Prayer can be a difficult action to perform because we may not know how to pray to God. But this is nothing to be ashamed of because the disciples of Jesus needed to be taught how to pray. In Luke 11:1 the Bible says, “Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” Prayer is offering our words to God. Prayer is our avenue to the entrance before the throne of God. What we say and how we say it before the Lord matters. Consider this: if you were standing before the president of the United States, you would be careful what words you spoke. You would want to know the proper etiquette when speaking to the president. We are approaching the throne of God. How should we come before God? What is the etiquette? What should we say? And these are the questions the disciples are asking. In Matthew 6 Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray. First Jesus instructs his disciples how not to pray.
How Not To Pray (Matthew 6:5-8)
Do not pray like the hypocrites (vs. 5)
Jesus begins by instructing his disciples to not pray like the hypcrites. What were the hypocrites doing in prayer? What was making these people hypocrites? Jesus elaborates for us.
To be seen by people. The hypocrites were praying on the street corners and synagogues so that they could be seen by other people. When these people would pray, they would make sure they were in a very public place so that they could be seen to do it by all around them. Their purpose in prayer was to receive the recognition of men. Jesus continues by saying that people who pray for this reason have their reward. Their prayers will not be answered because all that they are really praying for is to receive the praise of other people.
Instead,pray in your private room (vs. 6)
Jesus says to shut the door and pray in private to the Lord. Is Jesus saying that we should never pray in public? No, because men are command in 1 Timothy 2:8 to pray in every place.
1 Thessalonians 5:17 commands all of us to pray without ceasing. We read of a public pray among the disciples in Acts 4 and we see Daniel praying openly to God. So what is Jesus teaching?
- Our prayer life is not to consist of public prayer only. The hypocrites apparently would not pray unless it was in a public place, going out of their way to be in public. But we need to have a private prayer life. We need to talk to God in all place and at all times which means taking time away from our schedules to spend quiet time with God. We need to talk to God privately and publicly.
- Our prayer life is not for human recognition. The danger of praying on the street corner is problem not much of a temptation to us today because we would not receive recognition from the public. People would look at us funny, and probably would not praise us. But we do need to consider some situations where we may have the wrong motive. When we do have public prayer, we need to make sure that we are not praying for recognition. For us men who pray in the assemblies, we must be sure that we are not praying so that people around us think highly of us. Public prayer is not for the reason to be seen by others. We should want to talk to God in all places, but the motive for our prayer is what Jesus is identifying. Prayer is to talk to God and not for personal recognition.
Do not pray like the Gentiles (vs. 7)
Jesus also teaches that we are not to pray like the heathen, like the Gentiles. What were the Gentiles doing wrong?
Praying vain repetitions. Jesus taught that we should not pray with empty phrases or vain repetitions. The heathen thought that they would be heard if they repeated the same thing over and over again or that if they threw in some catch phrases that they would be heard by God. But there is not some particular word or formula that is going to force God to listen to what we are saying. He wants to hear our prayers and he wants to give us the things we need. Therefore we are to simply tell God our requests. Prayer is a corridor through which He bestows on us what He wants to give us. We need to pray from our heart and not say things that we think God wants to hear.
Making lengthy prayers.The heathens were also notorious for making long prayers believe this would make God listen to their prayers. The heathen also thought that they need to say long, flowering prayers to be heard by God. But this is not true. We read of many short prayers, such like the model prayer that Jesus is about to pray. We also read of long prayers by David in the psalms. Jesus is teaching that being lengthy does not mean that we will be heard. Again, we are to pray from our heart. Sometimes you will have a lot to say, sometimes you will have few things to say. Now Jesus is going to turn his attention to teach his disciples how to pray.
