Praying | Matthew 6:5-15

Week 8 | Sermon

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matthew 6:7-8)

Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. (Matthew 6:9-13)

OPENING THOUGHT

Jesus came to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth, making His disciples its citizens, and the Sermon on the Mount essentially provides a brief guide for how to live in God’s kingdom. Chapter five established the basics. The Beatitudes succinctly covered the characteristics that Christ’s followers should display. Next, Jesus presented His disciples’ purpose, being the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Finally, Christ discussed how the Old Testament applied within His kingdom, which He did by taking the Old Testament commandments from mere outward obedience to heart-level obedience.

Last week, we began studying chapter six, in which Jesus switches to a new area of focus. While chapter five ended with examples of how to truly obey the Law, this chapter focuses upon how to truly practice religious disciplines. Beginning with giving to the poor, Jesus takes religious piety to the heart-level as well by emphasizing the sinfulness of practicing our religion in order to be seen by others.

Jesus now moves into the topic of prayer. Like giving alms, Jesus first defines how NOT to pray before telling us how to properly pray. Two warnings are given to avoid in prayer. First, Jesus tells us not to pray to be seen before others, and second, He warns us against praying long, empty phrases in our prayers. In contrast to these missteps, Jesus urges us to pray in secret to the Father and to pray concisely, using His example of prayer, the Lord’s Prayer.

Read verses 5-6 and discuss the following.

  1. As with giving to the needy, Jesus warns against praying to be seen by others. What are some ways that we might be guilty of this today?
  2. In answer to the pride of being seen, Jesus urges His disciples to prayer secretly before the Father. Does this exclude ALL public praying? Why or why not?
  3. What is the significance of private, daily prayer?

Read verses 7-13 and discuss the following.

  1. Jesus’ second warning is against lengthy prayers that are effectively meaningless. What are some ways we might be guilty of this today?
  2. Jesus offers the Lord’s Prayer as a model for how our prayers ought to look. What is so significant about this prayer?

Read verses 14-15 and discuss the following.

  1. Picking up the thought from verse 12, Jesus gives us one final exhortation on prayer: forgive those who sin against you. How is the need to forgive others tied to our prayers?

ACTIONS TO CONSIDER

  • Obey. Prayerfully evaluate your prayers. Do you pray in order to be seen by others? Are your prayers excessively lengthy? Do you have any outstanding forgiveness that needs to be given in your heart?
  • Pray. Use the Lord’s Prayer as a model for praying each morning this week.
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Secrets of Successful Prayer

On Sunday, Paul Priest preached a great sermon on following verses from James:

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

James 1:5-8

 To guide your listening, he lists three main points from the text.

1. Prayer must be definite. We must ask.

2. Prayer must be dogmatic. We must ask in faith.

3. Prayer must be decisive. We must ask without doubting.

You can listen to the sermon by clicking here.

Power Through Prayer

 

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Would you call yourself a prayerful Christian?

How much of your time do you give to prayer daily?

Do you enjoy praying?

Questions like these can be difficult to answer because honest answers might prove to be painful as we quietly hope that no one is really supposed to enjoy praying.

The reality is that prayer is a treasure of the Christian life, but like many treasures, it often isn’t sought after because the path leading to it is too difficult.

Fortunately, prayer is worth the effort. And E. M. Bounds is ready to urge us toward a deeper life of prayer.

Summary

Bounds’ book is largely focused on prayer and the pastorate. He argues throughout that great preachers must be men great in prayer, sternly warning against pastors who preach without a desperate reliance upon God. He calls these dead sermon, preached by dead men. Without God’s strength, the pastor can do nothing for the Kingdom of God, and without prayer, the preacher will not find God’s strength.

A great point of conviction between Bounds and myself is his insistence upon spending much time in prayer. Of course, he emphasizes that time spent in prayer is not a direct indicator of the prayer’s value. Short prayers are often required and are just as pleasing to God. However, if we truly treasure being made children of God in Christ, why would we not long to spend much time with our Father in prayer? Bounds concludes that if our faith does not cause us to desire prayer, “then our faith is of a feeble and surface type.”

If I could summarize Bounds’ ultimate goal with this book, I would suggest that it is to stir up our desires and affections for being alone with God in prayer.

Notable quotations

The Church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men.


The preaching man is to be a praying man. Prayer is the preacher’s mightiest weapon. An almighty force in itself, it gives life and force to all. The real sermon is made in the closet. The man—God’s man—is made in the closet. His life and his profoundest convictions were born in his secret communion with God. The burdened and tearful agony of his spirit, his weightiest and sweetest messages were got when alone with God. Prayer makes the man; prayer makes the preacher; prayer makes the pastor.


