Teach Us To Pray
Bible Reading: Mathew 6, verses 5 thru 15
“And when you pray, you are not to be as the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners, in order to be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your inner room, and when you have shut the door, pray to your Father, who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret, will reward you openly.”
“And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore, do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need, before you ask Him. Pray then in this way..”
“Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy 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 forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever, amen.”
“For if you forgive men for their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your trespasses.”
A long, long time ago, people got into the habit of referring to that passage of scripture, as “The Lord’s prayer”. And it was indeed the Lord Jesus who spoke those words to His disciples. But it wasn’t “His” prayer. Jesus was instructing His disciples, in how THEY were to pray. He gave them some examples of the types of things that they should pray for. The occasion when Jesus spoke these words, is also recorded in Luke 11:1 thru 4. And although this is a very BRIEF summation of what was said, it does tell us something that the account from Mathew DOESN’T tell us.
In Luke 11, verse 1, it says; “And it came about when He was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him; Lord, teach us to pray, just as John also taught his disciples.”
It’s interesting to notice, that nowhere in the bible, are we given any example of John the Baptist teaching his disciples to pray. But in this verse, it says that he did. Since there’s no example of it, should we not believe the verse that says he did it? Of course we should believe that John taught his disciples to pray. What’s the difference if we have any examples of it? Luke 11, verse 1 says he did, and so that settles it. It happened.
And that’s just one example of how God doesn’t reveal everything that we might want Him to reveal, AND, he doesn’t reveal everything about any given subject, in just one verse. We’ve got to take everything together, to know the truth, don’t we? So then even though Mathew doesn’t tell us that the disciples had ASKED Jesus to teach them how to pray, Luke does tell us that.
Now, as I said, the account that Luke gives, is a very brief account, compared to Mathew’s account, even though Luke did reveal that one thing, that Mathew had not revealed. So then, here’s what Luke has recorded for us;
Luke 11:2-4; “And He said to them; (this is Jesus responding to the request to teach them how to pray) “When you pray, say; Father, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins. For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.”
Did Jesus say other things, along with these things that Luke records for us? Yes He did, and Mathew has recorded the other things that Jesus said. Why did Luke only “highlight” a few of the things that Jesus said on that occasion? Quite simply, it’s because that’s what God inspired him to record for us. And then God inspired Luke to record a little story that Jesus told, about persistence. And Jesus concluded that story with these words; “And I say to you; Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives, and he who seeks, finds, and to him who knocks, it shall be opened.” Luke 11:9-10.
Do you think that asking, and seeking, and knocking, have something to do with what we pray for? I think it does.
You know, God didn’t inspire Mathew to record that story, and those words. But here’s the next thing that God inspired Mathew to record; He had just got done recording for us, how Jesus taught His disciples to pray, and then he records these words of Jesus; “And whenever you fast, do not be like the hypocrites.”
That’s what Jesus said about our praying too; “Do not be like the hypocrites.” God doesn’t like a hypocrite does He? He doesn’t like it when people just “pretend” to be faithful, and just “pretend” to love God. We don’t need to try to make someone else “think” we’re faithful. Our actions will make it perfectly clear whether we’re faithful or not. You’ll know them by their fruits, right?
So, Jesus said, in Mathew 6:16 thru 18; “Whenever you fast, do not be like the hypocrites. They make their face to appear gloomy, so that they appear to men, to be fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast (Jesus must be assuming that His disciples are going to fast from time to time, so as to devote themselves more completely to prayer) “But you, when you fast, anoint your head, and wash your face, so that you may not be seen fasting, by men, but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret, will repay you.”
That’s exactly what Jesus said about the way we should pray. In secret. Prayer isn’t something we do for someone else. Prayer is something we do for us. And fasting goes along with prayer, doesn’t it? In the viewpoint of Jesus it must. But nobody fasts, do they? Sometimes we wonder if anyone even prays anymore. Prayer and fasting, you might give that some thought. Jesus did.
You know, Jesus was known to pray all night long! It says in Luke 6, verse 12; “And it was in these days, that he went to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.” Could you do that? I know I couldn’t do that without my mind getting sidetracked. Can you imagine the mental devotion that would take? No wonder Jesus went to the mountain by Himself, so there wouldn’t be any distractions. Do you think He brought any food with Him? I don’t think so.
I wonder how long we could successfully devote ourselves to prayer, if we had a day we could set aside, and put away anything that could distract us. Turn off the phone, put away the food, forget about the clock, find a comfortable place to sit down, or maybe lay down, and pray to God.
