I grew up in church, no really, my family was there every time the doors were open. May dad usually opened the doors and locked up after everyone left. My mom played piano when my aunt didn’t and was the volunteer secretary for the church when she wasn’t at her full time job as secretary for an oil company in Oklahoma City. Praying was not hard for us. We prayed about everything. We were taught by my parents’ parents that praying was talking to God in Jesus Name.
I grew up in a church that had many kinds of pray-ers. Some would be so repetitive in their phrases that as child I would mouth what they were going to say as they prayed. Yes, I was that ornery child who would do anything for a laugh. That’s why my best friend was not allowed to sit with me very often.
Some would pray-preach. They would begin their prayers with, “O Lord we need to do what you said in the book of …”. And then another sermon would be spoken. As kids, (along with some grownups) we hoped that the prayer-preachers would never be asked to pray the dismissal pray for Sunday morning service. If they were asked to pray, that meant the roast in the oven might burn!
Some would pray to get attention of others’ inability to do church like they did church. They would cry out in loud voices and pray for their sons, daughters or other family members, who were sitting in their pew, to let these poor souls know how they should “live right” in their eyes. Yeah, that was awkward.
Then there were those who could settle the room in spiritual peace with humbled hearts, asking for God’s help and wisdom for our journey with God. It was as if you were listening in on a private conversation between God and man or woman. All you could do was nod in agreement in this holy moment.
My grandpa was one of those holy moment pray-ers. I always believed he had a direct line to God. Many others must have thought that as well because they would always ask my grandpa to pray for them. However as a kid, after weeks of hearing him close with the same phrase in his prayer over meals, I had to ask him about it. Even when there was not juice on the table he prayed for it. As a child I heard, “And bless our bodies with your intended juice…” With a smile and chuckle, he corrected what I heard. “And bless our bodies for YOUR intended use”. Okay, that is different.
Grandpa, a man after God’s heart, prayed for God to use him as He saw fit. That’s a Romans 12 prayer that God hears! (And God blesses the juice, too!)
We have heard it said…but Jesus teaches us,
“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 others. Truly I tell you, 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.
“This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’
14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
WHAT DO WE LEARN?
Prayer is personally talking to God as one who has a relationship with God. We have this intimate relationship with God because of Jesus’ work on the cross to forgive all our sin. Jesus, our Savior, torn down the temple curtain between God and mankind. We can approach God, through Jesus, with anything that is on our hearts. We pray in Jesus Name letting God know that we know what He did for us.
Jesus gave four instructions to guide us in our praying.
We must pray in secret before we pray in public.
It is not wrong to pray in public in the assembly, or even when blessing food (John 6:11) or seeking God’s help (John 11:41–42; Acts 27:35). But it is wrong to pray in public if we are not in the
habit of praying in private. Observers may think that we are practicing prayer when we are not, and this is hypocrisy. The word translated closet means “a private chamber.” It could refer to the store-chamber in a house. Our Lord prayed privately (Mark 1:35).
We must pray sincerely.
The fact that a request is repeated does not make it a “vain repetition,” for both Jesus and Paul repeated their petitions (Matt. 26:36–46; 2 Cor. 12:7–8). A request becomes a “vain repetition” if it is only a babbling of words without a sincere heart desire to seek and do God’s will.
We must pray in God’s will.
This prayer is known familiarly as “The Lord’s Prayer,” but “The Disciples’ Prayer” would be a more accurate title. Jesus did not give this prayer to us to be memorized and recited a given number of times. He gave this prayer to keep us from using vain repetitions. Jesus did not say, “Pray these words.” He said, “Pray after this manner”; that is, “Use this prayer as a pattern, not as a substitute.”
The purpose of prayer is to glorify God’s name and to ask for help to accomplish His will on earth. This prayer begins with God’s interests, not ours: God’s name, God’s kingdom, and God’s will.
God is concerned about our needs and knows them even before we mention them (Matt. 6:8). Then why pray? Because prayer is the God-appointed way to have these needs met (see James 4:1–3). Prayer prepares us for the proper use of the answer. If we know our need, and if we voice it to God, trusting Him for His provision, then we will make better use of the answer than if God forced it on us without our asking.
We must pray, having a forgiving spirit toward others.
In this “appendix” to the prayer, Jesus expanded the last phrase of Matthew 6:12, “as we forgive our debtors.” He later repeated this lesson to His disciples (Mark 11:19–26). He was not teaching that believers earned God’s forgiveness by forgiving others, for this would be contrary to God’s free grace and mercy. However, if we have truly experienced God’s forgiveness, then we will have a readiness to forgive others (Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13). Jesus illustrated this principle in the parable of the unmerciful servant (Matt. 18:21–35).
We have seen that true praying is a “family affair” (“Our Father”). If the members of the family are not getting along with one another, how can they claim to have a right relationship with the Father?
The emphasis in 1 John 4 is that we show our love for God by loving our brothers and sisters. When we forgive each other, we are not earning the right to prayer, for the privilege of prayer is a part of our sonship (Rom. 8:15–16).
Forgiveness belongs to the matter of fellowship:
If I am not in fellowship with God, I cannot pray effectively. But fellowship with my brothers and sisters helps to determine my fellowship with God; hence, forgiveness is important to prayer.
WHAT ABOUT FASTING?
It is not wrong to fast, if we do it in the right way and with the right motive. Jesus fasted (Matt. 4:3); so did the members of the early church (Acts 13:2). Fasting helps to discipline the appetites of the body (Luke 21:34) and keep our spiritual priorities straight. But fasting must never become an opportunity for temptation (1 Cor. 7:7). Simply to deprive ourselves of a natural benefit (such as food or sleep) is not of itself fasting.
We must devote ourselves to God and worship Him. Unless there is the devotion of the heart (see Zech. 7), there is no lasting spiritual benefit.
As with giving and praying, true fasting must be done in secret; it is between the believer and God.
The first step toward overcoming hypocrisy is to be honest with God in our secret life. We must never pray anything that we do not mean from the heart; otherwise, our prayers are simply empty words.
Our motive must be to please God alone, no matter what men may say or do. We must cultivate the heart in the secret place. It has well been said, “The most important part of a Christian’s life is the part that only God sees.” When reputation becomes more important than character, we have become hypocrites.
Hallowed be Your Name. May YOUR Kingdom come and reign in us and all around us. May YOUR will be done in every detail of our lives on earth as it is in heaven. We ask for what you want from us today. So give us this day all we need to please you in every thing we think, say or do. Forgive us our sins, help us to complete forgive those who have hurt us. Help us to quickly recognize and run from evil’s temptations to bring us down. In fact, DELIVER us from evil. To you be all glory, honor and praise forevermore.
In Jesus Name, Amen