“Emmanuel’s Prayer” – Matthew 6:5-15

February 15th, 2015

Matthew 6:5-15 see also: Matthew 18:21-35; Luke 11:1-18

“Emmanuel’s Prayer”

 

Service Orientation:  The prayer life of most 21st century western Christians is pathetic.  Which means we either lack faith in Christ or we are scared.  Scared that God doesn’t even exist or that He does and we’re clueless as to his Name.

 

Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you. — Psalm 9:10

                                                                                                               

Background Information:

  • We call it the Lord’s Prayer, but it is actually the disciples’ prayer, since Jesus could never have prayed for the forgiveness of sins as he instructs us to do in verse 12. The true “Lord’s Prayer is in John 17.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 98)
  • The Lord’s Prayer, or more accurately, the Disciples’ Prayer, is not a set group of words to repeat. It is fine to recite it, as we recite many parts of Scripture.  It is certainly fine to memorize it and to rehearse it in our minds and meditate on it in our hearts.  But it is not so much a prayer in itself as it is a skeleton which believers are to flesh out with their own words of praise, adoration, petitions, and so on.  It is not a substitute for our own prayers but a guide for them.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 374)
  • It is very significant that in the Lord’s Prayer the words I, me, and mine never occur; it is true to say that Jesus came to take these words out of life and to put in their place we, us, and ours. God is not any man’s exclusive possession.  The very phrase Our Father involves the elimination of self.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 202)
  • God wants to build a mutuality between us and our brothers and sisters through this prayer. He commands us to pray “give us,” not “give me.”  Every time we pray this prayer from our heart, we are affirming our solidarity with our brothers and sisters.  (R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 183)
  • Those who have been dulled to beauty need to see things in a new way, and in respect to the Lord’s Prayer we may need to see it anew–not necessarily discovering new truth, but seeing the old truth for what it is. (R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 154)
  • “Great is prayer,” said the Rabbis, “greater than all good works.” One of the loveliest things that was ever said about family worship is the Rabbinic saying, “He who prays within his house surrounds it with a wall that is stronger than iron.”  The only regret of the Rabbis was that it was not possible to pray all the day long.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 191)
  • There was hardly an event or a sight in life which had not its stated formula of prayer (for the Rabbis). There was prayer before and after each meal; there were prayers in connection with the light, the fire, the lightning, on seeing the new moon, comets, rain, tempest, at the sight of the sea, lakes, rivers, on receiving good news, on using new furniture, on entering or leaving a city.  Everything had its prayer.  Clearly there is something infinitely lovely here.  It was the intention that every happening in life should be brought into the presence of God.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 193-4)
  • It is crucial for us to know that the ancient Jews, similar to modern Muslims, would pray at set times. There is no reason to believe Jesus rejected this tradition, and there is positive evidence that the apostles practiced it.  In Acts 3:1, for example, Peter and John went to the temple at “the hour of prayer, the ninth hour.”  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 158)
  • (v. 6) Jesus did not condemn public prayer. Such prayer was vitally important to the early church, as it is to churches today.  Corporate prayer has powerful results.  Jesus’ point, however, was that people who prayed more in public than in private should consider their motives.  If they really wanted to fellowship with God, Jesus suggested that they go alone into a room, close the door and pray.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 112-3)
  • (v. 9) Rudolph Stier draws a unique parallel between the two tables of the Decalogue and the two sections of the Lord’s Prayer. (Edward Hindson and James Borland, Matthew: The King is Coming, 70)
  • (vss. 9-13) There are six petitions, as follows,

Petitions with reference to        God’s

name                         first petition            verse 9b

reign                         second . . .                              . . . 10a

will                           third . . .                                  . . . 10b

Petitions with reference to        our

bread                        fourth . . .                               . . .11

debts                         fifth . . .                                  . . .12

foe                            sixth . . .                                 . . .13

(William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 325)

  • (v. 11) The difficulty of interpreting this petition was increased by the fact that there was very considerable doubt as to the meaning of the word epiousios, which is the word which the Revised Standard Version translates daily. The extraordinary fact was that, until a short time ago, there was no other known occurrence of this word in the whole of Greek literature.  Origen knew this, and indeed held that Matthew had invented the word.  It was therefore not possible to be sure what it precisely meant.  But not very long ago a papyrus fragment turned up with this word on it; and the papyrus fragment was actually a woman’s shopping list!  And against an item on it was the word epiousios.  It was a note to remind her to buy supplies of a certain food for the coming day.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 216-7)
  • (v. 11) The adjective translated “daily” (epiousios) occurs only here in the NT and carries several possible meanings: (1) “for the day,” perhaps recalling the daily provision of manna in the wilderness (Ex 16:15-26); (2) “necessary,” what I need for today in order to survive, “sufficient for today”; (3) “for the coming day,” pointing to the coming kingdom. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 115)
  • (vss. 11-13) The fourth petition is linked to the fifth, and the fifth to the sixth, by the conjunction and. All three represent human needs, and are closely connected.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 336)
  • (v. 13) Readers of most modern-speech versions will note the omission of any doxology at this point. (“For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.  Amen.”) it is commonly recognized that this is a later liturgical addition.  It is not found in any Greek manuscript before the fifth century.  Apparently it was a Jewish practice to end every prayer with a doxology even when there was nothing of that nature in the text (cf. Jeremias, Unknown Sayings of Jesus, 28).  (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 58)
  • (v. 13) So the doxology here is Scriptural in content, and what we have in its un-Scriptural addition at the end of the Lord’s Prayer is the church’s proper reaction to praying the Lord’s Prayer.  This doxology is the joyous declaration of one who has truly prayed the Lord’s Prayer.  (R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 200)

 

The question to be answered is . . . What is Jesus trying to tell us about prayer?

 

Answer:  We must remember when we pray that we are sinful, needy, and vulnerable humans addressing our omnipotent, holy, omniscient, omnipresent, heavenly Father who loves us dearly and who also created  the universe with the word of his mouth.

 

Jesus assumes his audience prays–both his closest disciples and even those who would eventually become his enemies.

But surely that same assumption cannot be made today, not only outside the church, but also within it.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 156)

 

Get on your knees and fight like a man.

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Pray

 

Prayer is beyond any question the highest activity of the human soul.  Man is at his greatest and highest when, upon his knees, he comes face-to-face with God.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 322)

 

There is nothing that tells the truth about us as Christian people so much as our prayer life.  Everything we do in the Christian life is easier than prayer.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 322)

 

“Teach us how to pray.”  Have you ever felt that?  Have you ever felt dissatisfied with your prayer life, and longed to know more and more what it is truly to pray?  If you have, it is an encouraging sign.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 323)

 

John Wesley used to say he held a very poor view of any Christian who did not pray for at least four hours every day.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 324)

 

The basic definition of prayer is “communion with God,” and if He is not involved there is only the pretense of prayer.  Not only must He be involved, but centrally involved.  Prayer is God’s provision; it is God’s idea, not man’s. There could be no prayer if God did not condescend to speak with us, and we could not know how to pray had He not chosen to instruct us.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 366)

 

In any posture, in any attire, at any time, in any place, and under any circumstance prayer is appropriate.  Prayer is to be a total way of life, an open and constant communion with God (Eph 6:18; 1 Thes 5:17).  Because it is to be a way of life, we need to understand how to pray; and that is precisely why Jesus gave His followers this model prayer.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 373)

 

Nothing is so sacred that Satan will not invade it.  In fact, the more sacred something is, the more he desires to profane it.  Surely few things please him more than to come between believers and their Lord in the sacred intimacy of prayer.  Sin will follow us into the very presence of God; and no sin is more powerful or destructive than pride.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 364)

 

From what we know in the scriptural record, Jesus’ two most intense times of spiritual opposition were during His forty days of solitude in the wilderness and during His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night He was betrayed and arrested.  On both occasions He was alone praying to His Father.  It was in the most private and holy place of communion that Satan presented his strongest temptations before the Son of God.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 365)

 

What does Jesus wish to teach us concerning prayer?

