Teaching Sermons For Pastors and Laymen, What The Bible Says About Prayer

 February 6, 2003

Title: What the Bible Says About Prayer

Text: “And when you pray…” (Matt. 6:5).

Scripture Reading: Matthew 6:5-13


What is Prayer?  To say that prayer is “conversation with God” is an oversimplification.”  Prayer is the sincere desire of our souls spoken to God.  Prayer is what allows us to establish closeness with the Creator.  Prayer creates an awareness of God’s constant nearness to His people. Prayer is also how unbelievers, recognizing their sinful nature and need for salvation, reach out by faith to receive God’s gift of eternal life.  Prayer is the expression of praise to God as well as the means through which requests are made on behalf of human need. Prayer is described, explained, and illustrated in God's holy book; the Bible. 

The greatest and most profound expression of prayer is illustrated in the earthly life of Jesus, who is often observed praying to His Heavenly Father. The most famous prayer is found in our text, Matthew 6:5-13; it’s the prayer that Jesus taught to His disciples, and we call it the Lord’s Prayer. 

Jesus said:
 5 “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.
6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.
7 And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.
8 “Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.
9 In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.
10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.
13 And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

 

Let’s begin by looking at the six general requirements for prayer.

The first requirement is a forgiving spirit.  Why is forgiveness so difficult for us?  Our nature thrives on retaliation and on seeking vengeance.  To truly forgive as Christ taught us means to give up all tendencies to “get even” with those who have wronged us.  Jesus said, “If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you” (Matt. 6:14).  An unforgiving spirit can overwhelm us and create a barrier between us and God.  Actually, our forgiveness toward others is only our giving out of God’s forgiveness expressed toward us.

The second requirement is simplicity.  To the Pharisees, prayer was a performance for those around them.  Jesus cautioned against praying like the Pharisees; He said, “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.  But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly” (Matt 6:5-6).  These words of Jesus do not represent a criticism against one of God’s children leading in prayer as others silently join in the prayer, supporting and agreeing with the spoken prayer.  But His condemnation is for those whose motive for praying is to impress others.   Those who pray to impress others usually get what they want-the recognition of other men; but their prayers don’t get any higher than the rafters. And the praise “Enter into thy closet” may be more symbolism than an actual act, for the suggestion is that we should close out everything in the world that would interfere while we communicate one-on-one with God.  People can pray like this anywhere, even in the busy malls.

The third requirement for effective prayer is humility and repentance.  Jesus told a story which is a great illustration of how God rejects pride and rewards humility.  This is what He said, “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’  And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’  I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:10-14).

Both the Pharisee and the tax collector in this story could represent lost men.  However, the tax collector expressed the only prayer that God can hear from a sinner-a prayer of confession, an admission of sin, and a cry for mercy.  Our Lord says that this man’s prayer was heard.  Do you know why?  Because Christ right there and then was on the way to the cross to make a mercy seat for him.  My friends, you don’t have to beg God for mercy; He has already shown us mercy.  You can come and trust Him, and He will save you.  God is merciful.  The prayer of the Pharisee describes the person who considers himself “good” and therefore a credit to God and to His kingdom.  This person considers his good works the price of admission into the kingdom of God.  Jesus said, “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself;” he thinks he’s talking to God, but his prayer never got out of the building.  All he did was have a pep talk; he patted himself on the back and went out proud as a peacock; but God never heard that prayer.

The forth requirement is the unity of believers.  It says in Matthew 18:19-20, “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven.  For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”  It may appear from the first reading of these verses that you have a “blank check” from God.  But when taken in the context of all of Christ’s teachings the realization is that God’s presence with us is what will position our prayer requests within His will.  Prayer is never like rubbing a magic lamp in order to bring forth some divine genie to do our bidding.  Prayer, when it contains our petitions to God, is primarily seeking the will of our Heavenly Father.

Another requirement for effective prayer is intensity. Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.  Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent?  If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Matt.7:7-11).  Once again, the thrust of this prayer promise relates to finding God’s will.  We never need to beg or coax God.  It is because of our slowness of heart and spiritual immaturity that we spend so much time searching for His will but so little time doing it.  But as we “ask, seek, and knock,” the very exercise of faith has a cleansing effect on us, preparing us to receive the answer in accord with God’s will and not our own wishes.

The seventh and last requirement for effective prayer is to pray unceasingly.  Paul wrote these three words to the Thessalonians, “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17).  We must keep the communication lines between us and God open constantly.  Our very attitude on life should be an expression of prayer to God.  This unceasing communication with our Heavenly Father will foster a beautiful and cherished “naturalness” in our prayer life. 

