Prayer

by Mike Ratliff

1Now Jesus [1] was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, g as John taught his disciples.” 2 And he said to them, h “When you pray, say:i “Father, j hallowed be k your name.
l Your kingdom come. m Give us n each day our daily bread, [2] 4 and o forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And p lead us not into temptation.” (Luke 11: 1-4 ESV)

Prayer is a vital part of our Christian walk before the face of God. I have never met a mature Christian who was at peace with the consistency or depth of his or her praying. Sacred Scripture says that God commands His people to pray. I have often wondered why God wants us to pray since He knows everything already. He knows what we need already the Word says so why should we have to pray, asking Him for what we need? Prayer is communication. It is also a benchmark of our Christian maturity. God uses prayer to reveal many things to us about ourselves. He also uses it to grow us in faith and line up our wills with His. Let us look at this time at that part of our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount in which He gave us what has come to be known as The Lord’s Prayer.

5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love x to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. y Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, z go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. a And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as b the Gentiles do, for c they think that they will be heard d for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, e for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matthew 6:5-8 ESV)

This part of our Lord’s Sermon is a continuation of Matthew 6:1-4 in which He showed the right and wrong way for Christians to give to the needy. The wrong was done in hypocrisy, to be seen by others. He tells us to give to the needy in secret, in such a way that only God and we know it. In light of this He leads us into the right and wrong ways to pray.  The word ”when” in Greek is οταν, which is best translated as “whenever” or “as often as.” Our Lord is telling us that we are expected to pray. The words “you pray” in Greek is προσευχησθε. It is in present tense, subjunctive mood, and active voice. This means that it is describing continuous, repeated action. Our Lord is telling us that we are to pray continually, as a way of life, as a way of walking through each day. Then our Lord tells how not to do this. We are not to be like the hypocrites. The Greek word used here for “hypocrites” is υποκριται. This word describes an actor or a person who is a counterfeit. He or she assumes and speaks or acts under a feigned character. In other words, Our Lord is describing unregenerate persons who are self-deceived. They pray in public in such a way to draw attention to themselves. We must approach prayer in a totally different way.

In v6 we have almost the exact same phrase our Lord used at the beginning of v5. When we pray continually we are not to do it in such a way to draw attention to ourselves. Instead, we are to go into a private place to pray. This second “pray” in v6 is the same Greek word, but in this case it is in aorist tense, imperative voice, and middle voice. In other words, this is a command for us to pray to God one-on-one to Him. He sees in secret and will reward us. This reward is speaking of the answer to our prayers. When we pray we are not to “heap up empty phrases.” What does this mean? This is speaking of merely reciting a prayer as if it is a “magic formula.” Prayer is communication, not a search for the secret door or order of words that will open up for us to receive something others have not been able to because they haven’t found the secret formula. This is not how prayer works. No, we are not to do that and we are to approach prayer knowing fully that God already knows what we need before we ask Him.

f Pray then like this: g “Our Father in heaven,
h hallowed be i your name. [1]10 j Your kingdom come,
k your will be done, [2] l on earth as it is in heaven. 11 m Give us n this day our daily bread, [3]12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And o lead us not into temptation,
but p deliver us from q evil. [4]. (Matthew 6:9-13 ESV)

The word “Pray” in v9 is the same word we have been studying, but here it is present tense, imperative mood, and middle voice. In other words, we are being commanded by our Lord to pray continually. This is very similar to what Paul tell us in 1 Thessalonians 5:17.

17 w pray without ceasing, (1 Thessalonians 5:17 ESV)

17αδιαλειπτως προσευχεσθε (1 Thessalonians 5:17 WHNU)

However, in this case Paul added the word αδιαλειπτως, which is an adverb that means “uninterruptedly” or “without cessation,” to a present tense, imperative mood, middle voice προσευχεσθε. How are we to pray to our Father in Heaven? We are to have the mental attitude of prayerfulness, continual personal fellowship with God, and consciousness of being in His presence throughout each day. If Christians did this do you think we would be seeing the current plague of rampant spiritual immaturity throughout the Church in our time?

Our Lord commanded us to pray continually “like this.” Some translations render this as “in this manner.” This is one Greek word, ουτως. This word refers to that which precedes or follows. What follows is a model, not merely a liturgy. This model prayer is short and simple yet comprehensive. There are six petitions. Three are directed to God (vv 9,10) and three toward human needs (vv 11-13).

The model prayer begins with a petition asking that God’s name be hallowed. This speaks of God being treated with the highest honor and in this that He be set apart as holy. We should begin here my brethren. Our God is worthy! He is high and lifted up. He is Holy, Holy, Holy! Oh my, we must praise and honor Him as we approach the throne of grace.

