Having taught us our righteousness must surpass the righteousness of the Pharisees and we are to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect- we realize we can never achieve this in our own strength. This is why we are told our righteousness is as filthy rags. In order to enter heaven our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees, and we are to be perfect. Our first reaction- that is impossible! And we are right- we can do nothing apart from Him, but we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
Righteousness is a requirement of God. It is what we must be clothed in, to enter heaven. To reconcile us with Himself, God sent His Only Son, Jesus, to die in our place for our sins that we might be made right with God, reconciled declared righteous. Being made righteous is the result of accepting by faith Gods action on our behalf in forgiving us of all our sins through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
Now I am forgiven, restored and reconciled to God and these three acts giving, praying and fasting are external acts of righteousness that are a byproduct of the act of salvation. When I practice these disciplines it is to be for the purpose and motive of bringing glory to God. But we have to careful it is not done in order to be noticed by others and bring glory to us. The phrase in Matthew 6:1- to be seen by them, in Greek is the same word we get theater from. When we perform these acts to be seen by others, then the audience is not God but men, where the actor gets the acclaim and glory and not God.
Do you know what is the primary purpose of these three acts of righteousness ? It is repeated in each of these three sections of teaching. It is about reward from God.
Jesus tells us when we do it to be seen by others, giving to be noticed by others will not be rewarded by our Father in heaven- for He says you have received your reward. Nor will public praying, nor fasting and letting it be known. Jesus calls these who do this hypocrites, who are putting on a show, actors desiring to be seen and praised by men.
Now I do want us to notice- these three acts are not optional- Jesus says when you give, when you pray, when you fast- not if you give, pray or fast. These are expected acts of righteousness. Prayer, fasting, and sacrifice characterized the life of Christ and He is our standard. If our goal in sanctification is to be Christ-like and these characterize Christ. These acts therefore are spiritual disciplines. They are spiritual exercises, which like the physical exercises and disciplines of weightlifting and running promote stamina and strength these promote spiritual stamina and strength. If we are to make disciples as Jesus commanded us to do, we must be disciples ourselves. And being a disciple requires discipline. We must put on the full spiritual armor in order to take our stand against the devils schemes .
So lets concentrate on the instructions for prayer- for in prayer is where the battle is fought. Again we see in all three of these disciplines they are to be done in secret and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
What is the point of prayer? What is the reward of prayer? Is it getting what we asked for? Lets see if we can figure this out based on what the Lord Jesus is teaching us. This prayer, commonly called the Lords Prayer is also repeated in Luke, where the disciples ask the Lord Jesus to teach them to pray.
Have you asked God , your Heavenly Father to do something, and not only has He not done it it seemed things got worse or the opposite of what you asked actually occurred? Made you wonder if prayer- worked? Why wasnt it answered- what is the reward? It is frustrating to say the least, discouraging in many cases.
So lets look at this guideline in this model prayer and ask yourself the following questions:
- Have you been praying according to the proper guideline in the manner Jesus taught?
- What would your answered prayer look like if it were working?
- Are we asking God to perform the way we want Him to perform?
Is your primary goal to have God do what you want Him to do- like a genie at your command? If prayer worked this way- we would have turned God into our servant, who is at our beck and call to give us what we desire. When we know we do not have the knowledge He does. For God knows how to provide what will be the best solution for the most people for the longest period of time by the best possible method. Joseph would not have asked God to direct his life to all that he would have to go through- but would discover when it was completed that what his brothers had meant for evil , God intended for good, for the saving of many lives. Yes, God often gives us exactly what we requested. But He is also at work and His purpose is to work all things together for good for those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose. ( Romans 8:28) Notice all things are not good, many are painful, but He is able to work them together for good. If there was a better way- He would choose it. He always knows which method is best.
Are our prayers to alert God to our needs? No, Jesus makes that clear as he states: your Father knows what you need before you ask him. ( Matthew 6: 8) Does not mean we are not to be persistent, but is our goal to have what we want? Or have what God wants for us? Prayer is an alignment of our will to His, not visa versa.
Do you know what one of your primary purposes of prayer is? It is to spend time with your Heavenly Father. If this is your goal, and being able to spend time with Him is your reward, do you not see we can pray always , all the time, bringing all that concerns you, all that you would seek His advice on- His guidance, His will . If you would stop to think for a minute and realize you and I have the privilege to enter the very throne room of heaven and spend time with Almighty God and to call Him, Father is this not a great reward in and of itself?! Jesus tells us Our Father sees us- hears us and rewards us.
Lets take note of a couple of instructions: we are to go into our prayer closet, a place of privacy for just you and your Father to be alone; we are also instructed not to pray with vain repetitions ( KJV).
So we should realize, communicating with Almighty God is a significant reward in and of itself.
This prayer breaks down into three parts:
- A three part address.
- A three part commitment on our behalf.
- A three part petition.
