Summary: In these verses Jesus teaches us that there is a wrong way and a right way to pray.
LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY
One day the disciples came to him and said, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciple." (Luke 11:1). As they witnessed the powerful prayer life of Jesus, they recognized the lack of that power in their own lives. Therefore they asked him to teach them how to pray.
Not once did they ask him to teach them to preach, nor did they ask Him to teach them how to sing, or about church history. Yet every seminary has courses in those subjects. Jesus constantly emphasized and practiced prayer and its importance in the Christian life. Few seminaries offer courses on prayer. .
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spent a good part of his time teaching about prayer. Our Lord recognized that we need help in this area. I want you to consider with me verses 5-8. In these verses Jesus teaches us that there is a wrong way and a right way to pray. Consider with me in the first place:
I. THERE IS A WRONG WAY TO PRAY
In our text, Jesus gives to us two examples of the wrong kind of praying.
A. IT IS WRONG TO PRAY AS THE HYPOCRITES. The word "hypocrite" refers to a play actor, a pretender. Note, if we see this just as a blanket condemnation of the Pharisee, we miss the main point. Jesus is speaking to his disciples. If we are not careful we can become hypocritical in our praying.
They love to pray standing in the synagogue, or on the street corner in order to be seen of Men. The prayer is more interested in himself and in his own reputation than in the things of God. He wants to be known as a man of prayer so he can impress others with his piety.
Jesus said, "They have their reward in full." That is, they receive the respect and admiration of their fellow man but their prayers are not heard by the Father.
B. IT IS WRONG TO PRAY AS THE HEATHEN: or as the gentiles who do not know God. They concentrate more on the form or length of prayer than on God. They believe that they will be heard by their many words. However, Jesus called that kind of praying vain or meaningless repetition.
In the East people still use prayer wheels when they pray. Other groups use prayer beads, etc. We as believers in Jesus Christ can fall into that same trap if we are not careful. Sometimes we can be so involved in "set times" for prayer that we become extremely frustrated if anything interferes with it. Often we hear of all night prayer meetings and feel that by praying all night God will hear us. This is not a condemnation of all night prayer meetings. Jesus prayed all night. Sometimes in prayer we can become so overwhelmed by the presence of God we can’t leave. However, just to plan an all night prayer meeting just to do it may be missing the point. It is not the volume of words, but the attitude of the heart that counts before God. Consider in the second place:
II. THERE IS A RIGHT WAY TO PRAY
In these verses Jesus taught us that there is a right way to pray as well as a wrong way. He taught us at least three things about the right way of prayer:
A. THERE MUST BE EXCLUSION IN PRAYER. "When you pray, go into your inner room and when you have shut the door...." Jesus especially commends secret prayer. This is not a condemnation of prayer meetings nor is it a criticism of public prayer. Both had their place in the Bible and both have their place today.
Whenever we pray, whether in private, with a prayer group, or in public we must remember that we are talking with the Father. To really speak with the Father we must exclude some things from our lives. We must exclude thoughts of the world. We must exclude other people, for we are not trying to impress them. We must exclude ourselves. To commune with the Father we are going to have to shut other things out.
Once a rather shy man was praying in a prayer group rather softly. Another said, "Speak up, I can’t hear you." The prayer spoke up and said, "I wasn’t talking to you, sir." Whenever we speak to God we must shut out other things, what others say, or feel. Even in secret prayer be careful not to always be talking about it to other. Shut the door to other things, and shut yourself in with God.
B. THERE MUST ALSO BE REALIZATION IN PRAYER. Realize what? We must realize that when we pray we are actually in the presence of God. He is Almighty, majestic, eternal, and infinitely great. Moreover He is our Heavenly Father. Jesus said, "Go into your secret place, shut every thing else out, and pray to your Father who is in that secret place. The Father who sees you in secret will reward you openly."