Hammy is one of my favorite characters in Over the Hedge. He is full of life, not so bright and a lot like me. I don’t know about you, but when I pray to God I often feel like Hammy. Trying to stay focused without looking at email (probably shouldn’t be praying at the computer!) or without rehearsing my things to do list for the day.
One of my youth pastors, apparently aware of my Hammy tendencies, taught me to pray through the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6. This helps me think through what is important to God in prayer. It helps me not only to focus but to focus specifically on what matters to God.
Think through your prayers. What do they sound like? Who is the focus? How often do you pray for God’s kingdom or for your enemies? How often do you take time to confess sin or pray against Satan’s attacks? My guess is most of us do not pray for many of these things and yet they were on Jesus’ mind when He prayed!
We will spend this week learning about and practicing prayer.
Read: Matthew 6:5-13
6"But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
7"And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.
8"So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.
9"Pray, then, in this way:
'Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10'Your kingdom come
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
11'Give us this day our daily bread.
12'And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13'And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.'
Context: this whole section of Matthew is dedicated to exposing outward religion vs. inward reality. Repeatedly Jesus warns His listeners to practice their faith to be seen by the Father not “to be seen by men”. Our motivation for giving (v. 1-4), praying (v. 5-13) and fasting (v. 16-18) is to be examined. Like going through the security line at the airport, we are to examine the baggage we are trying to take with us.
There was a real risk in public ministry to give, pray or fast for the benefits gained from others. The Pharisees made a business out of it. Christ followers were to be different. Jesus warns His followers to check their baggage. Make sure they were motivated to give the Father glory. He didn't want them to miss the joy and filling of the Father.
Notice how far Jesus goes to make sure their prayers are not said so others think highly of them. He commands His listeners to get into an “inner room”, oh and don't forget to shut the door! This is first of all a private matter between us and God ... a secret thing (v.6). Now Jesus is NOT saying it is bad to pray in public! He is saying it is bad to pray to be seen by others. This speaks to motive. He was concerned with why they did what we did.
Jesus also warns His listeners to not pray repeating the same stuff over and over (v. 7,8). The unusual Greek word used here means to speak idly or to speak in a meaningless way with mechanically repeated phrases. This is to chant like the pagans did in that day. God is personal and does not need us to coax Him into blessing us. Mechanical repetition does not reach the heart of God. I know when my kids do it to me they usually do NOT get what they are asking for.
Have you ever stopped to evaluate your motives for praying in public, serving in a church ministry, giving a meal, visiting someone who is sick, sending a spiritually oriented email? Be sensitive to motive. Why do you do what you do?
Do you have a place you can go to be alone and pray? Can you identify where that might be before you go to bed tonight? Pick a quiet place and time where you can be uninterrupted for 30 minutes or more. Jesus used to have to wake up while it was still dark to get alone with the Father.
Pray through Jesus’ prayer today. Pray it out loud to God. Think through each main idea. Work it through in your mind. Ask what it means. We will grow together in prayer this series.
DevoLink: Devotions to help you Link with God.