I-  When you pray, come as a child of the Father, a co-heir of Christ; come sincerely and candidly, not as a consumer.  (Mt 5:9; 6:6, 9, 14-15; Jn 1:12; Rom 8:14-21; Gal 3:26; 4:6; Eph 1:18; Col 1:12; 3:24; 1 Pt 1:3-9; 1 Jn 3:1-2 , 10; 5:2, 19; Rev 21:7)

 

We don’t pray because we don’t understand God.  Or worse, we don’t pray because we don’t love, trust, or need God.  Since God doesn’t matter to us as much as we think or say, prayer doesn’t matter much either.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 157)

 

When thou prayest, rather let thy heart be without words than thy words without heart.—  John Bunyon

 

We do not tell God these things because He is not aware of them.  No, we must think of prayer more as a relationship between father and child; and the value of prayer is that it keeps us in touch and contact with God.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 345)

 

The earthly father is grievously wounded by the son who is content to enjoy the gift the father has given him but who never seeks his company again until he has exhausted his supplies and needs some more.  No, the father likes the child to come and speak to him; and this is God’s way of doing it.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 345)

 

The Bible is very clear on the reasons why prayers go unanswered, and every reason centers on the believer’s relationship with God.  God will not cooperate with prayers of mere self-interest, or prayers that come from impure motives.  The Christian who clings to sin closes the ear of God.  Least of all will God tolerate unbelief, the chief of sins.  “Anyone who come to him must believe” (Heb 11:6).  In all our prayers the paramount motive is the glory of God.  (J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership, 92)

 

Pope Benedict concurs:  ‘The organ for seeing God is the heart.  The intellect alone is not enough’ (Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, 92).  That is why I pray for God to grant you the eyes of both intellect and heart.  (David Robertson, Magnificent Obsession–Why Jesus Is Great, 204)

 

Get to the point–that’s the point.  God is not a mortal man who needs to be informed and then solicited.  Our God can discern, as is taught in Rom 8:26, “groanings too deep for words.”  So pray to God with reverence, like a servant addressing a king.  But pray also with “simplicity, directness, and sincerity,” like a child asking something of his loving father.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 163)

 

You sum up the whole of the NT teaching in a single phrase, if you speak of it as a revelation of the Fatherhood of the holy Creator.  In the same way you sum up the whole of NT religion if you describe it as the knowledge of God as one’s holy Father.  If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father.  If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all.  (J. I. Packer, Knowing God, 182)

 

Just as nothing destroys prayer like side-glances at human spectators, so nothing enriches it like a sense of the presence of God.  (John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 133)

 

The street corners were also a normal place for prayer, because devout Jews would stop wherever they were at the appointed hour for prayer, even if they were walking down the street or visiting at the corner.  But the word used here for street is not the same as that in verse 2, which refers to a narrow street (rhumē).  The word used here (plateia) refers to a wide, major street, and therefore to a major street corner, where a crowd was most likely to be.  The implied fault here is that the hypocrites loved to pray where they would have the largest audience.  There was nothing wrong with praying at a major intersection if that was where you happened to be at the time for prayer.  But something was very much wrong if you planned to be there at prayer time for the specific purpose of praying where the most people could see you.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 365)

 

In synagogue services public prayer was customarily led by a male member of the congregation who stood in front of the ark of the law and discharged this responsibility.  A man could easily succumb to the temptation of praying up to the audience/congregation.  The acceptable clichés, the appropriate sentiments, the sonorous tones, the well-pitched fervency, all become tools to win approval, and perhaps to compete with the chap who led in prayer last week.  (D. A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, 62-3)

 

II-  Prayer, like all other spiritual disciplines, will be perverted, faked and used as a self-promotional tool when we fail to realize to Whom we are praying.  (Mt 6:1-5, 16; 7:5; 15:5-9; 22:18; 23:15, 23, 25, 27-29; Mk 7:6; Lk 6:42; 12:1; Rom 16:17-18; 2 Cor 11:1-14; Col 2:4; 2 Thes 2:3; 1 Tm 4:1-2; 2 Tm 3:13; Ti 1:10)

 

But how self-centered our prayers usually are, focused on our needs, our plans, our aspirations, our understandings.  We are often like tiny infants, who know no world but the world of their own feelings and wants.  One of the greatest struggles of the Christian life is to fight the old sinful habits, with their constant and unrelenting focus on self.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 379)

 

Prayer, study and seeking and leading in God’s direction is the job of every pastor.   All three of these can be easily faked.

 

The fewer the words, the better the prayer. To have prayed well is to have studied well. — Martin Luther

 

But even when prayer represents the feelings and needs of others who are present, the supreme attention is to be on God.  In that sense, even the most public prayer is in secret.  Even if the whole world hears what we say, there is an intimacy and focus on God in that communion that is unaffected.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 367)

 

God’s supreme purpose for prayer, the purpose beyond all other purposes, is to glorify Himself.  Although nothing benefits a believer more than prayer, the purpose in praying must first of all be for the sake of God, not self.  Prayer is, above all, an opportunity for God to manifest His goodness and glory.  An old saint said, “True prayer brings the mind to the immediate contemplation of God’s character and holds it there until the believer’s soul is properly impressed.”  Jesus affirmed the purpose of prayer when He said, “And whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified” (Jn 14:13).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 372)

 

With regard to the first matter we remind ourselves again of the vital importance of the right approach, for this is the key to the understanding of successful prayer.  People so often say, “You know, I prayed and prayed but nothing happened.  I did not seem to find peace.  I did not seem to get any satisfaction out of it.”  Most of their trouble is due to the fact that their approach to prayer has been wrong, that somehow or other they did not realize what they were doing.  We tend to be so self-centered in our prayers that when we drop on our knees before God, we think only about ourselves and our troubles and perplexities.  We start talking about them at once, and of course nothing happens.  According to our Lord’s teaching here we should not expect anything to happen.  That is not the way to approach God.  We must pause before we speak in prayer.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 326-7)

 

Jesus does not condemn all long prayers or all repetition here, for as I mentioned earlier, he prayed all night (Lk 6:12) and repeated his prayer at Gethsemane (26:36-46).  Rather, it is vain repetitions, where “many words” are thought to mediate between God and man.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 160)

 

The whole being of the person praying should be intent upon God and should be centered upon Him, and that he should be oblivious of all other things.  Far from desiring people to thank us for our so-called beautiful prayers, we should rather be troubled when they do so.  Public prayer should be such that the people who are praying silently and the one who is uttering the words should be no longer conscious of each other, but should be carried on the wings of prayer into the very presence of God.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 305)

 

The error of the hypocrite is selfishness.  Even in his prayers he is obsessed with his own self-image and how he looks in the eyes of the beholder.  But in the Lord’s Prayer Christians are obsessed with God–with his name, his kingdom and his will, not with theirs.  True Christian prayer is always a preoccupation with God and his glory.  It is therefore the exact opposite of the exhibitionism of hypocrites who use prayer as a vehicle for their own glory.

The error of the heathen is mindlessness.  He just goes babbling on, giving voice to his meaningless liturgy.  (John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 151)

 

When the Pharisee of Christ’s famous parable (Lk 18:9-14) entered the temple, he took care not to be standing in some corner or at a considerable distance from the front, like the publican.  He stood up in front, in full view of everyone who might be present.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 322)

 

The shutting of the door (cf. 2 Kgs 4:33; Isa 26:20) makes the secret place even more secret.  As to the Object of the prayer, namely, the Father, he not only sees in secret (verse 4), but also is in secret; he fills every secret (as well as public) place with his presence, yet transcends all spatial limitations (1 Kgs 8:27; Ps 139:7-10; Isa 66:1; Jer 23:23, 24; Acts 7:48, 49; 17:27, 28).  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 323)

 

Closet is an old English word which means “private bed chamber,” your bedroom.  Find a place where you can get private with the Lord.  Second, shut the door.  When you go into your bedroom, you get away from the world; when you shut the door, you get away from the family.  Shutting the door indicates that you’re really going to get private–just you and God.  No one else can see what is going on.  (Bob Yandian, Salt & Light, The Sermon on the Mount, 83-4)

 

The word used to describe the prayers of the pagans is battalogeō, which occurs nowhere else in the NT or in secular literature of the day.  It is probably an onomatopoetic word constructed by way of analogy with the better known battarizō, “to stammer or stutter” (Delling, TDNT, 597).  Behind the word is the practice of the heathen who developed long lists of divine names, hoping that by endless repetition they would somehow invoke the name of the true god and receive what they wished.  (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 55)

 

There is a place for public prayer, but to pray only where others will notice you indicates that your real intention is to please people, not God.  For these hypocrites, people’s praise will be their only reward.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 112)

 

Did Jesus himself practice “closet praying” exclusively?  No, the Gospels record Jesus at prayer both privately (14:23) and publicly (14:18-19).  Later, his disciples carried on a tradition of corporate prayer from the earliest days of the church (Acts 1:14).  As he did with giving, Jesus drew attention to the motives behind actions.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 112)

 

The trouble about any system lies, not in the system, but in the men who use it.  A man may make any system of prayer an instrument of devotion or a formality, glibly and unthinkingly to be gone through.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 195)

 

What Jesus forbids his people is any kind of prayer with the mouth when the mind is not engaged.  (John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 144)

 

I doubt if Jesus is trying to prohibit all public prayer.  If so, the early church didn’t understand him, if we may judge by the examples of public praying in the Book of Acts (1:24; 3:1; 4:24ff.; etc.).  we will comprehend Jesus’ point better if we each ask ourselves these questions:  Do I pray more frequently and more fervently when alone with God than I do in public?  Do I love the secret place of prayer?  Is my public praying simply the overflow of my private praying?  If the answers are not enthusiastic affirmatives, we fail the test and fall under Jesus’ condemnation.  We are hypocrites.  (D. A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, 63)

 

