2006-08-13_When You Pray_Matthew 6.9-15
When You Pray
Matthew 6:5-15 | Shaun LePage | August 13, 2006
A. In Matthew 6:1, Jesus said, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” He then went on to give three specific examples: Giving, praying and fasting. Today, we look at the second example: praying.
B. As I prepared for today I asked myself, “What response does God desire from those who will listen to this message?” I decided it was not guilt. Certainly not boredom. Not just the recognition of the need to be more obedient. I believe God’s desired response to the passage of Scripture we will look at today is a sense of privilege. A renewed appreciation for the great privilege we have as believers to pray. When we pray, we make personal contact with the Lord and King of all that exists. What activity, what use of your time can compare with prayer? Martin Lloyd Jones called it “the highest activity of the human soul.”
C. What we find in Matthew 6:5-15 are the most significant words ever spoken about prayer. They came from the lips of the greatest Pray-er in all of history. Jesus not only prayed constantly when He walked on earth, but He constantly intercedes for us now (Romans 8:34). Let Him teach you this morning about prayer.
II. Body: Matthew 6:5-15
A. Don’t pray with the wrong motivation: Man-focused. (v.5)
1. vs.5 “When you pray you are not to be like the hypocrites…” How do the hypocrites pray? Keep reading. “…for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men.” There it is again. In the first four verses of this chapter, Jesus said, “Don’t give…so that you may be seen by men,” and here He tells us not to pray so that “you may be seen by men.” That’s pride. That’s a man-focused motivation.
2. This type of prayer is “like the hypocrites.” The word “hypocrite” was a transliteration of the word for a Greek actor. Someone who was pretending to be something he isn’t. Someone who prays to be “seen by men” is not the righteous person he wants people to think he is.
3. Jesus told us how valuable that kind of prayer is: “Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.” The reward was no reward at all. Maybe someone will think you’re a great man or woman of prayer, but who cares what other people think. What matters is what God thinks.
B. Pray with the right motivation: God-focused. (v.6)
1. vs.6 “But you, when you pray…” Jesus assumes we will pray. Just as He assumes we will give, He assumes we will be praying. As we’ll see in vs.9-13, Jesus goes even further. He teaches us how to pray.
2. “…go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret…” This does not exclude public or group prayer. Jesus Himself prayed many times in group settings and so did the apostles. There are times when public prayer is good and necessary. The point is that the focus of your prayers should be God. Never pray for prideful reasons—to be seen (or heard) by men. If it is true that God is listening, then it doesn’t matter who else is.
3. “…and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” Here again is the promise of reward. The reward here can certainly be instant or future. But the point is, Prayer is worth it! It’s not a waste of time. “Your Father” really does see—He really does hear your prayer. And He really does reward—He really does answer.
C. Don’t pray with the wrong method. (v.7-8)
1. Now look at vs.7-8: “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 “So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” Look what Jesus is saying here: Jesus is telling us that there are wrong ways to pray.
2. “Meaningless repetition” here is the translation of the Greek word βατταλογήσητε which literally means “babble, speaking without thinking (BAGD).” It has also been translated “babbling” (NIV; NLT). This tells us we should not pray unless our mind is engaged.
a) So, I believe this excludes “glossolalia”—commonly called “tongues” today. The “tongues” of the Bible were actual languages. But many today are teaching that Christians should pray in glossolalia—that Biblical tongues are spiritual languages that are not known to any man. But, glossolalia is practiced by many pagan religions. “Glossolalia” literally means “non-meaningful speech” and those who practice it readily admit that the mind is not engaged. We’ll talk about this important subject in detail another day, but for now simply note that Jesus forbid “praying without thinking” and this is the very definition of glossolalia—“non-meaningful speech.”
b) Jesus also tells us “…for they (Gentiles) suppose that they will be heard for their many words.” I can remember—as a Roman Catholic—holding a rosary (prayer beads) and reciting my memorized prayers over and over. I didn’t think about what I was saying. I just did what everyone else was doing and tried to get it over with as soon as possible. Prayer is not about saying “many words”! It’s about saying meaningful words.
c) But, don’t take this to the other extreme either—that it’s wrong to pray a lot of words, or pray for a long time. The number of words has nothing to do with it. There may be times when you pray long prayers—perhaps all night sometimes. Jesus did that on several occasions—in fact, there were times when Jesus encouraged persistence in prayer. We even have the example of Christ repeating Himself in prayer—in the Garden of Gethsemane He prayed the same prayer at least three times. The point is, God doesn’t sit up and pay attention just because someone uses a lot of words. God pays attention to meaningful prayer.
