Praying With Jesus: Understanding Prayer (Matthew 6:1-9)

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The largest radio receiver on earth is in New Mexico. Pilots call it “The Mushroom Patch.” Its real name is the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array, VLA. The VLA is a  radio astronomy observatory – a collection of 27 huge satellite disks (82’ diameter) on 38 miles of railways. Together the dishes mimic a single telescope the size of Washington, DC. The VLA is a multi-purpose instrument to allow investigations of many astronomical objects including radio galaxies, quasars, pulsars, supernova remnants, gamma ray bursts, radio-emitting starts, the sun and planets, astrophysical masers, black holes and the hydrogen gas that constitutes a large portion of the Milky Way galaxy as well as external galaxies. In 1989 the VLA was used to receive radio communications from the Voyager 2 spacecraft as it flew by Neptune.

Astronomers come from all over the world to analyze the optical images of the heavens composed by the VLA from the radio signals it receives from space.

Recently, astronomers just discovered a new planet dubbed Kepler-452b, is similar to Earth in size and temperature and is potentially capable of sustaining life. The planet is about 60% bigger than Earth and is located about 1400 light years away in the constellation Cygnus. The list of potential planets includes 11 other near-Earth twins, 7 of which circle sun-like stars. Attempts to learn if Kepler-452b has an atmosphere will likely have to wait for a new generation of more sensitive space telescopes NASA administrators say.[1]

It seems, humans will go to great lengths searching for a faint message from space yet they often neglect the easiest means of hearing a message from the heavens when they neglect to PRAY.
lords prayer_logo

Jesus saw that many had difficulty during his day understanding how to pray and this challenge continues today.
Luke 11:1 “Now Jesus was praying in a certain place and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray as John taught his disciples.”

  • In the Gospels the disciples never ask Jesus to teach them anything other than prayer.
    • Disciples did not say – “give us a prayer” but “teach us to pray”
      • Prayer more than a prescription
      • Prayer is more than a providential lucky charm or shot in the dark
      • Prayer is a personal & passionate & powerful relationship with God.
      • Prayer not just getting desires met but to deepen relationship with God.
    • There must have been something about Jesus’ prayer life: personal, passionate, persistent… to inspire and interest the disciples’ request.
      • In Jesus’ eyes, the gift of prayer is the greatest gift of God, apart from salvation
      • I pray that my/our prayer life would be so powerful that would inspire & interest others
      • Jesus said church should be God’s house of prayer for all peoples (Matt 21:13)
      • Many Christians say prayer is central to faith yet they find it a challenge
        • What if a doctor told you to take a pill every day or you would die; would you remember? Likely so. We must view prayer as our life line.

Paul Miller, A Praying Life, p.45

Jesus is, without question the most dependent human being who ever lived. Because he can’t do life on his own, he prays. And he prays. And he prays… he invites us into his life of a living dependence on his heavenly Father. When Jesus tells us to believe, he isn’t asking us to work up some spiritual energy. He is telling us to realize that, like him, we don’t have the resources to do life. When you know that you can’t do life on your own, then prayer makes complete sense… Jesus only knows himself in relationship with his Father. He can’t conceive of himself outside of that relationship… That’s why contemplating the terror of the cross of Gethsemane was such an agony for Jesus. He had never experienced a moment when he wasn’t in communion with his Father. Jesus’ anguish is our normal.”
John 5:19 “Jesus said, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.”

  • Today, you complete this statement, “Lord, teach me to ___”

This will be the start of a study on prayer titled, “Praying With Jesus” from Jesus’ model prayer in Matthew 6 / Luke 11.

à Booklet as a place to study, take notes, discuss & pray with others.

EXAMINE        Matthew 6:5-9 Praying With Jesus: Understanding Prayer            : 3 principles of prayer
Seek God (Matthew 6:1-5)

Jesus instructs believers how to give (6:2-4), pray (6:5-14) and fast (6:15-18) with the proper motives. Essentially, living the Christian life should not be done for the applause or recognition of anyone except God. This is important because we often crave the attention of our peers; whether they be children or teens in school or neighbors & friends of adults. Living the authentic Christian life does not have to always be on the platform for everyone else to notice. The point is that a true disciple of Jesus will act the same way in front of others as they do in the secret when no one is looking.

Ultimately, Jesus is not interested in religious duty but relational devotion.

“when you pray

Jesus assumed people prayed. In fact, everyone prays (Help! Give me!…etc.) but the evaluation is are you growing in relationship with God? In Jesus’ context, devout Jews prayed faithfully 3x a day (morning 9am, afternoon 12pm, and evening 3pm); see Daniel’s example in 6:3-7, 10. Yet, Jesus criticism was not about their frequency but their sincerity of prayer.

Jesus called them hypocrites (υpοκριtης)people wearing large masks to cover identity and to augment or amplify voice publicly, only to play a part for an audience. Jesus criticized those who pray to gain attention by others rather than God. The Pharisees loved to “stand and pray on street corners” so others would notice their spirituality and they could flaunt their knowledge. However, what most people noticed was their pride. Many examples of prayer are people not standing but kneeling prostrate – our posture often reflects our perspective of God and passion for prayer. Jesus said they had already received their reward in gaining the attention of man and they would not receive God’s attention.

Illustration: If I was to only speak good things about my wife in public but then at home would ignore her, ridicule and treat her bad… would she notice my actions in public or private more?

