Matthew 6:9-13 “In this manner, therefore, pray:
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
Prayer is mentioned 375 times in the Bible. Every person who has desired to walk with God must recognize the necessity for prayer.
I know I want to get to know God more so my hope is to understand prayer and why it is so important. When I was a much younger man, my attempts to grow my prayer life and bible study formed over time. Knowing I need more time with the Lord, I started getting up earlier. At first, I set my alarm clock 15 min early, but I soon realized it wasn’t enough. I then set it another 15 min early, which worked for a while, but the closer I walked with the Lord, the more I desired time with Him. I learned that changing a habit isn’t easy, routines seem set in stone and sleep habits are hard to break but I learned it was worth the effort.
“We look upon prayer simply as a means of getting things for ourselves, but the biblical purpose of prayer is that we may get to know God Himself.”O. Chambers
Self Sufficient or God Reliant?
Self-sufficiency in the Kingdom of God is not considered an ideal that is worthy of praise or honor. A drive for independence from God reveals a heart that is determined to go through life on one’s own merits and not with a reliance upon God’s strength.
Prayer is reflective of a heart turned away from self and toward the Lord.
Jesus described to the disciples what prayer looks like. Many have taken “the Lord’s Prayer”, as a secret formula for God to respond. Many churches recite liturgies and by doing so defy the instructions of Jesus who told the disciples not to repeat prayer as if the words will somehow sway God. Matthew 6:7 “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.”
Jesus described what prayer in practice looks like for people who have a heart for the Lord comparative to those who only do it for show.
Matthew 6:5-6 “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”
Jesus gave us a model for prayer, then He demonstrated the method for prayer.
The model is meant to guide us in the way we pray. Recognizing who is in authority and where that authority comes from, followed by praise, looking forward then in hope to the establishment of God’s Kingdom on earth (which consequently is in His people), then His will be done, not my will. As we look to God as our supplier and being transformed through repentance, the forgiveness of sin, we recognize the dangers of temptation and His providence leads us away from temptation. When evil attacks, the Lord is our protector and He reminds us that He is sovereign, He should be our focus, He is the One who holds all power and He will be glorified—this is gaining perspective.
If we pray according to this guideline, we pray not only according to His will but we bring all of our life into subjection to His purposes.
The method is an instruction in how to make your prayer time most effective. The process of separating yourself from distractions to taking a position of humility requires willful determination. To quietly consider what you say before you say it and the ability to listen is important for being honest in your approach to the Lord.
Jesus modeled this instruction in how He went about in ministry. He would draw in thousands, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, and teaching thousands then as if suddenly, He would leave to pray.
Recognizing that prayer is important is a first rule for greater depth in Christ, the ability to know when it is time to pray then shows greater wisdom.
Time to Pray
Matthew 14:22-23 “And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away. And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.”
Why would Jesus just send the people home, send the disciples across the sea and then go up on the mountain?
The noise and at times chaos of the world around us has a taxing effect that can wear you down. Our bodies and minds can only take so much, then the need for a time of refreshing is paramount. Jesus recognized those times of refreshing came from God and even though Jesus was God, His humanity was still a reality and needed to be addressed.
Psalm 23:1-3 “The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.”
These times of refreshing are God lead and are necessary. There have been many times I’ve witnessed God bringing dramatic change in a person’s life (including my own), just to get us to slow down. Whether it’s job changes, relational changes, or persecution (1 Kings 8:46-51), God calls us back into fellowship with him and out of the chaos we’ve been surrounded by each day.
The times of prayer and mediation become moments where we gain perspective and consider what is important.
Psalm 119:15-16 “I will meditate on Your precepts,
And contemplate Your ways.
I will delight myself in Your statutes;
I will not forget Your word.”
Coupling your prayer time with the Word of God is essential to a vibrant prayer life. What you meditate on is what eventually proceeds from your life.
If your thoughts are continually on fear, success, relationships, or your future, you will live like these all have more value in your life than anyone or anything else….including God. Before you know it, your spiritual strength will be depleted and you will be on the fast track to bondage. Bondage leads to only more fear and your perspective will become warped by this world. What you value will be worldly value, what you focus your energy and your time on leads along a dead end road….idols form and distancing from God’s presence becomes more apparent each day.
What kind of heart must we have when we approach the throne of God?
Psalm 17:1-2 “Hear a just cause, O Lord,
Attend to my cry;
Give ear to my prayer which is not from deceitful lips.
Let my vindication come from Your presence;
Let Your eyes look on the things that are upright. You have tested my heart;
You have visited me in the night;
You have tried me and have found nothing;
I have purposed that my mouth shall not transgress.
Concerning the works of men,
By the word of Your lips,
I have kept away from the paths of the destroyer.”
If we approach the Lord with a knowledge of unconfessed sin, we are foolish to think God will just move on from this point of separation. The prayer of a righteous person is one who approaches God with clean hands and a pure heart.
Clean Hands and a Pure Heart
Sin separates. It created a rift between mankind and God and it quenches the Spirit of God in a believers life.
James 5:16 “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”
To the righteous, when we confess sin, not only to God but to one another, we are healed. The healing isn’t a physical healing but the spiritual wounds that sin inflicts.
*For the sinner who carries an unrepentant heart and lives in rebellion, a relationship with God becomes impossible to find.
Isaiah 1:15 “When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; even though you multiply your prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood.”
To those whose hands are full of blood (those guilty), they might pray for help but their prayers or petitions before God’s throne will not be heard. It’s similar to approaching a King when you’ve been living like His enemy and then asking him to help you in being his enemy. The thought of it is absolutely ridiculous, and yet people do it all the time. They’re wondering why God doesn’t answer their prayer and yet they make no effort to serve the King of kings or live according to His standard of righteousness.
Prayer is vital in the life of a believer. I’ve learned that it needs to be a part of my daily walk with God. If I have concerns for others spiritual welfare, I must also lift them up in prayer as well. Intercession on behalf of those who are either lost or going through trials is a reflection of love that is as vital as ministering personally. God has used the faith of others to change someone else’s circumstances.
Remember the vitality of prayer in your life and you’ll see the fruits of your faith.