In the particular example before us, if we absolutize Mt 6:7f., the logical conclusion is that followers of Jesus must never pray at length, and seldom if ever ask for anything since God knows their needs anyway.  If instead we absolutize Lk 18:1-8, we will reason that if we are serious with God we will not only pray at length, but we may expect the blessings we receive to be proportionate to our loquacity.  However, if we listen to both passages with a little more sensitivity, we discover that Mt 6:7f. is really not concerned with the length of prayers, but with the attitude of heart which thinks it is heard for its many words.  Likewise, we find that Lk 18:1-8 is less concerned with mere length of prayers than with overcoming the quitting tendency among certain of Christ’s followers.  These Christians, finding themselves under pressure, are often in danger of throwing in the towel.  But they must not give up.  (D. A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, 65)

 

Do not measure your prayers by minutes, but by necessities.  (Joseph Parker, The Inner Life of Christ, Studies in Matthew 1-7, 163)

 

Jesus Himself prayed all night prior to His crucifixion but on most other occasions prayed very briefly.  He is not condemning lengthy prayers, although there may not be anything particularly spiritual about them.  He is merely emphasizing that prayer must be a sincere expression of the heart, not mere accumulation of verbiage.  God is not impressed with words, but with the genuine outcry of a needy heart.  (Edward Hindson and James Borland, Matthew: The King is Coming, 68)

 

There are prayer meetings recorded in the Scriptures, and they are of the very essence and life of the Church.  That is not what He is prohibiting.  The principle is that there are certain things which we have to shut out whether we are praying in public or whether we are praying in secret.  Here are some of them.  You shut out and forget other people.  Then you shut out and forget yourself.  That is what is meant by entering into thy closet.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 307)

 

There is no value in my entering into the secret chamber and locking the door if the whole time I am full of self and thinking about myself, and am priding myself on my prayer.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 308)

 

They need not be afraid, for God is their Father who loves them.  Yet, he is the Father in heaven (literally “in the heavens”).  Therefore, he should be approached in the spirit of devout and humble reverence.  The chumminess or easy familiarity that marks a certain type of present day “religion” is definitely antiscriptural.  Those who indulge in this bad habit seem never to have read Ex 3:5; Isa 6:1-5; or Acts 4:24!  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 326-7)

 

III-  Jesus commands us to pray remembering who God our Father truly is:  

 

We must never use the word Father in regard to God cheaply, easily, and sentimentally.  God is not an easy-going parent who tolerantly shuts his eyes to all sins and faults and mistakes.  This God, whom we can call Father, is the God whom we must still approach with reverence and adoration, and awe and wonder.  God is our Father in heaven, and in God there is love and holiness combined.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 204)

 

We must note the order of the petitions in the Lord’s Prayer.  The first three petitions have to do with God and with the glory of God:  the second three petitions have to do with our needs and our necessities.  That is to say, God is first given his supreme place, and then, and only then, we turn to ourselves and our needs and desires.  It is only when God is given his proper place that all other things fall into their proper places.  Prayer must never be an attempt to bend the will of God to our desires; prayer ought always to be an attempt to submit our wills to the will of God.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 199)

 

Luther put it more succinctly still:  “By our praying…we are instructing ourselves more than we are him.”  (John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 145)

 

The essential difference between pharisaic, pagan and Christian praying lies in the kind of God we pray to.  Other gods may like mechanical incantations; but not the living and true God revealed by Jesus Christ.  Jesus told us to address him as (literally) “our Father in the heavens.”  (John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 145)

 

When Jesus says to pray, our Father, he reveals a dramatic new relationship made possible between God and human beings.  The Aramaic ábbā that stands behind the Greek patēr (“father”) was an intimate and affectionate title that children used when speaking to their father.  It became so embedded in the minds of first-century Christians that the Aramaic lingers in the compound “Abba, Father” found in Mk 14:36, Rom 8:15, and Gal 4:6.  That we pray to our Father reminds us that the Christian faith is essentially a family affair.  (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 56)

 

It is a nearly unbelievable privilege for us to call God Father.  Before the coming of Jesus Christ, this was an unknown name in most prayers.  Pagans did not pray this way.  Even in the OT the word father appears in reference to God only fourteen times, and never once does any individual Israelite address God directly as “my Father.”  It would have been considered much too intimate.  In fact, the Jews of Jesus’ day did not even like to use the name “God.”  They spoke of “heaven” or “the Most High” or merely “Lord” instead.  All this was completely overturned by Jesus.  Jesus always referred to God as his Father, and here in the Sermon on the Mount he authorizes his followers to do likewise.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 98)

 

But when Jesus came on the scene, he addressed God only as Father.  He never used anything else!  All his prayers address God as Father.  (R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 155)

 

Abba meant something like Daddy–but with a more reverent touch than when we use it.  The best rendering is “Dearest Father.”  (R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 155)

 

I suggest that if you can say from your heart, whatever your condition, “My Father,” in a sense your prayer is already answered.  It is just this realization of our relationship to God that we so sadly lack.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 327)

 

It is only those who are true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ who can say, “Our Father.”  It is only the people of whom the Beatitudes are true who can say with any confidence, “Our Father.”  Now I know that this is an unpopular doctrine today, but it is the doctrine of the Bible.  The world today believes in the universal Fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man.  That is not found in the Bible.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 328)

 

Spiritually, unbelievers have another father.  Jesus said, “You are of your father the devil” (Jn 8:44).  It is only to those who receive Him that Jesus gives “the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (Jn 1:12; cf. Rom 8:14; Gal 3:26; Heb 2:11-14; 2 Pt 1:4; etc.).  Because believers belong to the Son, they can come to God as His beloved children.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 375)

 

He used the title Father in all His prayers except the one on the cross when He cried “My God, My God” (Mt 27:46), emphasizing the separation He experienced in bearing mankind’s sin.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 376)

 

When we speak to God, Jesus tells us, we are to address him as “Our Father, the one in the heavens.”  This is the configuration of reality from within which we pray.  The overwhelming difficulties many people have with prayer, both understanding it and doing it, derive from nothing more than their failure or their inability to place themselves within this configuration and receive it by grace.  (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 256)

 

The only thing that really matters for us is that we know God as our Father.  If we only knew God like this our problems would be solved already and we would realize our utter dependence upon Him and go to Him daily as children to their Father.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 343)

 

The Aramaic word for “prayer” means “to set a trap.”

We often think of prayer as nothing more than words spoken to God, but maybe it’s more than that.  Prayer is also when God speaks to us through dreams and desires and promptings and impressions and ideas.  Prayer is the mechanism whereby God’s ideas are conceived and captured.  And it’s our capacity for prayer that will ultimately determine our creative potential.

One way to set prayer traps is by keeping a prayer journal.  In my opinion, journaling is one of the most overlooked and underappreciated spiritual disciplines in our multitasking culture.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s scribbling notes in the margin of your Bible or jotting down thoughts in a Moleskine journal that has inspiring quotes at the top of every page.  You need to “write down the revelation.”  For me, it’s blogging and twittering what God is doing in my head and in my heart.  But one way or another, you have to take it captive.  Why?  Because one God idea can change the course of history.  (Mark Batterson, Primal, A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity, 122)

 

In effect, Jesus lays down two great rules for prayer.

(i) He insists that all true prayer must be offered to God.  The real fault of the people whom Jesus was criticizing was that they were praying to men and not to God.

. . .(ii) He insists that we must always remember that the God to whom we pray is a God of love who is more ready to answer than we are to pray.  His gifts and his grace have not to be unwillingly extracted from him.  We do not come to a God who has to be coaxed, or pestered, or battered into answering our prayers.  We come to one whose one wish is to give.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 197-8)

 

A-  A hollowed name  (Mt 6:9; 2 Chr 6; Neh 9:5-38; Ps 8:1, 9; 9:10; 18:49; 20:1, 5, 7; 22:22; 25:11; 29:2; 31:3; 34:3-8; 44:8, 20; Jer 14:21; Joel 2:32; Mt 12:21; 21:9; 23:39; 28:19; Lk 18:9-14;  Acts 2:21; 3:16; Rom 10:13; Phil 2:1-11; Col 3:17)

 

In Hebrew the name means the nature, the character, the personality of the person in so far as it is known or revealed to us.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 205)

 

The “name,” in other words, means all that is true of God, and all that has been revealed concerning God.  It means God in all His attributes, God in all that He is in and of Himself, and God in all that He has done and all that He is doing.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 334)

 

There is an interesting expression used in the OT with regard to this which must sometimes have astonished us.  The Psalmist in Psalm 34 invites everybody to join him in “magnifying” the Lord.  What a strange idea!  “O,” he says, “magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.”  At first sight that appears to be quite ridiculous.  God is the Eternal, the self-existent One, absolute and perfect in all His qualities.  How can feeble man ever magnify such a Being?  How can we ever make God great or greater (which is what we mean by magnify)?  How can we exalt the name that is highly exalted over all?  It seems preposterous and quite ridiculous.  And yet, of course, if we but realize the way in which the Psalmist uses it, we shall see exactly what he means.  He does not mean that we can actually add to the greatness of God, for that is impossible; but he does mean that he is concerned that this greatness of God may appear to be greater amongst men.  Thus it comes to pass that amongst ourselves in this world we can magnify the name of God.  We can do so by words, and by our lives, by being reflectors of the greatness and the glory of God and of His glorious attributes.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 335-6)

