Matthew 6 is a chapter FULL of assumptions. By assumptions, I mean that when Jesus is teaching, He is not saying that giving, praying, fasting, spending, and living are optional. Far from it! He is assuming that you will do all of these things, and then He tells you how to do them well.
The second of these assumptions is found in verses 5-15.
“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."
When you pray...
When you pray, pray like this...
The “Lord’s Prayer” (found in Matthew 6:5-15) has received much attention and rightfully so. It has so much to say, yet this will be just a few thoughts on two highlights that I hope will bless you.
Do not pray hypocritically
Hypocritically literally means "behaving in a way that suggests one has higher standards or more noble beliefs than is the case”.
The example Jesus gave of praying hypocritically was of people who prayed publicly in the synagogues and on street corners. By calling them hypocrites, He was implying that this was their ONLY and PRIMARY prayer time - when others could see.
Praying publicly is not the problem here; the problem is a heart that prays only to be seen by others. We desire affirmation from people, but Jesus tells us to have our motivation be one that values God’s opinion and not people’s.
Pray as a child of God
“Do not heap up empty phrases… for they think they’ll be heard for their many words.” Jesus was saying that other people think they’ll be heard by God if they pray long… or loud… or eloquently.
Jesus says that you are not heard because of any of these things, but because you are God’s child. God hears us because, by the blood of Jesus taking our sinful state and replacing it with His rightful Sonship, we are now children of God - and a good parent listens to their child. Jesus' “example prayer” for us begins with “Our Father”, and this is in direct reference to why we even get to finish our prayer before God. It is because we are His children.
Please don’t merely read about prayer, but take some time to pray. Go to God and pray - He wants you to. And as you pray, do so for God, to enjoy the relationship you have with Him.
Here’s a breakdown of the rest of the prayer to help outline your own. Don’t worry about how you say it, just say it. God wants to hear His child (you) and doesn’t want you to merely repeat another child’s “ideal” prayer. He wants YOU to come before Him and talk.
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name."
Praise God for the good God that He is. He is holy (far different and set apart from us) and is to be acknowledged as so.
"Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."
His kingdom. His rule. His reign. His way. Pray that God’s will would be done. One beautiful way to imagine this is to imagine heaven. Heaven is where God’s rule and reign is perfect. No more wars, sickness, sadness, pain, etc. God is glorified by all people’s and we enjoy His light and love perfectly. Pray for that to be here on earth as much as it can be until we reach heaven.
"Give us this day our daily bread,"
It is good to ask God for things, however so often we ask for things that would feed our flesh and not our souls. We are told to be content with today’s blessings and provision and to not be anxious about tomorrow.
“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors."
We need to have repentance to be a part of our prayers! As Martin Luther wrote: “A Christian’s life is one of daily repentance.” However, Jesus takes this opportunity to remind us that we too are meant to forgive. He emphasizes that point to the extreme of telling us to pray that God would forgive us just as we’ve forgiven others. Do you want to be forgiven only to the measure with which you forgive?
"And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."
Pray for strength and guidance against temptation. Jesus told His disciples to “watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” And to Peter, Jesus said that Satan desired to sift him like wheat, but to not fear for He had prayed for him. We are to actively pray against future situations, ones we expect to encounter, and we are to pray that we will be free from temptation and evil in our hearts during the many surprises of life as well.