How To Pray (Matthew 6:9-15)
Pray then in this way (vs. 9)
This does not mean to recite this prayer. Many have come along and suggested that the only way we should pray to God is by repeating these words. But Jesus did not mean to recite these words that are recorded over and over again. How do we know? First, if that is what he meant, then he is violating what he said two verses earlier to not pray with vain repetition. To many, this is exactly what the model prayer has become…empty repetition. Second, Jesus did not say to his disciples in teaching them to pray to use exactly these words. He said that his disciples ought to pray in this manner. This prayer is to be a model or pattern as to how to pray. The elements contained in the model prayer are to remind us of what should to be contained in our prayers.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed by your name (vs. 9)
Jesus shows us the intimacy that we have as disciples of God. He is our Father and we are his children. When we begin our prayer, we need to recognize who God is and our relationship to him. Hallowed is similar to the word “holy,” meaning to separate from profane/common things and dedicate to God. God is holy. His name is holy and he is deserving of our awe and reverence for he is in heaven. Thus in this very statement we see the balance of our relationship with the Lord. He is our Father, which denotes a close, intimate relationship, yet he is to be hallowed by us, kept holy and deserving our awe and respect. We must recognize our position before our God when we speak to him.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven (vs. 10)
The pattern here tells us that we need to pray according to the will of God. We must pray for the things of God and the will of God to take place in all aspects of this world. We ought to be praying for spiritual things in our lives as well as in the lives of the people in this world. We want them to accept what God has done for them and be obedient to his word so that they can be fellow heirs and fellow partakers in the kingdom of God. What we must see from how this prayer begins is that we are not the focus of the prayer. Instead, God is the focus in the prayer. We begin by praising him and giving him the awe and worship that he deserves. Then we pray that God’s desires and will will be established on earth and we will do what we can to help God’s will to be fulfilled. We must focus upon what is the will of the Lord.
Give us this day our daily bread (vs. 11)
Now we can ask God for the needs of this day. This runs against what we usually want to pray for. We want to pray that we have the luxuries of life. But Jesus teaches that our focus is to simply be on today and that our needs for today will be met. God is the one who is the giver of all blessings and he is the one who will take care of our needs. We are to put our trust in God to provide what we need today, even though there may be times when we cannot see what will happen tomorrow. For today we will be satisfied. If we have enough for today then that is all that is necessary. Trust in God to give us what we need for today.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors (vs. 12, 14)
Now Jesus tells us to pray for the forgiveness of sins. But notice the condition that Jesus places upon our prayer for forgiveness. We only can ask for forgiveness when we have also shown forgiveness toward others. Quite simply, we should not and cannot expect to receive from God what we are unwilling to give others. And this point is so important that Jesus repeats this again in verse 14. Forgiveness of our debts and trespasses are certainly conditional upon the forgiveness that we offer others. Too often we hold a grudge against people who have wronged us and have created a debt against us through things that may have been said or done. Sometimes we have hurt others by things that we have not said or done. We must always remember that we have all sinned against each other at one time or another. We need forgiveness as much as the next person. Will we not forgive others for their offenses yet expect others to forgive us? Our unwillingness to forgive others is noted by God and he has promised that he will not forgive us if we have not forgiven others. We also learn the need for us to ask God for forgiveness. 1 John 1 tells us to confess our sins to the Father and he is faithful and just to forgive us. We need to tell him our sins and ask him for forgiveness.
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one (vs. 13)
We need to ask God for deliverance from temptation, to help us with our weaknesses, and to strengthen us against the works of the devil. We need to seek to be near God so that we can overcome Satan’s fiery darts that he throws at us. 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” There is a way of escape available to us that we can avoid temptation. We need to pray for God to help us take advantage of the way of escape and that we will not succumb to the devil. This is our mentality to fight against the works of the flesh and the weaknesses that we have.
We are encouraged by the Lord to pray to Him about anything that is happen in our lives. We can set aside time in our schedules to pray to God and we can say prayers while on the job or during our commute. We must remember that Jesus is a person and not a procedure. Let us come before him and freely tell him what is happening in our lives and let him bear our burdens.