Summary: The beliver should be praying, but Jesus gives us some rules to follow. It is not as much about the rules as it is the condition of our heart. Sermons highly influenced by the Preacher’s Outline and Study Bible.
Title: Great Rules of Prayer
Text: Matthew 6:7-8
A little boy was saying his bedtime prayers with his mother:
"Lord, bless Mommy and Daddy, and God, GIVE ME A NEW BICYCLE!!!"
Mom: "God’s not deaf, son.
Boy: "I know, Mom, but Grandma’s in the next room, and she’s hard of hearing!
A young man goes into a drug store to buy 3 boxes of chocolate. The pharmacist says what size? Small, medium, or large? "Well," he said, "I’ve been seeing this girl for a while and she’s really Beautiful. I want the chocolate because I think tonight’s "the" night. We’re having dinner with her parents, and then we’re going out. If she lets me hold her hand I’m going to give her the small box, if she let’s me kiss her on the cheek I’m going to giver her the medium box, and if she lets me kiss her on the lips I’m going to give her the big box.
The young man makes his purchase and leaves. Later that evening, he sits down to dinner with his girlfriend and her parents. He asks if he might give the blessing, and they agree. He begins the prayer, but continues praying for several minutes. The girl leans over and says, "You never told me that you were such a religious person." He leans over to her and says, "You never told me that your father is the pharmacist."
We have come to our second week looking at the Sermon on the Mount. Well, at least the section about prayer. Here Jesus is teaching his followers, his disciples, about various subjects. In Matthew chapter six He teaches about prayer. Would you turn there with me this morning? Matthew 6:5-18 this morning.
Often you have probably heard religious people standing behind pulpits delivering flowery and quite lengthy prayers. I have to admit sometimes I have found myself in this rut, although it was not my intention but nonetheless, I have heard myself repeating the same things over and over.
Too often people measure a prayer’s effectiveness by its fluency and length, thinking that a long prayer means the person is very devoted to God. Ecclesiastes 5:2 says, “Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God.”
With that said, Christ puts the matter very simply for us this morning, He says “When you pray”, follow these three rules:
1. Rule 1: do not use empty repetition
2. Rule 2: do not speak much
3. Rule 3: trust God.
The first great rule of prayer is striking to us sometimes – do not use empty repetition. Meaningless repetition means that we are saying the same things over and over again without putting one’s heart and thought into what is being said.
It also means we might be using certain “religious” words or phrases (sometimes over and over) and thinking God is hearing us because we are using such religious talk.
Jesus says, “Don’t do this.” I imagine Jesus with His fingers in His ears, going “La la la la la, I don’t hear you.”, when we pray like this. So what leads to repetitious or babbling prayer?
The first thing is memorized prayer: Just saying the words of a form prayer, for example, the Lord’s prayer. Before you freak out on me and think I am speaking blasphemy against the Lord’s Prayer, let me add… there is nothing wrong with a memorized prayer, if it is prayed with heart and not just repeated with no thought behind the words.
Another type of repetitious, meaningless prayer is when people pray well written, well-worded prayers, say from a magazine or devotional or something like that. Who are we kidding? Do we think that the already prepared prayer is so well written and expressive that it surely would carry more weight with God? The words may sound descriptive and beautifully arranged, but they heart must be offering the prayer, not the mind and the ego.
How about ritual prayer, ritual prayer is saying the same prayer at the same time on the same occasion – over and over again.
Let me add a word of warning at this point, not all repetitions in prayer are bad. Jesus repeated Himself in prayer, Matthew 26:44, “So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.”
Daniel repeated himself in prayer, Daniel 9:18-19, “Give ear, O God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name."