What would you pray for? What would you say to God? We could start by remembering how Jesus taught His disciples to pray. First of all, Jesus said, don’t be hypocritical. Don’t pray just so someone else can see you praying. And then second, don’t use vain repetitions. Don’t say words just for the sake of saying something. Make sure that the words you use, mean something to you. And then realize this fact, “Your Father knows what you need, before you ask Him.” But God wants us to humble ourselves, and ask Him anyhow.
So then, suppose you’re all ready to devote long hours to God, in prayer. How do you begin? Jesus says; Give God the praise that He deserves. And address God as your “Father”. “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.” “Hallowed” means to treat as holy, and to set apart and sanctify. Jesus is our friend (if we obey Him) But don’t address God as your “buddy”. We need to address God as “our Father”, and the almighty god that He is, and we need to treat Him as holy, and reverend. Don’t ever address a mere man, as “reverend”. That is reserved for God!
“Thy kingdom come”, Jesus said. Should we pray for the Lord’s kingdom to come? No, that would actually show a lack of understanding of God’s word. The Lord’s kingdom has already come, almost 2,000 years ago. Maybe we should be thanking God, for His kingdom, and thanking God that we’ve had the opportunity to hear the word. And praying that everyone would at least have that opportunity also.
We should be praying to God that “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” I wonder how much time you could spend, talking to God, and asking Him to help you realize all the many ways that His will might be done here on earth. And how many of those ways can you specifically be a part of. You could spend a lot of time in prayer with just that subject.
And Father, “Give us this day, our daily bread”. Maybe we could spend some time asking God to help us rely on Him daily. That’s the whole point of praying for “our daily bread”. The thought here is to rely on God, and not on ourselves. That’s why God provided manna to Israel, one day at a time. How much time could you spend contemplating all the many, many things that you rely on God for? Maybe we should be learning to rely on God, a whole lot more than we do. Spend some time and think about it.
“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Now don’t tell me that we all don’t have a lot to be forgiven of. And since we’re all human, we probably have a lot to forgive other for as well. Jesus made a special point of that at the very end didn’t He? He said; “For IF you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men..” What happens if you refuse to forgive someone? You might as well end your prayer right there, don’t you think? Because you’re not gonna be forgiven anyhow, if you refuse to forgive someone else.
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” I wonder if we couldn’t think about that, and list in our minds, all the areas that we might be tempted in. How many areas do you think there are. It would probably take more than just a few minutes to think of them all. But if we’ve set aside a day to spend in prayer, we’d probably have enough time to do it. Just for starters though; We might be tempted to say a nasty word or two, under the right circumstances, or under the wrong circumstances. And we might be tempted to harbor harsh feeling toward someone, which is really the same thing as being tempted to refuse to forgive someone.
How about the temptation to put something else ahead of God? I don’t know about you, but I think that’s one of the biggest temptations that anyone faces. Because there’s just so many things that we might put ahead of God. Just think about it. If we fail to keep even one of God’s commands, we’ve put something ahead of God.
If we were to tell a little lie, for whatever reason that we might do it, that reason, took precedence over God. If we’re even slightly less than honest in any dealing, whether personal or business, then we’ve put something ahead of God in our lives. What if we never pray in our homes? What if we never even talk about God in our homes? Something must be taking the place of God.
What took the place of God when we fail to assemble for worship? What took the place of God when we fail to assemble for bible study? Something did!
Salvation is not “a given”. We’re not going to be “automatically saved”, just because we claim the name of Christ. Someone posted on facebook, a quote from a man named William Temple. and I’m not sure who that is, but here’s the quote; “I can contribute nothing to my own salvation, except the sin from which I need to be redeemed.” Unless that man repented of that attitude, he’s lost!
Don’t be fooled; If you contribute nothing to your own salvation, then there won’t be any salvation for you. There’s lots of things that we need to contribute to our own salvation. And prayer is one of them. What about faith? “Without faith it’s impossible to please God.” (Heb 11:6). Do you have enough faith? If you do, you’re probably the ONLY one in this world that has enough faith. The rest of us need to keep assembling for worship, and we need to keep assembling for bible study, and we need to keep praying, and maybe we need to be fasting along with that praying. Jesus said; “when you pray”, and “when you fast”. He didn’t say, “If you pray” or “If you fast”.
Wow, that’s not like us to be doing that is it? If we’re not doing all those things that I just mentioned, then we most likely don’t have enough faith, and we may not make it. We may not please God after all. Maybe we better think, and maybe we better pray about it some more.
And maybe we better do some more repenting and confessing along with it. Just one baptism is enough, but the rest of it, I don’t know if it will ever be “enough”. We all need to decide for ourselves, whether or not we’re doing “enough”.
If you need to repent, or confess, or be baptized; Or if you need the prayers of the rest of us, to go along with your own prayers, let us know as we stand and sing our hymn of invitation.