Matthew 6 v 9 – 13 Introduction
The Westminster Shorter Catechism says this about prayer – “The whole word of God is of use to direct us in prayer, but the special rule of direction is that form of prayer which Christ taught His disciples, commonly called the Lord’s Prayer.”
For 2000 years the words of the Lord Jesus Christ in this instruction to the 12 disciples has been loved and valued by believers in the Lord.
Some Church assemblies see fit to corporately recite the words of this prayer recorded in verses 9 – 13 of Matthew chapter 6. Almost at every service they say the words that Jesus taught – namely
Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
Like everything in Scripture this portion of God’s word is PERFECT. It is a statement by the Living Lord Jesus Christ Himself about prayer.
For us here at Whiddon Valley, we have recently completed our studies in the Letter to the Ephesians in which, towards the end, we were challenged to consider aspects of prayer. We were exhorted to put on the whole armour of God with prayer – Ephesians 6 v 17
And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: 18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
Praying with all prayer and supplication – important words for the believer.
Then on Tuesday evenings we have been in Matthew’s Gospel Chapter 18. There we were reminded of the whole Assembly of God’s people gathering together for prayer in verses 19 and 20
Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
Prayer is one of the hardest exercises of the human soul. Prayer needs discipline. Prayer needs thought and perseverance. Prayer needs diligence and sincerity. And I have never ever met a single believer who can truthfully say that he finds prayer easy. In fact if we are honest, if we were to be examined concerning our prayer lives we would all end up with fail marks, or perhaps referrals – which means we have to sit the exam again to see if we can do any better!
Are you satisfied with your prayer life my friend? Would it not be true for all of us that we are in desperate need of help in the prayer department of our Christian lives? If that is the case then we can come afresh to our Lord’s instruction on prayer and be taught again – how to pray.
This perfect prayer in Matthew 6 is what is called a PATTERN prayer.
What does this mean? Was it merely spoken by the Lord for our repetition day by day or week by week?
It appears that this is not the meaning of Pattern.
Rather it means that we should let the Lord’s Prayer be the RULE and the MODEL according to which we construct OUR prayers.
Look at the Lord’s words in Matthew 6. He doesn’t tell us to “Pray these words”; rather He says, “After this MANNER you pray.” Use this prayer as a Pattern for all of your other prayers - but do not use it as a substitute, is what the Lord really means. Therefore a careful study over several weeks will reward us greatly and by the end of this series of sermons, I trust and long that we all might be better PRAY – ERS.
INTRODUCTION TO THE LORD’S PRAYER
The introduction to the Lord’s Prayer is in these words then “After this manner pray ye.”
It is essential that we put the Lord’s prayer into the context of the whole passage in Matthew 6.
The Lord Jesus Christ is teaching in this Sermon on the Mount important lessons in Christian living.
Because the Lord Jesus Christ knew our sinful hearts he is quick to warn us about the danger of HYPOCRISY in giving and praying. Look how He sounds the warning
v 2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
v 5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
What is hypocrisy? Hypocrisy is the sin of using religion to cover up other sin. A hypocrite is not someone who falls short of his high standards, nor who occasionally sins - actually all of us experience these failures.
A HYPOCRITE DELIBERATELY uses religion to cover up his own sins and to promote his own gains. The Greek word translated Hypocrite originally meant “an actor who wears a mask.”
Starting then at the so-called righteousness of the Pharisees Jesus exposes their insincerity and dishonesty. They were in the habit of practising their religion in order to be noticed by other people and be applauded by them - but they did not do it for the reward which comes from God. We know that true righteousness must come from within - from the seat of the soul which has been transformed by the Holy Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ. We therefore should test ourselves to see whether we are sincere and honest in our Christian commitment.
1. Our Giving. v 1 - 4.
We should be aware that this word “alms” in our Bible does not only mean money which we give to the church, to charity or to others in need. The whole concept of almsgiving is any act of righteousness, of good works, a labour of service which costs us something to do it. When we help someone in any way we should query our motives. Are we helping that person in order to gain a favour from them in the future? Did we do it to gain a reputation similar to the one which Tabitha had, a woman “full of good works”? We can notice that that testimony was made of her AFTER she had died! Did we do it to be noticed by people around that we are quite a good sort of person? Did we do it in order to gain praise from our brothers and sisters and even the world around? Are we working for an OBE? Or are we doing these things to please our Lord Jesus?