What does it mean to pray for God’s kingdom to come? We must pray and work for the continual advance of God’s kingdom on earth. In this age, this refers to the reign of Christ in the hearts and lives of believers, and to the reigning presence of Christ in His body, the Church. This is not referring to world domination by the Church. Instead, this petition is asking that God’s people would increasingly reflect His love, obey His laws, honor Him, do good for all people, and proclaim the Gospel, the good news of the Kingdom to all would hear.

What does it mean to ask that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven? This is referring to God’s “revealed will,” which involves conduct that is pleasing to Him as revealed in Sacred Scripture. In Heaven, God’s will is perfectly executed. This petition is asking that it will be experienced on earth. I try to pray this every day, and my petition is that God’s Kingdom will come in fulfillment to this earth very soon. We are commanded here to pray for this and I believe we are to do so for two reasons. We are told to do it and this lines up our wills with His so that we look expectantly for our Lord’s return in victory very soon instead of being all wrapped up in this lost and dying world.

The fourth petition is asking for our daily bread. We should pray for the necessities of life. I doubt if this refers to us asking to be wealthy in the world’s goods. Not long ago a friend at work attempted to talk me into going in with him to stockpile several months of food and water in our basements for the upcoming famines, et cetera. I talked to my wife about it and she suggested that we do not do anything until we bathed this in prayer. It did not take very long at all for us to see the fallacy in this. She told me that the impression she got from God on this was to ask if we would be willing to share our stash of food with our neighbors when these hardships came. This was a huge learning experience for me in the area of trusting God. I shared this with my friend and it floored him. He immediately saw the fallacy of hoarding these things when so many around us would not have anything. Who are we trusting, our hoard, or God? This petition is for our “daily” bread, not a storehouse full of bread that is all ours that we do not have to share with anyone.

What is this “forgive our debts” in this fifth petition? This does not mean that we need to ask God for daily justification because our salvation is forever from the moment of initial saving faith. What this does mean is that we are to pray for the restoration of personal fellowship with God, which has been hindered by sin. Those who properly receive this forgiveness and restoration are so moved with gratitude toward God that they should eagerly forgive those who are debtors to them. Think of sin as a debt owed to God. When we sin against others we become indebted to them and vice versa. If we confess our sins and receive forgiveness and cleansing (1 John 1 9), but we are unwilling to forgive those who have sinned against us then there is a huge problem in our hearts.

In v13 we have the petition, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.What does this mean? This is speaking of our battle with sin and evil. The word “temptation” is the Greek word πειρασμον. It can indicate either temptation or testing. What Jesus is telling us to ask the Father for here is to allow us to be spared from difficult circumstances that would tempt us to sin. God does not tempt anyone, however, He does put us in circumstances that test us. These circumstances would include trials and hardships. God uses these to grow us spiritually that we would be strong in Him. When we suffer in these fiery trials we should, therefore, count it all joy (James 1:2). In any case, we should pray to be delivered from these things, not that they should come upon us. The last part of this verse is a petition to be delivered from evil. The best protection for the believer from sin and temptation is to turn to God and depend on His direction instead of our common sense or will power.

Here we have the model prayer given to us by the Lord Jesus. I find that if I follow the general order and structure of this prayer as I pour out my heart to God each day before I go to work that I am more able to structure my thoughts and pray as I ought. We are to pray throughout each day and it is a very good thing to always have praise and worship on our lips before we plead for wisdom, direction, and forgiveness.

Soli Deo Gloria!

14 thoughts on “Prayer

  1. Hello Mike :-D
    Thank you for this wonderful teaching. I am always so incredibly blessed when I visit here! May I add my own learning of some of the things you speak of above?

    Oswald Chambers talks about getting to a place of ‘unconscious consciousness’ in the Lord.

    At the early stages our walk, we are ‘consciously conscious’ of everything – we are still very ‘cerebral’ – the Lord reminds us to do certain things, like praying or praying without ceasing or simply being aware of our Lord’s presence in our lives and looking to Him in everything by us determinedly taking Him into every single moment. When we forget, He gently reminds us and this allows us to adjust our actions/thoughts etc.

    As we grow and mature, it develops into a natural thing that we do more easily as we learn to live in Him, move in Him and have our being in Him, letting go of ourselves, without being actually conscious of doing it and although we may still at times forget, He will always be there to lovingly ‘nudge’ us.

    Just as we learn with His leading, to let go of bad habits as we walk, we will also learn good habits and these ones you are speaking of above, are crucial to our very life in Him.

    I have gotten to a place where I understand that The Lord wants us to get to a place with Him where our first thought in our mind, or our first word on our lips is “Lord…” before we turn to anyone else for anything at all – even ourselves.

    This is the very thing that changed dramatically in me, once the Lord truly found me and I truly repented and I received the Holy Spirit. I cannot begin to tell you how it has changed my life and walk in Him. Praying was almost seen as a chore, as was reading my Bible – there was no life in any of it, but there is a life now that desires to read and pray and fellowship all day with Him – to be fully immersed in Him. As always, it is the Lord Who brings the change about in us.

