Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Sweet "Our" of Prayer

Part 9 of Talking to God

Text: Matthew 6:5-6, 9a

“Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven…’” (Matt. 6:9a). 

I Need God

Some of us find it very difficult to ask others for help. Prayer is our declaration that we need God. But what about when we don’t pray? What does our prayerlessness say about us? None of us who are Christians would say that we don’t need God. So why do we sometimes not pray?

Showoffs Don't Impress God

Jesus tells his disciples, “When you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites” (v. 5). “‘Hypocrites’ originally referred to Greek actors who wore different masks to play various roles.” A hypocrite is a religious performer.

When hypocrites pray, “they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners” (v. 5). Why? “That they may be seen by others” (v. 5). Is it a sin to pray in public? No. It’s not wrong to pray and be seen; it’s wrong to pray to be seen. Real prayer is humble. God wants real prayer from us, not a performance.

Jesus declares, “Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward” (v. 5). What is their reward? The admiration of people who can’t see the hypocrite’s heart. They are fooled, but God isn’t.

Go to My Room?

Jesus goes on to say, “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (v. 6). The Greek word (tameion) translated “room” usually referred to a “storeroom.” In those days, homes didn’t have multiple bedrooms.

Jesus wasn’t saying that we must always pray in private. This is an example of Jesus using hyperbole in his teaching. Hyperbole is obvious exaggeration (e.g., “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God,” Matt. 19:24). Jesus uses hyperbole to emphasize to his disciples that we should pray as if no one but God is listening (i.e., not to impress others). What’s important is not the location of the one who prays, but the attitude of the one who prays.

Praying Together

The Lord’s Prayer begins with the words “Our Father in heaven” (v. 9), not “My Father in heaven.” “Our” is plural. We use the word “our” when we’re praying with others. God wants his children to pray together. This is what the early church did: “They devoted themselves to…the prayers” (Acts 2:42).

We Need God

Not only do I need God, but we, as a church, need God. When we pray together, it is a church-wide admission that we need God. What can we do of significance without God? Nothing.

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