Summary: Jesus teaches us and his disciples how to pray. Don't take the Lord's Prayer for granted but break it down and use it as a guide to how to pray
Let Us Pray
When you think of prayer maybe you think of something like one of these two stories taken from Our Daily Bread.
A friend of mine took his small son with him to town one day to run some errands. When lunch time arrived, the two of them went to a familiar diner for a sandwich. The father sat down on one of the stools at the counter and lifted the boy up to the seat beside him. They ordered lunch, and when the waiter brought the food, the father said, "Son, we'll just have a silent prayer." Dad got through praying first and waited for the boy to finish his prayer, but he just sat with his head bowed for an unusually long time. When he finally looked up, his father asked him, "What in the world were you praying about all that time?" With the innocence and honesty of a child, he replied, "How do I know? It was a silent prayer."
When Robert Louis Stevenson was a boy he once remarked to his mother, "Momma, you can't be good without praying." "How do you know, Robert?" she asked. "Because I've tried!" he answered. This brings to mind a story about another little fellow -- one who had been sent to his room because he had been bad. A short time later he came out and said to his mother, "I've been thinking about what I did and I said a prayer." "That's fine," she said, "if you ask God to make you good, He will help you." "Oh, I didn't ask Him to help me be good," replied the boy. "I asked Him to help you put up with me."
Prayer is such a blessing. Prayer is a time when you talk to God. Jesus knew how important prayer was to him and so he wanted to make sure that those he was speaking to also understood just how great prayer was. Jesus wanted to make sure that those he was speaking to knew that they could go to the Father. Jesus knew God and lets us in on how to approach our heavenly Father as well.
READ Matthew 6:5-15
As Jesus has been going preaching and teaching to those gathered he has covered many things. One of the things that we have seen Jesus do several times is to get deeper into the heart of things. When Jesus was talking about some of the commands he went beyond what was generally thought. There was conventional wisdom like in the command “Do not murder.” Okay, so we don’t go out and kill anybody. Jesus went deeper though. It wasn’t just about physically killing but about anger. Controlling your anger and not letting it cause you to sin.
Jesus is getting to this today in their prayer life. Jesus has often picked on the religious leaders of that day during his teaching. I would guess that there was a sense of frustration with them because these are the people that should have known better. These are the educated men. These guys knew what the Bible said and yet for many of them it appears that the struggled to put it into action. It appears that over time the position has maybe taken precedence over the message.
The religious leaders had become more concerned about themselves and their ability to uphold all of the laws and to appear holy. A Pharisee or Rabi would have been revered in those days. They were the somebodies. They made the laws and by all appearance were very good about keeping them, legalistically.
The religious leaders would kind of put on a show for people to see. They were holy and by all means wanted to appear that way. They must have been very public with their prayers. They wanted everyone to see them and to hear them and then revere them.
Now there is nothing wrong with public prayer. I would encourage you to not be afraid to pray in public. I will never forget when I had accepted the call to my first church in Highland, IN. My parent’s pastor stopped by the house one day as we were preparing to move. He asked about the church and how I was feeling and so on. He then said, “Well, we should pray about it.” I thought well that is good, I have been praying about it. He put his hand on my shoulder and prayed right there in my front yard at the corner of E. 1st and Independence.
You see the thing about that prayer is was that it was from the heart. It was not a show. Pastor Dean wasn’t praying on my front lawn so everybody could see the two of us standing there and think, “Wow, there are a couple of holy guys.” He simply prayed because that was the right thing to do and we happened to be in a public place. If those going by saw that and were inspired also to talk with God than that was great.