Summary: Part 14 of Sermon on the Mount, God cares about our needs.
How’s your prayer life? What I mean is how are your prayer habits? Do you pray much? After all Jesus said, when you pray. now he seemed pretty definite at this point, he didn’t say, if you pray, instead he said when you pray. he seemed pretty convinced that christians would pray. and he said that when we prayed that we should not pray like the hypocrites or the heathen.
Now the word hypocrite is actually the Greek word for actor, and it literally means one who wears a mask. And so Christ is saying don’t pray like someone who is playing a part. You ever see someone who has a very definite prayer voice, neat huh? Christ said that they stood on the corner and prayed. Now Christ is not denouncing public prayer, he says not just that they stood on the street corner and in the synagogue and prayed but he tells us that they did it for a very special purpose. That they might be seen by men.
And so as well as not praying like the hypocrite, Christ also cautions us not to pray like the pagan using many words. The KJV, uses the phrase, "vain repetition". I wonder if that could mean praying without paying attention. You’ve prayed the prayers so long that you can say them without really thinking about them. It’s just like a repetition of words, one word after another. and so Christ says don’t be like them either.
And so he’s laid out how we shouldn’t pray and now he lays down how we should pray, beginning with Matthew 6:9 (NIV) "This, then, is how you should pray: and Christ goes on to lay down the most famous prayer in the history of man. Most of us could reel it off by rote. Indeed in many churches they pray the Lord’s prayer every Sunday. I wonder if it’s come to the place that it’s JUST a repetition of words, one word after another. Almost a vain repetition? I wonder if Jesus would find it amusing that we have taken the very thing which he condemned and made it sacred. A funny story, Tony Campolla is the head of the sociology department at Eastern College in Philadelphia, he tells HOW as a young assistant pastor he gave the pastoral prayer one sunday morning after he’d been out late saturday night and so he said he was pretty well in auto pilot. And so he got to the last phrase he says "In the name of our Lord who taught us to pray, our Father. . . and what he actually says is in the name of the lord who taught us to pray, now I lay me down to sleep. Let’s look at the Lord’s prayer. Last week we talked about the opening phrases, Matthew 6:9 (NIV) Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, And we mentioned that we can’t let our concept of our earthly father color the words of Christ. Because he was speaking from his concept of father, a loving, affirming, protecting father.
We all know the rest of the prayer, as a matter of fact most of us could probably recite it by heart, but have we actually thought about the content. Not just the words but why the words. What would happen if your prayers were interrupted like Shera’s were.
The first thing that Jesus tells people to prayer for is Matthew 6:10 (NIV) your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. The question is what are we praying for? The people that Jesus was talking to would have had a very definite view of the Kingdom of God. To them it was going to be an actual physical place where the Roman oppressors were going to be overthrown and all good Jews were going to live in some form of political Utopia. This may not have been what Jesus had in mind when he spoke of the Kingdom of God. Remember the very first line that he spoke in what is known as the Sermon on the Mount Matthew 5:3 (NIV) "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. That wouldn’t seem to be indicative of a political kingdom but the fact that Jesus spoke often about the Kingdom of God, or the Kingdom of Heaven would indicate that it was something in the forefront of his thoughts. The Gospel of Mark was said to be the first written account of Christ’s ministry and the very first words that it records of Jesus are found in Mark 1:15 (NIV) "The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" In the book of Luke 4:43 (NIV) Jesus said, "I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God . . ., because that is why I was sent." So it would appear that the need to preach about the Kingdom of God was a priority for Jesus almost to the point of being an obligation.