forgetting those things which are behind..." (Philippians 3:13)....
We must learn to shut the door on evil, on sinful thoughts. We cannot help such thoughts coming, but we do not have to entertain them. We can order them out and shut the door on them lest our minds become more like a tavern than a temple.
We must learn to close the door on this world. The old hymn about the way of the cross that leads home wisely ends with a verse that begins:
Then I bid farewell to the way of the world,
To walk in it nevermore.
Too many never tell this world good-bye. When Cortez landed in the new world he burned his ship so he could not return.
The cross before me, the world behind me,
No turning back, no turning back.
That is the resolve of a man who has shut the door!
There is one other door. "But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door [Author's italics], pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly" (Matthew 6:6). In this day of space travel we forget the greatest of journeys. We can close our eyes any moment of the day or night, in the noisiest crowd or in darkest solitude, and be in another world instantly. What trip to Mars can compare with that passage into God's presence in the twinkling of an eye?
There is a viewless cloistered room
As high as heaven, as fair as day,
Where, though my feet may join the throng,
My soul can enter in and pray.
One hearkening even cannot know
When I have crossed the threshold o'er,
For He alone Who hears my prayer
Has heard the shutting of the door.
Blessed is the man who knows how to shut his doors!
A man in an unlighted telephone booth fumbled with the pages of the directory. A passerby saw his plight and advised him: "The light comes on when you shut the door." If you have trouble in prayer trying to get heaven's "number", remember: The light comes on when you shut the door! [Vance Havner, It Is Toward Evening, Vance Havner Bundle (Baker Publishing Group, 1968).]
Apply special promises to special cases in prayer.—“For God hath [magnified]” and will magnify his “word” of promise “above all his name.” (Psalm 138:2.) When we are under the word of command for a duty, we must seek for a word of promise, and unite them in prayer. (John 12:28.) When a promise of aid suits to the precept, it renders prayer victorious, and obedience pleasant: when we come with God’s own words into his presence, when we take his words with us that he would “take away all iniquity,” he will “receive us graciously.” (Hosea 14:2.) Jacob urged that God had bid him return unto his country and kindred. (Gen. 32:9-12.) Solomon urges the word of promise to David. (1 Kings 8:24.) Jehoshaphat urges the word of promise to Solomon. (2 Chron. 20:8, 9.) Daniel fills his mouth with the promise given to Jeremiah; he reads, and then applies it in prayer. (Dan. 9:2, 3.) First, search the Bible, and look for a promise; and when found, open it before the Lord. Paul teaches us to take the promise given to Joshua, and then to “say boldly, The Lord is our helper,” &c. (Heb. 13:5, 6.) For the special ground of the answer of prayer lies in the performance of a promise. (Psalm 50:15; 65:2, 4.) Simeon lived upon a promise, and expired sweetly in the arms of a promise in the breathings of a prayer. (Luke 2:29.) Sometimes the soul depends for an answer by virtue of the covenant in general; as of that, “I will be thy God;” (Gen. 17:7, 8;) sometimes, by the great Remembrancer, “draws water out of some well of salvation:” (John 14:26; Isai. 12:3:) but in both, God’s faithfulness is the soul’s surety. Hence it is that David in prayer does so often argue upon the veracity and truth of God; and the church, in Micah, is so confident that “the mercy” promised “to Abraham, and confirmed in truth to Jacob,” should be plentifully performed to his people Israel. (Micah 7:20.)1[1 James Nichols, Puritan Sermons, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Richard Owen Roberts, Publishers, 1981), 181–182.]
III. Prayers Shrouded in Mysticism (Matt. 6:7-8)
III. Prayers Shrouded in Mysticism (Matt. 6:7-8)
A. Misconceptions (Matt. 6:7)
A. Misconceptions (Matt. 6:7)
But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
The key is the “many words” (causal “because” [ἐν]) that characterize such prayers. This is not a diatribe against lengthy prayers per se (Jesus prayed all night, Luke 6:12, as well as lengthily in Mark 1:35; 6:46; 14:35–42) but rather the type of long prayer with endless repetition and virtually meaningless gibberish. The Gentiles who “think they will be heard” (a divine passive) because of such prayers may partly reflect the pagan practice of repeating an extensive list of the names of a god, thinking if they could get the correct name and pronounce it correctly, they could manipulate the god.11 It was also common to utter nonsense syllables in magic incantations (similar to mantras in Eastern religions today).12 The main thing is the utter emptiness of such a jingoistic prayer. These are not prayers of worship or intercession but self-centered prayers that try to control the gods. [11 See Gundry, Matthew, 104. 12 Blomberg, Matthew, 118.] [Grant R. Osborne, Matthew, vol. 1, Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 226.]
In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: But he that refraineth his lips is wise.
Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.
And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made.
But when they knew that he was a Jew, all with one voice about the space of two hours cried out, Great is Diana of the Ephesians.
Magic: No Part of the Christian Faith
All magic practices are essentially alike in that they are based upon three erroneous assumptions.
