What amazing privilege we have as children of God! We are created by no power or merit of our own. We are loved undeservedly. We have the choice of redemption through God's sacrifice. We are blessed daily in blessings received and in unknown trials averted. And we also have the privilege of prayer!
Having the opportunity to do some focused study on prayer in the Bible, I've been challenged with a few thoughts concerning the privilege of prayer. One aspect is the nature of private prayer. Prayer groups, prayer lists, prayer meetings, prayer partners, and other public praying opportunities are good things and encouraged to do. However, it's our private prayer life that connects us to God at the heart and determines the depth of any public prayer.
We see the example of prayer in Matthew, chapter six, as Jesus gives explanation that prayer is primarily and foremost a private conversation with God. Matthew, chapter six, is in the middle of a sermon by Christ about how inward qualities outweigh and determine true outward actions. The Sermon on the Mount is aimed at the heart of the problem, which is the problem with our hearts. Hypocrisy abounded within the mainstream Jewish followers. Jesus is warning against focusing on outward actions that are not motivated from the heart. The example in Matthew 6:5-15 is concerning prayer.
There are several reasons for private prayer. We have the privilege of personally praying to God! If you read Romans 8:26-27, we see that the Spirit is who enables our communication and knows the prayers from our very heart. We should be motivated to prayer based on a pure and sincere heart to commune with the God of Heaven who has borne our sins and loves us unconditionally.
We also pray privately to deny ourselves. In the text of Matthew, chapter six, we see that the Pharisees prayed publicly to be seen of men and that was as far as their prayers went. Private prayer in our "closet" closes off distraction. Private prayer is evidence of our sincere desire to communicate with God for no other reason than that we truly wish to do so in response to who He is.
In private prayer, we also have opportunity for confession. There is a call to confess our faults one to another, but we always need to get our hearts right with God first in private prayer (Matthew 6:12). True prayer happens in the heart; forgiveness, compassion, and goodwill start in the same place. As we tune our hearts in prayer, we enable our heart to bear fruit in action to others (I John 1:9).
There are many aspects of prayer in this one example, but the driving factor in this passage is about prayer originating from a sincere heart in private with God. May we be challenged to pray like Christ prayed in this passage.
5 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.
6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Written by Aaron Lanier