Praying! – Matthew 6:5-15
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 7, 2019
When asked what believers need to do the most the answer always is to “pray” and this is good advice. If one’s prayer life is nonexistent their relationship with God is basically nonexistent. As a new believer having been brought up in a faith that taught that prayer was by route, meaningless, and automatic to discover that it was actually speaking with God was amazing to me. It changed my life dramatically. Praying is the heart and life of a Christian’s faith walk with God.
In Luke’s gospel we learn that “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’ (Luke 11:1 NIV)” And here in Matthew’s gospel we discover the same prayer being offered by Jesus as part of his sermon. Jesus did not mean for his example to become a formula or a mantra we were to use until it became a mind-numbing chant. Let’s discover what Jesus taught about praying…
READ: Matthew 6:5-15
Jesus’ disciples would learn that prayer for Jesus was a personal thing and not something one did in order to appease an angry deity. Jesus often went off by himself to pray but here we find he includes simple teaching on the subject of praying. The first thing we discover is that…
I. Praying for Jesus was not just gibber jabber! (Vv. 5-8)
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 men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 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. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
1. An individual talking with God had become a real problem with the Hebrew people. From intimate conversations with God like that of Abraham, Moses, and David prayer had now developed into the ritualistic chanting of the Temple. Or worse an outward display for the unwashed crowds to display the Pharisees’ phony piety! So Jesus teaches that “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 men.” Instead of a personal conversation between a person and their God prayer had become a sham! Jesus says this kind of prayer is hypocritical! He goes on to lay it out for his listeners, “I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.” Jesus knew God desired a personal relationship with them! And like with their acts of personal giving they were to make their prayer personal as well: “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.” God does not need public displays because he knows the individual’s heart already. Prayer is an intimate conversation and Jesus knew that their “Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Talking with God is supposed to be give-and-take. Too many folks have never heard God’s voice because they’ve never taken the time to hear him speaking to them! We live in a fast paced society that wants instant results and have forgotten that a deep spiritual relationship is developed not rushed. God is not your personal servant waiting on the sidelines to answer your beck and call when you need him. Therefore Jesus tells them that “when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” You cannot expect to know someone intimately if you never spend time with them. Sure God knows what we are going to pray before we pray it but he desires our full attention and he desires us, therefore, “Do not be like [these hypocrites], for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” We come to know God and his will and ways when we spend time talking with him! Praying for Jesus was not just gibber jabber!
EXAMPLE: We often do not know what God desires to communicate to us because we are so involved in just spewing words at him! I guess some think that God only listens when we pray hard and fast! The other day I was asked by an older gentleman who saw me with my granddaughter if she “talked a lot”. I told him she was sparse with her words but soon she probably would be a chatter box. He remarked that his daughter had been a “little chatter box” who just went on and on about everything. He remarked, “I loved every minute of it and now we have a great relationship where she calls me almost every day to tell me about how things are going.” This is what Jesus wanted his listeners to understand about prayer. Praying for Jesus was not just gibber jabber!
I discovered early on in my marriage relationship that I had better become a good listener to my wife. And I had better be willing to share my day with her as well. Give and take in our relationship is what has made our marriage strong. We spend time talking with each other daily. We discover here that…
II. Praying for Jesus was an intimate thing! (Vv. 9-11)
This, then, is how you should 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 today our daily bread.