 

The person who knows what it means to pray “Hallowed be thy name” will joyfully magnify the Lord when he beholds the blue of the starlit sky, full of silent beauty and majesty, with its myriads of stars, scintillating like so many dewdrops upon the meadows of the heavens.  He praises God when he sees his glory reflected in the softly blending hues of the rainbow, in wooded hills, fruited groves, murmuring brooks, sparkling lakes, and meandering rivers, as well as when he listens to the richly variegated, almost continuous song of the mockingbird.  He marvels when he contemplates the wisdom of God revealed in the construction of the human body (Ps 139:15, 16).  And when from general revelation he ascends to special revelations, and ponders the implications of such passages as Isa 53; Jn 3:16; Rom 5:8-11; 8:31-39; and 1 Cor 8:9, is it any wonder that he falls in love with the matchless name of him who through Christ is his Father, that he pours out his heart in fervent doxologies (2 Cor 9:15; Eph 1:3ff.; 1 Pt 1:3ff.; Rv 19:16, 17), and urges others to do likewise?  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 329)

 

To truly hallow His name is to consciously draw Him into every daily thought, every daily word, and every daily action.  David put the focus of his life where it should always be–“I have set the Lord continually before me” (Ps 16:8).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 378)

 

Thomas Aquinas noted that persistence in prayer consisted not of asking for many things, but of desiring one thing.  God Himself.  This steadfastness brings about change in every parameter of our existence.  Sincere prayer, based on God’s Word and led by His Spirit, builds character.  It establishes order in a once-fragmented life because God is the author of order, not confusion.  (James P. Gills, M.D., The Dynamics of Worship, 110-1)

 

B-  Sovereign reign  (Mt 6:10a; Dt 8:18; Josh 1:8; 1 Chr 29:11-12; Ps 24:1; 29:10; 103:19; Eph 1:3-11; Col 1:15-18; Rv 19:6, 16-17)

 

Our truest happiness is perfect submission to God’s will, and it is the purest love to pray that all mankind may know it, obey it and submit to it.  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 40)

 

There is a tension between God’s sovereignty and man’s will, between God’s grace and man’s faith, but we dare not try to resolve it by modifying God’s truth about either His sovereignty or our will, His grace or our faith.  God is sovereign, but He gives us choices.  God is sovereign, but He tells us to pray Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  And James reminds us that “the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (5:16).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 384)

 

To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world. —  Karl Barth

 

I am asked frequently whether I think prayer changes God’s mind, but how could prayer ever change the mind of God?  We cannot give Him information that He lacked before we informed Him.  We cannot correct His counsel, showing that what He has determined to do is wrong.  God does not have a Plan B that He puts in motion at our request.

“If that is the case,” people say, “why should we pray?”  We pray because it changes us.  We pray also because God uses our prayer as the means to bring about the ends that He has decreed from all eternity.  God commands us to pray and to do so earnestly, but we do not pray to instruct Him or give Him our counsel.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 137)

 

Several years ago I accepted an invitation to do a series of lectures in Eastern Europe.  The third leg of the trip was in Romania, and as we prepared to go there from Budapest, we were warned that the border guards in Romania were hostile to Americans.  We boarded a train and rode throughout Hungary until we reached the border of Romania.  There were four of us traveling together.  At one stop two guards got on the train.  They could not speak English, but they indicated rudely that they wanted to see our passports and our luggage.  Suddenly another burly officer boarded the train who did speak some broken English.  He looked over and noticed that one of my traveling companions had a paper bag on her lap, and the guard opened the bag and pulled out a Bible.  The guard began leafing through the Bible.  He finally stopped and looked at our group, and he said, “You are not Americans.”  He pointed to the Bible text he had open, which said, “We are citizens of the commonwealth of heaven.”  The guard was a Christian, and he turned to his subordinate and told him to not harass us.  With much relief I realized that this guard understood something about the kingdom of God–our first place of citizenship is in the kingdom of God.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 151)

 

In our country the rulers rule on the basis of the consent of the governed.  It is a social contract.  It is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.  Not so the kingdom of God.  The kingdom of God is not of the people, by the people, or for the people; it is God’s kingdom.  God does not rule by consent of the governed.  God rules by His sovereign authority.  His reign extends over us whether or not we vote for him.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 175)

 

When the brilliant ethicist John Kavanaugh went to work for three months at “the house of the dying” in Calcutta, he was seeking a clear answer as to how best to spend the rest of his life.  On the first morning there he met Mother Teresa.  She asked, “And what can I do for you?”  Kavanaugh asked her to pray for him.

“What do you want me to pray for?” she asked.  He voiced the request that he had borne thousands of miles from the United States:  “Pray that I have clarity.”

She said firmly, “No, I will not do that.”  When he asked her why, she said, “Clarity is the last thing you are clinging to and must let go of.”  When Kavanaugh commented that she always seemed to have the clarity he longed for, she laughed and said, “I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust.  So I will pray that you trust God.”  (Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust, 5)

 

C-  Loving will  (Mt 6:8, 10b; 26:39-44; Ps 115:3; Jn 4:34; 6:38; 7:17; 8:29; Mk 14:36; Rom 12:1-2; 14:17; Eph 1:3-2:10; 1 Thes 4:3)

 

The transforming grace and power of God is required before a man changes from the ardent yearning, “My kingdom come,” and from the boast, “By my own effort I am already on the way to the realization of this goal,” to the humble petition, “Thy kingdom come.”  As to the boasters and their fall, think of Korah and his company (Num 16), Sennacherib (Isa 37:10-13, 37, 38), Nebuchadnezzar (Dn 4:30-33), Edom (Obad 1-4), Haman (Est 3-7; especially 5:11, 12), Herod Agrippa I (acts 12:21-23), and “the rich fool” of the parable (Lk 12:18-20).  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 330)

 

It is the ardent desire of the person who sincerely breathes the Lord’s Prayer that the Father’s will shall be obeyed as completely, heartily, and immediately on earth as this is constantly being done by all the inhabitants of heaven.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 331)

 

“Your kingdom come” is a prayer that God’s rule will come to others through us.  It is a prayer for Christ to work his revolutionary power in a fallen world.  Your kingdom come in my family, my job, my city, my nation.

This is a big prayer that depends on a big God.  And when truly prayed, it makes for a big life.  Is your life, is my life, big enough to pray, “your kingdom come”?  (R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 173)

 

In praying this we invite God to conquer us, and that is why this petition is so scary.  When we pray this prayer, we are asking God to do what is necessary to make his will prevail in our lives.  And God then comes with gracious, kind violence to root out all impediments to our obedience.  To pray this prayer may terrify us, but it will also deliver us from ourselves.  It can truly be said that we have not learned to pray at all until every request in our prayers is made subject to this one.  (R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 177)

 

“Your will be done” means that I want my submission to be like the submission in Heaven–eager, cheerful, buoyant.  In his will is our greatest glory and joy.  (R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 180)

 

The phrase “on earth as it is in heaven” could apply to the three prior requests.  Each previous request–that God’s name be hallowed, that his kingdom come, and that his will be done–desires that these will take place on earth while looking forward to complete fulfillment when Christ returns.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 115)

 

Prayer is not a human’s attempt to change the will of God.  God’s method of changing our will is to bring it into conformity with His will.  More than changing things, prayer changes people.  Prayer is not conquering God’s reluctance to answer, but laying hold of His willingness to help!  Prayer, in the life of the true believer, is an act of total confidence and assurance in the plan and purpose of God.  (Edward Hindson and James Borland, Matthew: The King is Coming, 68)

 

The kingdom represents the full and effective reign of God through the mediatorial office of the Messiah.  The disciples were not to think of their own convenience as their foremost expression in prayer, but the full and quick realization of the effective rule of God on earth in the hearts of people.  That rule is realized through the regenerating process of the new birth in the lives of individuals.  It will reach its pinnacle when the last enemy (sin and death, 1 Cor 15:24-28) has been destroyed at the Lord’s return.  The recognition of “Thy will be done” emphasizes the idea that prayer is to bring about the conformity of the will of the believer to the will of God.  Prayer is an act of spiritual expression that brings us into conformity to the very nature and purpose of God.  (Edward Hindson and James Borland, Matthew: The King is Coming, 69)

 

Let us assume that the second petition explains, and amplifies, and defines the first.  We then have the perfect definition of the Kingdom of God–The Kingdom of God is a society upon earth where God’s will is as perfectly done as it is in heaven.  Here we have the explanation of how the Kingdom can be past, present and future all at the one time.  Any man who at any time in history perfectly did God’s will was within the Kingdom; any man who perfectly does God’s will is within the Kingdom; but since the world is very far from being a place where God’s will is perfectly and universally done, the consummation of the Kingdom is still in the future and is still something for which we must pray.

