Pray, then, in this Way.
Sometimes what is missing the most in the Christian life is quality time spent in conversation with God i.e. Prayer. Prayer is the most powerful tool that any disciple of Christ has at his or her disposal. At a moment’s notice we can be pouring our heart out to God and talking with Him but I’m afraid we may not do it as often as we should. Prayer may sit in the dark shadows longing to be used and may often go unnoticed and overlooked. Conversely, one could also “pray”often but misuse this pathway of communication to God. It is indeed this dilemma that Jesus addresses at length in Matthew 6. Jesus pronounces harsh criticism against the “hypocrites”who use prayer to receive glory and attention from men. While the latter example is readily detestable by most, we must all understand that God condemns both attitudes.
We must not abandon prayer, and neither must we use it for our own selfish ulterior motives. Instead we must pray diligently and pray in the manner Jesus taught us. The prayer recorded in Matthew 6:9-13 is not one we ought to pray everyday verbatim but rather, it is a pattern Jesus intended to establish. An appropriate structure that all men can and should use to communicate to God. For the remained of this article, I want to share with you several key points of this structure Jesus laid out for us.
1. Pray to God i.e. Call on God’s Name (Matt. 6:9)– It may be very obvious to us that one ought to pray to God and to God alone. Yet there are many who call on the name of a man or false god in prayer. Such a thing is not taught in the bible and in fact, it is condemned. Those that pray ought to pray to deity i.e. God. In the scriptures there are three “beings”or “persons”that fit this description: God the Father, Jesus Christ, Holy Spirit. These three are God and are worthy and deserving of our attention in worship and prayer. Jesus’ pattern for prayer in Matthew 6 makes it abundantly clear that we must and should pray to God and call on His name.
2. Pray for God’s glory (Matt. 6:9, 13)– The purpose of our prayers is not to vindicate us or make us appear to be right and righteous. Our prayers are to accomplish God’s purposes and glorify Him! Don’t pray so others can hear how smooth your words are, how extensive your vocabulary is, how great of a spiritual fighter you are, but pray to ultimately give God the glory He deserves. Our lives as Christians should be telling not about us but of Him who is in us. Let your prayer lives do the same.
3. Pray in line with God’s will (Matt. 6:10)– There are quite a few people who hold to the belief that prayer is an avenue by which we can request anything we would like from God and He will grant it. There are others who pray only when they need something from God. Both these mindsets fall short of what Jesus instructed us about prayer. I’m not denying that we cannot ask God to grant requests that we may have but I am saying that ultimately, we must pray that all things be done according to His will. Jesus Himself is a great example of this. When He was in agony weeping in the Garden of Gethsemane shortly before His death (Matt. 26:36-44), He prayed that God “remove this cup from Him.”However, He continued by saying, “…not as I will, but as You will.”To pray in line with God’s will is to recognize that He has the future in His hands, and He knows what’s ahead. While we want a certain thorn to go away or a particular request granted, it may not be what God has planned for us. We can’t get mad at Him for that. We can’t shy away from prayer because of that. God can do something we can’t. He sees what’s ahead in the eternal view of all things and what’s in our best interest. We can’t do that. We can’t look at all eternity like He can. Therefore, we must trust Him and pray according to His will.
4. Pray Specifically (Matt. 6:11)– Now, as I briefly mentioned above, praying in line with God’s will does not mean we cannot ask God and plead with God for certain requests. On the contrary Jesus shows us that we ought to pray specifically. When we go to the store, we are usually equipped with a list. On that list are specific items, including the brand name and size or quantity that is needed. Without a list, we might forget what is needed and necessary in a recipe. It is the same when we pray. Making a list, forces us to really think about what is needed and necessary in our lives. We need to confess specific sins in our lives, intercede for specific people, seek for specific changes in our lives and the lives of others, ask for specific needs to be supplied! James tells us that many times we do not receive from God, because we do not ask!
5. Pray with the right heart (Matt. 6:12)– When one calls upon the name of God, that’s not a thing to be taken lightly. We must be aware that it is a serious and holy action and God considers it to be a very serious action as well. So, when we pray and call upon God’s name in prayer we must pray with the right heart. We must be willing to confess our sins to God and we must ask Him for forgiveness. This mindset must dominate our prayer lives for such an attitude reflects a heart that seeks to be right with God. Our prayers are hindered when we hold on to our sins and offenses. We must come clean with God, confessing our sins, forgiving others who have hurt or harmed us, as we enter into His presence in prayer.
6. Pray Earnestly (Matt. 6:13)– We must show a sense of sincerity and intense conviction when we pray to God. Be constant and be consistent about it! Most people suddenly find prayer when their lives depend on it. As Christians who have access to this powerful tool we must pray at all times as if our lives depend on it. A large portion of our prayer lives may not yield results because we may not be earnest enough about it. We must be fervent when we pray not because God requires convincing per se but because we need to show Him how much we desire Him in our lives and how much we love Him. Find the time and make the time for a meaningful conversation with your Savior and be intense and serious about it!
There are many more things that could be said about prayer. I share these things with you because Jesus took the time out to share it with the whole world. It’s that important and we must ensure that we are praying in this way. Have you prayed this way lately? Are you praying as you should be? Let’s ensure that we all do our best to take advantage of this great blessing from God.