We are continuing in our examination of Christ’s teachings at the Sermon on the Mount. He first covered some principles about how to live a godly life, (see Jesus Contact 9 & 10). Jesus wraps it up by telling us to act out our new righteousness that He provides us with, by performing acts that reflect the transformation of our salvation – solely out of the love we have for God and from our desire to please Him.
This behavior stands in stark contrast to those who perform ‘pious acts’ in public to garner the favor of man in order to stroke the performer’s ego.
Jesus then applies this same principle to prayer as well:
“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….But when you pray, go into your secret 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.” Mt. 6:5, 6. NKJV
Prayer is a sacred ‘love exchange’ between you and God; it’s how you make your God contact. But you demean it if you pray in public in an effort to demonstrate your piety. (Public prayer has its place, but it is generally rendered for the benefit of others.)
Jesus renders further clarification by giving us a ‘template’ (commonly referred to as the ‘Lord’s Prayer) so that we know how to effectively talk to God:
“In this manner, therefore 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 this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” Mt. 6:9 – 13. NKJV
Jesus is not telling us that we need to pray this prayer verbatim. What He is doing is giving us the proper structure for an effective prayer.
Thus, Christ’s model suggests that our prayer begin with a preface – a declaration of just Whom (God) it is that we are praying to. Notice too that we meet God in prayer on the most intimate level – as our heavenly Father.
Following that, we offer up praises for His limitless love, grace, peace, abundance, life and mercy – along with offerings of reverence that recognizes Jehovah’s lordship over all things.
Next we ask God to bring His kingdom to earth (where at this point in our prayer we can also remind ourselves of our own role in forwarding that kingdom by asking that He helps us keep our hearts open to His will).
We petition Him for our ‘daily bread,’ i.e. our physical necessities. And note that we pray for ‘us’ – not just for ourselves but also for our brothers and sisters in Christ. (I believe that this would be the space where we would pray for anything else that is on our heart as well.)
Continuing, Jesus says that we pray for the forgiveness of our ‘debts’ (transgressions we and our brothers and sisters have committed against God), bringing our confession and repentance as well, to restore our love-connection with Him. We immediately follow by asking God to help us to be forgiving towards others who have perpetrated ‘sin debts’ against us – just as our Father forgives us.
The next petition in the ‘template’ (And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one) may seem confusing on the surface. Why? Because God does not tempt anyone into sin:
Let no one say when he is tempted “I am tempted by God;” for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away be his own desires and enticed. Then when desire is conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full grown, brings forth death. James 1:13 – 15. NKJV
Thus, this final petition is really about praying that when we are tempted, we would be strengthened in Him so as not to follow through in the commission of the related sin because we did not enlist His help. So, this would be a continual component of prayer because that’s how often the devil throws temptation your way.
Finally, we conclude our prayer with additional praise for our Creator and as we will learn later, we must seal that prayer with the name of Christ – through Whom God grants all things:
“And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.” Jn. 14:13, 14. NKJV
In other words, we complete our God contact when we make our Jesus contact.
At this point, Jesus finishes with the structure of prayer but He immediately introduces a caveat to the petition for forgiveness:
“For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” Mt. 6:14, 15. NASB
How about that? We have a direct line to our Creator at any time. And now we know how to dial the right number…
Goodnight and God bless.