To be in the Kingdom is to obey the will of God.  Immediately we see that the Kingdom is not something which primarily has to do with nations and peoples and countries.  It is something which has to do with each one of us.  The Kingdom is in fact the most personal thing in the world.  The Kingdom demands the submission of my will, my heart, my life.  It is only when each one of us makes his personal decision and submission that the Kingdom comes.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 211-2)

 

A man may accept the will of God for no other reason than that he has realized that he cannot do anything else.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 213)

 

A man may say, “Thy will be done,” in a tone of bitter resentment.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 213)

 

A man may say, “Thy will be done,” in perfect love and trust.  He may say it gladly and willingly, no matter what that will may be.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 213)

 

“Do what you think best.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 213)

 

When Richard Cameron, the Scottish Covenanter, was killed his head and his hands were cut off by one Murray and taken to Edinburgh.  “His father being in prison for the same cause, the enemy carried them to him, to add grief unto his former sorrow, and inquired at him if he knew them.  Taking his son’s head and hands, which were very fair (being a man of fair complexion like himself), he kissed them and said, ‘I know them–I know them.  They are my son’s–my dear son’s.  It is the Lord.  Good is the will of the Lord, who cannot wrong me or mine, but hath made goodness and mercy to follow us all our days.’”  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 213-4)

 

Our desire as Christian people is that God’s name shall be glorified.  But the moment we start with that we realize that there is this opposition, and we are reminded of the whole biblical teaching about evil.  There is another who is “the god of this world”; there is a kingdom of darkness, a kingdom of evil, and it is opposed to God and His glory and honor.  But God has been graciously pleased to reveal from the very dawn of history that He is yet going to establish His kingdom in this world of time, that though Satan has entered in and conquered the world for the time being, and the whole of mankind is under his dominion, He is again going to assert Himself and turn this world and all its kingdoms into His own glorious kingdom.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 337)

 

The very fact that Jesus tells us to pray Thy will be done on earth indicates that God’s will is not always done on earth.  It is not inevitable.  In fact, lack of faithful prayer inhibits His will being done.  In God’s wise and gracious plan, prayer is essential to the proper working of His divine will on earth.

God is sovereign, but He is not independently deterministic.  Looking at God’s sovereignty in a fatalistic way, thinking “What will be will be,” absolutely destroys faithful prayer and faithful obedience of every sort.  That is not a “high” view of God’s sovereignty, but a destructive and unbiblical view of it.  That is not the divine sovereignty the Bible teaches.  It is not God’s will that people go to hell, or why would His only Son have taken the penalty of sin upon Himself so that men might escape hell?  “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Pt 3:9).  That sin exists on earth and causes such horrible consequences is not evidence of God’s will but of His patience in allowing more opportunity for men to turn to Him for salvation.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 383)

 

To pray Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven is to rebel against the worldly idea that sin is normal and inevitable and should therefore be acquiesced to or at least tolerated.  It is to rebel against the world system of ungodliness, the dishonoring and rejecting of Christ, and also the disobedience of believers.  Impotence in prayer leads us, however unwillingly, to strike a truce with wrong.  To accept what is, is to abandon a Christian view of God and His plan for redemptive history.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 384)

 

The great enemy of God’s will is pride.  Pride caused Satan to rebel against God, and pride causes unbelievers to reject God and believers to disobey Him.  For God’s will to be accepted and to be prayed for in sincerity and with faith, self-will must be forsaken in the power of the Holy Spirit.  “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom 12:1-2).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 386)

 

There are only two kinds of people in the end:  those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’  All that are in Hell, choose it.  Without that self-choice there could be no Hell.  No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it.  Those who seek find.  To those who knock it is opened (C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce: A Dream 66-7).  (David Robertson, Magnificent Obsession–Why Jesus Is Great, 182-3)

 

Prayer is surrender—surrender to the will of God and cooperation with that will. If I throw out a boathook from the boat and catch hold of the shore and pull, do I pull the shore to me, or do I pull myself to the shore? Prayer is not pulling God to my will, but the aligning of my will to the will of God. (E. Stanley Jones)  (R. Kent Hughes;  Liberating Ministry From The Success Syndrome, 73)

 

However, nobody will be excluded from heaven solely because he or she has never heard of the name of Jesus.  The reason people will be denied admittance, said author and speaker Cliffe Knechtle, is because all life long they have told God that they can live just fine without him.  On the judgment day God will say, “Based on your own decision to live life separately from me, you will spend eternity separate from me.”  That’s hell.  God will not violate our will.  If all life long we have said, “My will be done,” then on the day of judgment God will say to you, “your will be done for eternity.”  G.K. Chesterton put it this way: “Hell is God’s great compliment to the reality of human freedom and the dignity of human choice.” (Lee Stroble; God’s OUTrageous Claims, 194)

 

Prayer is not just a concoction of words said with our knees bent and our eyes closed.  We need more than bent knees and closed eyes.  We need open, broken, humble, dependent, thirsting, believing hearts, and above all we need an overwhelming concern that God’s will should be done.  The Scriptures are certainly crystal clear that there is no such thing as an automatic answer to words said in prayer.  (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 249)

 

Furthermore, praying “Your Kingdom come” involves a commitment to do God’s will.  Matthew’s record of the Lord’s Prayer expands this phrase:  “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (6:10).  To pray “Your kingdom come” is to pray for the bending of our wills in profound obedience to his.  It is a commitment to consciously submit everything to his authority.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Luke, Vol. One, 157)

 

The clause “Thy will be done, as in heaven so also on earth,” added in the Matthew 6 version of the model prayer, therefore only clarifies what it means to say, “Thy kingdom come.”  We have pointed out in earlier chapters that this does not mean “come into existence.”  The kingdom of God is from everlastingly earlier to everlastingly later.  It does not come into existence, nor does it cease.  But in human affairs other “kingdoms” may for a time be in power, and often are.  This second request asks for those kingdoms to be displaced, wherever they are, or brought under God’s rule.  (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 259-60)

 

At a meeting of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Bobby Richardson, former New York Yankee second baseman, offered a prayer that is a classic in brevity and poignancy: “Dear God, Your will, nothing more, nothing less, nothing else.  Amen.”

 

 

 

IV-  Jesus commands us to pray remembering who we truly are:  (1 Sm 2:3; Jn 1:12; Rom 8:17-25, 32; Gal 4:6; 1 Tm 6:17; 1 Jn 3:1)

 

Pascal’s paradox:  “Man is great insofar as he is wretched.”  If we see our problem in all its wretchedness, then we are in a position to receive grace.  (R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 150)

 

Prayer is the tangible expression of our dependence.  We may assent to the fact that we are dependent on Christ, but if our prayer life is meager or perfunctory, we thereby deny it.  We are in effect saying we can handle most of our spiritual life with our own self-discipline and our perceived innate goodness.  (Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace,  137)

 

The man who does not know the blackness of his own heart, but is simply concerned with his own theories, is a man who is not examining himself truly.  The greater the saint the greater is the sense of sin and the awareness of sin within.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 347)

 

The second part of the prayer, the part which deals with our needs and our necessities, is a marvelously wrought unity.  It deals with the three essential needs of man, and the three spheres of time within which man moves.  First, it asks for bread, for that which is necessary for the maintenance of life, and thereby brings the needs of the present to the throne of God.  Second, it asks for forgiveness and thereby brings the past into the presence of God.  Third, it asks for help in temptation and thereby commits all the future into the hands of God.  In these three brief petitions, we are taught to lay the present, the past, and the future before the footstool of the grace of God.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 199)

 

Man approaches God most nearly when he is in one sense least like God.  For what can be more unlike than fullness and need, sovereignty and humility, righteousness and penitence, limitless power and a cry for help?  This paradox staggered me when I first ran into it; it also wrecked all my previous attempts to write about love.  (C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves, 4)

 

“Let a man’s words before God always be few, as it is said, ‘Be not rash with your mouth, and let not your heart be hasty to utter a word before God; for God is in heaven, and you upon earth, therefore let your words be few’” (Eccl 5:2).  “The best adoration consists in keeping silence.”  It is easy to confound verbosity with piety, and fluency with devotion, and into that mistake many of the Jews fell.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 196)

 

A woman went to Andrew Murray with the problem of feeling she couldn’t pray.  He said, “Why then, do you not try this?  As you go to your inner chamber, however cold and dark your heart may be, do not try in your own might to force yourself into the right attitude.  Bow before Him, and tell Him that He sees in what a sad state you are, and that your only hope is in Him.  Trust Him, with a childlike trust, to have mercy upon you, and wait upon Him.  In such a trust you are in a right relationship to Him.  You have nothing—He has everything.”  The woman later told Murray that his advice had helped her.  She discovered that her trust in Christ’s love for her could help her pray, even when prayer did not come easily.  (Our Daily Bread, November 13).

