When you think of prayer what is it that comes to your mind and what goes on in your heart? For many of us there is a sense of guilt, obligation or the thinking that this is what spiritual people do. Most people don’t tend to think of prayer as something that is pleasing, delightful or an immense privilege. Yet, true prayer is just that. Prayer is our pursuit of communing with God in worship to Him and petition of Him.
1. Pleasing Prayer Exposes Shallow and Empty Prayer: v.5-8
Jesus begins by addressing dysfunctional forms of prayer. Jesus makes it clear that there is an expectation that we would pray. He helps us to see that prayer is a means by which we praise God, not seek the praise of others. Further, He helps us see that prayer is a means by which we know and are known by God, not that we are heard for our words. In seeing these examples of dysfunctional prayer, we are reminded of other ways that we too can be dysfunctional in our praying.
Examples of Dysfunctional Prayer:
1. I Only Pray in a Pinch: It’s not that I’m prayerless, I only pray when I need something.
2. I Pray to Put God in My Debt: This is the person who sees this as a means of manipulating God. I did this, so you owe me. This isn’t about communing with God, as much as it is attempting to exploit God.
3. I Pray to Get God on My Side: This is the attitude that I pray so God can align Himself with me, instead of praying to align myself with the Lord.
4. I Pray to Prove My Spirituality: This is the very thing Jesus is addressing. We don’t pray to be praised by others, but we pray in order to praise God.
5. I Pray Without Thought or Consideration: This prayer is often offered before a meal. Not genuine gratitude, just an obligatory ritual on our way to feeding ourselves.
2. Pleasing Prayer Will Pray as Jesus Prayed: v.9-13
As Jesus gives the Lord’s Prayer, he instructs us that we are to pray like this. The Lord’s Prayer is not something that we mindlessly repeat, but it is a template for how we pray. Notice first, that we are to pray in worship and reverence of our Father. Prayer is first about us seeking the Person of God before we ever seek the provision of God. If you only ever worshipped God in your prayer, you would have lost nothing! God help us to be people whose prayer is characterized by worship.
Secondly, Jesus tells us that we are to pray in response of surrender to our King. In verse 10, we see that we are to pray for the Kingdom of God to come and His will to be done. This is a prayer of yielding and submission to God’s plan, God’s purposes and God’s Kingdom. But is this how we tend to pray for things? We would do well to pray asking God for His Kingdom to be advanced and His will to be accomplished irrespective of what that means in our individual lives.
Third, Jesus commands that we are to pray for our daily bread. The problem for many of us is this is where we tend to start in our prayer lives. This is why prayer feels cold, distant and impersonal…because it is! And we’ve made it that way. We divorce the petition from the relationship. It’s not wrong that we ask God for things. That’s actually good and right. It’s that we fail to ask within the context of the relationship.
Fourth, Jesus tells us that we are to pray asking for forgiveness. We need to ask for forgiveness because we are sinners who will repeatedly fall short of God’s holy and perfect standard. But praise God, He offers forgiveness through the atoning work of Jesus! But we should be quick to confess and repent of sin in seeking forgiveness from God.
Finally, we see that we are to pray, asking God to make us ready for what is to come. While the previous elements were past or present tense, this final item in verse 13 is looking to the future. We’re asking God to watch over us and to deliver us from temptation and evil.
As we closed, we spent a few minutes reflecting and considering questions as a means of application for us. I’ve included them below.
1. What changes are needed in how you approach the Lord in prayer?
2. Will you pray as a form of worship, not simply request?
3. Are there dysfunctional elements of prayer in your prayer life that you need to address?
4. Are you hindered from seeking forgiveness because you have yet to extend forgiveness to anyone on anything?