We are told it is essential to the life of a Christian. We are exhorted to practice it daily and to realize the priority of it in our lives. We are talking about prayer. It is true prayer is one of the most important delights in the Christian life, for it is in prayer we are communing with God. However, we can easily be distracted and make the excuse we are too busy to pray. Even more so, we have trouble praying because we do not know how to pray. Some may wonder why to pray at all if God is sovereign over all. Thanks be to God we do not have to leave these issues unaddressed. Jesus hits on this subject in what is commonly referred to as “The Lord’s Prayer”, although such a title is better reserved for John 17. Matthew 6 could be more appropriately titled “The Disciple’s Prayer”. In a continuation of the theme of true righteousness, that is “a righteousness that exceeds the Pharisees (Mt 5:20), Jesus lays out for His followers why they should pray and how they should pray. This is the purpose and practice of prayer. Jesus is clear prayer is not meant for impression, but for intimacy (6:7-8). Many words and empty phrases may seem eloquent but if there is not a repentant heart behind them, then they will not be heard. That is why we must understand the purpose of prayer begins with our heart’s motivation. We are praying to commune with God and sharing in intimacy with Him. When we comprehend this truth, we realize the question, “If God already knows, why pray at all?” misses the point. The question assumes we go to God merely to inform Him, not for intimacy with Him. Prayer is showing our complete dependence on the one who is Sovereign over all things. We do not go to Him for impression or information but for intimacy. Understanding that purpose, it makes sense the practice of prayer begins with “Our Father in heaven” (6:9). We are in relationship with God as our Father. Our prayers should be characterized with the supremacy of God. He is sovereign and majestic, the one who is “in heaven” (6:9). We are to hold up and honor His name in prayer, praising Him for His person, character, and authority. We pray for God’s supremacy in His kingdom to come and for His will to be done (6:10) because He is King and His will is meant to be lived out in each of our lives. To that end, we know God provides so we pray for Him to give us the daily provision we need (6:11). We pray for our sanctification, that when we fall we would go to God in forgiveness, and before we fall, we would pray for God to give us the strength not to fall into temptation (6:12-13). Then, we seek to practice what we pray by living out the implications of the gospel through forgiving others as we have been forgiven in Christ. When we do this, God is glorified. Listening to Jesus, our purpose in prayer and our practice of it result in fruitfulness. This is what happens when we pray like this.
- How does knowing the purpose of prayer (not to impress or to inform but for intimacy), help and encourage you in your prayer life?
- How can you implement these characteristics (the supremacy of God and our sanctification) into your regular prayer life?