I want to propose THREE words that will help you in times of prayer. I pull them out of Jesus’ teaching on the subject of prayer, as recorded in Matthew 5:5-8. The four verses are pools of wisdom and practical application in the subject of prayer. Many of us may cruise through these four verses in fourth gear and then drop down into second gear when we reach “The Lord’s Prayer” in verse nine. I challenge you to read the following text slowly, hearing the words from the Master, God Himself in human flesh. He who is both perfect man and God, The Mediator between God and man, tells us how to pray. Wow!
Matthew 6:5–8 (NKJV)
5“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. 7And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8“Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.
Volumes of books have been written on the treasure within these verses. But let’s shut off the stadium lights and use a spotlight to zero in on three lessons from Jesus.
1. Sincere. This deals directly with the condition of the heart. In this text Jesus is condemning the religious leaders for praying to men rather than to God. Sincere prayer only seeks the attention and acceptance the Father God. The sincere heart not only seeks Him and His Will over its own will, but it also examines itself as a part of prayer. Check your motives and attitudes. Remind yourself that God cannot manipulated with sacrifices, pious good works, long prayers, or by evoking dead saints and repetitive mantras. Your prayers are only accepted in the presence of the Father by and through Jesus Christ (John 6:14; Hebrews 4:14-16; Hebrews 10:19-22). Just be yourself, after all He knows you better than you know yourself. This lesson overlaps into the next two lessons.
2. Solitude. Jesus calls us to get away and find a private place to pray. Take your requests to the Father somewhere away from the attention and distractions of others and of this busy, noisy world. Once alone with Him, open your heart. Just you and Him; heart to heart; one-on-one. There are many reasons for a solitude time of prayer, all of which goes beyond the length of this blog. Jesus gives us one reason in our text, which alone is reason enough. He promised that “your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” How great of a promise is that?!
3. Simple. The Father isn’t impressed with fancy words or theological statements in your prayers. Yes, your prayers need to be theologically correct–meaning biblical. But don’t worry about complicated prayers, big words, and long, eloquent phrases. The Father already knows what is in your heart, just be real, just be you.
David’s Psalms are perfect examples of someone getting alone with God and offering up both sincere and simple prayers. But if you’re like me you may initially feel uncomfortable and struggle with how to verbalize what you’re feeling and thinking. The silence may even sound weird. That is okay because the God who makes and inhabits our hearts knows what we’re trying to say and He knows how awkward we may feel. And He’s fine with that; He’s the One inviting us to this place. So don’t feel inadequate or intimidated, just open up and start sharing with Him. Over time you’ll find yourself more and more comfortable alone in His presence and praying with confidence.
You can learn more on these three lessons and how to apply them with Jarrod Burrell as he discovers The Place of Prayer.