January 9
Teachings on prayer
Matthew 6:1-15

KEY VERSE: "But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." Matthew 6:6

Faithful discipleship is impossible unless we learn to pray. And learning to pray is a life-long endeavor. Indeed, as we grow older we discover the necessity to pray with the innocence of little children, not as adults who have "mastered" the language of prayer.

Jesus warns us against giving or praying for the applause and recognition of others. We may succeed in getting a college to name a building in memory of mamma, by donating millions in the public eye. But that principle does not work in the Kingdom of God!

In the church I serve there are many wealthy families, but none of them insists upon being recognized for their generosity to the work of Christ. Instead they all insist upon remaining anonymous. In so doing, they are obeying our Lord Jesus who commanded that we should give to please God, not that we may win the praise of others.

Jesus was even more plainspoken about prayer. He warns us against praying to be heard by others and urges us to pray to the Father in private. Those of us who delight in "turning a phrase" must especially guard against the temptation to craft public prayers that are intended more to impress our hearers than to reach the heart of God.

When we study seriously the prayer we call "the Lord's Prayer," we learn much about how Jesus wants us to pray. One of the major ideas of Jesus is that when we pray we may address God as "Our Father in heaven." This is a revolutionary contribution to our understanding of God.

While it is not inappropriate to pray to God as "the Great Architect of the Universe," or "the Creator of all things," or "the Sovereign God of all creation," there is no more wonderful idea in the Bible than this: that God is our loving Father! As our Father, He desires intimacy with us that can never be realized in such words as "Architect," "Creator," or "Sovereign."

Another major idea given us in the Lord's Prayer is the necessity of our willingness to forgive others if we are to receive God's forgiveness for our sins. When others hurt us it is not easy to forgive them, but it is absolutely necessary if we are to enjoy a relationship of peace and joy with the heavenly Father.

When forgiving others seems impossible, then there is no need to pray any other prayer than this one: "Father, I am helpless to forgive without your help. Forgive me for my stubbornness. Fill my heart with your love so that I can forgive those who have wronged me. Make me willing to offer the mercy to others that I need from you because of my own sins. I accept your love by faith and now do forgive those who have hurt me. In Jesus' name. Amen."

Having prayed that prayer, you are now free, liberated to explore a powerful new relationship of love, joy, and peace with the Father! Prayer will take on new meaning beyond anything you could have imagined!