 

The first law of prayer is this:  remember to whom we are speaking, and the second law of prayer is this:  remember who we are.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Romans, 394)

 

A-  In need of Bread  (present needs)  (Mt 6:11; Ex 16:1-26; Lk 11:3, 5-13; Ja 1:17)

 

Wouldn’t it be great if God always gave you what you would have asked for if you knew everything He knows?  We do have a God like that.  — Tim Keller

 

This petition tells us to live one day at a time.  It forbids the anxious worry which is so characteristic of the life which has not learned to trust God.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 218)

 

Luther had the wisdom to see that “bread” was a symbol for “everything necessary for the preservation of this life, like food, a healthy body, good weather, house, home, wife, children, good government and peace,” and probably we should add that by “bread” Jesus meant the necessities rather than the luxuries of life.  (John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 149)

 

It is a good thing for us at least once a day, but the oftener the better, to remind ourselves that our times, our health, and our very existence, are in His hands.  Our food and all these necessary things come from Him, and we depend upon His grace and mercy for them.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 346)

 

Bread not only represents food but is symbolic of all of our physical needs.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 388)

 

Every physical thing we have comes from God’s provision through the earth.  It is therefore the sin of indifference and ingratitude not to daily recognize His gifts in thankful prayer.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 389)

 

B-  In need of forgiveness (needs from the past)  (Mt 6:12; 5:7, 23-24; 18:21-35; Mk 11:25; Lk 11:4; Eph 4:32; Col 3:13; Jam 5:16; 1 Jn 1:8-9)

 

Is Jesus saying that an unforgiving person cannot be saved?  Yes, basically He is!  If someone cannot forgive others, Jesus says, it proves that he has never really experienced the true forgiveness of God in his own life.  Likewise, if one is really saved, he knows God’s forgiveness and cleansing in such a personal way that he cannot refuse to forgive others for their faults.  (Edward Hindson and James Borland, Matthew: The King is Coming, 72)

 

Though in the teaching not only of Paul (Rom 3:24; Eph 2:8; Ti 3:5) but certainly also of Christ (Mt 5:1-6; 18:27; Lk 18:13) salvation rests not on human accomplishments but solely on the grace and mercy of God, this does not mean that there is nothing to do for those who receive it.  They must believe.  Included in this faith is the eagerness to forgive.  Unless the listeners forgive men their trespasses, they themselves will remain unpardoned.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 339-40)

 

In verses 14 and 15 Jesus says in the plainest possible language that if we forgive others, God will forgive us; but if we refuse to forgive others, God will refuse to forgive us.  It is, therefore, quite clear that, if we pray this petition with an unhealed breach, an unsettled quarrel in our lives, we are asking God not to forgive us.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 222)

 

Some have taken this sentence to mean that God’s forgiveness of our sins is dependent on our forgiveness of others’ sins against us; however, the rest of Scripture shows us that no one can earn God’s forgiveness.  The meaning, therefore, focuses on the true repentance of a believer who understands the greatness of the forgiveness that he or she has received.  This believer willingly extends such forgiveness to others for their wrongs.  The flip side of this thought reveals the selfishness of a person who seeks God’s forgiveness yet willfully refuses to forgive others.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 116)

 

Once our eyes have been opened to see the enormity of our offence against God, the injuries which others have done to us appear by comparison extremely trifling.  If, on the other hand, we have an exaggerated view of the offences of others, it proves that we have minimized our own.  –John R. W. Stott

 

Forgiving others is not a meritorious work for earning salvation.  However, living in relationship with God requires constant repentance of the sins that plague us.  Because believers must come to God constantly for confession and forgiveness, refusing to forgive others reveals a lack of appreciation for the mercy received from God.  All people are on common ground as sinners in need of God’s forgiveness.  If we don’t forgive others, we are in fact denying and rejecting God’s forgiveness of us (see Eph 4:32; Col 3:13).  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 118)

 

True forgiveness breaks a man, and he must forgive.  So that when we offer this prayer for forgiveness we test ourselves in that way.  Our prayer is not genuine, it is not true, it is of no avail, unless we find there is forgiveness in our heart.  God give us grace to be honest with ourselves, and never to repeat these petitions in the Lord’s Prayer in a mechanical way.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 349)

 

None of us can comprehend exactly how prayer functions within the infinite mind and plan of God.  The Calvinistic view emphasizes God’s sovereignty, and in its extreme application holds that God will work according to His prefect will regardless of the way men pray or even whether they pray or not.  Prayer is nothing more than tuning in to God’s will.  At the opposite extreme, the Arminian view holds that God’s actions pertaining to us are determined largely on the basis of our prayers.  On the one hand, prayer is seen simply as a way of lining up with God regarding what He has already determined to do, and on the other it is beseeching God to do what He otherwise would not do.

Scripture supports both of those views and holds them, as it were, in tension.  The Bible is unequivocal about God’s absolute sovereignty.  But it is equally unequivocal in declaring that within His sovereignty God calls on His people to beseech Him in prayer–to implore His help in guidance, provision, protection, mercy, forgiveness, and countless other needs.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 361-2)

 

Forgiving others is of great benefit to the whole congregation of believers.  Probably few things have so short-circuited the power of the church as unresolved conflicts among its members.  “If I regard wickedness in my heart,” the psalmist warns himself and every believer, “the Lord will not hear” (Ps 66:18).  The Holy Spirit cannot work freely among those who carry grudges and harbor resentment (see Mt 5:23-24; 1 Cor 1:10-13; 3:1-9).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 394)

 

Thus confessing sin over the head of Jesus, until the heart has nothing more to confess but the sin of its confession–for, beloved reader, our very confession of sin needs to be confessed over, our very tears need to be wept over, and our very prayers need to be prayed over, so defaced with sin is all that we do–the soul, thus emptied and unburdened, is prepared to receive anew the seal of a Father’s forgiving love.  (Octavius Winslow, Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul, 31-2)

 

John Wesley was once approached by a man who was well known for his unbending nature.  In a particularly prideful moment, this man boasted to Wesley, “I never forgive.”  Wesley replied, “Then I hope, sir, you never sin.”  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 171)

 

The Puritan Thomas Watson said, “A man can as well go to hell for not forgiving as for not believing.”  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 171)

 

Real prayer is the breathing of God’s own Spirit in the heart; have you this?  It is communion and fellowship with God; know you what this is?  It is brokenness, contrition, confession, and that often springing from an overwhelming sense of his goodness and his love shed abroad in the heart; is this thy experience?  (Octavius Winslow, Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul, 95)

 

Unless you have forgiven others, you read your own death-warrant when you repeat the Lord’s Prayer. —Charles Spurgeon

 

C-  In need of Deliverance (future needs) (Mt 6:13; Rom 5:3-5; 2 Tm 4:18; Ja 1:2-4; 1 Jn 2:13)

 

It is God alone who knows how many tests of faith, and how severe, each saved sinner can endure, as he is constantly being assaulted by the devil (Eph 6:12; 1 Pt 5:8), the world (Jn 15:19), and his own “flesh” (that is, whatever in himself is not a fruit of redeeming grace, Rom 7:23; Gal 5:17).  Instead of going down to defeat in this struggle, may he remain watchful at all times, and in any event, may he triumph completely over the evil one (Rom 16:20; 1 Thes 5:23).  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 337)

 

If temptations helped shape the life and ministry of the perfect Christ, much more do they do so for us!  Temptation is necessary for the development of our moral character.  “Temptation is not so much the penalty of manhood as it is the glory of manhood.  It is that by which a man is made an athlete of God.”  That was the way it was for Martin Luther.  (R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 195)

 

To modern ears the word tempt is always a bad word; it always means to seek to seduce into evil.  But in the Bible the verb peirazein is often better translated by the word test than by the word tempt.  In its NT usage to tempt a person is not so much to seek to seduce him into sin, as it is to test his strength and his loyalty and his ability for service.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 224)

 

Here, then, is one of the great and precious truths about temptation.  Temptation is not designed to make us fall.  Temptation is designed to make us stronger and better men and women.  Temptation is not designed to make us sinners.  It is designed to make us good.  We may fail in the test, but we are not meant to.  We are meant to emerge stronger and finer.  In one sense temptation is not so much the penalty of being a man; it is the glory of being a man.  If metal is to be used in a great engineering project, it is tested at stresses and strains far beyond those which it is ever likely to have to bear.  So a man has to be tested before God can use him greatly in his service.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 225)

 

The Bible is not a speculative book, and it does not discuss the origin of that power of evil, but it knows that it is there.  Quite certainly this petition of the Lord’s Prayer should be translated not, “Deliver us from evil,” but, “Deliver us from the Evil One.”  The Bible does not think of evil as an abstract principle or force, but as an active, personal power in opposition to God.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 225)

 

In Hebrew the word Satan simply means an adversary.  It can often be used of men.  A man’s adversary is his Satan.  In the Authorized Version the Philistines are afraid that David may turn out to be their Satan (1 Sm 29:4); Solomon declares that God has given him such peace and prosperity that there is no Satan left to oppose him (1 Kgs 5:4); David regards Abishai as his Satan (2 Sm 19:22).  In all these cases Satan means an adversary or opponent.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 225)

 

The other name of Satan is the Devil; and Devil comes from the Greek word Diabolos, which is the regular word for a slanderer.  So Satan becomes the Devil, the slanderer par excellence, the adversary of man, the power who is out to frustrate the purposes of God and to ruin mankind.  Satan comes to stand for everything which is anti-man and anti-God.  It is from that ruining power that Jesus teaches us to pray to be delivered.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 226)

 

We know from 4:1 that God’s Spirit brought Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted.  So what is being asked here is rather, “Lord, don’t let us succumb to temptation,” or “don’t abandon us to temptation.”  Here we find a petition for utter dependence on God’s providence, protection, and power.  It is a prayer of a weak person to a strong God.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 171)

 

It ends quite abruptly and seemingly oddly, with the word “evil” or “evil one.”  This abrupt and seemingly odd ending was what likely prodded a scribe somewhere down the line to tack on a doxology, “For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.  Amen.”  It is a beautiful doxology, and the words are Biblical, for similar words are found in 1 Chr 29:11.  However, such words are not found in the earliest and most reliable Greek manuscripts of the NT.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 172)

 

The final petition of the Lord’s Prayer assumes that the children of God realize their weakness and vulnerability, and, therefore, seek the protection of God from evil.  (Sinclair Ferguson, The Sermon on the Mount, 131)

 

We are weak, but he is strong.  The Christian who does not know his weakness can, therefore, neither pray this prayer nor experience God’s strength.  The Christian who knows his weakness, but is a praying Christian, will be garrisoned by the Lord’s strength.  No wonder the ancient church added its own doxology to the Lord’s Prayer:

For yours is the kingdom

                and the power

                and the glory

                forever.

