5 “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 others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 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. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
9 “This, then, is how you should pray…
I love the Lord’s Prayer. The only prayer I learned before the Lord’s Prayer was one that began “Now I lay me down to sleep…” The Lord’s Prayer is recited in worship services all over the world in different languages across denominational lines, because after all, it is “The Lord’s” prayer.
Jesus said, “This, then, is how you should pray…” This can be taken one of two ways: 1) pray these words in this order, for this is the perfect and model prayer or 2) your prayers should reflect the character of the one I’m about to share with you. I believe, according to the rest of this chapter, and indeed the whole sermon, that the latter is the more likely. I’d like to use the next several posts to move through Jesus’ prayer itself examining the character one concept at a time. For today, we needn’t look any further than this introduction. Here I find three initial thoughts that lead us into a deeper life of Christlike prayer:
Pray to the Father. Verse 6 redefines our prayer audience. We are not merely praying to the distant and all powerful God of the universe who wants only the bowing down of his humble subjects. And we are not praying for others to evaluate. Our audience is a divine Creator-Father. It is relational like a child talking to a parent, private to one degree (but not exclusively) and deeply personal. Prayer is about nurturing a relationship through which we are changed in a rewarding way.
Concise and simple. (Verse 7) Is God complex? Yes! But how did He show up in human form? As a carpenter from a rural outskirt who made spiritual matters understandable to local fisherman. Bottom line: we will never talk to God on the level of His complexity nor impress Him in the attempt. And again, we are not trying to impress others either. Prayer is earnest, simple, pure, and genuine. We pray grateful that in prayer the Father meets us at our level and answers the smallest and simplest prayers when prayed in earnest.
We pray as if we are intimately known. After all, this Father knows all we need before we ask Him. One thing I am able to laugh at myself about is the familiar folly of “informative” prayer. You know what I’m talking about. “Dear Heavenly Father, we lift up Gina. You know she’s been through a rough time with her hip surgery and all. The doctors are saying she has some repercussive vertebra issues and she needs extra care, Lord…” Sometimes it occurs to me I am trying to bring God into the loop (with many words) rather than letting prayer reveal to me how intimately aware and at work He already is. I may even be subconsciously avoiding God revealing some new thing to me about myself in prayer out of His intimate knowledge of me and His desire to make me new. I love knowing I am intimately known, and this changes how I pray.
Today, practice. Pray to your Father a genuine prayer, nothing fancy, as if you are known intimately and yet He still desires to have the conversation.