One last word on prayer (for now). Many books have been written about prayer and countless sermons are preached on prayer, rightfully so, because prayer is a such a huge blessing for the Christian. So this little blog isn't going to be exhaustive. In just a few short verses in Matthew 6, Jesus taught so much about prayer. Let's take a look at what Jesus said are the DON’Ts and DOs of prayer.
- You DON’T Pray for Show (6:5-6)
People have asked me if they should pray for their car. I have been asked if it is OK to pray for your dog. As far as I can see, there is really one thing you don’t pray for. You don’t pray for show. There is a time and place for public, congregational prayer, but your prayer is never to be for a pat on the back from others. That’s why Jesus said the getting real with God means getting alone in prayer.
- You DON’T Pray to a Nothing (6:7-8)
When we pray, we don’t have to talk and talk and talk and talk and talk and talk and talk to get God’s attention, as if He is aloof and only responds when we get on His nerves. Jesus said, “Empty phrases piled high, that’s what the Pagans do.” Even in our culture the idea is propagated that if we repeat a specific pre-fabricated prayer or two, a certain number of times, that makes God happy. Incorrect. God already knows what you need before you pray, so the recital doesn’t help. You aren’t throwing up words to a nothing, you are talking to the sovereign, living God! Then why pray? Prayer does not make God understand, it is so we can have the experience of Him understanding, knowing ourselves that He knows.
- You DO Pray as a Worshiper (6:9-10)
Jesus said to pray like this. Obviously not just repeating the phrases, He already covered that idea. But the “Lord’s Prayer” (or the “Disciple‘s Prayer“) gives us the ingredients that go in the recipe of prayer. The first few (what we find in verses 9 and 10) go under the heading of worship. We pray to the Father, through the Son, and with the Holy Spirit, and all with a heart of worship for Who God is, What He has done, and What He will do.
- You DO Pray as a Dependent (6:11-15)
God doesn’t file taxes, but if He did, how many dependents would He put down? The answer is: everybody in the history of the world. Whether they acknowledge Him or not, whether they bow the knee to Him or not, every single person is utterly dependent on God. The believer is the only one who truly gets this, and Jesus shows us that we are to pray for provision, forgiveness, direction, and protection. We desperately need God in these four areas, and Jesus said to get after these in prayer.
I recently finished a book on prayer. It was full of truths on prayer, based on the Word of God, but it didn’t really teach me anything new about prayer. And all those other books I have read, the sermons I have heard, the podcasts I have listened to - though they were all good - none have really taught me a lot about how to pray. The best way to learn how to pray is by praying.
Let’s get back to this glorious truth: God moves in the lives of His people when they pray.
p.s. - 1 Thessalonians 5:17