                Amen.  (Sinclair Ferguson, The Sermon on the Mount, 132-3)

 

CONCLUSION/APPLICATION: How should a knowledge, ascension to that knowledge and a conviction that Jesus’ teaching on prayer is true change our lives?:

 

To pray rightly is to pray in faith, believing that God will hear and answer our prayers.  I think the greatest hindrance to prayer is not lack of technique, lack of biblical knowledge, or even lack of enthusiasm for the Lord’s work, but lack of faith.  We simply do not pray with the expectation that our prayers will make a difference in our lives, in other people’s lives, in the church, or in the world.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 385)

 

  1. We should work and pray for the Kingdom of God to come here on earth as it is in heaven because the God of the Universe is our Father, Shepherd, and Lover. (Mt 19:29; Mk 10:29-30; 2 Cor 4:16-17; 8:8-9:15; Eph 1:3-2:10; 6:7; Heb 12:1-2; 2 Pt 3:13; Rv 2:26-27 )

 

This petition very wisely reminds us of how prayer works.  If a man prayed this prayer, and then sat back and waited for bread to fall into his hands, he would certainly starve.  It reminds us that prayer and work go hand in hand and that when we pray we must go on to work to make our prayers come true.  It is true that the living seed comes from God, but it is equally true that it is man’s task to grow and to cultivate that seed.  Dick Sheppard used to love a certain story.  There was a man who had an allotment; he had with great toil reclaimed a piece of ground, clearing away the stones, eradicating the rank growth of weeds, enriching and feeding the ground, until it produced the loveliest flowers and vegetables.  One evening he was showing a pious friend around his allotment.  The pious friend said, “It’s wonderful what God can do with a bit of ground like this, isn’t it?”  “Yes,” said the man who had put in such toil, “but you should have seen this bit of ground when God had it to himself!”  God’s bounty and man’s toil must combine.  Prayer, like faith, without works is dead.  When we pray this petition we are recognizing two basic truths–that without God we can do nothing, and that without our effort and cooperation God can do nothing for us.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 218-9)

 

We must not make this prayer as an abstract wish.  Without personal commitment, the prayer would mean, “Let someone else do your will, or just get it done miraculously.  I have other business today.”  When you make this prayer, you’re saying, “I’ll do it, Lord.  Lead me, guide me, and give me the shovel (or whatever I need) to get it done.”  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 115)

 

We need to realize that if we are praying that God’s will be done on earth, we are committing ourselves to two important responsibilities.  First of all, we are committing ourselves to learning all we can about his will.  That means sustained and humble study of the Scriptures.  (D. A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, 72)

 

That brings us to the second responsibility.  If my heart hunger is that God’s will be done, then praying this prayer is also my pledge that, so help me God, by his grace I will do his will, as much as I know it!  (D. A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, 72)

 

Our Heavenly Father does hear and answer prayers.  If you pray for something, you had better be ready to do it.  If you pray for missionary work to prosper, you better be helping.  Do not pray with vain repetition.  If you don’t mean it, don’t pray it.

 

Everything we do that’s worth doing; everything God wants to do in the church; everything God wants to do in your life; He has subjugated it all to one thing:  Prayer.  (David Jeremiah)

 

  1. We have hope that our Father in Heaven will reward us and allow us to be more than conquerors. (Mt 6:6; Rom 5:4-5; 8:17-25, 31, 37;15:4; 2 Cor 3:7-12; Eph 1:18; 3:20-21; 1 Thes 4:13; 1 Tm 1:1; 6:17; Ti 2:13; 3:17; Heb 6:18-19; 11:1; 1 Pt 1:3-9; 1 Jn 2:13; 3:3; 4:4-6)

 

Hope is the banner of the faithful.  (H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Isaiah, 175)

 

Faith, wherever it develops into hope, causes not rest but unrest. . . It does not calm the unquiet heart, but is itself this unquiet heart in man.  Those who hope in Christ can no longer put up with reality as it is, but begin to suffer under it, to contradict it.  Peace with God means conflict with the world. (Matt Redman; The Unquenchable Worshiper, 111-2)

 

Anxiety is the natural result when our hopes are centered on anything short of God and His will for us.  (Dr. Billy Graham)

 

So long as humanity is sufficient within herself, there is little hope.

 

A HOPELESS CHRISTIAN IS A CONTRADICTION IN TERMS.

 

God likes to see His people shut up to this, that there is no hope but in prayer.  Herein lies the Church’s power against the world.  (Jim Cymbala; Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, 29)

 

Without Jesus we face a hopeless end.  But with Jesus we have an endless hope.

 

Man’s way leads to a hopeless end!  God’s way leads to an endless hope!

 

Hope is the very stuff of life; it keeps the farmer on the tractor, the prisoner alive, the student at the books, and the patient watching for the morning.  Hope fills present sacrifices with joy and keep us at worthy tasks even though rewards are small and those who say “Thank you” are few.  This hope is not whistling in the dark nor is it activated only by spring flowers.  Rather it is grounded in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  (Fred Craddock)

 

The law by itself kills off any hope of rightness and righteousness through human ability and effort, but it kindles hope in God ever brighter as we walk in the law through Christ in us the hope of glory (Col 1:27).  (Dallas Willard; Renovation of the Heart, 214-5)

 

Theologian Robert Jenson has argued that in the West, the world has thus “lost its story;” we have lost the sense that the world is a “narratable reality.”  Without a meaningful origin, without a meaningful and purposive eschaton, history becomes a tale not tellable at all, not even by an idiot.  And where there is no origin and no eschaton, there can be no hope. ( Ken Myers, Mars Hill Audio Newsletter, July 2007)

 

When our prayer is as it should be, our Father who sees in secret will repay us. The most important secret He sees is not the words we say in the privacy of our room, but the thoughts we have in the privacy of our heart.  Those are the secrets about which He is supremely concerned, and about which only He can know with certainty (cf. 1 Cor 4:3-5).  Those secrets sometimes are hidden even from ourselves, because it is so easy to be deceived about our own motives.

When God is genuinely the audience of our prayer, we will have the reward only He can give.  Jesus gives no idea in this passage as to what God’s reward, or repayment, will be.  The important truth is that God will faithfully and unfailingly bless those who come to Him in sincerity.  Without question, the Lord will repay.  Those who pray insincerely and hypocritically will receive the world’s reward, and those who pray sincerely and humbly will receive God’s.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 367)

 

  1. There is absolutely no reason to fear or worry about anything but a healthy reverence of Almighty Father God. (Mt 6:25-34; 8:26; 10:19, 26-28, 31; 14:27; 17:7; 28:10; Mk 4:40; 5:36; 6:50; 13:11; Lk 1:12-13, 30, 74; 2:10; 5:10; 8:50; 12:4-5, 7, 11, 22, 26, 29, 32; 21:14; Jn 6:20; 14:27; Acts 18:9; 27:24; Rom 8:15; Phil 4:6; Heb 2:15; 13:6; 1 Pt 3:6, 14; 5:7; 1 Jn 4:18; Rv 1:17; 2:10)

 

It is impossible to lose your footing while on your knees.  (Sign on Superintendent Thomas Ramundo’s desk)

 

Do you know what Jesus’ most frequent or oft repeated prohibition in the Gospels was?   It wasn’t “Thou shalt not steal” or “Thou shalt not commit adultery”, or Thou shalt not kill”, it was “Do not be afraid!”  Why?  More than likely because we do not trust in the providence of God.