    As you rightfully say above – Soli Deo Gloria!

    May the Lord bless you dear brother
    Your sister in Christ

  2. Thanks for sharing that Jessie. I think you and I may be on the same part of the narrow way. I have two of Chamber’s books. One is My Utmost for His Highest. The other is a list of quotes. From where did you get this wonderful quote? It sure sounds familiar. :-)

  3. Mike, have you read a book called…”A Prayer To Our Father” the Hebrew origins of the Lord’s Prayer? I would love to know your thoughts.
    Keep up the good work Mike, many are being blessed and taught because of your obedience

  4. Good teaching and reminding us what we need to do everyday. This world can get awfully loud and try to distract us.

  5. Paul and Luann, thanks and yes, prayer is a great gift from our Father in Heaven to us that when we diligently seek Him through it, we are given a reprieve from the noise and evil.

  6. Thanks for a great article, Mike. I learn so many things that help me from your teachings of God’s truth! You make things very plain and clear for those of us (me) who have much to learn and I appreciate that.
    I am grateful Jesus recorded for us in His word how to pray. He gives us the proper order in which to approach our Holy Father. He is our Father and He is Holy!
    Thanks and have a blessed day!

  7. Our Lord blesses me and speaks to me every time I come here. I thank Him for you Mike, my precious brother in Christ.

  8. Dear brother
    Here are two excerpts from Oswald’s My Utmost for His Highest where he talks about being unconsciously conscious without actually using this term. Let me know should you wish to see other passages – I have researched them out for you and one does have it but I felt it not wuite right for this posting :-) I also have his “Complete Works of Oswald Chambers” – everything he wrote is in one book – in SA we struggle to get anything by him other than “My Utmost” Not many takers for him – plenty for Joel Osteen and TD Jakes, Robert Schuller and of course, the Shack etc….. :-(

    These are such a wonderful passages and I pray they will bless not only you but other brothers and sisters as well. :-)

    May 26th.

    THINK AS JESUS TAUGHT
    “Pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17

    We think rightly or wrongly about prayer according to the conception we have in our minds of prayer. If we think of prayer as the breath in our lungs and the blood from our hearts, we think rightly. The blood flows ceaselessly, and breathing continues ceaselessly; we are not conscious of it, but it is always going on. We are not always conscious of Jesus keeping us in perfect joint with God, but if we are obeying Him, He always is. Prayer is not an exercise, it is the life. Beware of anything that stops ejaculatory prayer. “Pray without ceasing,” keep the childlike habit of ejaculatory prayer in your heart to God all the time.

    Jesus never mentioned unanswered prayer, He had the boundless certainty that prayer is always answered. Have we by the Spirit the unspeakable certainty that Jesus had about prayer, or do we think of the times when God does not seem to have answered prayer? “Every one that asketh receiveth.” We say – “But . . . , but . . .” God answers prayer in the best way, not sometimes, but every time, although the immediate manifestation of the answer in the domain in which we want it may not always follow. Do we expect God to answer prayer?

    The danger with us is that we want to water down the things that Jesus says and make them mean something in accordance with common sense; if it were only common sense, it was not worth while for Him to say it. The things Jesus says about prayer are supernatural revelations.

    and also

    May 12th.

    MAKE a HABIT of HAVING no HABITS

    “For if these things are yours and abound, they make you to be not idle nor unfruitful.” 2 Peter 1:8 (R.V.)

    When we begin to form a habit we are conscious of it. There are times when we are conscious of becoming virtuous and patient and godly, but it is only a stage; if we stop there we shall get the strut of the spiritual prig. The right thing to do with habits is to lose them in the life of the Lord, until every habit is so practised that there is no conscious habit at all. Our spiritual life continually resolves into introspection because there are some qualities we have not added as yet. Ultimately the relationship is to be a completely simple one.

    Your god may be your little Christian habit, the habit of prayer at stated times, or the habit of Bible reading. Watch how your Father will upset those times if you begin to worship your habit instead of what the habit symbolizes – I can’t do that just now, I am praying; it is my hour with God. No, it is your hour with your habit. There is a quality that is lacking in you. Recognize the defect and then look for the opportunity of exercising yourself along the line of the quality to be added.

    Love means that there is no habit visible, you have come to the place where the habit is lost, and by practice you do the thing unconsciously. If you are consciously holy, there are certain things you imagine you cannot do, certain relationships in which you are far from simple; that means there is something to be added. The only supernatural life is the life the Lord Jesus lived, and He was at home with God anywhere. Is there anywhere where you are not at home with God? Let God press through in that particular circumstance until you gain Him, and life becomes the simple life of a child.

  9. Thank you so much Jessie. I have had this book for some time and even used in my daily devotions for years, but as I read these two passages it was as if for the first time. Thank you again my sister. Keep pressing to prize!

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