Apply

  • Since prayer is personal, renew commitment to praying with Not praying at Jesus (one-way talking) but praying with Jesus. Realize Jesus is with you and God speaks by His Spirit through His word.
    • What if we committed each day to spend 10-15minutes in prayer & 10-15minutes reading Scripture?
      • Side benefit of Nicaragua mission trip each day… and with great coffee!
    • Since personal prayer is rewarded, pray for yourself, our church to love God, love others, and to lead generations (see p.11 in booklet for a guide).
    • Prayer is personal but does not prohibit public nature.
      • Jesus prays in public. In fact the setting is a public teaching of a model prayer.

Sever Distractions (Matthew 6:6)

Jesus encouraged people to “go into your room and shut the door”.  In other words, by whatever means possible, remove distractions when we pray.

  • a room may mean a specific or dedicated place & time (bedside, chair, desk, throne/toilet…)
  • shutting the door implies priority of relationship to pursue God

Illustration:

There’s a story of 2-baseball greats- Yogi Berra and Hank Aaron. Yogi was a catcher for the Yankees and was well known for his constant chatter to distract batters when they got up to bat. Once when Aaron got up to hit, Yogi started his chatter and told Aaron that he was holding his bat the wrong way, he had to hold it so he could read the label. As soon as the pitch came Aaron smacked the ball into the left-field bleachers. When he rounded the bases and stepped on home plate he whispered to Yogi, “I didn’t come up here to read.”

Stepping up to the plate or into a closed room may not be full-proof for removing distractions. Therefore, you must consider some methods for removing distractions when pursuing God in prayer.

Application:

  • Distraction of knowing where to start.
    This study on prayer will help you in beginning prayer conversation with God but a best way to start is with an open Bible.

    • Pray opened to The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6)
    • Pray opened to the Psalms, or locate Paul’s prayers in the NT
    • Start praying with whatever comes from your heart…
  • Distraction of stuff.

More often than not for Christians, our distractions are good things hindering the greatest thing. The idea of “shutting the door” likely includes turning off electronics (cell, tv, radio, etc.). Our modern world has created technology which we attempt to redeem as we use our Bible apps, etc., but we must be careful that we are staying focused on the right object of worship.

  • Distraction of sin.
    More will be discussed about this in our study but sin blocks communication and relationship with God. Acknowledge your shortcomings and sin in prayer… ask God to reveal other areas of sin that you can repent and renew a right relationship with God.

    • Psalm 66:18 “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.”
    • Psalm 119:37 “Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things and give me life in your ways.”

 

Paul Miller, A Praying Life, p.20    The praying life feels like dinner with good friends

A praying life feels like our family mealtimes because prayer is all about relationships. It’s intimate and hints at eternity. We don’t think about communication or words but about whom we are talking with. Prayer is simply the medium through which we experience and connect to God.
Oddly enough, many people struggle to learn how to pray because they are focusing on praying, not on God. Making prayer the center is like making conversation the center of a family mealtime. In prayer, focusing on the conversation is like trying to drive while looking at the windshield instead of through it. It freezes us, making us unsure where to go. Conversation is only the vehicle through which we experience one another. Consequently, prayer is not the center of this book. Getting to know a person, God, is the center.”

 

Speak Deliberately (Matthew 6:7-9)

Jesus taught prayer should not be empty phrases but meaningful expressions of our heart. The intention behind our words matter as much as the words themselves. He criticized those people who pray with flattery rather than sincerity. God doesn’t care how many words you use; He cares most about the meaningfulness of our prayers. In short, God wants your worship to be real.

Other religions used repetition of words and phrases, which they thought the more words and louder it was said the more likely they could catch the attention of their god.

  • 1 Kings 18:20-39 Prophets of Baal
    20So Ahab sent to all the people of Israel and gathered the prophets together at Mount Carmel.21 And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word.22 Then Elijah said to the people, “I, even I only, am left a prophet of the Lord, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men.23 Let two bulls be given to us, and let them choose one bull for themselves and cut it in pieces and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. And I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood and put no fire to it.24 And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, he is God.” And all the people answered, “It is well spoken.”25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many, and call upon the name of your god, but put no fire to it.”26 And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made.27 And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.”28 And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them.29 And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” And all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been thrown down.31 Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord came, saying, “Israel shall be your name,”32 and with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord. And he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two seahs of seed.33  And he put the wood in order and cut the bull in pieces and laid it on the wood. And he said, “Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.”34 And he said, “Do it a second time.” And they did it a second time. And he said, “Do it a third time.” And they did it a third time.35 And the water ran around the altar and filled the trench also with water.36 And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word.37 Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.”38  Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.”
  • Prayers as rote memory rather than meaningful conversation (Pharisees)
  • Acts 19 crowd shouted to god Artemis.
  • Today, the same is true of religions to attempt more actions or duties (prayers, sacrifices, deeds, etc.).
  • Pray by speaking deliberately to our Father

Jesus’ instruction was that the Father already knows what you need before you ask. Once again, God is not impressed by our religious duty but seeks our relational devotion. From your lips to God’s ears, speak to Him today.

APPLY/THINK

  • Seek God (MOTIVATION OF CHRISTIANS IN WORSHIP)
  • Sever Distractions (REPENT OF STUFF & SIN)
  • Speak Deliberately (REALIZE GOD WANTS RELATIONSHIP NOT RELIGION)

[1] http://news.yahoo.com/earth-planet-discovered-using-nasas-kepler-space-telescope-165743211.html

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