Today begins a three week study of the topic of Prayer. We are going to look at Prayer from three different angles. Approach, Apprehension, and Application.
This week we are going to look at who we are coming to, and how we are coming to Him. Next week my hope is that we as a church really apprehend what prayer is. And the third week we will apply what we have learned in a special service where we spend time in prayer and song.
If you would open your Bibles to Matthew 6, we are going to read 1-14, but our focus will be on verses 5-9.
Before we read, let me ask you to do something. If you have a pen, write down in a word, or two the most important aspect of prayer. if you were to teach a new believer how to pray, what is the first thing they need to know? Got it? Ok, lets read the text.
So, here we are in a very familiar text of scripture. If you grew up in church, you have heard this scripture, and read it. It is a very popular passage, even if you did not know it was scripture, you probably know the Lord’s Prayer right?
Now, before we go any further, I want you to know that from this passage, I believe the most important thing about prayer is your Approach. Knowing who you are coming to, and recognizing how you are coming is crucial to prayer.
Lets look at this.
Look at the context…. Wrong ways and right ways to practice your righteousness…
Two wrong ways to pray, and one right way to pray. note, these are not words, but heart.
Coming as a Hypocrite: Here Jesus uses one of his favorite words for the Pharisees. They were men who practiced their righteous deeds in public. You may remember the story of the Pharisee and the Tax collector, where Jesus caricatures the pharisee as one who prays out load, and proud.
a. Hypocrites prayed on street corners, and in the synagogs so that they would be seen by others, and revered by them.
Jesus is saying that their motive for prayer was not communion with God, but the praise of people. Jesus recognizes that since that is what they want, that is all they will get. They have their reward… Because they do not have a real relationship with God, they are basing their assurance on the esteem of others. “Well, if they all think its true, it must be.”
if you only pray when there are people around you might be praying like a hypocrite.
If your voice increases by two decibels when you pray…
If you sign up for a prayer slot, and oversleep, then think, “well, at least they will see my name on the wheel”…
If you tell people you will pray for them and don’t…
Coming as a Heathen/Gentile/Pagan: Now notice here that the heathens are praying people. They are fervent prayers, and they think that in fact they will be heard by God. But look at why they think they will be heard. They think that is their many babbling words that will gain them access to God. They think that there is some kind of incantation, or special phrase that they say and he will listen to them. These people are heaping up words in part because they feel they have to tell God everything they need and all that is happening. Now, in our day this could be people who fell they need to say certain words, or even in a different voice to sound more Holy. You know I’ve never dears anyone here do this, but if someone talks normal all day, and then when they pray its all the sudden King James English. They might be praying like a Pagan.
if by the end of the prayer request, you know way more details than anyone should…
if you are afraid to come to God, because you don’t think He loves you…
What both of these approaches have in common is that they are counting on themselves to gain something. The hypocrite is motivated by the desire to look good in the people’s eyes, and the pagans believe that there is something special in the words they say that will get the attention of God. Both of these approaches are religious approaches to prayer. Jesus says, these are wrong approaches. So, what is the right approach?
There are two things he encourages us to do that counteract the religious prayer that he mentions before. The first is to counter those who pray for other’s attention. He says to pray in secret. This isn’t a ban on corporate prayer, but it is a ban on praying to get noticed. Jesus himself modeled this type of prayer. This is what one of my favorite theologians said about this.
“Believer, be much in solitary prayer, especially in times of trial. Family prayer, social prayer, prayer in the Church, will not suffice, these are very precious, but the best beaten spice will smoke in your censer in your private devotions, where no ear hears but God’s.” Spurgeon
The second instruction is a counter to the pagans who wanted to heap up all their requests. He simply says, your Father knows what you need before you pray it.
Now if you aren’t careful, you may miss the most important detail about approaching God in prayer. When you approach God in prayer, you are coming to your Father.
-Not creator, not King, not Judge. All those are true, but what you need to remember most of all is that you are coming first and foremost as a beloved Child.
-This term is a powerful term. Think for a minute about all that the word Father communicates… This is one word that communicates volumes of information. Right there you know many things about our relationship. We are family, loved, nurtured, accepted, adopted, rejoiced over, brought near, friends. This word like none else communicates the Gospel to our hearts. The word Father, carries weight that no other word does. He is your father, when you come to him, his heart is predisposed to hear you and to care for you, and to pour out love on you. He even reiterates this thought in the opening words of the Lord’s Prayer. He says “Our Father”
So, as we close, and begin the next few weeks one prayer, let me issue a challenge to you. I would ask that every person who considers this body their church family spend five minutes every day in prayer for our church. You know, there is a lot of work to be done to carry out God’s call for us a a church. There are plans to be made, there are committees to be led, there are decisions to be made, and every single one of us needs to be in prayer for all of that. So, I don’t know how much you pray in a day, maybe hours, maybe just when you are looking for that parking spot close to the door at Wal-Mart. But I believe that if we would, as a church, set aside five minutes a day to pray for this body, God may be pleased to use us in ways we could never imagine.
As we close in prayer and song, I want to ask you to do something. If you would be willing to set aside five minutes a day for the next two weeks to pray for our church, I ask that you take a moment, and silently, where you are, make that commitment between you and the Lord. Now, I would encourage you to do this. tell one person, who can help you remember.