Matthew 6: 5 - 15
God did not create prayer simply to create guilt in your life. Jesus Christ, when He came to earth, was constantly sharing radical, revolutionary ideas. He exploded the myths about prayer. He taught us that prayer is not a guilt producer - it is an anxiety reliever. It is not a dreaded obligation - it is a wonderful privilege.
1. HOW TO MAKE CONTACT WITH GOD (v. 5 – 8)
We're going to look at what Jesus said. Jesus gives us 3 specific instructions first of all on how to make contact with God.
A. BE REAL
Be honest with God. Matthew 6: 5 "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 men." In NT times, the Pharisees were pros at pretentious prayers - regular ritual - set times - set prayers. It was all cut and dry. You did your thing. You said your ‘Hail Mary's’ or whatever it was - your rituals- and you did your thing. It became a source of pride. They were showing off - stand out on the street corners and proclaim.
Jesus is saying - prayer is not something you do to be seen - you need to be real, be honest with God, be genuine.
i. Don’t try to impress others. Have you ever heard a prayer and when it finished you wanted to go "Wow! What a performance!" It sounded so good and you thought that it was great. In a prayer group - everybody's praying - you're thinking, "What am I going to say that hasn't already been said? What are they going to think?" The moment you stop worrying about what other people will think about your prayer life, you're going to be released to enjoy prayer. Stop trying to impress others.
ii. Don’t try to impress God. That's a little more subtle. Often we do it unconsciously. We pray things that we think God wants us to say, rather than praying what's really on our hearts. God says, “Be real.”
B. BE RELAXED
v. 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." Remove the distractions out of your life. Get off where you can focus in on God, where you can relax, calm down, be quiet for a minute, loosen up, let go of tension and just tune into God. Take a deep breath - settle down. Be real and be relaxed. Hurry is the death of prayer. When you are hurrying, when you're rushed it's going to kill your prayer life.
C. BE REVEALING
Share what's really on your heart. Tell God exactly what's on your mind, not what you think you ought to say but what you're thinking about. v. 7, 8 (LB) "Don't recite the same prayer over and over as the heathen do, who think prayers are answered only by repeating them again and again. Remember, your Father knows exactly what you need before you ask Him." In NT times, prayers were long and wordy - meaningless ritual. There were set prayers you prayed for certain occasions. No spontaneity, no genuineness. Jesus says, “You just need to reveal yourself.” Don't get caught in a rut.
Don’t try to copy other people's prayers. God says just pray your heart - reveal yourself. I'm not saying be flippant. God is not the Big Man Upstairs. But He is your Father. Jesus said, “Pray Abba Father.” Daddy. You don't have to use fancy language. Prayer is spontaneous -conversation with God. Forget trying to impress your pastor, your Bible study leader or anybody else. Just focus on what really is coming out of your heart. That's how you make contact.
2. WHAT TO SAY WHEN I MAKE CONTACT WITH GOD
Jesus tells us - "This, then, is how you should pray..." Does not say, "This is what you should pray." It says, “This is how you should pray.” This is not exactly the wording, but it is a model, a framework and outline by which you can learn to pray. Prayer is an act of giving and receiving. Jesus says there are 6 things we can give to God in prayer.
A. PRAISE: I give God my love.
v. 9 “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” You start by praising God. Praise is thanking God for who and what He is - means to value God. God, You are good! If you don’t know how to praise God, read the Psalms. Do it aloud. Why should I praise God? Because it gets your focus off myself and onto God so I can talk to Him.
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” God has many names – OT - at least 8 different names of God - reveal the character of God. Each name has a different meaning. You can pray those back to God - God is present with me, God is my shepherd, He is my provider, He’s my healer, He’s my peace, He’s my victory in conflict. To say “…hallowed be thy name” means to pray the names of God. You declare what God is like.
B. PURPOSE: I give God my life.
“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”God has a specific will for your life. Success is knowing the will of God and getting right in the centre of it. In heaven, God’s will is done perfectly. On earth it is not done perfectly. I say, “I want to submit to You. I want to be involved in Your will. I want to do what You want me to do.”
“Your will be done.” You can say it in resentment—“Your will be done, but I don’t like it.” You can say it in resignation—“Your will be done, because I can’t help it.” You can say it in anticipation—“Your will be done, because, God I know it is the best and that’s what I want for my life today!” I give You my love. I give You my life.
