One of the many things that Scripture teaches us is there is power in effective prayer and that God hears and answers the prayers of His people. For example, Daniel, because of his faithfulness to God, was thrown in the lion’s den, but instead of fearing death, he prayed, and the Lord sent an angel to guard over him until morning. Another time an imprisoned Peter would have met his fate if the church had not fervently prayed on his behalf. Again, the Lord dispatches an angel to set Peter free, and the Bible says the chains that bound Peter fell to the ground, and the angel led him outside the gate to safety.
There is power in prayer, but how does one pray? Do we merely send up our laundry list of wants and desires and wait for the Lord to snap His fingers and poof, there it is? Some people do, but perhaps, it is not so much about them learning what pray as much as not knowing how to pray. We read about Jesus, who routinely conferred with and sought the will of His Father in heaven throughout His ministry on earth. The importance of prayer was so evident to Jesus’ disciples that they approached Him one day and asked, “Lord, teach us to pray as John also taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1).
“When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.”Matt. 6:5
Jesus responds to their request uniquely by first teaching them how not to pray. Our prayer life must be one of pure sincerity from deep within our hearts, not just a mere outward action to enlist the attention of others, to impress them or be admired by them. In other words, no showboating, because when people showboat their prayers, their heart’s focus is on themselves, not God. Jesus tells us that we are not to be like the hypocrites and keep our prayers focused on God and to quietly listen for Him to speak to us through the Holy Spirit. A person’s prayer life is a personal spiritual connectedness between that person and God. After all, prayer is the world’s original wireless network.
“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. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”Matt. 6:7
Since the Gentiles prayed to various gods, they believed that their many repeated flattering words would get their god’s attention. The One true living God always has His ear tuned to the voice of His people. He longs for a relationship with each of us, whereby He speaks to us through His word and the Holy Spirit while we talk to Him through the gift of prayer. However, if God knows our needs before we even ask Him, why do we need to pray? Excellent question, and the answer is simple. The Lord desires a personal relationship with us, to be in conversation with us and be centric in our lives. In the absence of communication, there can be no relationship.
“But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”Matt. 6:6
It is essential to point out that Jesus is not discouraging corporate or group prayer when He says to go and pray in secret. After all, Jesus prayed in public often, but here is the difference, Jesus did not pray to impress man; instead, He prayed to speak with His heavenly Father, and in so doing, he shows us the importance of having faith and being reliant on God. The thrust of Matthew 6:6 deals solely with the inherent danger of a person praying merely to impress and be heard by men, not God. When we pray in private, we eliminate the temptation to impress others with lofty words and so on. It puts us in a place where we can be in the presence of God with no distractions and to pour out our hearts in a real-time conversation with our Creator.
The divine gift of prayer gives everyone who believes direct access to the Lord’s attentive ear. The purpose of prayer is not to get our way or overcome God’s reluctance; it is to get ourselves out of the way and align our will to His for what He has planned for our lives. Prayer is such a critical part of every believer’s walk in life that Jesus made it a point of first teaching us how not to pray. He then teaches us how to pray by giving us a divine prayer model that many refer to as The Lord’s Prayer, which we will break down in Thursday’s article. Consider this: Since Jesus, being God, made prayer a vital part of His earthly life and ministry, how much more crucial is the gift of prayer to our life and ministry?