A lesson on prayer, from Matthew 6:5-13
In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches His disciples to pray. His instruction includes negative and positive examples. We learn things about how not to pray by observing hypocrites and heathen -- those who prayed to seen and those who prayed as if God couldn't hear. We learn how to pray by observing Jesus's model -- "after this manner pray ye."
Pray not as the hypocrites (vs. 5-6; Cf. also Matthew 15:7; 23:13; Luke 11:44; 12:1). Prayer is an intimate communication between man and God -- not a spectator sport for the viewing pleasure of others. The goal is not to be seen of men, but to be heard of the Father. The hypocrite finds pleasure in being acknowledged as religious by others. Making a show of prayer furthers that goal. The Pharisee in Luke 18 who "stood and prayed thus with himself" is a fine example of such hypocrisy. His prayer was self-motivated, self-serving, self-praising and self-directed. He had his reward!
Pray not as the heathen (vs. 7-8). Unlike the Jews who had the law of God and should have been able to pray "in truth", the heathen (foreigners, pagans) might have been judged to have prayed "in spirit" due to their much speaking. But they knew nothing of what they spoke. Let the priests of Baal, they thought they had a God who needed to . Prayer is an invited privilege, not a hard-gained acceptance. The goal is not to make enough noise to get God to notice, but to come to the one who has already noticed. He invites us "call unto me" and "come unto me". He has sent His only begotten Son and made Him our high priest. "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace!" He knows what we need before we ever ask and is able to do exceedinly abundantly above all that we could ever think of ask. God is not hard of hearing, asleep or on a journey.
Matthew 6:9-13 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come . Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we 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, for ever. Amen.
Do not pray as the hyprocrites or heathen. Pray as Jesus explains (vs. 9-13). Prayer is to the Father (v. 9). Prayer is about God's program (vs. 9-10). Prayer is about man's need. (vs. 11-13). Study this example to show thyself approved to God in prayer. Learn that it is not a rote prayer, but a model prayer (notice Jesus uses different words in Luke 11:2-4). And remember -- prayer is not just about getting the words and sentiments right. We also have the Spirit of God who helps us as He translates our infirmities in prayer to our Heavenly Father (Romans 8:26).
"PRAY without ceasing" (I Thess 5:17)