Monday, March 4

Monday, March 4    

Scripture: Matthew 6:5-8

“When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

“When you pray, don’t babble on and on as the Gentiles do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!

Some thoughts: 

       The Jews in Jesus’ day had frequent hours of public prayer at 9 AM in the morning and at 3 PM in the afternoon (Acts 3:1). The Pharisees made it a point to be seen prominently at those times. Jesus’ teaching here comes in this context. The original meaning of hypocrite was “actor.” Jesus is drawing our attention to one’s motives in praying. The Pharisees’ hypocritical prayer has the appearance of reality but is only that. No authentic prayer is happening, just babbling words. Jesus makes clear that words and pretense do not make a prayer. God is not impressed by the volume of words, tone of voice, or anything else when we pray. What he does see is our heart motivation. Do we genuinely care about those things for which we are praying, or are we simply moving through our check list? God is not affected by what others think of our praying nor even by what we think of our prayer. In truth we are praying to someone who knows our heart’s concern and our thoughts before we utter them. I’m reminded in my public praying, that I am talking to God, not conveying news, giving advice to those listening to me pray, explaining to God what he already knows, or telling God what I think he should do. God does not need my or your advice!

     Again in a simple, beautiful way Jesus simply comments “when you pray.” “When” is a word of action, a word of time. It signals the beginning of an event. So in Jesus’ saying “when,” his full expectation is that prayer is a regular part of a Christin’s daily life. Maybe you want to keep (or start) a prayer list or a prayer journal. While interceding for others is an important part of prayer, don’t neglect adoration, confession, and thanksgiving. Then there is the part of prayer I most often forget, neglect, or rush through . . . that of listening to God. Could one of our goals during this Lenten season be to cultivate time to listen to God if that is not a normal practice? Simply be quiet and listen. How can we converse when we never listen?

     In prayer we are turning to God in dependency. There are a great many examples of prayer in Scriptures to guide us along. (Col 1:9-14; Phil 1:3-11; Dan 9:1-19; John 17) Maybe during these forty days you’ll want to build a collection of all the “prayers” you can find in Scripture. Pray them. Study them. Diagram the prayers—you know, like you had to do in high school English class! You will be surprised at what you learn about praying from the saints in the Scriptures. Remember, “your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!”

 Music: “Open the Eyes of My Heart” Duffley

Prayer: Lord Jesus, our Intercessor, I open my heart to you, to see as you see. May I be quiet and listen to your voice. May I be obedient to what I hear. May my prayer life with you multiply many times throughout this day. I ask you to bring things to my mind during the day that need prayer. May I be free and recognize those opportunities to pray as I go through the mornings, afternoons, and evenings of our lives. In all of these actions, may you receive glory. Thank you for praying for me continually. I pray these things in your tender name. Amen.   —Daniel Sharp