C. PROVISION: I give God my worries
v. 11 “Give us this day our daily bread.” Bread represents the necessities of life - your physical needs, your material needs. God wants you to pray instead of worry. When you pray for things then you don't have to worry about them. He's promised to provide all our needs - Philippians 4: 19 "My God shall supply all of your needs."
"Give me today what I need for today so I don't have to worry about it." What do you need today? Energy to make it through the day? Finances? Wisdom? Remember manna in the OT? God provided it, but it spoiled if you tried to keep it longer than a day. God wanted them to trust Him moment by moment.
Philippians 4: 6 "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." You've got 2 alternatives: panic or pray. Anything that is worth worrying about is worth praying about. Nothing is too great for God's power. Nothing is too insignificant for His care. When you pray, be specific and do it with thanksgiving.
D. PARDON: I give God my guilt.
"…forgive us our debts..." All of us have regrets. All of us make mistakes. All of us fall short. I don't come up to my own standard, much less God's. It's not very hard to admit you're not perfect. God has made a provision for our guilt - confession. God forgives us instantly, totally, completely, freely, continuously. There is no reason a Christian should carry guilt day after day. If you are, you're not taking advantage of what Jesus Christ did on the cross.
If you ever run out of things to pray, get specific about your sins and your weaknesses. There are plenty of things to talk about in my life that need to be changed.
E. PEOPLE: I give God my hurts.
Prayer involves other people - relationships are important. "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors." In life you will be hurt – intentionally or unintentionally. For your own happiness, you must learn to forgive. v. 14 "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive yours." The Bible says forgive and be forgiven - inter-related. One of the values of prayer - helps you unload.
F. PROTECTION: I give God my fears and my temptations.
"... And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one." That's protection. In what area do you need self-control? What scares you the most? The fear of failure? The fear of rejection? The fear of the future? Jesus says that those are the things you ought to be talking to the Lord about. The areas where you're most tempted - the areas that scare you to death - prayer material. Hebrews 4: 15 "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way just as we are yet without sin." It is not a sin to be tempted. It is a sin to give in to temptation. "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."
3. THE POWERFUL KEY TO PRAYER: Praying together.
"OUR Father... give US ... OUR daily bread ... forgive US ... OUR debts ... as WE have forgiven OUR debtors ... lead US not into temptation ... deliver US ..." What is the powerful key? Praying with other people. Jesus, when He laid out how we pray said, we pray together. There is power in group prayer.
Some of your problems - because you're not sharing with other believers in the body of Christ -not getting the support that you need. Matthew 18 - "I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for it will be done by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." That's the power of praying with other people.
Who are you praying with, on a regular basis? Small groups - not a gimmick - this is the church. Encourage each other, pray for each other, support each other. When you get together with 5 - 10 friends, you don't have to pray if you don't want to. You can sit there and be quiet. Then over a period of time you feel comfortable and you begin to pray. You'll find a new level of stability in your life.
Start by praying aloud when you're alone – just talking to the Lord. It will unlock a new level of joy in your life. You'll find yourself dealing with stress a whole lot better.
Do you want to make contact with God? Amazing how many different ways people try to make contact with God? Seances. Hypnotism. Reading tea leaves. Astrology. Trying to make contact with God. Jesus made it very simple - called prayer.
Prayer is a privilege. You don't have to impress anybody. You don't even have to impress God. It's just conversation - talking with God about what's on your heart. Relax - calm yourself down and get still - "Be still and know that I am God."
Give God your love – praise - thank Him for who He is. Give God your love - tell Him you love Him.
Give God your life - "Father, Your will be done."
Give God your worries - What do you need?
Give God your guilt - Be specific right now - not just "Forgive all the things I've done wrong" - confess them - I've been selfish - I've been unkind.
Give God your hurts - let go of them right now - "Father, I forgive them as You've forgiven me." Give God your temptations and fears. What's out of control in your life? Give it to God. "Help me, please!"
I'm going to ask you to commit to joining a small group - power in praying together, studying together, sharing together.
“Father, thank You for Your word. Thank You that prayer is not mystical mumbo jumbo or something that was created to give us guilt, but to relieve us that we might be released of these damaged emotions of worry and fear and hurt and resentment and guilt. We give You our love. We give You our lives. In Jesus' name. Amen.”