PLEASE READ: Matthew 6:5-13
Prayer is one of the most spiritually fundamental practices of any believer. Should we find it strange that Christ had to teach us how to pray?
Surprisingly, no. Because according to Him, a lot of people were getting it wrong.
To be a Jew in Old Testament times often meant reliance upon the priests who ministered on behalf of the people. To have a direct line of communication with God was not something to which just anyone could lay claim. Therefore, there was a notoriety that came with being able to pray to God — and more than a few made themselves known publicly.
Christ called them hypocrites.
Their motivations for praying were not driven by humility or servitude toward men or God. Their piety was public. Their platform was pride. Does God listen to such prayers? What is more, does He answer them?
Christ made it clear that prayer is an intimacy with God that is to be kept secret. God honors prayers from a humble and contrite heart that longs to serve Him and others. That is a far cry from the hypocrites.
Our Father, Keeper of Secrets
There is a secret place where the Most High dwells (see Psalm 91:1). God is not flagrant with Himself. He hides Himself in shadows, where His light is only visible to those who are willing to dwell with Him in secret.
It’s very rare to find someone with whom you can share your deepest secrets. But our Father invites us into a clandestine place with Him where we are wholly secure, and where we are free to share our secrets in His confidence. He listens to our most intimate cries, our deepest pleas, and our simplest most inarticulate words.
Our Father is the hearer of our hearts. When words fail us, and when tears take over, He is able to decipher the meaning we can only intend. When we are rapt with joy and intimate worship, He is the One who receives our childlike praise and adoration.
These things are not a public affair. They are intimate. They are private. They are to be done in secret.
Is that to say we cannot have prayer with others on an intimate level, or even a corporate level? Well, of course we can, so long as everyone is of one heart and mind toward the LORD. When we enter into that secret place together, with respect to our brother’s needs, we come as a family.
Because of what Christ has done, we all have a direct line of communication with God. He has opened the way for us into the Holy of Holies which was reserved only for the priests according to the Law of Moses. Because of Christ’s sacrifice, we can now come boldly before His throne of grace to find help in time of need (see Hebrews 4:12-16). The people of God are no longer limited to the Outer Court. The Inner Court and the Holy of Holies, where ministry was reserved only for the priests, is now a place we can boldly venture.
Let us understand, our heavenly Father is secretive with Himself. He does not flagrantly place Himself on display like the hypocrites who love the attention of men. His heart is humble. He hides so He may be found by those who would seek after Him. Jesus said our Father “who is in secret” will reward us openly, but only when we come to Him in secret. What does that mean?
Answered prayers. You will have a powerful testimony before men. A man or woman of God who enjoys the LORD’s company and is able to keep His secrets, He will reward with His favor, the companionship of His manifest presence, and the open display of His power. There could be no greater reward here on earth.
The Principles of Prayer
Now that we understand that prayer is not reserved merely for the priests, but has been opened for every child of God, we can begin to see why the LORD’s disciples asked Him, “Teach us how to pray” (see Luke 11:1). This was something they had witnessed Him doing many times (as the LORD was a High Priest according to the order of Melchisedec). But let us understand, the prayer Christ daily demonstrated was probably not something they had done for themselves.
For centuries the LORD’s prayer has been spoken verbatim by multitudes and masses in most any Christian denomination. And to pray it verbatim is certainly not wrong if that is what’s chosen. But let us understand the context of what Christ was trying to teach. He was not giving us a prayer to pray by rote. He was actually teaching us how to pray — not what to pray. There is a vast difference. In this, we have theologically missed the application. We’ve glossed over the depth of the Lord’s Prayer for a simple Christian mantra. On the contrary, there is extraordinary depth here that begs the believer to a supernatural life of extraordinary purpose and power.
Line upon line we find a careful delineation of kingdom principles which should govern how we pray:
HONORING OUR FATHER: vs. 9 — “Our Father…” The glorification of God and the honor of His name takes us back to the first and second commandments. Prayer begins with rightly honoring God for who He is with an understanding of His divinity and heavenly origin. He is our heavenly Father, who is to be honored.
OBEDIENCE: vs. 10 — “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done…” The coming of His kingdom is something we should earnestly seek and desire. That happens when His will is performed on earth as it is in heaven. Christ came, boldly declaring to Israel that the kingdom of God had come upon them. How could he say this? Only because He was the King. Christ also said the kingdom of God is within us. How can that be? Because He resides within every believer by His Spirit. Where the King is — the kingdom can thus be manifest accordingly — on earth as it is in heaven. But that manifestation requires a willing vessel, a humble servant, and an obedient ambassador. As believers, we represent the King. We enable His kingdom to come everyday, but only when we live obedient lives according to His perfect will.
PROVISION: vs. 11 — “Give us this day our daily bread.” Christ proclaimed Himself to be the Living Bread from Heaven. Bread was the staple food of every Jewish home. Without bread, there was no sustenance. Grain, therefore, was a cherished and valuable commodity. During their time in the wilderness following the Exodus, Israel was dependent upon God for manna. They gathered it daily in rations according to the number of their household. They took only enough for one day. If they took more, it would rot. Daily bread, therefore, was something that spoke to intimate provision by Providence. How many of us are trying to survive on “rotten” bread? Christ intends that we seek Him for what we need on a daily basis. In this we are reminded, that He is our Bread, and our provision for the needs at hand come only from Him.
MERCY, HUMILITY, AND JUSTICE: vs. 12 — “Forgive us… as we forgive…” Micah 6:8 resonates here. God calls us to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with Him. This principle is paramount if we are going to walk in the grace and power of God. To remain in a frame of forgiveness reminds us of our own fallen state, and how desperate we are for His mercy. We are all in need of forgiveness. How we forgive, therefore, is paramount. God is just. He will forgive us only when we forgive others (see vs 14-15). If we do not forgive, we will not be forgiven. Remaining in a state of forgiveness keeps us humble before a just and righteous God, and toward our brethren as well. When we understand that God will forgive only as we have forgiven — our motivations become God-centered instead of self-centered. This keeps the ground level between all His children.
PROTECTION: vs. 13a — “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil…” The principle of protection is clear. We are ever in need of constant deliverance. We have a real enemy. In context to the prior verse: when we fail to forgive, we remain an open target.
POWER: vs. 13b — “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.” Again, we conclude with the kingdom, and to whom it belongs. God’s power and glory will be manifest in our lives when we pray according to these principles. It is never ours. It is His. As children and servants of God, may we never forget to whom we are beholden.
How to Pray
Your prayers are going to be different every day — because every day is different. But the basic principles Christ taught should be resident within each of them.
We no longer have to rely upon the priests to reach God for us. Christ has opened the way to His very throne of grace. We are all welcome to come to Him.
Our Father, who dwells in the secret place (see Psalm 91:1), hides Himself for those who would be willing to seek Him in secret. He is the keeper of secrets. Yet He rewards His children openly with answered prayers, His manifest presence, and the power of His Spirit when we humble ourselves before Him.
Let us understand, Christ did not dictate to us what to pray. He taught us principles which should guide our prayer lives, so we can truly pray effectively. Only then will His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Only then will His kingdom come.
Cheers & Shalom,
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