“And when thou prayest… But thou, when thou prayest… But when ye pray… After this manner therefore pray ye…” (KJV, Matt. 6:5-7, 9).
Jesus has made it clear that prayer must be a focal point in the life of the Christian. A Christian will only excel in his walk with Christ to the degree that he makes much of prayer. The Christian’s faith must not be in the prayer itself, but rather his faith must be rooted in and rested in God. However, it is through prayer that he is united to the Sovereign God of the universe.
Despite its importance, prayer does not come without great difficulty due to the flesh of man. Reading the Bible can oftentimes be rather easy. When someone reads his Bible, he encounters a number of stories, and many of them are rather interesting. Generally speaking, man also has a tendency to enjoy learning, and when he reads the Bible, he gains knowledge.
As a result, reading the Bible is often something that can come rather easily. However, prayer is something unique. Talking with God is often met with many distractions, and the Christian will find himself wanting to move on to other matters of life quickly.
Slowing down and meeting with the Lord in prayer is an absolute necessity. It is unfortunate that the culture is such a high-paced culture. People move from one task to another rather quickly, and the simplicity that our forefathers once experienced seems to be a thing of the past. However, fighting for a quiet lifestyle, which is marked by simplicity, will prove to help the Christian along the way.
Jesus does not make prayer an option, as we can see in Matthew chapter 6. Let’s take a look at some of the ways that prayer should be offered to God.
“And when thou prayest”
Jesus starts out his teaching on prayer in Matthew 6:5 by saying, “And when thou prayest.” Jesus’ word usage sets the tone for much of what is to come, and we can see that He repeats these words, although not verbatim, three more times before He finishes.
The Bible has a lot to say about prayer. Jesus’ teaching on prayer was not meant to be exhaustive (although it is likely to be the best portion of Scripture to learn about prayer). Why don’t we see what else the Bible has to say?
Scripture says, “In the day of my trouble I will call upon thee: for thou wilt answer me” (Ps. 86:7). Here we see that David made it a habit to call upon God when he was in the midst of trouble.
David was a man who was quite familiar with trouble. It is almost as though the word “trouble” does not even bring to mind the serious affliction that David went through. Saul was a man who sought to kill David on multiple accounts. Saul hurled a spear at David and at other times sought out David to take his life. Later on, David’s own child wanted his father dead.
Be that as it may, David was a man who turned to the Lord in the midst of his trouble. He turned to the Lord and has set a two-fold example for others to follow. First, we can see that that Christian must turn to the Lord in the midst of trouble. Second, we can see the confidence that the Christian must have in God’s answering his prayers.
David not only turned to God in the midst of trouble, but he also believed that God would answer him, as evidenced when he said, “for thou wilt answer me.” So the Christian must walk as David walked.
“But thou, when thou prayest”
Again, Jesus declares that the Christian must pray. Let’s see what else the Bible has to say on the matter. Scripture says, “… Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words” (Dan. 10:12). A word from the Lord was given to Daniel. In this verse, we see that Daniel was met by an angel from God, and the angel’s words are recorded.
It would behoove the reader to pay close attention to what was said to Daniel. First, the angel noted that Daniel set his heart to understand the Word of God that was given to him. In the same way, the Christian must set his heart to understand the Word of God. Second, the angel noted the way in which Daniel chastened himself (humbled himself) before the Lord.
Daniel humbled himself before the Lord and sought to understand the Word of God, and the Bible declares that Daniel’s words were heard as a result of this disposition toward the Lord. God sent an angel to minister to Daniel, and in similar fashion, God will answer the prayers of those who humble themselves before Him and seek to understand His Word.
“But when ye pray”
Jesus, yet again, tells His listeners, “But when ye pray.” Jesus assumes that prayer will be taking place. Jesus does not say, “But if ye pray”; rather, He says, “But when ye pray.” Why don’t we see what else the Bible has to say about this all-important topic?
Scripture says, “Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith” (1 Thess. 3:10). One of the major problems in the average Christian’s prayer life can be found in a lack of earnestness.
Prayer is not meant to be offered up only once. Various Scriptures will show that there is to be an earnestness in prayer. The Bible speaks of asking, seeking, and knocking. The Bible tells us of the man who kept knocking on his neighbor’s door for bread – and who eventually got what he asked for. The Bible speaks of the persistent widow, who also eventually had her request granted. The Bible tells us the story of Jacob, who wrestled all night with God.
In another account, James says, “Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain…” (James 5:17). The conclusion of the story is that it didn’t rain for three and a half years! However, it must be noted that Elias (or Elijah in modern translations) prayed earnestly. He did not give up; he kept at it and prayed often.
When the Christian approaches prayer with earnestness, he will find that his prayers will be answered in greater measure.
“After this manner therefore pray ye”
Finally, and yet again, Jesus makes prayer a non-negotiable element of the believer’s life. Why don’t we take one final look into the Bible to see what it has to say on the matter? Scripture says, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). What a simple little verse with deep implications. The Christian is to go about his life in an attitude of prayer and in a state of God-consciousness. The Christian is to look to the Lord always and to continually converse with God throughout his day.
Elsewhere, the Bible tells us, “I will therefore that men pray everywhere…” (1 Tim. 2:8), and, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving…” (Phil. 4:6). In 1 Timothy 2:8, the Bible tells us that the Christian should pray everywhere. In Philippians 4:6, the Bible tells us that the Christian should pray about everything. Thus, the Christian should pray at all times, everywhere, and about everything.
Does this sound a little intense? Surely, there is grace for the Christian along the way. But simply put, the Christian is to go about his life in an attitude of prayer. He is to turn to the Lord and seek to remain in the presence of God. Let us not forget, before we close, that the Spirit also intercedes for us in our weaknesses, and we have a Great High Priest Who never ceases to make intercession for us.
Father, I thank You for the gift of prayer. I thank You that You desire to listen to me whenever I approach You on Your terms. You are a good God and deserving of honor. Thank You for the work of Your Spirit and Your Son on my behalf. In Jesus’ name, Amen.