“When you pray . . .”
Scripture: Matthew 6:5-8
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
Reader: This is the word of the Lord. Response: Thanks be to God.
Again in a plain, beautiful way Jesus simply comments “when you pray.” Prayer, our conversation with God, is a normal, daily part of the Christian life. This act of praying is not complicated nor is the expectation. Three words, eleven letters. That’s it! In my reading this morning, I noticed several times that Jesus went away alone into the hills to pray. In one case he was interrupted on his way to be alone. He stopped and spent time with the people who had followed him, but then he sent the disciples on ahead of him and “he went into the hills to pray” and be alone with his Father. Such was his normal practice. There is much to be said for private alone time with just you and your Father who sees everything. Do you have an “alone place” where you pray and listen to the Father? If you don’t have a daily place or practice, the Lenten season is a good time to develop this daily pattern. “When” is a word of action. It occurs in time. It signals the beginning of an event. So in Jesus’ saying “when,” his full expectation is that prayer is a regular part of our daily lives. You have heard it said undoubtedly, “There is power in prayer.” Actually, the power is in the One to whom you are praying and the fact that you are actually praying! Simply saying prayerful words doesn’t really do anything. The crafting of your words contain zero power. Jesus makes that quite clear. 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. And remember, a good portion of praying is listening to the Father. Remember, prayer is dialogical. Both people get to talk! In prayer we are turning to God in dependency as we turn from sin. There are a great many examples of prayer in Scripture to guide you along. (Col. 1:9-14; Phil. 1:3-11; Dan. 9:1-19) Maybe during the Lenten season you’ll want to build a collection of all the “prayers” you can find in Scripture.
Music: “Sweet Hour of Prayer” by Radiance Acappella Do NOT miss this!! Five guys from Zimbabwe. Absolutely gorgeous and moving. They pray as they sing!
Hymn: What a Friend We Have in Jesus ―Joseph Scriven, 1855
What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear,
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer. O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear All because we do not carry, everything to God in prayers.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, our Intercessor, may our hearts be open to you, to see as you see. May we be obedient to your voice. May our prayer life with you multiply many times throughout the day. We ask that you’d bring things to our minds during the day that need prayer. May we be free to pray with those in need as we go through the mornings, afternoons, and evenings of our lives. In all of this, may you receive glory. Thank you for praying for us continually. We pray this in your tender name. Amen. ―Dan Sharp
Book Recommendation: Deepening Your Conversation with God, Ben Patterson, Bethany House