3. Look what He said in v.8: “So do not be like them…” Again, the kingdom-minded disciple of Jesus Christ is different. Different than the typical, shallow religious people around him. They think of God as some cosmic vending machine in the sky and if they say the magical words or repeat their requests over and over and over they’ll somehow get what they want. But those who really and truly know God, know He is our Father. He desires to be known in a loving relationship—one in which we call Him “Father.” Look what Jesus said, “…Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” Do you see? God’s not waiting for us to inform Him of what we really need. He’s waiting for us to come to Him—as His children—and talk to Him. Yes, ask for what you need, but trust Him as your Father to know what is best!
4. And, don’t use this verse as a reason for not praying—“O, God knows what I need. I don’t need to ask.” No, God knows what you need, so ask Him! It should be an encouragement to pray deep, meaningful prayers. Not just ask, ask, ask. But relationship prayer. Meaningful communication. Seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and letting your Father—who knows what you need—decide what things to add.
D. Pray with the right method. (v.9-15)
1. vs.9 “Pray, then, in this way…”
a) The first word is a command: Pray. Don’t miss this: Jesus not only assumes we will pray. He commands us to pray. Colossians 4:2 says, “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving.” That’s what Jesus commanded us to do here: Devote yourself to prayer (9a).
b) “In this way.” Jesus already told us how not to pray and now He’s going to tell us how to pray. The construction of this phrase indicates the manner in which we are to pray. Pray “in this way,” not necessarily these exact words. It’s not necessarily wrong for us to memorize these verses and pray this prayer word for word—in fact, we’ll do it later on. The problem is when it becomes meaningless. God wants meaningful communication with Him.
c) Max Lucado tells the story of a minister who visited a man in the hospital. Next to the man’s bed was an empty chair so the minister asked if somebody had recently been by to visit. The old man smiled and gave this answer, “I place Jesus on that chair and I talk to him.” He went on to explain, “Years ago a friend told me that prayer was as simple as talking to a good friend. So every day I pull up a chair, invite Jesus to sit, and we have a good talk.” Several days later the man died. His daughter had been sitting with him but slipped out for a few hours because he seemed to be resting so peacefully. When she returned to the room, she found him dead. Strangely, though, his head was not resting on the pillow, but on an empty chair beside his bed. (The Applause of Heaven, Max Lucado, 1996, p. 20–21)
2. Notice next that little word “Our”. Throughout the prayer, Jesus used the third person plural. “Give us…our daily bread…forgive us as we also have forgiven our debtors...lead us…deliver us.” I believe Jesus is telling us to Devote yourself to community (9b).
a) You cannot be obedient to God—you cannot worship, you cannot serve, you cannot grow, and you cannot pray correctly—if you are not in Christian fellowship. Why not? Why can’t I just stay at home and pray, go out in the woods and pray, and not mess with all the hassles of church? See John 9:31: “We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He hears him.” There are numerous (40+) passages in the New Testament that are known as the “one another” passages—“pray for one another, submit to one another, be patient with one another”—if you are not in Christian fellowship (i.e., actively involved in a body of believers) you cannot fulfill these commands and you are therefore in sin and God will not listen to your prayers!
b) But on the positive side, there is something very powerful about a praying community. Acts 2:42 makes it clear that the first church “devoted themselves to…(among other things)…prayer.” God did great things among them and through them.
c) When you are alone, it’s okay to pray: “my Father,” but don’t forget that the “our” is a reminder to devote yourself to community.
3. The next word in v.9 is “Father.” Jesus is saying Devote yourself to intimacy (9c).
a) No one ever prayed like Jesus. The word Jesus used here is pater. He also addressed His Father with the childlike Aramaic word “Abba”—which is much like our word “daddy” or “papa.” And Jesus invited us to call God “Father.” We are His children—remember that God has gone to great lengths to make it possible for us to relate to Him, to know Him intimately in a “familial”—Father/child—relationship.
b) So enjoy! What difference should it make in your life to get up in the morning and remember, “I’m a child of the Father in heaven!”? Our joy, our strength, our confidence, our persistence is directly related to our understanding and remembering who we are in Christ! Who are you? Have you forgotten? Do you sometimes forget? Open up to Ephesians 1:3-6! God is not far away! God is near and when we pray, we are to devote ourselves to intimacy with our heavenly Father.
4. Look again at v.9: “Who is in heaven” reminds us of the Father’s sovereignty as God Almighty. I believe Jesus is saying Devote yourself to reverence (9d).
a) I like the warning Solomon gave in Ecclesiastes 5:2: “Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God. For God is in heaven and you are on the earth; therefore let your words be few.”
b) Yes, approach Him as Father, but don’t approach with a casual, flippant attitude. Why should we “not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought…in the presence of God? Because “God is heaven and you are on earth.” In other words, devote yourself to reverence.
