Learning to Pray (Matthew 6:5-13)
Jesus expects his disciples to pray. Notice that he begins this section by saying, “When you pray,” not “If you pray.” We Christians should be steadfast in our prayer lives (Col 4:2; Thess 5:17).
Are you praying?
How Not to Pray, vv 5-8
We are not to pray to be seen. The hypocrites loved to stand in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen. These individuals did not pray to commune with God, but they prayed to be seen. The basic problem with the hypocrites was their pride. They wanted everyone to know how pious they were. We are to do nothing from pride (Rom 12:16; Prov 16:18). They had their reward-Being seen by others was the only reward they would receive.
When we pray, we are to go into our room and shut the door. The word “room” here refers to a storeroom where one might keep his treasures. The implication could be that there are treasures waiting for us in prayer. There are treasures that await us in prayer. In prayer, we are able to commune with the living God. In prayer, we are able to give our concerns to God (1 Pet 5:7).
We should shut the door when we pray. Prayer should not be a matter of public display. Prayer is to be a matter of the heart.
We are to pray to the Father in the secret place. The Father is said to be in the secret place, for he is invisible. Because the Father is in the “secret place,” we should pray in secret. Prayer is to be communication between us and God. Our Father will reward us-He will bless us.
We are not to pray using vain repetitions like the heathen do. Repetition in prayer is not sinful-When Jesus was in the Garden, he “prayed the third time, saying the same words” (Matt 26:44). What is sinful is repeating the same words over and over without any thought to the words. When Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal, they cried out from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, hear us!” (1 Ki 18:26). Pagans had prayers they were to pray. We must never just haphazardly pray using the same words and phrases. The heathen believed they would be heard because of their many words.
We do not need to use the same phrases over and over, for God knows what we need before we ask.
How We Should Pray, vv 9-13
Jesus gives his disciples a model prayer to teach them how to pray. In Luke’s account of the model prayer, one of Jesus’ disciples asks Jesus to teach them to pray (Lk 11:1). Because Jesus spent so much time in prayer, he was qualified to teach his disciples to pray (Mk 1:35; Lk 5:16).
We are to pray to our Father in heaven. This excludes praying to saints or other gods. Only the true God is worthy of prayer.
We are to glorify God in prayer. Jesus prayed for God’s name to be hallowed. “Hallowed” means to be counted as holy, to be treated as holy. When we pray, we must praise God. Many of the psalms praise God and hallow his name (e.g., Ps 8:1; Ps 145:1). We need to incorporate such language into our prayers.
Jesus prayed for the kingdom to come. Jesus’ basic message was, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt 4:17). That kingdom, the church, is here. We should no longer pray for the kingdom to come, but we should pray for the kingdom to spread.
Jesus prayed for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. God’s will is done in heaven. We should pray for God’s will to be done on earth. Not praying for God’s will to be done is the epitome of pride-Such prayer treats God as though he were a cosmic Santa Claus who constantly gives us what we want. Praying for God’s will to be done places us in submission to God; we must submit ourselves to God (Matt 26:39; Js 4:7).
Jesus prayed for our daily bread. Many are troubled by this statement. These writers believe that making this to be physical food causes Jesus to pray for mundane things. However, Jesus said that the Father is concerned about our physical needs (Matt 6:25-26). There is nothing wrong in asking God to provide our food.
Jesus prayed for forgiveness. Since Jesus was without sin (1 Pet 2:22), this obviously does not refer to him. However, since all others do sin (Rom 3:23), this should be an important part of prayer. God has promised to forgive those sins we confess (1 Jn 1:7). Are you confessing your sins to God?
Jesus asked God to forgive us as we forgive our debtors. The clear implication here is that unless we forgive others, God will not forgive us (Matt 6:15). Jesus told the parable of the unforgiving servant to make this point (Matt 18:23-35). A man who owed a large sum of money was brought before the king, and the king forgave him his debt. Upon being released that man found another man who owed him some money. The servant who had been forgiven threw the other servant in prison until he could pay all of his debt. When the king heard what had happened, he threw the forgiven servant in prison. Are you forgiving those who have sinned against you?
Jesus prayed that we would not be thrown into temptation. God himself tempts no one (Js 1:13), and he will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear (1 Cor 10:13). “Temptation” here might best be understood as trial, hardship-Jesus asked God to deliver us from trials and hardships.
Jesus prayed that we would be delivered from the evil one. The “evil one” clearly refers to Satan. This tells us we need help in overcoming Satan. Satan walks around like a “roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet 5:8). We wrestle against Satanic forces (Eph 6:12). Do you pray to be delivered from Satan?
We need to be a praying people.
Yet, if there is sin in our lives, God will not hear our prayers (Mic 3:4; Is 59:2).
Does God hear your prayers?
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Owingsville church of Christ in Owingsville, Kentucky.