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Matthew 6:5


Dr. Paul Ferguson Calvary Tengah Bible Presbyterian Church Shalom Chapel, 345 Old Choa Chu Kang Road, Singapore 689485 July 2010

INTRODUCTION No one ever comes to the end of their life and regrets praying too much we cannot give a high enough priority to this. The Scriptures paint a beautiful image of how God sees prayer. This picture is of a sweet savour or fragrance that ascends upwards and pleases God (Rev. 8:3). God delights in answering prayer as the Psalmist reveals, O Thou that hearest prayer (Psa 65:2). In another part of this Sermon on the Mount Christ promised, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you (Matt 7:7). All the great men of the past who God used were men of prayer. D. L. Moody after his first visit to England, was famously upon his return to America, Did you hear Spurgeon preach? He replied, Yes, but better still I heard him pray. Prayer is part of the ordained programme of the Christian. Our Lord said, quoting Isaiah 56:7, My house shall be called the house of prayer. In the early church the apostles made clear the priority of their ministry, as we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word (Acts 6:4). A preacher may be educated, eloquent, and charismatic but if is not a praying man his ministry will ultimately fail. DEFINITION OF PRAYER John Bunyan gives a classical definition of prayer, Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God hath promised, or according to the Word, for the good of the church, with submission, in faith, to the will of God.

Before our Lord Jesus Christ presents how we are to pray in the model prayer, He contrasts true prayer with hypocritical, dead, and unthinking prayers. In Matthew 6:5-8, the Master Intercessor clearly teaches that: (1) Not all praying is acceptable and pleasing to God. (2) The state of our inward and outward praying can hinder our prayers. So, it is essential that believers learn how to truly pray. ERROR (1) - PRAYING AS HYPOCRITES The first great error in praying is to pray like hypocrites. Our Lord states, 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. It should be noted that Christ is not discouraging prayer or condemning public prayers here but public prayers that are self-promoting for public praise. The Jews had appointed times for formal prayers and the street corners were a place where the most devoted often congregated for prayer. This was especially so in busy market streets during the day. The public nature of this would readily feed spiritual pride of the carnal. The flesh loves to be exalted and applauded by other men. The Jews at this time had developed diverse forms of ritualistic prayers devised for light, darkness, rain, sunshine, entering a city, leaving a city etc. These were merely a performance in front of men and God was incidental to all of this. The word for hypocrite here is a Greek word that was used of actors on the Greek stage who put on a mask in order to play the part of another. The Pharisees were classic example of this as they put on a show of religious piety, which masked what they

truly were on the inside. A hypocrite is defined by one writer as, a man who lets his light so shine before men that they cant tell what is going on behind! We often expend a lot of energy creating a persona to impress others as to our spiritual state. Our pride craves to be regarded as a pious prayer warrior before fellow believers. Hypocritical believers love to be seen to pray but they do not love to pray. They are really worshipping themselves rather than God. Such hypocrites are the devils best workers. The world despises hypocrites for their representation of Christianity and by God for their false representation. There is no sacred ground to the devil. He especially loves to disrupt prayer times e.g. the devil was bold enough to tempt Christ in prayer in the wilderness and at Gethsemane. So often we can be drawn into the leaven of the Pharisees in delivering polished performances in public praying with clever sound bites with choreographed pauses at just the right moments for maximum effect. We are deeply anxious with getting it right because of our prevailing concern to make it sound good to other people who are listening. One commentator summed it up the danger of allowing the flesh to take over our prayers, The greatest danger to religion is that the old self becomes religious. However, fleshly and hypocritical praying may receive the praise of men but the condemnation of God, which is eternally significant. We all need to remember that the omniscient God always knows whether my prayer is for Him or for self-glory. By contrast, the true child of God from a sincere heart seeks real communion in prayer with his Heavenly Father. He prays not to be seen but because he has to. He is more concerned with what God thinks about his prayer than what impresses other hearers. God is the chief object of his prayer not any one else. Lloyd Jones summed it up

well, ..the whole being of the person praying should be intent upon God and should be centered upon Him and that he should be oblivious to all other things. Far from desiring people to thank us for our so-called beautiful prayers, we should rather be troubled when they do so. Public prayer should be such that the people who are praying silently and the one who is uttering the words should be no longer conscious of each other, but should be carried on the wings of prayer into the very presence of God. In James chapter 5 we are told that, the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. The word effectual is a Greek word from which we get our word energy. The prayer of a godly man has tremendous power. It is not that there is any inherent power in prayer itself, but rather that prayer links us to Almighty God who is truly all-powerful. James also gives us the illustration of Elijah who he says, prayed earnestly. This Greek compound expression is interesting as it is literally, prayed with prayer. In other words, Elijah really prayed - intensely, fervently, righteously and therefore prevailed with God. James selects Elijah as a man of like passions as we are but one with a godly character and pure heart who could pray powerful prayers. W. A. Criswell tells an interesting story of effective powerful praying, Did you know in my reading, in the life of Hudson Taylor, he was back here in America and a young man said to him, I feel called of God to be a missionary. Id love to go with you to China. But I am no preacher. I cannot speak effectively and I just melt in a public audience. I cannot preach. I cannot speak. And Hudson Taylor said, Can you pray? And the young man replied, Yes, I know how to pray. I can pray. And the great missionary founder of the China Inland Mission said to the young fellow, We got too many preachers on the mission field already, compared to the few numbers of prayers that we have. We need more prayers, more than we need more preachers. You come. So the young man went to the mission field as a man of prayer. And the thing I read said this, that the people passing by the little place where he lived would stop and listen to the tears, and the cries, and the agonies of intercession of that man as he prayed for their souls. And the thing that I read said that people began coming to the house, asking for help, and encouragement, and guidance. And the story ended saying that the ministry of that man of prayer was greater and far more far reaching than all of the preachers that they had in that province in China.

POSTURE IN PRAYER Christ was not arguing that it was wrong to stand when we prayer, but the motive for this particular posture. In the Scriptures we are encouraged to praying unceasingly and this necessitates various postures in prayer. Nowhere does the Bible explicitly proscribe a particular position in prayer but offers illustrations of posture in prayer. However, as our bodies can reflect our hearts we should not assume that any type of posture is acceptable. In the Scriptures we see examples of people in prayer: Standing (Gen. 18:22; 24:12-14) Bowing down (Exod. 34:8) Prostrate (Num. 16:22) Sitting (2 Sam. 7:18; Neh. 1:4) Kneeling (1Chron. 6:13, Luke 22:41) Looking upward (John 17:1) Lifting the hands (1 Tim. 2:8) Facing the temple (Dan. 6:10) Placing the head between the knees (1 Kings 18:42) Beating of the breast (Luke 18:13) REFLECTIVE QUESTIONS Often we simply come to the exercise of prayer with little real thought of God and how to enter His presence. We need to realize that prayer is having an audience with God, where we worship Him and lay our petitions before Him. Some good questions we need to always ask ourselves are: What is my motive when I pray publically? Am I seeking only the attention of God? Do we pray in order to cause others to think highly of us? Do I seek the right phrase to simply impress those around me or do I want to think the thoughts of God in prayer?