The theme of Matthew 6:5-15 is prayer. If born to a Christian home and have been involved long enough at church you would definitely have been exposed to this activity we call prayer. We all have engaged in it at some point. Whether in the form of grace before a meal, or at that rare activity your Grandma used to lead, or that Friday night meeting no one would show up for; truth is that we all know what it is. But, do we?

I do not know about you, but I am the kind of person who needs to have a proper and solid explanation about things. I do not buy anything simply because they say it works. At Bible Institute I used to question my professors about everything. I wanted to know the reason why we believed a doctrine to be true. So often my questioning upset them. It brought me a lot of problems at that time. What is prayer? Is it a boring requirement clergy decided to lay upon our shoulders as a burden? Certainly not. Prayer is “the intercourse of the soul with God, not in contemplation or meditation, but in direct address to him.[1]” Some biblical dictionaries define it as, “Fellowship with God through Jesus Christ, expressed in adoration, thanksgiving and intercession, through which believers draw near to God and learn more of his will for their lives.[2]” Both definitions have a common thread regarding prayer: it is a personal activity. There are some personal activities that were designed to be done in private. That is the reason why Jesus told us “whenever you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.[3]” Prayer is that unique connection we’ve got with God. It is a personal one because He relates to His people in such a way. Through that connection thoughts and feelings are exchanged with the Father. Our Father. In Mt 6:6 Jesus reminds us that God sees what is done in secret. The text does not say it directly but it can be implied that the Father treasures that private connection with his sons and daughters. Because it is in secret that we are vulnerable, it is when no one else sees that we open our hearts before the presence of God and  find ourselves free to come forward with those issues that bother us. I believe that God treasures that fellowship in which our thoughts and feelings are exposed and laid before His presence in the security privacy provides. John MacArthur in his book “Alone with God” says, and I quote: “Martyn Lloyd-Jones once wrote: “Prayer is beyond any question the highest activity of the human soul. Man is at his greatest and highest when upon his knees he comes face to face with God” (Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 2 vols. [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979], 2:45). [4]” It is an activity of the soul. An activity highly valued by God. God does not need to have us praying to Him. He is God and knows absolutely everything about us. Including our fears, our insecurities, our problems, and our inadequacies. We are the ones who need prayer. It is through it that submission, dependency, and humility on our part is manifested.

We speak to God through prayer and he speaks to us through Scripture. That is an amazing exchange that takes part when we bow down before the Lord in prayer. Prayer has to be an enriching and satisfying activity not a boring, religious, and liturgical activity. We experience God’s presence and love through prayer. We engage into a divine intercourse whenever we bow down in prayer. In the words of John MacArthur “every believer must be continually in the presence of God, constantly breathing in His truths to be fully functional.[5]” Prayer makes us functional Christians. When we live a spiritual life that lacks prayer as a constant and vital part of it we live as practical humanists; not as spirit lead Christians. We need to change some old paradigms regarding prayer. It is not the mean by which we have God doing what we want, whenever we want, and in the terms we want. It does not work that way. On the contrary. As Beth Moore would say, God doesn’t work for us; we work for God[6]. Prayer is not an elite activity or a boring thing, much less a ritualistic activity. For us Christians it is a necessity.

There is a reason for prayer. As it has been said the main reason for prayer is to develop a profound, personal, and unique fellowship with God in which we exchange our thoughts and feelings for words of life and wisdom contained in Scripture. That is to silence our inner voice so that God’s whisper may be heard loud in our heart and soul as he speaks to us through his word. Beth Moore says, and I quote, “God has made so much available to us. He foreordained a perfect plan for each of our lives and has stored up immeasurable blessing that He longs for His children to loose by faith. [7]” Yet there is also another reason for prayer. It strengthens us and prevents us from falling into temptation. Jesus said that the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.[8]

From time to time people would come to us asking how to pray. That is something natural. Jesus’s disciples did the same on one occasion. They asked the Master to teach them how to pray. In Matthew 6:5-14 it is Jesus the one who takes the initiative to instruct his disciples on the spiritual discipline of prayer. He starts by declaring in 6:7 what does prayer is not. He said: When you pray, do not babble repetitiously[9]. So prayer is not a babbling cacophony of pre-fabricated sentences intended to be used as magical incantations. It is not a public demonstration of well-rehearsed oratory structure nor it is a speech designed to impress others. Jesus said that people who did so think that by their many words they will be heard. [10] Prayer is not an oratory contest. Also it is not a petition instrument by which we demand our needs to be fulfilled according to our very own specifications. It amazes me what the Master said: for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.[11] Do not take me wrong. We are free to go before our heavenly Father and ask him for provision. There is nothing wrong in doing that. Problem is when we demand God to give us what we want instead of asking Him to give us according to His perfect will for our lives. Prayer is an activity of the soul and it is personal. It is that precious instrument God has given us so that we might be able to build fellowship with him, so that we speak freely to him about our issues, thoughts, and feelings. It is a discipline that has to be exercised. It is a treasure that was designed to help us, nurture us, and strengthen us as we constantly work in having a strong and solid fellowship with the Father of Lights.

 


Footnotes:

[1] M. G. Easton, Easton’s Bible Dictionary (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1893).

[2] Martin H. Manser, Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies (London: Martin Manser, 2009).

[3] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Mt 6:6.

[4] John F. MacArthur Jr., Alone with God, MacArthur Study Series (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1995), 7.

[5] John F. MacArthur Jr., Alone with God, MacArthur Study Series (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1995), 13.

[6] Beth Moore, Believing God (Nashville: B&H, 2004).

[7] Beth Moore, Believing God (Nashville: B&H, 2004).

[8] The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Mt 26:41.

[9] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Mt 6:7.

[10] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Mt 6:7.

[11] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Mt 6:8.