These are: 1. That natural substances possess moral and spiritual qualities or that such qualities can be imparted to them; 2. That God is capricious and that His laws are whimsical and easily circumvented; 3. That there are invisible beings who can be persuaded to aid men or injure them if certain gestures are made or if certain secret words are mumbled, or if some object is worn, caressed or hung on the wall.
We are all acquainted with those milder manifestations of magic such as fear of beginning a journey on Friday, the bad luck that follows the breaking of a mirror or walking under a ladder. The good people of the Pennsylvania Dutch region where I grew up had their hexes, their tokens and their lucky charms, and believed in them implicitly. We younger ones tried to laugh off these things but I doubt whether any of us escaped the bondage entirely. To this day I feel for a moment a bit uneasy if I chance to glimpse the new moon over my left shoulder!
A belief in magic was thought by the late Sir James C. Frazer to be the only truly universal faith, being accepted as it is in some form by all the peoples of the world without exception. Against belief in the power of magic Moses and the prophets of Israel aimed some of their most devastating attacks. Yet when Christ came to Israel He found the people in bondage, not to the law of Moses as some have supposed, but to the fear that grew out of the superstitious notions introduced into the pure religion of the Old Testament.
God had, for instance, commanded the Jews to wear upon their persons selected passages of Scripture to remind them of their responsibility to obey the Word and love the Lord supremely. By the time of Christ this practice had degenerated into pure superstition. The phylactery had taken on magical qualities. The Sabbath which God had given to be man’s servant had become his master. The simple custom of washing the hands before eating had become a sacred ritual and its observance or nonobservance a test of godliness.
The temptation to attribute supernatural powers, or at least moral qualities, to inanimate objects is one almost impossible to resist. It is as if the human mind wanted to have it so, and I am not sure but it does. Sin has done strange things to us.
True Christian experience is direct knowledge of God. It is intimate fellowship between two personalities, God and the individual worshiper. The grounds of fellowship are mental, moral and spiritual, and these are precisely what material objects do not and cannot possess. The union of the human soul with God in Christ establishes a personal relationship which cannot be in any way affected by material substances.
The only spiritual qualities material things can possess are those we first gratuitously assign to them. We may agree, for instance, that a wedding ring shall stand for faithfulness in marriage, but the ring in itself is merely a piece of metal; it has no intrinsic meaning of any kind. The same bit of gold that tells a bride that her groom will be true to her could just as well crown a tooth or even serve as a point for a fountain pen.
Christianity is basically a religion of meanings, and meaning belongs to intelligent beings only. The church by pronouncing certain objects sacred and attributing power to them has turned from the pure freedom of the gospel to a kind of educated magic, not as base perhaps as a hex or a chain letter, but far from New Testament truth nevertheless, and gravely injurious to the souls of man.
So strong is the bent of the human heart toward magic that there has hardly been a time when the faith of Christ has not been plagued with it. Our Lord swept aside material objects as having no spiritual significance and placed the worship of God in the spirit, where it properly belongs. He also warned against the belief that words even when spoken in prayer have any essential value other than that imparted to them by the worshiper. Prayer that takes its value from the number of times certain words are repeated is pagan, not Christian. “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking” (Matthew 6:7).
The apostles also labored hard to free the young church from the power of magic, that is, from belief in the spiritual significance of material objects. Circumcision, new moons, foods, they said, had no power to make a man either good or bad. Words, Paul insisted, had no value as mere religious sounds. They must express meanings or they could have no significance for speaker or hearer. This idea Paul developed fully in the fourteenth chapter of his first Corinthian epistle. It is too bad we cannot remember it.
Our Heavenly Father gave us the beautiful, diversified creation as a kind of birthday present; all is to be received thankfully and nothing is to be despised. But always we must keep in mind that it is living personality that gives meaning to the world. Material objects neither hate nor love; they are neither good nor evil. We need not fear them and we should not attribute to them qualities they do not possess.
Our responsibility is to God and our fellowship is with Him. With magic or superstition in any form the Christian should simply have nothing to do. [ A. W. Tozer, Of God and Men (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 1995), 99–103.]
The word translated as vain repetitions (battologew battologeo) simply means to repeat the same things over and over. Jews, to this day, stand before the [Western] wall, bobbing their head and shoulders as they pray the same prayers over and over. In fact, the modern Jews at the [Western] wall actually read prayers from a prayer book. Moreover, the prayers they read have been preselected by rabbinical tradition to be read on any given day or occasion. It is totally perfunctory.
Because modern-day, rabbinical Judaism is predicated upon the rabbinical traditions preceding even the day of Jesus, it is likely that the Jews of Jesus’ day practiced the similar rote, perfunctory prayer practices the modern, orthodox Jews do. They very likely may have even bobbed their head and shoulders as orthodox Jews do as they pray.