5. “Hallowed be Your name.” The next phrase in v.9 should remind you to Devote yourself to God’s glory (9e).
a) “Hallowed” is a good, but antiquated word. When I think of “hallowed,” I think of the time I visited the Lincoln memorial. I felt like I was on “hallowed” ground. Everyone was whispering. Somehow it just seemed sacred. I’ve heard that those who visit the sites of the Nazi concentration camps—now museums—rarely speak. Most just walk through silently because they somehow feel they are on “hallowed” ground.
b) The word “hallowed” simply means to “make holy.” This phrase has also been translated “Your name be honored” (NLT) and “Your name be kept holy” (AmpBib).
c) The “name” of God is more than just “God” or “Lord” or any of the numerous titles and attributes given to God in Scripture. It’s more than just what we call Him. It represents who He is. It represents His nature. His character.
d) To pray “Hallowed by Your name” is not to ask that God’s name would now start to be holy, but it is to pray that God’s name would be treated as holy. It is to pray that He would be glorified. That He would be treated as sacred. It is to express our desire for God to be given the honor and praise and glory He rightly deserves. When we pray this prayer, we once again devote ourselves to God’s glory. To obeying 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” and Ephesians 3:21, “…to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”
6. “Your kingdom come” is an invitation to Devote yourself to Christ’s Lordship (10a).
a) Jesus told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). So, in one sense, we are praying for the kingdom that is yet to come. We are praying the final prayer of the Bible, the words of John, “Come, Lord, Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20). Establish Your millennial kingdom and then Your eternal, visible reign over all that is. Not until Jesus returns will we have a truly Christian nation. Not until then will we have the end of racism, exploitation of the weak, war, poverty, hunger, murder, violence and death. It should be the daily cry of our hearts, “Come, Lord, Jesus!”
b) But this prayer—“Your kingdom come”—is not just future. It should remind us of the present Lordship of Jesus Christ. He is Lord and King now! At His second coming, we will see Him in His glory, but that doesn’t mean He does not currently reign and rule this universe. Everything is under His dominion. When we pray, “Your kingdom come…” we are remembering that there are two kingdoms according to Colossians 1:13,14—the dominion of darkness and the kingdom of the Son of God. We are praying, “Lord, help me to live for you ‘in the world’ but not be ‘of the world.’” The King has rescued us out of the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of Jesus Christ—we must daily look to Him and declare our allegiance. To pray, “Your kingdom come” is to devote yourself to Christ’s Lordship.
7. “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” should remind you to Devote yourself to obedience (10b).
a) His “will” is His desire, His plan. When we pray, “Your will be done” we are telling Him that His will is going to be our will today. What He desires will be our desires, what He plans will be our plan.
b) “On earth as it is in heaven” tells us how we are to do His will. How do you suppose God’s will is done in heaven? Surely it is done immediately and completely. When we pray this prayer, we are committing ourselves to do His will as quickly and thoroughly as possible—as though we were Michael or Gabriel.
6. “Give us this day our daily bread” represents a change. Up to this point, Jesus has told us to get our perspective right—to focus on God’s name, God’s kingdom and God’s will. With that perspective, we can now make God-focused requests. Our hearts are set on things above so we are equipped to ask for the right things. This first request is to Devote yourself to dependence (11).
a) For what did Jesus tell us to ask? “Our daily bread”. In other words, ask God for your basic needs, not your greeds. He said, “bread” not baby-back ribs. Should we really ask God for food, water and shelter? Yes. It’s true that none of us are worrying about whether we will go to bed hungry tonight. But that kind of wealth and comfort should cause us to pray with thanksgiving.
b) But, this means so much more than that! After just praying “Your will be done,” we are instructed to ask for what we need. In other words, we must ask for what we need to carry out His will in our lives, in our homes and in our church.
c) Jesus is telling us to devote ourselves to dependence upon our Father. Jesus said in John 15:5, “Apart from Me you can do nothing.” I believe Jesus is telling us to think about what we need—as an individual or as a family or as a church—to do His will, then ask God to provide it for us. What do you need to accomplish God’s will in your life?
(1) Do you need godly people in your life to encourage you and build you up? I think God is saying, “I’ve got a great little church right over here and a Community group tailored for you getting ready to study exactly what you need to hear!”
(2) Do you need someone to help you put your marriage back together? I believe God is saying, “I’ve got a couple over here that’s asking Me to use them to minister to couples who are struggling. Let Me introduce you to them!”