1. I have heard this prayer example of Jesus used as a model to pray, as a formula one uses to get to the heart of God, or as some kind of outline for all our prayer. While there may be some validity to some of these I believe Jesus was first and foremost trying to get his listeners to remember what prayer was about and so he bluntly tells them “This, then, is how you should pray”. He isn’t telling them to pray exactly what he prays nor is he giving them an ultimate guide formula to emulate but rather he is teaching them that their prayer should contain some thought. When we speak with friends or loved ones we usually ask them how they are doing or what’s new in their lives. Prayer, being a conversation with a loving God whom we are trying to know better, should be done in the same manner! We are speaking with the Creator of all things who is holy, loving, and far beyond our comprehension! While he loves us and cares for us God is not our “Buddy”, he is a holy God! So we should come before him by reminding ourselves of just who we are speaking to: “Our Father in heaven”! He is a Living God who exists and is not some dead manmade idol of wood, stone, or metal! Also remember Jesus is teaching them how to pray to God that at that time was before he had died on a cross, was resurrected, and ascended back to heaven himself! Jesus is therefore teaching his fellow Hebrews how to reestablish their personal contact with a holy God that they had lost! They had forgotten what Job had known: “Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high. (Job 16:19 NIV)” We as believers now enjoy our advocate Jesus but we should always remember we are speaking with a holy God and “hallowed” is his “name”! At the core of our existence is to know and do the will of God. We do not seek God because we want things to go our way. How shallow is that kind of relationship? Instead we should be willing to pray to him “your kingdom come, you will be done on earth as it is in heaven”! Believe me Jesus understood that God’s will, would be done no matter what. This is why he would pray in the garden when he was facing the trial of his life, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done. (Luke 22:42 NIV)” And yet we can also ask God for our daily needs for life: “Give us today our daily bread.” It shows our daily dependence on God’s care. It is here we discover that praying for Jesus was an intimate thing!
EXAMPLE: I like mornings in our household during the week because my grandkids come over very early and I get to spend a few moments praying with them and getting them back to sleep. (Mom and Dad work and I get the privilege of being with them before school.) I spend time talking to Jesus with them about their day, their parents, and school. It is a special time. It isn’t hurried. It is kind of cozy in fact. Prayer for Jesus is supposed to be just like this because praying for Jesus was an intimate thing!
When I first learned to pray it was all by formula and in fact we used a prop so that our prayer would become something you could do unconsciously without any thought at all. This is not how Jesus viewed prayer. Yet it is how prayer had become in his day! We learn that…
III. Praying for Jesus was a means for forgiveness! (Vv. 12-15)
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
1. The entire reason Jesus came to earth was to fulfill God’s promise to mankind to redeem them back to his self. In order for that to be accomplished a debt had to be paid. We have a tendency to forget that sin exacts a heavy price because it is against the holy nature of God. God does not wink at our sin nor does he laugh at it or excuse it because he sees us as wayward kids. Sin is serious business for God so much so he came as Jesus to sacrifice himself for our sin. Now all of this to say that God sees sin as a debt and this is why he tells his audience that when we pray we have to be willing to ask God, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” This is an exacting thing because it requires forgiveness on our part which was something the Pharisees had a hard time with. They believed in an eye-for-an-eye payback, yet we have to forgive. Jesus also knew that being the weak creatures we all are we need all the strength we can get so he relates that when we pray we should ask God to “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” Jesus knew that God never leads us into evil and the wording suggests we are to ask for him to lead us to his strength. In fact as we look at this sentence knowing it is given to Hebrew listeners we discover that it contains hope because Jesus would indeed deliver us from not only the sting of death but Satan’s influence as well. And then Jesus reminds his listeners that “if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” This is a reminder of the fact we reap what we sow and we want to sow the things of God in our lives. It is not the idea of balancing the scales between being good and bad or doing good or bad but that we are accountable for our lives and whether or not they are lived for God or not! Again this would be a tough concept for his listeners and so they needed to be reminded of it. If one wants to draw close to God and speak intimately to him they cannot harbor animosity, anger, or hatred to one of those he came to die for! And we must never forget that praying for Jesus was a means for forgiveness!
EXAMPLE: A special Scripture for me is 1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 NIV)” Jesus desires that we “walk in the light” of his grace. I am not a perfect person and I often blow it. However prayer has become a time for me to declare my ungodliness honestly and openly before him. I have learned like John did that “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8 NIV)” And we cannot “walk” with Jesus! Yet if we “confess our sins” he is more than willing to forgive us! John concludes by reminding his readers that “If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. (1 John 1:10 NIV)” I am overjoyed that praying for Jesus was a means for forgiveness!
Praying for Jesus was not just gibber jabber! Praying for Jesus was an intimate thing! Praying for Jesus was a means for forgiveness!
This article is copyrighted © 2019 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.
Daily Archives: April 6, 2019
Praying! – Matthew 6:5-15