Summary: A robust prayer life requires an understanding of prayer based on the Word of God & practice that lead us more deeply into the habit of praying. In this lesson, we not only talk about prayer we will engage in prayer. Get ready to learn the A.C.T.S. method
Prayer. The one thing that you always wish you were doing more of, right? It's exactly what prayer is. In fact, I don't think that there is a person on the face of this earth that doesn't wish that they had spent more time in prayer during the regular course of their life. I can guarantee it. Even the most prayer filled person on the face of this planet wishes they prayed more. And we want to know how to do it. We want to know how to engage in it; we want to understand how to do it. We want to know how it works, how God answers it.
There are so many questions about it. But let's deal with some simple things today. How did Jesus teach us to pray? That's what we're going to look at today. Is how did Jesus teach us to pray? We're going to be looking at Matthew chapter 6, verses 5 through 15. I want to read them for you as Jesus himself; God teaches us to pray. So let's take his advice here.
He says this. "And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly I say to you that they have received their reward. But when you pray - go into your room, and shut the door - and pray to your father, who is in secret. And your father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them. For your father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this."
And we know this prayer oh so well, very ironic that Jesus says, "Don't heap up empty phrases," right? "Our father in heaven hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day, our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we have also forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For if you forgive others that are trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others that are trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." Exciting stuff here. There's some great stuff in this short little text - as Jesus, God himself teaches us how to communicate. To him, to the spirit, to God.
So a couple of observations here that I make almost instantly. The first one is this. Is that Jesus is all about the motivation. I mean this first section here about the hypocrites and about actors, and about people who are faking their way through it. I love the reward that they get. The reward that they get is the reward of being seen by others. That's it. They don't get the reward of prayer actually working, because their motivation isn't in the right place. And that is essentially what Jesus is saying here. If you pray to put on a show - then your reward is the show, not the true outputs of spiritual prayer. Fascinating, isn't it?
And then Jesus says, "And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do. For they think they will be heard for their many words." We've all been in that situation where someone's rambling in prayer. And it sounds like they're making up for lost time or just coming up with fancy things to say. And I think Jesus here is not only saying, "What's your motivation?" He's saying, "Be meaningful." He's saying, "Be meaningful."
Because he already knows what we need. God already knows what we need. The spirit already knows what we need. They want us to use meaningful words and get at the heart of the issue of the things that we need. Because they already know what we need before we ever ask it. They still want us to ask because it shows the submission of life. And then Jesus gives this. This kind of pattern of prayer that we see here.
Now, I don't exactly know what you're prayer pattern is today. But I would assume that every one of you wished that you had better habits and better motivation, and more meaningful prayer life. I would imagine that that's true for you. And there's been many quotes down through time that has caused me deep reflection.
And one of the most powerful is the one on our study guide today. It's from S.D. Gordon. And it says this. It says, "The great people of the earth today, are the people who pray. I do not mean those who talk about prayer. But I mean those people who take time to pray. They have not time. It must be taken from something else. The something else is important, very important and pressing. But still less important and less pressing than prayer itself." Wow, that's a - some bold stuff right there. And maybe that helps us to reflect on and re-prioritize our life in some ways? Perhaps it causes us to reflect on what we really should be focusing on and thinking about?