(3) David Jeremiah, in his excellent book, Prayer: The Great Adventure writes: “Everything we do that’s worth doing; everything God wants to do in the church; everything God wants to do in your life; He has subjugated it all to one thing: Prayer.” (Prayer: The Great Adventure, Multnomah 1997, ps. 40-41)
d) Jesus said, “Give us this day our daily bread”. Clearly, this implies that we are to pray in the morning. He didn’t say, “Give me retroactively what I needed today.” I am not legalistic on this, but it makes better sense to start your day asking that God would provide; getting your focus on Him, beginning a day-long conversation with Him. God help us! Are we dependent upon God for monthly or weekly help? Or, are we dependent upon God for daily, hourly help?
e) This whole verse instructs constant, daily dependence upon God and we need to daily devote ourselves to dependence on Him.
7. “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” In other words, Devote yourself to purity (12).
a) “Debts” is a word that is sometimes used in the New Testament to refer to sins. Just as a man who has committed a crime owes a “debt to society,” those who sin (you and me) owe a debt to God. We owe God our obedience, but we steal from Him when we disobey.
b) Seeking forgiveness is to recognize our need to be washed of sin (at least daily) and your understanding that there is only One Source for cleansing—only One Source for pardon.
c) Jesus also makes it clear that unforgiveness is a sin that reveals a heart that is not truly repentant.
(1) How important is this? Jesus came back to it in vs. 14-15: “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 “But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”
(2) To be forgiven of God for the sin that would have landed you in hell is to recognize that anything anyone does to you is a small offense in comparison.
d) To pray “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” will remind us that we need to be forgiven and forgiving. It is to devote ourselves to purity; the cleansing of our sins.
8. “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” This should remind you to Devote yourself to warfare (13).
a) I believe this is a prayer of protection—Lord, please protect me from my own sinfulness and my enemy’s attacks.
b) “Lead us not into temptation” What did Jesus mean by this?
(1) Did James contradict Jesus when he wrote James 1:13? “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.”
(2) No. The word translated “tempt” in both passages is a very neutral word. In English, “tempt” means “to seduce to do evil.” That’s not what this Greek word necessarily means, and James makes it clear that God never does that.
(3) However, God does “test” us for various reasons. James also tells us in 1:2,3 to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” God doesn’t tempt us to sin, He allows us to go through trials so that our faith will be strengthened—so we can grow up.
(4) So, when we pray, “do not lead us into temptation” it is to recognize that in our weakness, we can fail the tests that God brings our way. We can be “tempted” to dishonor Him.
(5) Do you know what else? It’s okay to ask God that you would not have to face tests and trials. Jesus asked that the “cup” of the cross could pass from Him. God said “no” in that case, but only God knows how many tests and trials He has cancelled or held off for another day when one of His children came to Him and asked, “Please don’t test me today.”
c) “Deliver us from evil.” Literally, this phrase should be translated: “Deliver us from the evil one.” I believe this is a prayer of protection from the devil’s schemes. This is a prayer of faith. It expresses our belief that—first—we are in a spiritual battle. That we have a very real enemy who can do very real damage in our lives. Second, it expresses our belief that only God can truly deliver us. We are helpless against our enemy, but God is the Great Deliverer and if we will look to Him for protection, we will find it. Third, it expresses our belief that prayer is a vital part of spiritual warfare—we need to pray. After Paul listed the various parts of the believer’s spiritual armor in Ephesians 6, he instructed us to, “pray at all times in the Spirit.” Do you believe there are “spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly realms” who are trying to destroy your testimony for Christ? Trying to get your kids? Trying to cause division in the church? “Pray at all times in the Spirit” and ask God to “deliver us from evil.”
9. The last part of v.13 is “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” You may have noticed that there are brackets around this verse and a note somewhere in your study Bible saying, “This clause is not found in most manuscripts.” In other words, most Bible scholars believe this verse was added later. But it really doesn’t matter because it’s true—there are lots of other verses that teach the exact same thing! And it takes us back where we started: Praising God and acknowledging that He is Lord and deserving of glory.
A. And this is a fitting way to end the prayer because it should remind us once again that prayer is a privilege. Robert A. Cook, president of The King’s College in New York, once told the story of how he had been at a gathering in Washington and had talked with Vice President George Bush. Two hours later he spoke briefly with President Ronald Reagan. Then he said, “But that’s nothing! Today I talked with God!”
B. Let’s stand and talk to God together. Let’s pray this magnificent Lord’s prayer together—with meaning and understanding—to our Father in heaven.