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A Journey Through Matthew (Pt 5)



A Recent poll has shown that Americans say that they pray regularly and most reading this post would probably admit to being a person of prayer at times.  I am sure we all pray before meals, maybe before we go to bed, and at church. I can’t help but wonder, how people are praying, and do they really understand the practice of prayer?  Does prayer entail more than asking for things?  Does it mean more than just thinking about someone who is having a hard time.  We hear on this said all the time “They are in our thoughts and prayers.”  Now, I admit there are times in my life when my prayer life is shallow.  There are days when I get up and say a quick prayer to help me get through the day or when I am in a bad situation, I pray that God would help me, but is that the essence of my prayer time with God?  No, it is not, and I believe God wants so much more from us in our quiet times with Him.


What is prayer?  Prayer is the primary means for people to communicate with God and Him with us.  Some people are confused about prayer.  What is it?  What does it mean?  What does it accomplish?  At the core, prayer is simply talking with God.  It involves speaking to God from your heart and actively listening to Him.


Prayer isn’t a method for approaching God as a genie or divine vending machine.  Prayer isn’t a way to get God to do what we want.  Instead, prayer is the way we come close to Him so we can glorify him and also to find out what He wants from us.

 

Today we will be spending our time looking specifically at the Lord’s Prayer.  Before we do, let’s first look at what Jesus talks about first.  He warns his listeners about making a spectacle of themselves when they did good deeds. He warns about having bad motives for giving and helping people just so they would look good, more holy, and righteous, when in fact they were being self-serving.  Jesus says that when we give or serve, we are to do it in humility, and in ways that will bring glory to God rather than self. 

 

Theologian R.C. Sproul writes, “Prayer, like everything else in the Christian life, is for God’s glory and for our benefit, in that order. Everything that God does, everything that God allows and ordains, is in the supreme sense for His glory. It is also true that while God seeks His own glory supremely, man benefits when God is glorified. We pray to glorify God, but we also pray in order to receive the benefits of prayer from His hand. Prayer is for our benefit, even in light of the fact that God knows the end from the beginning. It is our privilege to bring the whole of our finite existence into the glory of His infinite presence.”[1] 

 

Jesus uses this same warning with prayer.  He begins in verse 5 by saying, When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get.”   There are a few points to observe in this statement and we will look at them together.


  1. When you pray – Notice Jesus does not say, “If you pray”.  No, he says “When you pray”.  Prayer is communication with God.  It’s two-way communication, we are to talk to him, and he speaks to us in our quiet time. He delights in communicating with his children.  Prayer is a discipline that should be a priority in life, because communicating with God is important and God has established it for His glory and our benefit.

  2. Don’t be like the hypocrites – In prayer you must be genuine and authentic and not just a vain ritual or to seem pious.  The religious people whom Jesus was speaking about would pray in public only to be seen and heard by the people.  In Jesus’ time men would pray in the synagogues so that people would see them and think highly of them.  Jesus calls these individuals, hypocrites. I don’t think Jesus is condemning public prayer per se, He is merely condemning self-serving motivation in prayers for the purpose of impressing those around them.  Their prayers would wordy and lengthy but with little substance. Often, they were empty phrases and mindless chatter and Jesus warns against this their prayers that are mindless and mechanical repetition.

So, Jesus tells us WHEN we do pray, we are to go to our closets and pray in secret.  Does he mean this literally or figuratively?  Yes.  I believe Jesus points to the state of our hearts in prayer.  When we go to God in prayer, we are to open our hearts, pour out our emotions and genuinely spend time in fellowship with Him.  We talk to him through intercession, supplication, and worship and in turn we need to allow time for Him to speak to us by listening and meditating – either on his word or in silence.

 

 Jesus introduces us to what we call, “The Lord’s Prayer” and in this he gives us a model for prayer.  Notice He says, “Pray like this…”  He does not say, “Pray this prayer”.  He shows that this prayer is an example, a model or a “template” on how one should pray.  His prayer contains six components.  The components are as follows.


  1. Our Father in Heaven – Invocation: this is the call for or the summoning.

  2. Hallowed be Your name – May God’s name be sanctified.  You are Holy.

  3. Your Kingdom come soon and your will be done – You are Lord of Heaven and earth and you have dominion over all so you do what you have to do according to your will.

  4. Give us our daily bread – You are the God of all provisions and I trust that you will meet my needs.

  5. Forgive our debts – Forgiveness sought and given.

  6. Deliver us from evil – Protect us from the evil of this world and make us pure and holy.

 

“Our Father in Heaven.”  When we pray, we are praying to THE FATHER who is in HEAVEN.  Who are we addressing?  When we approach God as a Father, we are not approaching any ole Father, we are praying to The Father in Heaven.  Some people have difficulty with addressing God as Father and they have various reasons.  Some may not like the fact that they had an earthly father, and he brings nothing but painful thoughts, memories, and anxieties to mind.  Their memory of their father brings such pain and anguish that they refuse to believe that God as a Father could imply something good.  Others don’t like the fact that Father implies that God is a male, and this can open a whole can of worms, some denominations have gone so far as to refer to God as the Father/Mother.  Some even go so far as to not even liking the idea of referring to God in human terms.  However, the original Greek word for Father in this passage is translated as Pater which means the originator and transmitter of anything. The authors of a family or society of persons animated by the same spirit as himself. One who has infused his own spirit into others, who actuates and governs their minds. One who stands in a father’s place and looks after another in a paternal way.  No matter how we view our earthly father’s it is good for us to know that we have a God in heaven who stands in the place of our earthly fathers and looks after us as a true father should look after his own children.  What does this mean to the believer?  As Christians we have been exalted to an especially close and intimate relationship with God, and we no longer dread him as a stern judge of sinners, but we revere him as (our) reconciled and loving Father.  

 

God is our Father, but He is unique in the sense that his abode is not primarily here on earth. We cannot and must not forget the fact that God is always present here on earth (Omnipresent) this world is not his home.  His place is in heaven.  The word translated Heaven in this verse is



which means the region above the far-out heavens or the constellations. It is the seat of order of things eternal and consummately perfect where God dwells with other heavenly beings.  Heaven, this is a subject all its own.  I will not be spending time today trying to answer the questions of what, where and why’s of heaven.  This is another topic for another time.

 

So, in conclusion to today’s post and as we look at God the Father, I want to stress the importance of knowing and understanding that we have a God in Heaven who loves us with a pure, holy, and fatherly love.  He will watch over, protect, and love us in a way that only a parent could love their child.  I personally experienced this kind of love and connection with the birth of all four of my children.  When my first child was born the emotion and connection, I felt with my daughter was/is unspeakable.  I cannot explain the type of love that I experienced as a new father.  I experienced a love that I didn’t know I could possess, and it was a pure love, a protective love and a determining love.  Imagine this is the kind of love our God has for us.  That’s the best way to describe God’s love for us as a Father.  However, we cannot completely fathom or define this love because we love with a human love, and He loves with a perfect, pure, and holy love that we cannot understand or comprehend.  But I also need to say that as a Father, he not only loves us, but also has the heart to discipline us, protect us, and to guide us as His children.  Because this is what we are… His children.  John 1:12 - 13 says what I am saying best, “But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.” Since we have a God in Heaven who loves us and gave his son Jesus Christ and have believed in Him, we now have the right to be called His children and we have the right to also call Him our Father who is a holy, loving, merciful and all-encompassing God.


[1] R. C. Sproul, Does Prayer Change Things?, vol. 3, The Crucial Questions Series (Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2009), 10.

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