To go along with these general requirements, there are several personal requirements for effective prayer.

In the Psalms we are told that a pure heart is important to our relationship with God.  It says in the twenty-forth Psalm, “Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place?  He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, Nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive blessing from the Lord, And righteousness from the God of his salvation” (Ps. 24:3-5).  God, through the ministry of the indwelling Holy Spirit, reveals sin when it exists in the hearts of His people.  If, after that, we don’t deal with our sin, our prayers are aborted.  We are still saved, bur our prayers are ineffective.  The phrase “The hill of the Lord” and “His holy place” describes the experience of personal harmony with God.  And “clean hands” indicates that our actions are open for God to see, and “a pure heart” indicates that any sin in our lives must be confessed. If only those with clean hands and a pure heart could come to “The hill of the Lord” then I couldn’t come.  But I am going to be there.  I’m going to be there because I have trusted Christ.

Faith is another one of the personal requirements for effective prayer.  Matthew wrote, “And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive” (Matt. 21:22).  It is very sad, but not every Christian who prays believes that God has the power to answer prayer.  To truly believe with intensity of faith requires us to cultivate the gift of faith that God gives to each believer in budding form.  Faith grows with use; just like a muscle-the more it use it the bigger it gets. So when you pray, believe that God hears your prayer. The Bible says, just to know that your prayer is heard in heaven, is the same as knowing that it is answered.

Next, when we pray, we must pray in Christ’s name. 

Jesus said, “And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13).  This is just not a religious formula for how we are to close our prayers.  It is recognition that the source of all good things is Christ.  His “name” represents all that He is.

And forth, we should pray according to God’s will.  It says in 1 John 5:14, “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.”  If you and I are in fellowship with Him, walking with Him, then our prayer would be for God’s will to be done in every circumstance.  This indeed is the ultimate secret to effective prayer.

Finally, the Bible has some things to say about how we should pray.  There are five elements to prayer that should be present according to the Bible.

The first element is adoration.  The Psalms are full of adoring thoughts about God.  I wish that I could express my love for God like David did in the 103 rd Psalm. It’s a beautiful Psalm and it is full of adoring testimonials about God.  Read it sometime; it will bless you. When we express our adoration for God, it diminishes ourselves and exalts God.

The second element to prayer is confession.  “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).  What does it mean to confess our sins? The word confess is from the Greek verb “homologeo,” meaning “to say the same thing.” You are to say the same thing that God says. When God in His word says that the thing you did is sin, you need to get over on God’s side and look at it. And you are to say, “You are right, Lord, I say the same thing you say.  It is sin.” That is what it means to confess your sins. Confession of sin is the key that opens the door to a continuing, unbroken fellowship with God.

Third, there should be a component of thanksgiving. Paul wrote this to the Philippians, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6).  Paul is saying here that when you make your request to God thank Him right there and then for hearing and answering your prayer; don’t wait for your prayer to be answered. Now perhaps you are thinking, “But maybe God won’t answer my prayer.” Friends, I don’t believe that Christians have unanswered prayers.  The problem we have is that we often don’t get the answer we want. God wants us to pray about everything; the little things as well as the big things. After all, what is a big thing to God? And when we pray, we should thank Him for answering our prayers. The sin of ungratefulness is perhaps the most common sin among Christians.  Too often, we take God for granted.

The forth element that our prayers should contain is supplication. Paul wrote to timothy, “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.  For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior” (1 Tim. 2:1-3). We should pray for our country and for our leaders. The term “supplication” describes a humble and earnest request made to God. We should pray that our nation remain free so that the gospel can be preached and souls saved.

Finally, all prayer should contain a component of intercession. James wrote, “And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven” (James 5:15).  We must pray for those who are sick, because people can be so far from God that they can’t pray for themselves.

Prayer must be an important part of every Christian’s life.  We should engage in secret (private) prayer.  “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Matt. 6:6). 

There should be a time when the family comes together to prayIn Acts it says that Cornelius had a prayer time for his family, “a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always. So Cornelius said, “Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing “ (Acts 10: 2, 30). 

We should pray with others, because Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20). 

And finally, we should pray in public and our prayer should be one that can be understood by everyone. 

“For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful.  What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding.  Otherwise, if you bless with the spirit, how will he who occupies the place of the uninformed say “Amen” at your giving of thanks, since he does not understand what you say?  For you indeed give thanks well, but the other is not edified” (1 Cor. 14:14-17).

I can't emphasize enough how important prayer is to us personally. It is clear from what we have read that God wants us to pray. And when you pray, don't forget to tell Him that you love Him.

 

 

 

 


 

Make a Free Website with Yola.