Summary: Prayer is about a relationship with God and Communication with God. it is always a response to God’s Word to us.
WHAT PRAYER IS
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I do not know if you could identify with any of those people in that video clip. I am sure you could. Isn’t it amazing how many of them said they did not pray but also how many said they did pray. Yet let me ask you a question ‘What is prayer?’ I have no doubt that all of us here this morning expect to pray at some point during this service of worship. No doubt many of you said prayers with your children at bedtime last night. Some of you may have prayed this morning before you came to church. Some of you prayed when you sat down in your seat before the service began. What were you doing? Do you believe it makes a difference? What do you pray about? Do you find it easy or difficult to pray? Well over the next 6 weeks we are going to look at prayer and issues surrounding prayer. But right at the beginning of this sermon I want to say this to you all – the objective of these sermons is not primarily to teach you about prayer but to get you praying. The objective is not to persuade you that you ought to pray, that it is a good thing to pray but actually to get you to pray. If you already pray then I hope and pray this series will encourage you in your prayer life. If you are struggling with praying then this series is to help you keep going and to get stronger in your prayer life. If you don’t pray at all, or infrequently then this series is to persuade you to make prayer part of your daily life.
I want to concentrate on a couple of bible verses this morning in answering; ‘What prayer is.’ Turn with me first of all to Luke 11 verse 1. This is Luke’s account of the passage we read from Matthew 6 this morning. I want to draw your attention to the question the disciples asked of Christ – read verse 1. Now think a moment about Jesus. Here are 12 men who have spent three years with Jesus. They have listened to Him preach with great power and authority. They have witnessed Him work wonderful miracles. They have listened to Him debate with the religious elite of His day. Yet they come and ask Him to teach them how to pray. I was really struck by that. They could have asked Him to teach them all sorts of things and yet it is how to pray that they desire teaching on – Why? Why prayer? I believe the answer to that question is found in what they had witnessed of the life of Christ – His life was bathed in prayer. We read that He rose early in the morning and sought a quiet place to pray. We read constantly of Him withdrawing from the crowds to pray. Before major events in the gospels we find Jesus praying. At the very end of His life what does He do? He goes to the Garden of Gethsemane and prays. From the gospel accounts Judas knew where Jesus would be – illustrating that this part of the garden was a familiar place of prayer for Christ. So the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray. So let us now see what He taught them.
Turn with me now to Matthew 6.5-13. When answering the request of the disciples; ‘teach us how to pray’ Jesus begins by assuming that they do pray. Look at verse 6 ‘when you pray.’ There is an assumption there that the disciples do pray. Jesus assumes that those who would be His followers pray and that it is a daily occurrence. He then sets down some simple guidelines for them, and we should follow them also. He tells them to go somewhere quiet and private – a place away from public gaze and distraction. It is not that Jesus is saying we should not pray in public, nor with others – but that daily prayer is to be a private devotion. So we are to go somewhere we won’t be seen by anyone but our heavenly Father and Jesus makes a promise to His disciples, and us – the Father will hear and answer. So those are some of the practical things that we need to consider when we come to pray. But what is prayer? What are we doing when we pray? Well let me share with you two things the Bible teaches about prayer.
I want you to look at Matthew 6.9. When Jesus begins His prayer He tells the disciples to call God ‘Father.’ He uses the everyday term ‘Abba, Father.’ A biblical scholar called Joachim Jeremias has studied all the teaching on prayer in Judaism at the time of Christ and he says that nowhere did he read of God being addressed as ‘father’ in any Hebrew prayers or teaching on prayer. So for Christ to address God in such a way was in fact quite revolutionary, almost scandalous in fact. Yet the reason He did so was that right at the very heart, the very core of His teaching on prayer is that it is primarily about a relationship with God as Father. Let me repeat that. At the very heart, the very core, prayer is about a relationship with God as Father. That is why Jesus begins His teaching on prayer with an intimate term of endearment. He addresses God as ‘Father’ and teaches the disciples to do the same. The address is to a personal God and not to something or someone unknown. Such a personal address implies a personal relationship.