Sunday, March 13, 2016

How To Pray - according to Jesus

It may be that even those of us who wouldn’t consider ourselves committed Christians pray from time to time, perhaps when facing some difficulty or in a crisis.

According to the Gospels, Jesus’ disciples asked him to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1). The Revd Jon Hobbs helped us to consider some of that teaching of Jesus on prayer at our recent Churches Away Day. Jon argued that the Bible presents prayer as talking to God as our loving heavenly Father. Jesus encourages us to come to God as needy children, believing that our Father delights to hear our requests.

Jon went on to suggest nine lessons about how to pray from Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6:5-18:

Jesus taught his disciples to:

(1) Pray sincerely (vv5-7). Jesus warned against praying like a religious hypocrite wanting to be seen by other people so as to impress them. We need not and cannot put on an act with God.

(2) Pray privately (v6). This is an antidote to the hypocrisy just mentioned. Our unseen Father sees what we do in secret. He knows our hearts. Praying with others can be good and helpful, but praying on our own is a way of keeping it real and helping us to focus on God, rather than on what other people might think of us.  

(3) Pray regularly (v6). Jesus doesn’t say “if you pray” but “when you pray”. He assumes it will be his disciples’ regular habit, and not just reserved for times when all else has failed. We should make prayer our first resort, not our last resort. Indeed, in the Lord’s Prayer Jesus encourages us to ask for our “daily bread” (v11), presumably something which we ought to seek from God each and every day.  

(4) Pray simply (vv7-8). Jesus tells us that we should not “keep on babbling like the pagans” who “think that they will be heard because of their many words”. We shouldn’t be trying to impress God with the eloquence or length of our prayers. Our Father isn’t marking our performance.  

(5) Pray reverently (vv9-10). Remember who God is: our Father in heaven. We pray for his holy name to be honoured, that he might receive the respect that is due to him.

(6) Pray boldly (vv11-13). Jesus encourages us to pray big prayers, prayers concerned with God’s kingdom and his will being done on earth as it is in heaven. We should ask too for all that we need, including both our material and spiritual needs, knowing that God loves to give us good gifts.

(7) Pray repentantly (vv14-15). If we are unwilling to forgive others then it might be that we are not able to receive God’s forgiveness. Our prayers should include saying sorry to God and asking for his help to live in a way that pleases him.

(8) Pray earnestly (v16). Jesus seems to assume that his followers will fast. That is one sign of seriousness. We need God more than we need our next meal.

(9) Pray believingly. An attitude of trust in God’s fatherly love pervades Jesus’ teaching. We pray in Jesus’ name, depending on him and his saving death for us. Jesus has won us forgiveness and access into our Father’s presence. Indeed, Jesus lives and reigns in heaven interceding for us. We might say that our prayer depends on Jesus’ prayer for us. He is the one who is able to bring us to God and restore us to right relationship with him.  

You can listen to Jon’s 3 talks at:

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