We have emphasized sermon-preparation until we have lost sight of the important thing to be prepared—the heart. A prepared heart is much better than a prepared sermon. A prepared heart will make a prepared sermon.

Who should read it?

As stated in the summary, pastors appear to be the target audience for this book, and he certainly succeeds on that front. Power Through Prayer has become my first recommended reading for anyone who feels called by God to the pastorate.

But it is not a book for pastors alone. All followers of Christ are called to be faithful men and women of prayer, and the final few chapters, in particular, dive into the importance of churches being composed of prayerful people.

Why should I read it? 

Too many Christians think far too little about prayer. We give a few minutes to it in the morning, before bed, and before most meals. Bounds notes, “We are not a generation of praying saints. Non-praying saints are a beggarly gang of saints who have neither the ardor nor the beauty nor the power of saints.” This is because if we are failing to see the beauty of prayer, we fail to see the beauty of God. Prayer is a marvelous privilege that was bought for us by Christ’s death and resurrection. By His atoning blood, we are able to come near to God, who spoke galaxies into existence and created quantum mechanics, calling Him our Father. We should not pray out of obligation; rather, we ought to long for prayer out of our heart’s well of thanksgiving.

There are certainly better books worth reading on the mechanics or theology of prayer. But I have found no book greater than Power Through Prayer for passionately pleading for our hearts to desire being with our Father in prayer.

 

For Forgiveness

And forgive us our debts, 

as we also have forgiven our debtors. 

Matthew 6:12

This is simultaneously the most hopeful and heavy piece of the Lord’s Prayer. It is hopeful because Jesus is encouraging us to come to the Father to ask for forgiveness. The heaviness comes next, “as we also have forgiven our debtors.” As we petition God to forgive our sins, we must also forgive the sins of others. In order to truly understand this principle, let us breakdown what Jesus means by debts here.

Christ calls us to ask the Father to forgive our debts, presumably our debts owed to Him. But what debt do we owe God? The answer is a sin debt. Each one of our sins is committed in offense to God, who is holy and eternal. David, after committing adultery and murder, prayed to God, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.” He knew, of course, that his sin hurt others, but he also recognized the greater truth that God was most offended. Sins against people are also sins against God, in part, because God made people in His image. Murder is the defiling of God’s image, and God takes direct offense. But even more than offense, sin is disobedience, the breaking of His commands. Sin is, therefore, an act of open rebellion against God, and the punishment, since God is eternal, must also be eternal. We rebel against the Infinite One, and we suffer an infinite punishment, a never-ending debt.

Fortunately, God answers this exceedingly bad news with good news. Though God could not simply forgive sin without the penalty being paid (Prov. 17:15), He provided a way to both maintain His justice and display His mercy and grace toward us. God came to earth, taking on human flesh, becoming one of us. He then lived a perfect life, entirely without sin (the first and only person to accomplish that feat). Even though He did not deserve death as we did, He willingly suffered death by crucifixion in our place. He took our debt upon Himself. The infinite God absorbed our infinite punishment at the cost of His blood. Jesus, therefore, ransomed our lives with His, and with His resurrection, He secured the sole right to forgive us of that debt.

We can only ask God’s forgiveness in Christ’s name and by His death and resurrection. There is no other means of forgiveness. But we must also be humble enough to accept forgiveness. We can easily fool ourselves into thinking that endless guilt is an act of humility; however, believing we are beyond forgiveness is actually arrogance and pride. Theologian R. C. Sproul writes, “When God promises us that He will forgive us, we insult His integrity when we refuse to accept it. To forgive ourselves after God has forgiven us is a duty as well as a privilege.”

But we must also go further. If we have been forgiven of our infinite debt by God, we also cannot withhold forgiveness of lesser sin debts that others owe us. Matthew 18:21-35 is a parable of a man who is forgiven of a gigantic debt and then refuses to forgive a much smaller debt. The man ends up being punished severely because of his lack of grace. Recipients of grace must also be givers of grace.


Meditate upon Matthew 18:23-35 and think of any people that you need to forgive. Consciously choose to forgive them, even if you must continue to choose forgiving them each day.

Pray for forgiveness of your own sins, asking the Lord for grace to turn away from committing those sins again.


 

For Provision

Give us this day our daily bread,

Matthew 6:11

 After praying for God’s name to be holy, for His kingdom to come, and for His will to be done, Jesus now leads us into praying for our needs. It is important that our needs come after praying for God’s work because it gives us the proper focus. Knowing that God’s name is holy, not our own, keeps us from becoming self-absorbed in our prayers. And it’s the same with God’s kingdom and will. Even though we now begin to pray for ourselves, we do so in light of God’s supremacy and sovereignty.