Those of the church of Rome and other liturgical churches pray the same prayers each Sunday. The Roman Catholics repeat their Our Fathers and their Ave Marias. The liturgists ironically repeat the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ which soon follows in the context. God is not interested in rote, repeated prayers that do not come from the heart. [David H. Sorenson, Understanding the Bible, An Independent Baptist Commentary - Matthew through Luke, vol. 8, Understanding the Bible, An Independent Baptist Commentary (Northstar Ministries, 2007), 61.]
B. Mighty Confidence (Matt. 6:8)
B. Mighty Confidence (Matt. 6:8)
Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
Prayer should be marked by sincerity and simplicity:
1. Sincerity—Matthew 6:6. Go in and close the door—your prayer is between you and God.
2. Simplicity—Matthew 6:7. Don’t use vain repetition. Get right down to the nitty–gritty and tell the Lord what you have on your mind. “Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him” v. 8. Even though He already knows what we need, He wants us to come to Him and ask. [J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible Commentary: The Gospels (Matthew 1-13), electronic ed., vol. 34 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1991), 91.]
THE PARTICULARS OF PRAYER...
Our Motive...Our Method
But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. (Matthew vi. 7.)
Beware of the trick of exposition which externalizes Scripture so that we teach but never learn its lessons. That means just this—we take a description from missionary literature of the heathen prayer roll with its yards of prayers that wind and unwind, and we dexterously show how futile and pathetic this is, and so on, and by our very method remove it from its home-coming benefit Let the words come home to us personally in their New Testament setting, ‘But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions.’ Our Lord prayed the same prayer, using the same words, three times in the Garden of Gethsemane, and He gave the disciples a form of prayer which He knew would be repeated throughout the Christian centuries; so it cannot be mere repetition or the form of words that He is referring to. The latter half of the verse comes home better for personal purposes–‘for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking,’–that is, Do not rely on your earnestness as the ground for being heard. This is a much-needed caution because it is so subtle a thing, this thing called earnestness. As the Rev. John McNeil, the great Scottish evangelist, said about the student of Elisha after he had lost the axe-head: (2 Kings vi. 1–7), “If he had been of the modern school, Elisha would have said, ‘Whack awa’ wi’ the stump, mon; earnestness is everything!’ ’ Earnestness is not by any means everything; it is very often a subtle form of pious self-idolatry, because it is obsessed with the method and not with the Master. The phrase ‘pray through’ often means working ourselves up into a frenzy of earnestness in which perspiration is taken for inspiration. It is a mistake to think we are heard on the ground of our earnestness; we are heard on the ground of the evangelical basis, ‘Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus.’ (Hebrews x. 19.)
‘After this manner, therefore pray ye:’(Matthew vi. 9.)...
Our Lord wishes us to understand that all morbid excesses must be cut off, and the simple personal relationship allowed to react. When we pray, remember we pray to a Person, ‘Our Father,’ not to a tendency, or for the resulting reflex action; and we pray for particular personal needs, which are universal. ‘Daily bread,’ ‘debts,’ ‘debtors,’ ‘deliverances’ (verses 11, 12, 13), and we pray as citizens of a universal spiritual kingdom–‘Thine is the kingdom’ (verse 13), and the manner is bald, simple, but absolutely spiritual.
All through our Lord implies discipleship, or what we understand by an experience of regeneration. In other words, His Death is the gateway for us into the life He lives and to which His teaching applies. Therefore to take our Lord’s teaching and deny the need to be born from above, is to produce a mockery, born of the very desire to do the opposite.
This section is presented as a stirring up and away from sentimental religiosity which is injurious to a degree that becomes immoral, because it unfits for life instead of equipping for life, the life that is ever the result of our Lord’s life in us. [Oswald Chambers, Christian Disciplines: Containing the Disciplines of Divine Guidance, Suffering, Peril, Prayer, Loneliness, Patience (London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1996).]
Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask him—and so needs not to be informed of our wants, any more than to be roused to attend to them by our incessant speaking. What a view of God is here given, in sharp contrast with the gods of the heathen! But let it be carefully noted that it is not as the general Father of Mankind that our Lord says, “Your Father” knoweth what ye need before ye ask it; for it is not men, as such, that He is addressing in this Discourse, but His own disciples—the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, hungry and thirsty souls, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, who allow themselves to have all manner of evil said against them for the Son of Man’s sake—in short, the new-born children of God, who, making their Father’s interests their own, are here assured that their Father, in return, makes their interests His, and needs neither to be told nor to be reminded of their wants. Yet He will have His children pray to Him, and links all His promised supplies to their petitions for them; thus encouraging us to draw near and keep near to Him, to talk and walk with Him, to open our every case to Him, and assure ourselves that thus asking we shall receive—thus seeking we shall find—thus knocking it shall be opened to us. [David Brown, A. R. Fausset, and Robert Jamieson, A Commentary, Critical, Experimental, and Practical, on the Old and New Testaments: Matthew–John, vol. V (London; Glasgow: William Collins, Sons, & Company, Limited, n.d.), 39.]