Summary: When you pray keep it sincere, secret, simple, and structured.
WHEN YOU PRAY
Once upon a time there was a man who loved hunting. He wasn’t a Christian, in fact he would usually go hunting on Sunday mornings while everyone else was in church. One day he was hunting for bears. As he trudged through the forest he came upon a large and steep hill. He climbed the hill and, just as he was pulling himself up over the last outcropping of rocks, a huge bear met him nose to nose. The bear roared fiercely. The man was so scared that he lost his balance and fell down the hill with the bear not far behind. On the trip down the hill the man lost his gun. When he finally stopped tumbling, he found that he had a broken leg. Escape was impossible and so the man, who had never been particularly religious prayed: "God, if you will make this bear a Christian I will be happy with whatever lot you give me for the rest of my life." The bear was no more than three feet away from the man when it stopped dead in its tracks, looked up to the heavens, and then fell to its knees and prayed in a loud voice: "Lord bless this food of which I am about to partake. Amen."
Matt 6:5 “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. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
Jesus starts here by saying “WHEN you pray…”. Notice that He did not say “IF you pray…”. Prayer is not an optional part of the Christian life. Communication is an essential part of any relationship and our relationship with God is no different. Prayer is essential. It is like breathing. Today I want us to talk about HOW we are to pray. When we pray our prayers are to be:
1. Sincere (vs. 5) – why you pray
Prayer is simply communication with God. Our prayers should never be a performance. When we are praying with other people we can easily loose our focus in prayer and forget why it is we are praying and who is suppose to be the center of attention. When other people are listening our prayers can quickly turn from personal communication to public performance.
Have you ever noticed that your language changes when you know that others are watching or listening to you? The other day I saw a TV commercial. A guy was on his front porch with his cat. The cat was purring and he was being very affectionate and talking with it, until he realized that his golfing friend was standing there watching him. Then the cat got thrown to the side. When Naomi and lived in Kuwait there were many times when we were aware that our phone was being bugged – we knew there was someone (probably secret police) listening in to the conversation. I found this out the first time when I was asking Naomi for directions to a certain part of town. I kept trying to sound out what the area was called … SHUWA SHUAT SHUIS and then in perfect Arabic heard someone say in the background SHUWAIKH! I said thank you and hung up. My phone conversations were never the same after that, knowing that someone was listening.
The prayer preceding all prayers is "May it be the real I who speaks." -- C.S. Lewis
In the NIV the word used for sincere is the Greek word ANUPOKRITOS which means “without hypocrisy”. Hypocrisy is pretending or being an actor on a stage. When the focus of your prayer shifts from God to others you can slip into hypocrisy.
The word sincere comes from the Latin SINCERUS meaning clean or pure. Some have argued that it originally came from 2 words SINE meaning “without” and CERA meaning "wax." Years ago, a potter would often put his seal, or stamp, upon a completed vessel with the words SINE CERA. This meant that to his knowledge there was no flaw in that work. If a potter did crack a vessel, he would carefully patch that flawed vase or bowl by filling in the crack with wax. Then he would glaze it over. But it did not merit the stamp "without wax," because it was not a flawless piece of pottery.