Of all the profound elements of our spiritual interaction, how is it that God will entertain the idea; much less require the practice of allowing man to communicate through prayer? For many people, it is little more than a Sunday exercise to fill a time slot. For others, it is life sustaining and something from which they cannot be separated. If man needs anything during this time in this life, it is the ability to call-on God. We need a salvation beyond our present resources. We all need to be reminded of just how powerless we are in dealing with the weighty matters of our own troubled souls. Some may scoff. Others may engage. God loves us enough to allow us the opportunity to approach his throne.
Praying takes some practice. Before we can practice prayer we need to go “prayer school.” I need a master of prayer to teach me how to submit myself before the Father. One of the tragedies of our modern culture is the absence of fathers. Either physically or spiritually, the absence has created a problem of understanding between children and masculine love and leadership. As a result, many struggle to address God because they have never had to communicate with a patriarchal figure in their lives. As a result, man struggles to relate to or communicate with God.
In Matthew 6:5-15, we are given four instructional elements for our prayer life from the prayer master himself – Jesus. The first is that we have to learn to pray in private before we can effectively pray publicly. (v. 6) It is never wrong to pray publicly, regardless of the world’s disdain. Private prayer, in a closet or private room, is where sincere people pour their hearts out to God. It is where we learn to observe our Lord’s patience and love. It is where our sincerity is measured. Public prayer, when conducted for the wrong reasons, might be nothing more than some form of spiritual acting or more specifically – hypocrisy. We find Jesus praying privately. (Mark 1:35) We also find men like Elisha (2 Kings 4:32) and Daniel (Daniel 6:10) praying privately as well. We need to learn to practice quiet, focused prayer so that we can pray powerfully in public.
Next, we need to pray with sincerity. (v. 7-8) you would think this goes without stating. Sadly, I have heard some people who pray with a strand of eloquent clichés more for the beauty of the speech, than the specificity of a spiritual intercommunication. Ornate repetition is not what God seeks in prayer. (Matthew 26:26-46) God is neither moved nor manipulated by incantation. He is moved with honesty, submission, and love. We can begin to pray when we remove the one-great-prayer we think is impressive to others to hear us utter. Prayer is a communication between man and God, not man and God and other parties. That is not to say we can’t pray publicly, it is to say that when we speak to God we need to focus on the one who we presume to address, leaving the desire to impress others out of the conversation.
Third, we need to pray seeking God’s will in this world, even above our own. (v. 9-13) Too often prayer is about testing God. After all, what kind of God can’t or won’t deliver my holy request? The actual purpose of prayer is that we praise God’s name and seek His intervention in our lives. Prayer is neither a test for God or a moment of glory for us. I need to see when and where God needs me to move and act and love in this world. He might need to help my vision so that I can see just where I need to live for Him. Praying in His will is seeking His outcome in this world, even if it comes at my humble cost. We are His servants, His vessels, His tools, and His people. Consequently, we seek His will in our lives.
Fourth, we need to pray with a forgiving spirit. (v. 14-15) For us to pray without forgiveness is for us to pray with condemnation of ourselves. (Matthew 11:25) When we approach God we have to remember our place in this world. Our sins cost Jesus His life, as much as any sins committed by others. We are as guilty, as wrong, and as dark as any sinful person that has ever lived. What right have we got to be less than forgiving of others who have wronged God like we have? God is very clear on the matter.
I have heard some disagreement over the years from a few who have fought the concept of forgiveness. Why would anyone seek to perpetuate a grudge, when we all have enough problems in our lives. We need to first seek out God’s forgiveness of ourselves, and then to seek the forgiveness of even those who have wronged us. (Luke 6:27, 35) Love is required to forgive, and I have to learn to love others before I can claim to belong to God. (1 John 4:20) This is a challenge, and possibly the most difficult aspect of faith for some.
Prayer should be unceasing. (1 Thessalonians 5:17) We should never sever the tie that binds us to the continual influence of submissive holy interchange with our Holy Father. Always seek His wisdom, His guidance, and His way in this world. In so doing, we will find the life we seek now and eternally. Godspeed in your prayer life and on your journey. Have a blessed week!