Summary: How we pray depends on our concept of God. God is personal, and knows us better than we know ourselves. Prayer brings us into harmony with God.


When I was in college, I was required to take speech class. As a shy person, I dreaded it. It’s all about public speaking. Some would rather die than speak in public. To pass the class, we had to give a 5-minute speech to our classmates.

Here are some pointers for giving a speech:

Know your subject

* What am I going to talk about?

* Do I know my subject well?

Know your time constraints

* A short speech is structured differently than a long speech.

* When I write a sermon, I aim for 25 minutes.

Know your purpose

* To amuse you?

* To give information?

* To persuade you to take a particular action?

Know your audience

* Who are they?

* What do they value?

* How intelligent are they?

* What do they already know?

* Relationship to them (Peers, Superiors (boss, president))


Prayer is many things. The angle we will take this morning is that prayer is a speech addressed to God.

The same key pointers apply:

Know your subject

* What am I going to pray about?

Know your time constraints (short, or long)

Know your purpose

* Why am I praying? What result do I want?

Know your audience

* Who are you speaking to?

* What does God value?

* How intelligent is God?

* What does God already know?

* What is our relationship to God?

Jesus answers those questions and more in his teaching on prayer, as recorded in Matthew 6. Let’s turn there.

As part of the sermon on the mount, Jesus teaches about three religious acts; charitable deeds, prayer, fasting; and how they are rewarded. Let’s start with the big picture.

Matthew 6:1-4

Matthew 6:5-6

Matthew 6:16-18


Hypocrites are good public speakers

* No fear of public speaking

* They know their subject well.

* Don’t run out of words to say

* Know their audience

* They know how to present themselves for maximum impact

* They are successful, rewarded for their efforts.

That said, they get at least one critical point wrong. Listen for it:

Matthew 6:5 That they may be seen by men.

Example: Luke 18:10 Two men went up the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men – extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all I possess ’

They are speaking to the wrong audience. Not speaking to God, but people like themselves.

Only acting like they are speaking to God. That’s why Jesus call them hypocrites, which is the Greek word for ‘actor’ or ‘stage-player’

Their religious acts are only public performances meant to impress people and build their reputation for piety.

But suppose you perform your religious acts in secret. Can you impress God by your performance?

Consider that God is Creator, holy, immortal, all-powerful, all-knowing. And we are His creation, redeemed from destruction by God’s amazing gift of His Son, who lived a holy life on earth for us against incredible opposition.

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Nothing we do can compare with that.

Our religious acts that matter are just between us and God. It is a matter of the heart.

Would you still do what you do if there were no one but God to see it?

Your Father sees what is done in secret, and will reward you openly.

Now let’s focus on Jesus’ teaching about prayer.

Matthew 6:7 Vain repetition (vain means “empty”)

Illustration - Tibetan Buddhists

They say mantras, which a kind of like prayers, to accumulate wisdom and merit (good karma).

Write their mantras on a cylinder (a.k.a. prayer wheel), and then spin the cylinder (clockwise). In their theology, that is the same as saying the mantra.

But spinning the cylinder takes personal effort. There are water-powered prayer wheels, so they can be turning all the time.

No running water? The mantra can be written on a prayer flag, so every puff of wind waves the flag and prays the mantra.

No wind? You can buy electric prayer wheels on eBay starting at $99.

What do prayer wheels this say about their deities?

* They are impersonal

* They have no salvation to give. Improving our karma depends on our own works.

* They must have some method of counting the prayer wheel revolutions, and flag flaps, and crediting karma to a certain person.

* They are impressed by repetition, whether personal or mechanical. More interested in quantity than quality.

How we pray reveals our concept of God. We tailor our prayers for best effect based on our understanding of who God is, what God values, and how salvation works.

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Gordon A Ward Jr

commented on Jan 9, 2021

Bless you and our Lord for your bringing Glory to our Lord..

Gordon A Ward Jr

commented on Jan 10, 2021

Brother Houck:. Would there be any powerpoints accompanying this ??

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