Sermon On The Mount Devotional Blog 21

Sermon On The Mount Devotional

The Lord’s Prayer

Read Matthew 6:5-15 (ESV)

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 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.

And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

“Gasping for breath ... arms pumping, feet pounding ... she ran as though being chased with an intensity of an Olympic competitor. Every few feet she sobbed as she fought off an overwhelming grief. The sky was a startlingly clear Carolina blue with only a hint of wispy white cloud on the horizon; the grass was a vibrant green that glistened in the morning dew. In spite of the light and beauty of her surroundings, all was darkness to her because she could no longer find what she longed for, what she had not realized until now was most precious. Life, with its difficult external circumstances of great loss, had been the catalyst of her intense feelings, the spark that drove her to physically run after what was no more. She had pleaded with the Lord to change her situation, to relieve her suffering, but she had not heard from Him. However, slowly, as she sought the Lord with each passing mile and each passing day, the earthly trials of unemployment, the cancer and impending death of her father, and the fear of an uncertain future began to lose importance. The Lord answered the fervent prayers and changed it from a need to have her circumstances altered to a simple and passionate desire to be aware of the nearness of her Lord. Her soul began to cry out, ‘better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.’ All was lost if He was not near; His Word said He was, but where was He? She cried out that she might have eyes to see His mercies anew every morning, that she might hear His voice and sense His comforting presence, that the dark night of the soul might end.” My wife penned these words after a very difficult time in our lives. She was thinking back on this time and what it was like to struggle and suffer and to where, or to Whom, she ran for help.

Prayer is one of the most difficult disciplines of the Christian faith, according to most believers that I have spoken to. How is your prayer life? Rich and rewarding or struggling and anemic? This section of the Sermon on the Mount deals with prayer. Wonderfully, almost as if the Lord knew we would struggle with how to pray (and He did and does know), He gave us a pattern for prayer. This is called the Lord’s Prayer, but some have reasoned that it could very well also be called the Disciples’ Prayer because it was given to the disciples as a pattern to pray. 

A friend and intern of mine, James Heard, has been working on some teaching on prayer. He penned these words, “In this discussion, we will be trying or will try to focus on how prayer is our means of responding to God as revealed in His Word. God has spoken to us through the Bible, and we are given the gift of speaking back to God through prayer… and He listens! This means that prayer is our means of maintaining and keeping up our ultimate relationship: our relationship with God.”

Prayer as a response to God’s Word! When we pray, do we use the Bible as a means or pattern to pray? The Lord’s Prayer is a wonderful pattern to use, a helpful structure by which we can be walked through God’s prayer for us. Pastor and author Tim Keller, in his book Prayer, said, “Therefore, prayer is a conversation that we have with God in response to what he has spoken to us.” He goes on, saying prayer is “personal, communicative response to the knowledge of God.” (p. 45) What better way to talk to God than by using the knowledge of Him that He has given us?

Verses five to eight give us instruction on how not to pray and how to pray. Pray with no thought of others around you. Don’t pray like hypocrites who pray outwardly for the approval of man and not inwardly toward God. Don’t pray loudly and with a lot of show. Do not use fancy or a large number of words, thinking, as some have, that this will impress God, when in actuality some pray this way to impress man.  Jesus goes on to remind us that, when people pray in this way, that, “They have received their reward”, they have gained the approval of man but not God. Prayer to God and not to men. He says, “when” you pray, not “if”. It is assumed that the believer will be praying. Do your praying in private, from your heart to God’s, without praying to show off in front of man. This is not speaking against all public prayers but is calling us to examine our motive for how and why we pray. When we pray to God, without thought of man, we receive our reward - closeness to God. Pray with a heartfelt simplicity and honesty. Pray using Scripture, like the Lord’s Prayer.                    

The Lord’s Prayer begins with a foundational awareness, that God is near and knowable and intimate, “Our Father Who is in Heaven.” He is both knowable and unknowable (completely). He is both near and distant. Jesus then gives six petitions for us to make, “the first three concern the glory of God and are distinguished by the word ‘your’. The second three concern our well-being and are distinguished by the word ‘us’.” (The Sermon on the Mount by Kent Hughes, pg. 179) Prayer that honors God is first directed toward glorifying God, and then, secondly, it turns to praying for both our and others’ needs. 

So, What Now?

When do you most often pray? At church? Before a meal? Devotional time? Is prayer easy or hard for you? What makes it easy or hard? When you pray, what do you pray for? Yourself? Family/friends? People to be saved? God’s will be done? Begin the hard discipline of daily prayer today. Use the Lord’s Prayer as a model or pattern for how to pray.