- A three part benediction.
Jesus is teaching this as a pattern to be used, not for this prayer to be repeated by rote. Remember the effectiveness of your prayer does not depend upon the amount of your faith. If you have faith only as a grain of mustard seed, you can move mountains. You must understand it is not the amount of your faith, but the One in whom you have faith, the object of your faith. Here is a simple illustration: when you sit down on a chair, resting all your weight upon it; you have in effect placed your faith in the chair. Your faith is not holding you up- the object of your faith , the chair, is holding you up. The effectiveness of our prayer depends upon God, Almighty God, who created all things , for whom nothing is impossible.
Ready, Set , Go!
Lets look first at our address. Our Father, which art in heaven.. Notice the use of the plural pronoun, our We are a community, a family with the same Father. Notice this is communication between a child and their father. It is a privilege we have that comes at great costs. We have the confidence to enter into the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is His flesh. ( Hebrews 10:19-20)
This is why we pray in Jesus name, because it reminds us we have this privilege by the virtue of His death on the Cross, His resurrection and ascension into glory at the right hand of God. He not only opened the door to the Throne Room of heaven, this Holy of Holies, the Lord Jesus actually goes into the throne room with us praying for us! ( He always lives to make intercession for us.( Hebrews 7: 25b) But it does not end there- we also have the promise of the Holy Spirit, the third member of the Trinity who helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words. ( Romans 8:26)
Notice the use of plural personal pronouns throughout the prayer: our, we, us. Prayer should always remind us we are not in this alone, not only do we have our Heavenly Father listening, we have the Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit praying for us, we are part of the family of God. We are all in this together. Praying for one another does the following: it enables us to care for one another and unite us with each other in turning to God alone for help with our troubles; plus praying for others takes our mind off ourselves for a change.
Notice also where our Father is located- He is in heaven above all things, He is in control. We know from scripture that the devil and his demonic horde exist in a spiritual realm in high places, in heavenly realms. He is called the prince of the power of the air, the ruler of the kingdom of air. ( Ephesians 2:2) When the Lord Jesus was resurrected and then ascended into heaven after 40 days, he went up through the enemy territory- the enemy was defeated and He passed through untouched as their conqueror on His way to be seated at the right hand of God with authority over all things with his enemy under his foot. Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases. ( Psalm 115:3)
Here are the facts: God is our Father ( if you have been born again); He is in heaven,ruler over all things; He knows everything and can do anything; and He knows my needs even before I ask Him— so why pray?
Good question. Why pray? The simple answer is because God commanded us to pray. Jesus tells two parables that show we are to be persistent in prayer. Luke 11 and Luke 18- the man knocking on his neighbors door at a late hour and widow and the judge. And in Matthew 7- we have this clear instruction: Ask and it shall be given to you, seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you. You will notice in all of these instances- the person asking was dependent on the one who had the resources or the authority to give them what they asked for. Since our Heavenly Father is the giver of all good gifts, we should continue to pray- even when we dont get it right away. The reason we keep persisting on asking Him, is so we will not be tempted to try and get our needs met somewhere else. Because Gods not giving it immediately may be a matter of timing, or we are asking for something that is not what He wants or how He plans to answer or request.
Also when we address Him as Father, it reminds us we are His children. We are welcome at His side. He gives good gifts, loves to give good gifts as a matter of fact. But being a loving Father,He also knows correction is needed sometimes and we must be willing to receive correction and discipline as Father Knows Best. Sometimes you just need to call upon Him to tell Him how much you love Him. Tell Him how much appreciate what all He has done for you. In other words I just called to say I love You!
One way to look at the privilege of prayer, the reward of prayer is not to inform God, but to enjoy God.
Having a tough time right now? Join the club. Corrie Ten Boom in her autobiography , The Hiding Place, recounts their despair upon entering the concentration camp. It stank of raw sewage, biting fleas that infested everything, filthy bedding and clothing and the guards who were cruel, inhuman and abusive. To those who entered, it was like entering the pit of hell. Corrie Ten Boom wailed to her sister, what are we going to do? This is more than I can bear! How can we live in such a place? Her sister, Betsy prayed this simple, short prayer: Show us,Lord. Show us how.
Later they discovered the guards would not sexually abuse the women who were infested with fleas. They praised God for the fleas!
I am coming to believe- prayer life is the real life! This is where the battles are fought and won. This means praise the Lord for the tough time you are going through believing it has a purpose and has been filtered through our Fathers loving hands. Satan requested to sift Peter like wheat, and Jesus said he had prayed for him ( past tense) that your faith should not fail, and when( not if) you return to me, strengthen your brothers.
If you are Gods child and troubles are sifting your life like wheat being tossed in the air, realize Jesus who lives ever to intercede for us- is praying for us and with us, in fact, may have already prayed for you that your faith shall not fail and when you return to Him from your sifting, you will be even more useful for kingdom work than you were before.