Please read Matt. 6:5-13 (See also Luke 11:1 – 4)
A. WE must learn to pray.
In Luk 11:1 we read: ” And when He was praying in a certain place, one of His disciples said to Him after He had stopped: Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.”
The disciples were deeply moved by Jesus’ prayer relationship with His Father and desired to be able to pray in the same way; hence their request and hence the teaching that He then gave them and is recorded here for us. We need to be taught by the Word and the Spirit how to pray and this is a lifelong course.
In his teaching of his disciples, He emphasizes that sincerity and intimacy are two of the most important elements of prayer; qualities that please God. (In later teaching He deals with other elements like faith, etc.)
B. Prayers that do not reach the Throne.
He gives two examples of reprehensible prayer:
- Firstly, that of the Pharisee who stands on a street corner when praying so that his “piety” may be seen and admired from all four sides. While praying he may be peeking through slitted eyes to ensure that there are at least some high ranking people around that notice him; that he is not wasting his energy. His prayer is intended for the human ear and aims to honor himself and that is all he achieves with it. It is earthly and remains suspended in the air along with the dust of the earth.
- A second type of ineffective prayer is that of the pagan who attempts to overwhelm the idol with a flood of words, convinced that this will ensure his prayer to be heard. The stream of words is reminiscent of the crackle of a machine gun. Our God is the Almighty One, high above any form of manipulation. He is also just and wise and gives only what He considers fair and to the benefit of the supplicant. He knows in advance the need of the supplicant who is on his way to His throne room.
C. SOME Important fundamentals of prayer.
What then is Jesus’ model of the prayer that pleases God? He gives the following guidelines:
- It should be like a father – son conversation. The word “Father” occurs 9 times in these 18 verses. That surely tells us something.
In prayer, it is primarily about the depth of the relationship and not about the use of the right good-sounding words. The watchwords are “sincerity” and “intimacy”. Our prayer conversations with Him should be relaxed and comfortable. When a drug-addicted, violent gang leader stands in court and sees the judge sitting on the bench, aggression and fear will well up within him However, if that judge later adopts him as a son, he will certainly no longer address him as, “Your Honour”. That would only cloud the relationship.
When a child of God reaches a point where he steps over the threshold of a formal relationship and enters the glory of a sweet inner-room communion with his Heavenly Father, he has made significant spiritual progress. His faith level will rise, which in turn will lead to many more answers to prayer. This principle is also reflected in the following verse:
“But an hour is coming , and it is now, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father is also looking for people who will worship Him in this way.” (John 4:23).
- However, the son will not abuse his relationship with his Father by asking for things he knows to be against his will. He will not do so because he loves the Father and does not want to put Him into a position where He has to say no. The Father indeed, does not want to refuse his son’s requests; on the contrary, He desires to prove His love by giving him what he asks for. When he leaves the inner room, the Father wants to see him going home with answers to his prayers.
- An informal relationship in no way means that the son will have less respect for his Father as we will see later. He will always keep in mind that He is his Heavenly Father. In this heavenly family, every member respects every other member including the angels and other heavenly beings.
- A son’s prayer to his Father will of course not always be calm and collected. It could be like the desperate cry of a child seeking help. Sometimes we are subject to severe pressure and our prayer to our Father will reflect this. We may be sobbing or groaning. It may be due to physical pain, unbearable inner demonic attack or fear of what lies ahead. This kind of prayer too will not be formal premeditated, written down words, but a spontaneous cry from the heart. Jesus sweated blood in Gethsemane and pleaded:
“My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” (Matt 26:38-44)
D. Framework of a model prayer.
What follows is the prayer framework Jesus gave to His disciples. You will do well to learn it by heart. It however does not mean that you always have to repeat these exact words. (How boring that would be.) It is meant to be a framework into which you can enter your own needs and thoughts.
1. First on my prayer agenda must be God and His kingdom:
” Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name; let Your kingdom come; let your will be done, as it is in heaven, so also on earth;“
Jesus not only teaches us what to pray, but also the order of the content of our prayers. The son who loves his Father, puts his Father above himself and honors him first, before laying his own needs before him. He speaks or sings words that gladden the Father’s heart. The side benefit of this is that since he focuses his attention on the greatness and glory of his Father, he strengthens his own faith to pray for himself and others. The Bible is first about God, then about man and when we maintain that priority, He will uplift us to take possession of the world. Then, by our efforts, His Kingdom will spread like wildfire to all nations.
2. Now, secondly, it’s our turn to receive prayer:
- “Our Father,“
The word “Our” reminds me that we are many children, many brothers and sisters and that I should not seek my advantage above theirs. We have already spoken about the word, “Father”.
- ” … Give us this day our daily bread;”
Now we get to our own material needs. The Lord who made us, knows very well that we daily need food for our bodies. He therefore created nature in such a way that it has enough for everyone. However, most people do not realize their dependence on God and therefore they do not pray for their needs. Therefore I pray, not only for myself, but also for them and in particular for my brothers and sisters in the Lord.
- Why should I pray for this if my Father knows in advance what I need?
First, so that I will never be tempted like Eve to think that I can live independently of my Father.
Secondly, because during my times of prayer I am in intimate communion with Him so that our relationship grows stronger. I will learn to understand His thoughts and ways more clearly. He will have the opportunity to transfer His essence excellences (characteristics) to me. He will implant them into me so that I will radiate His image. (2 Cor 3:18).
Thirdly, because from the beginning of the world He wanted us to rule over creation, develop it and guard it. In prayer we reflect on our own needs and on those of everything and everyone around us and submit our petitions to heaven to enable us to carry out our mandate.
