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DAY 3 – PRAYER BASICS
Jesus’ first teaching about prayer is found in the middle of His famous sermon: The Sermon On The Mount (Mt. 5-7). In this sermon Jesus declares what God’s kingdom is really about. Jesus is upset about the mistakes of the religious leadership. His teaching attacks their traditions and rituals. They have perverted God’s truth and taught the people to serve God in ways that God never intended. If you take the time to read the whole sermon, you will see that Jesus emphasizes following God through relationship and integrity of heart.
Jesus has little patience with people who turn relationship with God into something God has not intended. Jesus calls people back to right relationship with God. He corrects the false ideas of the religious establishment. He teaches God’s truth as God intended it to be. His teaching on prayer is a good example of this.
Mt 6:5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.
Jesus starts His teaching about prayer with a warning. He tells us not to be like the hypocrites when we pray (vs. 5). A hypocrite is someone who claims to follow God but consistently fails to live as God commands. Hypocrites talk the talk but they don’t walk the walk. In other words, they live a lie. They look good on the outside, but they are not authentically connected to the Lord on the inside. Jesus starts by saying, “Don’t be like them!”
Jesus describes their hypocrisy in verse five: … for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. These hypocrites use prayer to show off. They are not genuinely seeking the Lord in prayer. They are trying to give others the impression that they are great followers of God. They pray loud and in public to attract attention to themselves. It’s all about the show for them. Jesus says they have received their reward in full. In other words, the Lord is not impressed with their public displays. He is not going to respond to their requests. They are not connected to Him.
Then Jesus teaches us how to pray:
Mt 6:6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Instead of praying in public for everyone to see, Jesus instructs us to get alone – go to your room and close the door. Pray where no one else will see you or hear you. Prayer is not about a public show. It is about a private conversation between you and the Lord.
Jesus not only teaches us to enter into private conversation with the Lord, He also promises us three things. First, as we pray to our heavenly Father, He is there. Second, the Lord is aware of what we are saying in prayer. He watches. He hears. Third, our heavenly Father will reward us.
WOW! What a promise! Think about it. If you or I place a call to the President of the United States, we will most likely never speak to him. He’s too busy and we don’t count. If we call the Governor, we most likely will be denied. But if we get alone and pray to the God of the universe, He is right there with us. He is listening. He cares. He has time. He will respond! He will reward! What a wonderful God we serve! How can we neglect our prayer lives? Almighty God waits for our call!
Jesus continues His teaching about prayer with another correction:
Mt 6:7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
God’s not into mindless repetition when it comes to prayer. We are not supposed to babble on and on as if our repetition will somehow manipulate the Lord into responding. No, God wants private conversation from the heart. That’s what prayer is all about. We simply communicate one-on-one with the Lord.
Did you notice verse eight? … for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. The Lord is already well aware of what we need. He already knows our situation. He is aware of our attitudes and our resources. Our circumstance is no surprise to Him.
So, someone may ask, “If God already knows what I need, why does He want me to pray about all the things He already knows about?” The answer: the Lord wants to be actively involved in relationship with us. He wants us to depend on Him in every situation. He wants to build our faith by answering our prayers.
Prayer is not about telling God something He doesn’t know. Prayer is about us casting all our cares upon Him and depending on the Lord in every situation. His answers to our prayers show us His intimate involvement in every aspect of our lives. Without prayer we could never fully appreciate His concern and love for us. What a blessing it is to know that God Himself hears us when we pray and to know that He answers!
Notice please that Jesus doesn’t mention posture in prayer. We are not instructed to kneel or stand or sit or lay down or raise our hands. Why not? God must not view our posture as that important. The main thing He mentions is that we take time to get alone and pray to Him.
- What is a hypocrite?
- What does the Lord promise us if we pray in private?
- What does the Lord say about posture in prayer?
- What are you learning about prayer now in your regular time alone with God?
Think about how you live. Write down your answers to these questions:
- Am I a hypocrite?
- What steps are necessary to stop living hypocritically? (Ask the Lord for help here)
- What improvements have I made in my prayer life these past two days?