Summary: Prayer is at the very core of spiritual life. Despite how many people speak of praying as a part of their lives… I believe that a life that lives out of a center of prayer is challenging for most of us.
Fires and earthquakes may serve to get our attention, taking our focus off the temporary things of this world… but the voice that we ultimately long for comes in quiet places.
So it shouldn’t surprise us what we find the disciples of Jesus coming to him about in Matthew 6.
They might have asked to be taught how to preach
They may have asked…Lord teach us those one-liners you use to confront the religious elite, i.e.
‘Give to Caesar…’
‘He who is without sin…’
…Or Lord, teach us to heal and cast out demons
But they knew the source… they’d seen him slip out into the early morning to another place…
So they come asking, Lord teach us to PRAY.
Prayer is at the very core of spiritual life. Despite how many people speak of praying as a part of their lives… I believe that a life that lives out of a center of prayer is challenging for most of us.
Yet it’s at the center of Christ’s whole life and ministry… it was the wellspring and source for the way of life he calls us to. As Dallas Willard has noted, the frustration many of us face may be rooted in trying to live the life of Christ without developing the means to live such a life.
"Christianity has not so much been tried and found wanting, as it has been found difficult and left untried."...G.K. Chesterton
"If we were perfected, prayer would not be a duty, it would be delight. Some day, please God, it will be. The same is true of many other behaviors which now appear as duties. If I loved my neighbor as myself, most of the actions which are now my moral duty would flow out of me as spontaneously as song from lark or fragrance from a flower. Why is this not so yet? Well, we know don’t we? The very activities for which we were created are, while we live on earth, variously impeded: by evil in ourselves and others. Not to practice them is to abandon our humanity. To practice them spontaneously and delightfully is not yet possible. This situation creates the category of duty, the whole specifically moral realm, it exists to be transcended. I am therefore not really deeply worried by the fact prayer is at present a duty"...C.S. Lewis
All relationships require intention and effort… including the most central relationship of all… relationship with God…intimacy with God.
They knew and we know that God has come to us in Christ.
In Christ, they could now be called ‘friends’.
In Christ, God could now be known as ‘father’.
Jesus is glad to begin to lead them into this place… and now lead us.
So Jesus begins to lay the foundations…
“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. I tell you the truth; they have received their reward in full. 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. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like the pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him”. Matthew 6:5-8
1. Pray SECRETLY
Jesus wasn’t challenging a place for public prayer per se, but what can become of it.
The formality of the Jewish religion included that of praying while standing with hands stretched out, palms opened and heads bowed, 3X/day, at 9 a.m., Noon and 3 p.m., WHEREVER ONE WAS.
It was easy for a man to be sure that they would find themselves at a busy part of the marketplace or the top step of the synagogue and there, offer lengthy and demonstrative prayers as a sign of piety.
Even though our less formal manner affords us less opportunity, we all know that we can begin to care more about appealing to others than God/
Jesus makes clear the pivotal option—appealing to others or appealing to God. His point is simple… if what you want is the honor of other people… you can have it… but that will be your ‘reward in ful’… that’s all you get.
Every social badge of devotion carries a danger.
Social acceptance may seem a better deal to strike—the awards are immediate, but the rewards are paid in full and they don’t include the riches of prayer.
Drop religion. Go for the real thing… for relationship.
We’re called to prayer, to share in praise and intercession, …BUT IF YOU WANT TO LEARN HOW TO PRAY, FIRST SHUT THE DOOR BEHIND YOU—FIND A SECRET PLACE, PRIVATE AND PERSONAL WHERE YOU CAN DEVELOP YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THE FATHER.