Tucked away in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount we find some helpful teaching from Jesus on prayer. It’s a passage found in Matthew 6:5-13, a passage which also includes the Lord’s Prayer. As we read it, we will first find two examples of how not to pray, followed by the Lord’s Prayer, which is an amazing example of how we should pray.
The first negative example is found in verses 5 and 6, “When you pray you must not pray 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.” True to form, the hypocrites, a group that Jesus often criticized and exposed, didn’t really have a clue about what it meant to pray. They just wanted to appear more “spiritual” than others, as seen in their public display of religiosity. That might impress some people, but certainly not God.
The second example of how not to pray is seen in verses 7 and 8, “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. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” In this example, we see that God is not impressed with our many words, especially not our religious sounding jargon. It’s better to use your own words, and to speak them from your heart. In fact, this verse also tells us that God the Father already knows our needs. He’s aware of our impossible situations and difficult struggles. He cares about us and all of our hurts and pain. You might be asking, “The why should we pray?”
I believe it’s because God wants us to pray to Him humbly, to acknowledge our need. To be forgiven you need to admit you’re a sinner. If you want help in finding the way home, it begins when your acknowledge that you’ve lost your way and need His help. If you realize you can’t handle a situation, you simply need to ask the Lord for His wisdom, strength, and guidance. Saying something like, “We’ve got this!” or “I’m good!” can be a way of telling God to back off and leave you alone. It can also be pride. But when we cry out to him in our time of need, he hears our cries and answers our prayers.
In verse 9 Jesus said, “Pray then like this…” And He proceeded to share the Lord’s Prayer with them, an great model for us of how to pray. Here is what Jesus taught them:
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen.”
Notice that there are three requests that focus on God in the first part of the prayer: His holiness (to be respected,) his coming Kingdom (to be expected,) and his will to be done (uncontested). Then we find three requests that focus on our needs: our need for daily bread (both the physical and the spiritual), our need for forgiveness (receiving it and giving it), and our need for help against temptation and evil.
Know that when you pray humbly, expectantly and reverently the Lord hears and will answer your prayers—in His time, in His way and for His glory. Your Father knows best!
Prays Together is a rotating faith-based commentary and advice column among the pastors, and guest laypeople, of area churches.
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Sun-Gazette newspaper.