Matthew 6:5-15
Blueprint for Prayer (the Lord’s Prayer)
All throughout the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has been telling us about the model Christ-following life and much of it unbeknownst to us in our day was spoken for its shock value and to get the listener’s attention. Jesus sets off the explosion to get his listeners to really listen to him. Then, he takes that and says, this is what you should really be doing if you truly believe in God and see me as the way to Him. For example, our last passage, Matthew 6:1-4, used the shock value comment of “be righteous in private” to open it up. People milling around at the Sermon on the Mount probably went, “What did he say? Did he say we are not supposed to be righteous in public anymore?” Shock value for sure. Jesus got our attention with that one! He then went on to the real meat of why he said that. He told us about checking our motives at the door. He asked us to analyze why we are Christ-followers. Is it really to be a humble servant or is it to get some type of public recognition? Our motives for our prayers should be examined as well. Do we pray using meaningless words and phrases but having no heart? Do we pray so other people can hear us and so we use all the latest, churchy phrases? Or do we pray, both privately and publicly, with the intent of earnestly seeking to praise God, give Him thanks, and lay our souls bare before His throne?

Here he says,

5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

9 “This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,[a]
but deliver us from the evil one.[b]’

14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Today, we will focus on the first half of this passage. The first half of the passage is about what should not be. Tomorrow, we will begin to look at what prayer should be when we break down the Lord’s Prayer.

Prayer should not be for public display of our religiousness. When we pray, it should not be so that we impress others with our command of phraseology. Sometimes, I find myself being jealous of others with “the way they pray”. Some people just seem to have this smooth, fluidity to their public prayers. I go, “Man, I wish I could pray that way!” But is that really what it is all about? Maybe, the fluidity of someone’s prayers is because they do indeed have a consistent and productive prayer life. Maybe, the lack of fluidity in my public prayers is the fact that, often, my prayer life is lacking. Do you pray because you feel like you have to? Do you pray as you are doing other things and you find giving specific time for prayer is awkward? Often, it is the lack of a good, private prayer life that leads to a poor public prayer life. We pray poorly in public because we pray poorly in private. Often times too, our prayer life in public is just so people can hear us pray. That is not prayer. That is pride. If you are praying for people to hear you pray then you are praying for all the wrong reasons. When we pray in public, it should be just a public version of our private prayer life. Close your eyes and be intimate with God. To me, a good public prayer is one that is the intimate groanings of a Christ follower who happens to be praying in public. Maybe, if your prayer life is lacking as I often consider mine, maybe, you should consider verbalizing your private prayers. That way, we must put together thoughts. It will require us to concentrate on what we are praying about when we verbalize it. When our prayers are simply in our mind and not in verbalized words, it is easy to encounter the “squirrel factor”. We can easily get distracted by other thoughts in our mind like whether we turned the coffee pot on or not or what we need to do at work. Verbalizing our private prayers can lead us to the discipline of thought after a while where have then learned to push out the distractions. Concentrated prayer in private can then lead to greater intimacy with Him. Greater intimacy in private can lead to honest and fluid prayers in public that have meaning and are for His glory and not for those who are listening to us pray. It will become that they are simply public parties to a private prayer between us and God.

Prayer should not be repetition of catch-phrases or repetition of mantras. Saying all the right words. Stringing together groups of catch-phrases or mantras is not real prayer. These kinds of prayer are meaningless stringing together of the right words and phrases. It is like when I went to a seminar about how to take the Certified Internal Auditor exam many years ago. The professor who was running the seminar told that on the essay questions, which were a huge part of the exam, that we needed to use as many of the “buzz words”, as he called them, about the subject of the essay question as possible in our answers to that question. He said that when we used these buzz words that it would demonstrate to the grader of the question that we had an understanding of what we were talking about. He said it was the old “fake it til you make it” principle. If we used all the right phrases in a question, it does not matter than you may or may not have a great command of the subject matter but it will sure sound like you do. Isn’t that the way it is in our prayer life. We can have no intimacy with the Lord in our life at all but we can sure sound like we do when we use all the right buzz words of prayer. God gets bored with these kinds of prayers I bet! God probably says to Himself, “Oh no, here we go again! Mark is going to say the same old tired phrases again. He is going to say a lot without saying anything at all!” How seriously do you take your prayer life? How seriously do I take mine? Is your prayer life full of currently popular catch phrases of Christianity? Is your prayer life void of any real, serious thought? Is my prayer life done to satisfy a checklist mentality and has no real heart to it? It is kind of like having a conversation with your wife while watching a football game. Are you really there in the conversation? Are we really there in our conversations, our prayers, to God? He wants you to be present in your prayers? He wants you to be fully engaged. He wants be to pay attention to what I am doing. He wants full-on focus from us in prayer. He doesn’t want half-hearted prayers. He wants more than just catchphrases. He wants all-in, fully engaged, reveal your guts kinds of prayers. He wants the heart and soul of us to be revealed in prayer. Catchphrases are meaningless. Groanings of the core of our soul revealed is what He desires from us in prayer.
Prayer should be intimate. As you and I know or we should know, prayer is the intimate part of our relationship with God. It is that deep down intimate, lay yourself bare, part of our relationship with God. If your prayer life with God is not honest, humble, and laid-bare, then the rest of our relationship with God is affected. We become estranged and drift away from him without that frequent intimacy. Prayer is the glue that holds our relationship to God. Prayer to God is like, at least to me, the intimacy that there is in marriage. In marriage, for it to be the effective thing that God wants it to be, we must lay ourselves bare. We must allow our husband or wife to see us for who we really are. Just as when a husband and wife make love, they are naked and exposed to one another. There is no hiding at that point. We are completely vulnerable at that time. The rest of our relationship with our spouse is like that too. Although making love is a visual testament to our laying ourselves bare and wide open, our relationship with our spouse should be open, honest and real. Without that humility of openness and being real about our flaws and mistakes, marriages become dysfunctional. The same is true is our relationship with God. Since we cannot physically see or touch God, our intimacy with him then becomes our prayer life with Him. We are to be honest with Him. We are to open up our heart and our emotions. We can be angry. He can deal with it. We can cry from pain. He can deal with it. We can shout for joy at an answered prayer. He can deal with it. We can question. He can deal with it. He wants that real, honest intimacy with us. When we are honest, intimate, and real with Him, He begins to reveal to us what we need to know. When we cut all the pretense, When we are serious about our prayers, it means that we are seeking His will not just praying for sake of praying. When we see prayer as the way to be intimate with the Father, then, the white noise of life clears away when we pray. When we concentrate on being intimate with the Father, He will begin to guide us toward His will and the answers from Him that we seek. Intimacy is the glue of marriage. Intimacy is the glue of relationship with God. When we pay attention to our spouses, the benefits are astounding. When we pay attention to our prayer life, it is astounding how close we start becoming with God.

Now that Jesus has established prayer our intimacy, our realness, our placing Him above ourselves through our prayer life to God, Jesus now steps into how we should pray. Let us begin a close examination of the Lord’s Prayer tomorrow. But for today, let us remember that our relationship with God becomes oh so much more intimate when we invest in our prayer life, when we see prayer as important and not just something you do by rote meaningless phrases or just so people can be impressed by our prayers.

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