When Christ guides us to pray for our daily bread, He is describing our daily provision from God. Being altogether good and loving, God urges us to come to Him with our needs and cares. In fact, we are commanded many times to make supplication to God. Philippians 4:6-7 is perhaps the best known:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Notice that Paul gives praying our needs to God as the antidote for anxiety. God desires for us to find peace in Him, trusting His lovingkindness towards us. He longs for us to walk in faith, not anxiety.

In this sense, making our requests known to God is really for our benefit. Jesus tells us that our Father “knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matt. 6:8) Thus, asking God for provision is not because He is forgetful; rather, it is because we are forgetful. Each day, we naturally begin to forget the grace and mercies of our Father, and we will take our lives into our own hands, paying little heed to God’s plan and will.

It’s what we do as humans.

We constantly forget that we need God.

So praying daily for God to provide for our needs is a means of remembering that we truly do need Him.

This is especially important today. No other society, past or present, has experienced the prosperity that we have. Even without considering the conveniences of electricity or A/C units, most of us have little fear of going without food. Granted, our budgets may not allow us to continually purchase the types of food we want most, but often the danger of hunger is still nothing more than an abstract concept to us.

Or maybe water is the better example. Though we have the most convenient, clean, and reliable water that has ever been available on a large scale, many live on the verge of dehydration from not drinking enough. Safe water is perpetually at our fingertips, and we simply forget to drink it (or replace it with various carbonated, flavored syrups).

Both of these blessings were mere fantasies for most people in Jesus’ day and throughout human history. Thus, the prayer for daily bread was a literal prayer for daily bread, as each day was a struggle to have enough food to survive.

Does this mean then that our access to food and water are sinful?

Not at all!

They are tremendous blessings of God, yet because they are so available, we easily forget that they are not guaranteed nor promised. Even if they seem to be perpetual, God alone keeps them so.

More than ever, praying for daily provision ought to remind us of our true source of sustenance.


Meditate upon the daily blessings that God has provided you and upon His grace and love in giving them.

Pray to God in thankfulness for His provision and joyfully bring your needs to the Father in prayer, knowing that “we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:16)


 

COPYRIGHT© B.C. NEWTON 2016

Pray Like This

Pray then like this:

Matthew 6:9a

How staggeringly wonderful that Jesus would present us with such a succinct and powerful model of prayer! Of course, the Lord’s Prayer is that model. Christ effectively delivered it to us as a guideline, a standard and parameter for how praying ought to look for His followers. This importance is clarified by Jesus Himself in the opening words: “Pray then like this”.

These four simple words can easily go overlook as we eagerly jump to the meat and potatoes of the matter; however, this opening statement is no less important than any other aspect of the Lord’s Prayer.

First, from these words, Jesus informs us that there is a correct way to pray. Just as we discussed previously, the disciples realized over the course of Jesus’ ministry that His prayers were effectual in a manner that they had never before witnessed. Jesus spoke to God as His Father, and God answered in spectacular fashions. He knew that the Father “knows what you need before you ask him (Matt. 6:8).” So Jesus made His prayers, knowing that the Father would not fail to accomplish His will, and by praying, Jesus sought to conform Himself to the will of the Father.

Second, since there exists a correct form of prayer, there must also be incorrect praying. It is most important for us to understand that not all prayer is really prayer, and because of this, not all prayer is effectual. After all, the Pharisees and Sadducees would also spend a great deal of time praying to God, yet their prayers seemed empty, regardless of the speaker’s eloquence. Jesus smashes the preconceived notions of prayer into rubble, giving a remarkably short prayer as the pattern for us to follow. A well-spoken prayer that is delivered to appear holy receives only the reward of being esteemed holy by others, but prayer that is made to the Father, seeking to do His will, is prayer that is truly holy and is truly prayer.

Third, we must remember that the Lord’s Prayer is a model. Jesus said to pray like this. The Lord’s Prayer is not a Christian mantra to be repeated endlessly to gain credit with God. Heartless repetition of these words is no more holy than the heaped “up empty phrases” that defined a hypocrite’s prayer. To be true, there is nothing wrong about praying the Lord’s Prayer word for word; however, if doing so is to be true prayer, it must come from the heart, not from bottomless replication. Instead, I believe that we ought to use the Lord’s Prayer as a basic outline for how we might structure our prayers, that we would be guided by Jesus’ example to pray regularly for God’s name to be made holy, for His kingdom to come, for His will to be done, for our daily provision, for forgiveness, and for strength to conquer sin. This is the approach we will take as we meditate upon each component of the Lord’s Prayer.


Meditate upon Jesus words: “Pray then like this.”

Pray to conform to Jesus’ example of praying.