Matthew 6:5-15: Prayer That Works

Read: Matthew 6:5-15

Jesus warning here concerning prayer stands in contrast to the sort of prayers that the Pharisees and Gentiles had. The Pharisees in their prayers would stand in the streets and wax eloquently using big words to make an elaborate show of things. They would often use prayer to in many ways to exalt themselves as Jesus notes in Luke 18:10-14. The Gentiles that Jesus to refers to are probably the Romans, who their own prayers focused not on content, rather on the precision of the words of which they were saying. They believed that the efficacy of prayer was tied to how precise the prayers were according to a strict formula. If they didn’t get the results they wanted, they would do it again and again. This vain repetition was of no value.

Jesus on the other hand teaches his disciples how and what to pray. He encourages them not to do as the Pharisees or the Gentiles, rather go into a room and pray in private, focusing on a number of things. Jesus’ prayer has many parallels to Isaiah 63:15-64:12. They acknowledge that God is “Father”, is in heaven, and is one who is holy and concerned about the name of God. Jesus expounds on the motif God as a father, teaching that God is a good father that wants to provide good things to those who ask. James 4:1-3, however, adds commentary to why sometimes God doesn’t give good things because so many times one “asks and does not receive” which stands in contrast to what Jesus said: “ask and it shall be given unto you”. It short, people don’t receive because of their own selfish desires and sin in their lives. Jesus does teach the disciples to pray for daily provision and the things in this world, but so much more of the model prayer is concerned with God’s position in heaven, his holy name, his will being done, forgiveness of sin, and deliverance from temptation and evil. When one seeks to pray according to the will and ways of God, it is in this manner that God can and will bless his people.

So often, the prayers of Christians are not much more than trite platitudes that Jesus warns against even to the point where people the model prayer from rote memory. The prayer itself is not the problem, rather the attitude of prayer is that is the problem. God wants his people to pray, but do so in the right manner and for the right reasons. To do so, one needs to be mindful of who God is: a father that is all loving but also holy and zealous for his name to be honored by the way one lives. When one honestly and humbly seeks God for mercy and his will, God will reward this prayer according to his will and great things can happen!

Lord, teach me to pray in way that honors and glorifies you!