When You Pray
I am so excited to back into this series. I hope you love the Word of God. Hebrews says that the Word of God is living and Powerful.
It is living and powerful for sure! But I have noticed it is not living and powerful for everyone. In fact it seems for many people who claim they are believers, the Word is a very small part of their lives.
The Word of God is like a seed and we are the soil. I have heard that analogy many times - but you know I think it actually works better say it the other way.
The Word of God is the soil and we are the seed. A seed has to die, it has to change. The Word of God never changes - but we do.
John 12:24 (ESV)
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
Have you seen soil with no seed in it? I looks dead doesn’t it? Nothing grows, it is just barren wasteland…
But soil that has seed in it springs out into great life.
This is why the Word of God seems like a dead old book to some people - there is no seed in it.
Until we burry ourselves into this Word it will appear to be dead, useless and boring…. But once we get in it and die - oh man! Then it becomes living and powerful.
So I hope this series is bringing the word alive to you!
This next section in the sermon on the mount one of my favorite sections. Jesus is teaching us how to pray. And he is also teaching how to NOT pray.
WHEN YOU PRAY
Matthew 6:5–8 (ESV)
And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.
6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
At this point Jesus is speaking to our MOTIVES for prayer.
Why are we praying?
One of the most important things we need to see here is Jesus never says “If you pray” but says “When you pray”
So if you are hearing this message and you don’t pray - I mean you never take time to spend time with God and pray - that is where you need to start.
Once you pray - the WHY you are praying matters.
The first thing Jesus confronts are those who pray just to be seen praying.
When you’re praying to be seen praying - you are not praying for God’s approval - you are praying to get people’s approval.
If we are praying to get the approval of people or to impress people we are praying with the wrong motives. So what are the correct motives? We will get that in a minute.
Next he says in v 7 is not to use empty phrases.
What is an empty phrase?
Now the word translated into “empty phrases” is the word battalogeō which means to talk aimlessly.
It means you saying something that serves no purpose!
I love this - you see I get impatient with people who can’t get to the point. And I have this terrible habit. It is so rude and I should never do it. I make this motion “wrap it up”. But in my defense even GOD gets annoyed when we cannot get to the point. When we are saying things that do not need to be said.
Vs 7 in the NLT says, “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as the Gentiles do”.
Get to the point and say what needs to be said!
Now notice that he says, “your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Vs. 8. In other words the purpose of your prayers is not information! You are not informing God of your issues. So conveying information is also not our motivation.
So if our motivation is not to be seen praying and impress other people and your motivation is not to INFORM God, what is the correct motivation?
Well I think we can decipher that by what Jesus says next.
The Lord's Prayer
Matthew 6:9-13 (ESV)
9 Pray then like this:
“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 this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
This passage is what many know as the Lord’s Prayer.
I think one of the biggest mistakes we make with this is we see Jesus say
Matthew 6:9 (ESV)
“Pray then like this…”
And we hear
“Pray this prayer…”
For many people, even people in our faith will recite the Lord’s Prayer. Now, I want to be kind here - If you recite the Lord’s Prayer - there is NOTHING wrong with that. It is a special and touching way for people to connect with God.
But I also need to be clear with you - that is NOT what Jesus meant when we said pray “like” this. It was never the intention of Jesus that we turn that prayer into a poem.
He was giving us a pattern - not a poem.
I have noticed when people recite the Lord’s Prayer, especially, as a group - their voices change… lol. No one recites this upbeat and energetic - and neither do they recite it with morning and tears. It is the most monotone thing you have ever heard.
What Jesus is giving us here is not a poem to recite - but a pattern to follow.
A PATTERN TO FOLLOW
Our Father in heaven — Honor God
Hallowed be your name —— Honor His name
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven —— Surrender your will to His
Give us this day our daily bread —— Present your need, ask for provision.
and forgive us our debts —— Ask for forgiveness
as we also have forgiven our debtors —— and forgive others
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil —— ask to be lead away from temptation.
These are elements of prayer which are important because most of our prayers have only one element - asking for our needs to be met… and thats it.
Prayer is not meant to be a vending machine where you order what you need from God.
It should reestablish your relationship with Him. Your honor for who he is and his name. Look at these element as a list.
Asking for provision should only be 1/5 of our prayer life. Not 100% of it.
Then there is this bit of instruction that Jesus gives after the model.
Matthew 6:14-15 (ESV)
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
How many of you recognize this symbol, * the asterisk.
We see asterisks usually when there is some “fine print” Some exceptions to whatever we are reading. Right?
The Bible doesn’t really have any asterisks but I think it should. So often we latch on to a particular verse and fail to understand it entirely. For example.
1 John 1:9 (ESV)
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Is this verse the truth? YES. Is it the WHOLE truth? NO.
Because if I confess my sin to God but refuse to forgive other people, then my sin is NOT forgiven.
So how do we get forgiven? We give it.
That is why it is important - that every time we come to the Lord in prayer we take time to forgive other people.
Here is what I want you to take away from this message today.
What is the correct motives when we pray? It is simple.
The correct motives when we pray should always be to see God’s will to be done on earth. That is it! And that is why so many of our prayers go unanswered - because our motivation is to see our will done in on earth.
So pray - pray with the right motives - pray with pattern that
Surrenders to His will
Asks for His provision
Recognizes our need for Forgiveness and gives it to others
Pledge to Follow his leading.
I want to focus for a second on this last point. Follow…
You might be thinking it didn’t say anything about following - it said, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
Can I help you understand this I little better?
God NEVER leads us into temptation. Never.
James 1:13–14 (ESV)
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.
We don’t have to ask God to NOT lead us INTO temptation. What we are asking is for God to lead us away from it - and we are pledging to follow His leading.