 

To be able to go to God as our heavenly Father first of all means the end of fear, the fear that pagans invariably had for their deities.  Second, knowledge of God’s fatherhood settles uncertainties and gives hope.  If an earthly father will spare no effort to help and protect his children, how much more will the heavenly Father love, protect, and help His children (Mt 7:11; Jn 10:29; 14:21)?  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 376)

 

Jesus says that the root of anxiety is inadequate faith in our Father’s future grace.  As unbelief gets the upper hand in our hearts, one of the effects is anxiety.  The root cause of anxiety is a failure to trust all that God has promised to be for us in Jesus.  (John Piper, Future Grace, 54)

 

Worship Point:  Worship Jesus who made access to our Father in Heaven possible so we might enjoy all the benefits of being co-heirs with Christ by our faith in Christ.  All true prayer is an act of worship.

 

To be acceptable to God, Jesus declared, prayers must be genuine expressions of worship and of heartfelt requests and petitions.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 368)

 

A.W. Pink’s mother taught him the following poem.  How well these few simple lines express the need for sincerity,

I often say my prayers,

But do I ever pray?

And do the wishes of my heart

Go with the words I say?

I may as well kneel down

And worship gods of stone,

As offer to the living God

A prayer of words alone.  (Leonard Ravenhill, Revival Praying, 49)

 

Gospel Application:  The Gospel or Good News that Jesus has drilled into our minds since He began teaching in Matthew 3:15 is that life with God is not maintained by your self-righteousness (for you have none) but solely by the work of Christ and His righteousness imputed to us by faith in Christ.  Remember this when you pray.

 

I must not rush into prayer; I must not start speaking at once without considering what I am doing.  I must not merely be led by some impulse and feeling.  There are certain things I must always bear in mind.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 326)

 

Dear Mr. Torrey:

I am in great perplexity.  I have been praying for a long time for something that I am confident is according to God’s will, but I do not get it.  I have been a member of the Presbyterian Church for 30 years, and have tried to be a consistent one all that time.  I have been Superintendent in the Sunday School for 25 years, and an elder in the church for 20 years; and yet God does not answer my prayer and I cannot understand it.  Can you explain it to me?

Torrey read the note from the platform and replied, “It is very easy to explain it.  This man thinks that because he has been a consistent church member for 30 years, a faithful Sunday School Superintendent for 25 years, and an elder in the church for 20 years, that God is under obligation to answer his prayer.  He is really praying in his own name, and God will not hear our prayers when we approach him in that way.”  (James Montgomery Boice, An Expositional Commentary: Romans, Vol. 3, 1462-3)

 

Spiritual Challenge:  Pray to God.  Think about Who God truly is and about who you truly are.  Then bask in the miracle and the divine privilege we are afforded by the work of Christ to be able to enter into the presence of Almighty God in our prayers to God.

 

You will find that the outstanding characteristic of all the most saintly people the world has ever known has been that they have not only spent much time in private prayer, but have also delighted in it.  We cannot read the life of any saint without finding that that has been true of him.  The more saintly the person, the more time such a person spends in conversation with God.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 322-3)

 

What is prayer?  It is the communion of the spiritual life in the soul of man with its Divine Author; it is a breathing back the Divine life into the bosom of God from whence it came; it is holy, spiritual, humble converse with God.  That was a beautiful remark of a converted heathen,–“I open my Bible, and God talks with me; I close my Bible, and then I talk with God.”  (Octavius Winslow, Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul, 90)

 

The self-sufficient do not pray, the self-satisfied will not pray, the self-righteous cannot pray.  No man is greater than his prayer life.  (Leonard Ravenhill)

 

Great saints, for instance, have always spent much time in prayer and in the presence of God.  Therefore we tend to think that the way to be a saint is to spend much time in prayer and in the presence of God.  But the important point about the great saint is not that he spent much time in prayer.  He did not keep his eye on the clock.  He knew he was in the presence of God, he entered into eternity as it were.  Prayer was his life, he could not live without it.  He was not concerned about remembering the length of time.  The moment we begin to do that, it becomes mechanical and we have ruined everything.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 306)

 

The one thing that is important when we pray anywhere is that we must realize we are approaching God.  That is the one thing that matters.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 307)

 

 

Those who have the occasion to visit Hawaii learn a new word, if they do not already know it.  The word is haoli, the word Hawaiians use for those from the mainland.  Though often used without any malice, it can be used with withering disdain.  Alice Kaholuoluna gives us the derivation of the term: “Before the missionaries came, my people used to sit outside their temples for a long time meditating and preparing themselves before entering.  Then they would virtually creep to the altar to offer their petition and afterwards would again sit a long time outside, this time to “breathe life” into their prayers.  The Christians, when they came, just got up, uttered a few sentences, said Amen and were done.  For that reason my people call them haolis, “without breath,” or those who fail to breathe life into their prayers.”

In its original sense haoli was a term of biting religious reproach.  Just how deserved it was is subject to question because missionaries often get a bum rap from their would-be converts and from unsympathetic historians.  However that may be, haoli well describes the condition of multitudes of today’s Christians who live life in the fast lane–dashing into God’s presence, uttering some empty conventionalities, pausing to make a few requests (unless they are really in trouble!), then stepping back into the rush.  This problem is extensive, undoubtedly one of the great sins of modern Christianity.  We are spiritual haolis if we do not take time to breathe life into our prayers.  (R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 161)

 

Quotes to Note:

Keep praying, but be thankful that God’s answers are wiser than your prayers!  (William Culbertson)

 

When people do not mind what God speaks to them in His Word, God doth as little mind what they say to Him in prayer.  (William Gurnall)

 

Both our Lord and His bondslave Paul made clear that true prayer is not dreamy reverie.  “All vital praying makes a drain on a man’s vitality.  True intercession is a sacrifice, a bleeding sacrifice,” wrote J. H. Jowett.  Jesus performed miracles without a sign of outward strain, but “he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears” (Heb 5:7).  (J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership, 87)

 

It must be admitted that the A.V. conclusion reflects the spirit of both the OT (1 Chr 29:11; Neh 9:5; the conclusions of Pss 145-150) and the New (Jn 8:50; 17:4; 1 Cor 10:31; 2 Tm 4:18; Rv 1:6; 4:11; 5:12, 13; 19:1 ff.).  It would be difficult, indeed, to frame or devise a more fitting close.  Is it not entirely appropriate that we, the supplicants, having concluded our humble petitions, as it were turn our eyes upward again (as in the beginning of the prayer) in adoration, and concentrate heart and mind on God’s majesty and love, which constitute the basis of our confidence that the prayer will be heard?  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 338)

 

Many of the most striking and fervent prayers recorded in Scripture are brief and pithy; such as that of:  Moses (Ex 32:31, 32), Solomon (for an understanding heart, 1 Kgs 3:6-9), Elijah (1 Kgs 18:36, 37), Hezekiah (2 Kgs 19;14-19), Jabez (1 Chr 4:10), Agur (Prv 30:7-9), the publican (Lk 18:13), the dying thief (Lk 23:42), Stephen (Acts 7:60), and Paul (for the Ephesians, Eph 3:14-19).  To this class belong also the many sentence prayers or ejaculations of Nehemiah (Neh 4:4, 5; 5:19; 6:9; 13:14, 29, 31).  Christ’s high priestly or intercessory prayer, too, can hardly be called lengthy (John 17), and the Lord’s Prayer, which he taught his disciples to pray, is certainly marked by brevity (Mt 6:9-13; Lk 11:2-4).  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 324)

 

“Prayer is a disciplined dedication to paying attention.  Without the single-minded attentiveness of prayer we rarely hear anything worth repeating or catch a vision worth asking anyone else to gaze upon…..We are called to work and pray.  But if we don’t pray, if we don’t pay close attention to God, our work becomes drudgery rather than vocation, meaningless rounds of activities rather than meaningful human life…..Prayer is at the heart of the Christian life.  Prayer is communion with God, a personal response to God’s presence.”  (John H. Westerhoff III and John D. Eusden, quoted in A Guide to Retreat For All God’s Shepherds by Rueben P. Job)

 

We’re told that if we want to have a stronger marriage, we should improve our prayer lives.  But Peter tells us that we should improve our marriages so that we can improve our prayer lives.  Instead of prayer being the “tool” that will refine my marriage, Peter tells me that marriage is the tool that will refine my prayers!  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 76)

 

Prayer is usually recommended as the panacea for all ills and the key to open every prison door, and it would indeed be difficult to overstate the advantages and privilege of Spirit-inspired prayer.  But we must not forget that unless we are wise and watchful prayer itself may become a source of self-deception.  There are as many kinds of prayer as there are problems and some kinds are not acceptable to God.  The prophets of the OT denounced Israel for trying to hide their iniquities behind their prayers.  Christ flatly rejected the prayers of hypocrites and James declared that some religious persons ask and receive not because they ask amiss.  (A.W. Tozer, Man: The Dwelling Place of God, 89-90)

 

A man is absent from church Sunday morning.  Where is he?  If he is in a hospital having his appendix removed his absence tells us nothing about him except that he is ill; but if he is out on the golf course, that tells us a lot.  To go to the hospital is compulsory; to go to the golf course, voluntary.  The man is free to choose and he chooses to play instead of to pray.  His choice reveals what kind of man he is.  Choices always do.  (A.W. Tozer, Man: The Dwelling Place of God, 158-9)

 

 

Christ:

Our Access

to the

Father

 

 

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