Many Christians and churches focus on prayer at the beginning of the year. I want to talk about the Lord’s Prayer in this “Praying God’s Way” miniseries. Even though it’s called, “The Lord’s Prayer,” it is the model prayer the Lord gave to us. It has the keys for powerful and effective prayer all through it.
How many times in our lives do we struggle with prayer or see unanswered prayer? Since I was young, I would go to the altar with my parents. Sunday night services were about praying at the altar for anything.
That’s what prayer should be like. It should not be a laundry list of needs or a show of our spirituality. It’s about talking to God in his presence. Have you ever prayed through the Lord’s Prayer? I mean taking each line and expounding on it and applying it to your life? That’s what this miniseries is all about.
The Lord’s Prayer can be found in Matthew 6:9-15. But I want to start with the context where Jesus teaches about prayer. We find this teaching on prayer in the midst of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.
Right before our reading is a teaching on giving to the needy. After this teaching, Jesus talks about fasting. Giving to the needy, prayer and fasting are all central disciplines of the Christian life.
Jesus expects us to do these things, and offers us a God-pleasing method for doing them better. When I was interning at my mentor’s church, he challenged me to pray an hour every day in preparation for ministry. My first question was, “What happens when I run out of things to pray about?”
That’s when he taught me how to use model prayers throughout the Bible in my prayer time. There are a lot of books about praying the Scriptures. This is not praying the words of Scriptures verbatim. It is using the Scriptures as a model for prayer.
Before we look at the individual lines of the Lord’s Prayer, let’s take a look at Jesus’ teaching about how to pray before we enter his presence. Jesus outlines the best practices before we begin our prayers in Matthew 6:5-8.
He describes private prayer. This is prayer that highlights our relationship with him. He’s not giving us a tutorial on how to pray in public.
Prayer Principle #1: Jesus expects us to pray.
In Matthew 6:3, Jesus does not say, “And IF you pray…” He says, “And WHEN you pray…” Every Christian is expected to pray. Prayer is not optional. It is essential to our walk with him. It is how we meet with him, enjoy his presence, and communicate with him.
Prayer Principle #2: Prayer is for God, not others or us.
Jesus talks about hypocrites, people who are “two-faced.” They pray in their personal lives but they do it in public. They do it to be seen by others. When they do it this way, people think, “Wow, what a spiritual person.” It’s to impress others rather than talk to God.
They take that 15 minutes of fame (and I have actually listened to people drone on in “prayer” for 15 minutes during services) to showcase themselves and their spirituality. It is selfish prayer that does them no good.
He says that they have received their reward. Their purpose was to be seen by others. That’s all they accomplish. They don’t touch the heart or throne of God. He doesn’t have two-way communication with them. But they think they look good in front of others. They get their reward.
But the intimacy and the presence of God is not in those prayers. They lack the personal touch of someone reaching out to God. They lack the intimacy between a believer and the Almighty God of the universe.
Prayer isn’t about us. It’s not about our spirituality or our level of maturity. It’s about meeting with God. It’s about communing in his presence and connecting with him. Even when I’m in public, when I pray, I shut out the world so I can listen to the Spirit.
Prayer Principle #3: Prayer focuses on God.
Our prayer closet is not necessarily literal. Some people have a place they pray every day. Having a prayer routine is a great idea. We are creatures of habit and if we include prayer in that routine we won’t forget to meet with the Lord regularly.
The prayer closet contains the idea that everything else falls away. Our priority becomes our relationship with God. Relationships take time, and we can honor God through prayer. Whatever you have to do to get time alone with God, that is your prayer closet.
Prayer Principle #4: Rewarding prayer happens in secret.
Jesus also conveys a sense of secrecy to our prayers. He talks about the Father who is in secret (Matthew 6:6). The Old Testament talks about God’s secrecy. He hides himself from his people to see who is desperate enough to seek him even in the silence.
Putting in the time and effort to desperately seek the Lord doesn’t go unnoticed. Even when “the heavens are brass” God is still watching us. In these quiet times alone with God we grow in him. As we seek him, it shows we don’t want anything else. He promises to meet us when we seek him (Jeremiah 29:13).
With all of the hustle and bustle of life, our relationship with God can be pushed to the background. We excuse ourselves by saying, “God is number one, but this other task must be done by this deadline.” We don’t want to push God aside but it happens practically, if not mentally.
When we get in that place of quiet and silence before the Lord, we seek him until we find him. We don’t think about anything else or give up. God is always there and sometimes it’s more about us realizing his presence than about him showing up.
The reward we receive from the Father is his presence. When we cry out to God and desperately wait for his answer, he comes to us. God answers the prayers of the persistent (Luke 18:1-8). We have no one else to turn to for answers. We just want to hear his thoughts and to know him in that secret place.
Prayer Principle #5: Powerful prayer isn’t wordy, but direct and genuine.
In Matthew 6:7, Jesus teaches us to not pray wordy prayers. This doesn’t mean you look for the shortest words to pray and count your words. It means that you are genuine, that you be yourself before the Lord. He already knows you. He knows when you are trying too hard with lots of words.
Jesus clarifies that God knows our needs already (Matthew 6:7). He’s not saying that we shouldn’t pray about our needs. God loves to hear from us. It’s more about connecting with God than the word count or list of needs.
I know a lot of people who do not like public speaking or praying in public. They are not used to trying to communicate with God and sound good at the same time. But the thing is, the secret to a great public prayer is the same as private prayer. Be yourself before the Lord.
Talk to him as you would in your prayer closet. And in that prayer closet, prayer is a spirit to spirit transfer. God speaks to us in ways we can’t explain to others. He speaks to people in many ways. If you talk a little more than others, that’s okay. If you are a person of few words, that’s what God wants.
The problem Jesus addresses in his day with the Gentiles is that they had prayers that had certain words to get certain reactions from the gods. They prayed to get what they wanted or to make the gods happy enough to grant their requests.
But our Father is nothing like those false gods. We don’t need to impress him. All we need to do is be genuine and real before God. He can sense when we are fake. He knows when we are trying to impress him. But he is already impressed with us.
We can interact in whatever prayer we pray. If it is a prayer for our needs, we can simply ask him without pomp and circumstance. If it is a prayer to thank him for his blessings, glorify him and bring up every blessing you received.
God isn’t interested in the perfect sounding prayer. He doesn’t care about the “money words” that impress others. He is impressed when we come to him, seek him, and be ourselves in his midst.
As you prepare to enter God’s presence and prayer, remember these principles:
- Jesus expects us to pray.
- Prayer is for God, not others or us.
- Prayer focuses on God.
- Rewarding prayer happens in secret.
- Powerful prayer isn’t wordy, but direct and genuine.
Leave a comment and tell me what you see in these quick three versus on Jesus’ teaching on prayer.