Summary: This message considers what happens in a believer’s life when he follows Christ’s instruction on prayer.
Introduction: This morning I want to address the discipline of prayer. I doubt very much if I have to convince many of you of God’s eagerness to grant our requests when they are in keeping with His will (See 1 John 5:14-15). On the other hand, it probably won’t hurt as we all know that there are times when we wonder if God is listening when we pray. So here’s an encouraging story to add fuel to your prayer life. We are told in Ephesians 6:4 that parents are to bring their children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. This is clearly God’s prescription for parenting throughout the ages. George McCluskey took this verse seriously. As soon as he and his wife started a family, he decided to invest one hour a day in prayer, because he wanted to raise his girls to follow Christ. After a time, he expanded his prayers to include his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Every day between 11AM and noon, he prayed for the next three generations. As the years went by, his two daughters committed their lives to Christ and married men who went into vocational ministry. The two couples produced four girls and one boy. Each of the girls eventually married a pastor, and the boy became one! The first two children born to this generation, were boys. Upon graduation from graduation from high school, the two (cousins) chose the same college and became roommates. During their sophomore year, one boy decided to go into the ministry. The other didn’t. He undoubtedly felt some pressure to continue the family legacy, but chose instead to pursue his interest in psychology. He stayed in school, earned his doctorate and eventually wrote books for parents that became bestsellers. He started a radio program heard on more than a thousand stations each day. The man’s name, of course, is James Dobson. Oh, the power of prayer to influence the destiny of our lives!
There is great power in prayer. Few will deny it. But have you ever considered the purpose of prayer? Is it all about getting what we want when we want it? Is God kind of like the genie in Aladdin’s lamp that was compelled to grant him three wishes? I would like to propose to you this morning that the purpose of prayer is not so much about us getting what we desire as it is about God being glorified. Give me just a few moments to state my case. First of all I know this because the purpose of everything we do in life is to glorify God according to 1 Corinthians 10:31. As a matter of fact, the prophet Isaiah tells us that we were created for God’s glory (See Isaiah 43:7). Further, when we look at the four verses that precede the text we’re studying this morning we see further proof. Here Christ cautions us against using prayer to glorify ourselves. In Matthew 6:5 He says, "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth; they have received their reward in full." Obviously Jesus is not prohibiting public prayer. He, Himself, prayed in public often (See Matthew 14:19 for an example). Rather, Jesus is opposed to the kind of public prayer that draws attention to the one who is praying. It is far better to pray in private than to pray in public for the purpose of seeking the praise of men.
He goes on to point out another form of malpractice when it comes to prayer in Matthew 6:7. "And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them..." One might ask, "How does repetitious prayer rob God of glory? Isn’t the widow in Luke 18 commended for persevering in her request for justice before an unrighteous judge?" Yes, this is true, however, here in Matthew 6, Jesus addresses the person who prays believing that God will be manipulated into answering based on the length of his prayers. This was a commonly held belief among pagans (See 1 Kings 18:26-29). Our Lord is opposed to this kind of prayer because it provides an opportunity for the individual to say to his friends, "If you knew how to pray like I do, you’d get answers too." God is not interested in sharing His glory with another (See Isaiah 42:8) and His glory is fully on display as we draw near to Him in prayer and watch as He responds.
This brings us to the model prayer that Jesus gave to His disciples and to all believers throughout human history. Though it can and often is prayed verbatim, or word for word, more likely Christ gave it to us as an example of how we should approach God in prayer. This morning I’m going to attempt to convince you that in giving us this prayer, Jesus was once again doing what He always did...seeking to glorify His Father, this time through the prayers of His saints.