It’s like the car mechanic who gets a job card to repair a particular car. He carefully examines the car, determines what parts and materials he needs, records them and then hands the card to the parts department. The shop assistant then issues him with everything he will need to carry out his assignment. The parts are already in stock; the mechanic is not responsible for producing it. As a child of God, I can likewise submit my petition with the greatest boldness to my Father’s storerooms because both I, and the work I have to do today, are his.
Also note that it is about today’s needs. Tomorrow I will ask for the parts of the car that I need to fix tomorrow. In that respect, the sparrow and I are alike; we only live one day at a time.
- “and forgive us our debts as we also forgive our debtors;”
Now we get to our spiritual needs. When I realize that I have sinned, I must confess it to my Father right away, briefly and matter-of-factly, and then go on my way with joy. Running into debt at the clothing store, is already wrong, but having that bill against my name for months on end, is much worse. Later on I will walk around in the shop not being able to buy anything anymore for my debt as run too high. Likewise I lose my boldness towards my Father when I incur spiritual debt and hang onto it by not confessing and having it forgiven.
- “Our debts.”
We must also bring the spiritual needs of others to the Throne. Most people do not confess their sin in prayer for they have no sense of their guilt and do not know God. Jesus, for instance, prayed for his murderers saying: “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Abraham interceded for the wicked people of Sodom and Gomorrah. Moses asked the Lord not to wipe out His people Israel because of their sin. Yes, there are many Christians who have lost touch with their Father; so much so that their brothers and sisters must intercede for them to come back home. Of course this will be a temporary forgiveness, allowing the sinner time to repent and be permanently forgiven.
- “…and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
Our Father tempts no one (James 1:13) but we have an evil enemy who devises clever plans to harm us. We live in a war zone from the cradle to the grave. With our next step forward we can step onto a land mine. Our all-knowing Father knows about every trap set for us, but we must do as He commands and regularly pray to be delivered from those attacks. That is part of our spiritual warfare. The Lord will then send angels to drive away the evil forces that surround us. Our responsibility is to pray. Every day can be another day of victory! The “Because” at the beginning of the next verse guarantees victory based on the fact that our Father is in complete control.
- “For to You belongs the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever.“
A king and judge must be treated with respect. To this day it is a rule in our courts of law that a person who enters the court while it is in session, pauses for a moment and bows in the direction of the presiding judge or magistrate and does likewise when he leaves the court. Jesus says we must begin our prayer by focusing on our Father (“bowing before Him”) and before we leave the Throne Room, we must do it again. In parting we must look away from ourselves and from the changing world around us, behold Him in His glory and worship Him. The picture of His glory will then remain before our eyes throughout the day.
This means, “This is the truth. What I have prayed, comes from my heart and I meant every word I said.” With this final word I greet my Father when I leave.
- ” … and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. ” (V6,18)
What a precious promise and how great to experience how the requests I made to my Father in the dark of night, are later being answered, one by one, in broad daylight. We have a living, loving, faithful prayer-hearing Father!
E. ADDITIONAL COMMENTS
- Prayer is easy to teach on, but hard to practice.
Prayer is a subject as wide and deep as the oceans that surround us. It pops up everywhere in the Word. So it is easy to work out a sermon or lecture on prayer, but for flesh and blood it is difficult to put into practice; that is, to pray. When asked in a gathering, “Who needs prayer?”, those present will spend five minutes telling the meeting about their needs. However, when opportunity is then given to convey these needs to our Father in prayer, the majority remain silent. They are perhaps too shy or not used to pray. Or, they are more concerned to let people know their needs than to let God know. Perhaps they get more satisfaction by sharing their burdens with people, than by sharing it with God. No wonder their needs are not met.
- Baby, teenager, young adult and adult prayers.
A baby communicates with its mother by crying or laughing; a toddler communicates in a gibberish way; a teenager overflows with his/her dreams and disappointments; a young adult is already beginning to notice that there are more things to talk about than just about his own little world; a young man of 28 can sit down with his father at the council table and discuss sensibly matters regarding the family’s farm, industries, shipping or airlines.
Where do I stand in my prayer life? am I in the cry and laugh stage? The thoughtless chatter stage? The dreamy unrealistic requests and tears stage because of disappointments? The intercession stage for a newly discovered world outside of myself and in-depth conversations and reflections with the Lord on Kingdom matters?
- Our Heavenly Father enjoys all of our prayers; from the cradle to the grave.
A loving parent happily enjoys every phase of his child’s communication with him and follows his progress and maturing with interest and delight. It is only when the child no longer retutns home to sit and talk with father and mother, that their hearts grieve. It is then that they long and wipe away tears. When was the last time you sat down and had a chat with your Heavenly Dad?
- Does the Lord step aside when you pull in with your train load of prayers?
Prayer is two-way communication. Don’t just pour out your story and then run out to play. There are many things the Lord wants to tell you; both about what you just said to Him and also about all kinds of other things. Just be quiet for a while so He can get in a word or two. That strong impression that arises in your heart; continue to wait on Him, then He will either take it away or bring it forth stronger. That picture before your mind’s eye (call it a vision if you will); it may contain a precious encouragement or indication of the course you should take. Listen, give attention or you will miss that which He wants to tell you.
- Prayers that hit the spot time and time again.
The most fruitful prayers are those that are prayed when the Holy Spirit is in full control. His thoughts are much higher than yours, so let his Spirit lay them in your heart. You will emerge from your inner room joyful and fulfilled and experience one answer to prayer after another. You will pray for people and places you hardly ever heard of. You will become a prayer channel of God’s blessing to the world around you.
- Enroll in Jesus’ School of Prayer.
“ LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY! “
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