Reader: “Your Father knows what you need”
Response: “before you ask him.”
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. “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 part of our daily lives. The “hypocrites” miss the heart of prayer which is personal, intimate communion with God. Notice Jesus does not condemn many words, just words that are babble. The words we use are actually meant to be communion with God. Nor does he condemn repetition, only vain repetition. You’ll recall Jesus actually gave us a model prayer to pray (the Lord’s Prayer) . . . which is actually based on a Jewish prayer from the synagogue liturgy (Kaddosh). True prayer is not telling God what he already knows and our telling him what to do about it! True prayer is humbling ourselves before God in privacy and praying to our Father. We may pray every day for a specific thing. We need to be careful not to simply pray repetitive words with a detached heart in order to get through our “prayer list.” Having said that, maybe you want to keep a prayer list or a prayer journal. It is very encouraging to be praying for some situation over a period of time and then see it come to fruition in God’s timing. While interceding for others is an important part of prayer, don’t neglect adoration, confession, and thanksgiving. In prayer we are turning to God in dependency as we turn from sin. “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” One of the other important, though often neglected and difficult, parts of prayer, is that of taking the time to listen to the Lord. My tendency is to be quiet a little bit and then “get going.” I’m still working on the listening part. There are a great many examples of prayer in Scripture to guide us 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: “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” Alan Jackson The way it ought to be sung!
Lord Jesus, our Intercessor, may our hearts be open to you, to see as you see. May we be obedient to your voice. May we learn to be quiet and listen to you. May your voice become more and more familiar to our ears. 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. ―Daniel Sharp