Giving alms (good works for the poor) praying and fasting were important disciplines in the religion of the Pharisees. As soon as we mention Pharisees a great big negative sign comes to the front of our minds - Pharisees equals not good; therefore anything a Pharisee does, we should not do. But that is not strictly true - Jesus did not actual condemn the Pharisees for these their practices - but he did caution his listeners, and therefore us, that our hearts should be RIGHT as we practise them. It was one thing to try to do good works in order to win God’s favour and quite another to do them in order just to please him. They used their righteous gifts of money, time and energy to gain favour from God and men, supposing they could do so - both were wrong motives.
No amount of giving can purchase salvation - because salvation is the gift of God as Paul says in Ephesians 2 v 8
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
And to give for the praise of man is a waste of time - because the glory of man does not last. 1 Peter 1 v 24 says
For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:
It is the praise and glory of God that really counts. I was shocked to hear a Muslim remarking that Islam believes that the more you give the better off you are with God. You can obtain great favour with Allah by giving generously. But that is a religion of works. Then again we have known our history in the dreadful things done in the name of Christianity by the Roman Catholic church - selling indulgences, encouraging large gifts to the church promising great rewards for donors. But if our motive is to serve God, love Him and serve Him, and not to get the praise of men then we will give of ourselves, our time our money and our resources without calling attention to them. This is the lesson from the first four verses. The glorious thing is that if we have the right motives then we end up growing spiritually through it; God will be glorified and others will be helped. On the other hand if we give with the wrong motive then we rob ourselves of blessing and reward, and rob God of glory.
But now the Lord Jesus brings into His teaching this area of Prayer.
2. Our Praying Generally. v 5 - 15.
It has been suggested that from this passage the Lord Jesus Christ gave us four instructions to guide us in our praying -
1. We must pray in secret before we pray in public. v 6
It is not wrong to pray in public at the prayer meeting, nor to give thanks publicly for our food or even to seek God’s help. There are Biblical texts which can justify all these three. BUT it is wrong to pray in public if we are not in the habit of praying in private. This would be another example of hypocrisy. Many godly men in the Bible prayed in private - Elijah, Daniel and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
2. We must pray sincerely. V 7 - 8.
Is the practice of praying in our Prayer Meeting week by week for the same things, vain repetition? No it is not. The Lord Jesus Christ in the garden of Gethsemane repeated His requests before the Father Matthew 26 v 36 - 44
36 Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. 37 And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. 38 Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. 39 And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. 40 And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. 42 He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done. 43 And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy. 44 And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.
And the Apostle Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 12 v 8 that he prayed three times for the thorn in the flesh to be removed.
What is vain repetition then? It is when a request becomes a babbling of words without a sincere heart desire to seek and to do God’s will. The mere reciting of memorised prayers can be vain repetition. Pagan religions and even Roman Catholicism with its Hail Mary’s are vain repetitions, and God never answers them nor is pleased with them.
3. We must pray in God’s will. v 9 - 13.
The Disciples’ Prayer is a better name for the verses here designated usually as the Lord’s Prayer. The Lord Jesus Christ gave us this prayer to prevent us from using vain repetitions, as a pattern. He did not, as some ministers like to say when they lead us in prayer, “as Our Lord taught us to pray in these words”. This is wholly inaccurate, and the reason why we do not recite the Lord’s Prayer here in our services. Let us be really careful in our prayers.
4. We must pray having a forgiving spirit towards others. v 14 - 15.
Now a question - is the Lord Jesus Christ really suggesting here that we as believers can actually earn God’s forgiveness by forgiving others? Not at all (our forgiveness comes through God’s free grace and mercy doesn’t it!) No - what the Lord means here is that if we have been truly forgiven all of our sins then we will have a readiness to forgive others when they sin against us. As was mentioned last Tuesday there is no such phrase in the Christian vocabulary, as “I can never forgive him what he has done to me.”
Prayer involves glorifying God’s Name and the hastening of His Kingdom, longing for His will to be done on earth. Someone has said, “The important thing about prayer is not simply getting an answer, but being the kind of person whom God can trust with an answer.” And a quote from Mr Spurgeon “Very sweet it is to pass by other men’s offences against ourselves; for thus we learn how sweet it is to the Lord to pardon us.”
How do we overcome Hypocrisy?
1. First we need to be honest with God in our secret life. We must always pray from the heart.
2. Secondly we must always have the desire to please God and Him alone no matter what others may say or do. The most important part of our lives as Christians is the part that God alone sees. When reputation has become more important to us than character - then we have become hypocrites.
3. Thirdly we need to pray for each other and ask the Lord for humility in everything we do - at home, in society, in Church - and wherever we are. God resisteth the proud but gives grace to the humble. Now a quote from my favourite missionary’s wife.
Mrs Judson wrote about the first convert in Burma. She said,
“A few days ago I was reading with him Christ’s sermon on the mount. He was deeply impressed and unusually solemn. ‘These words,’ he said, ‘take hold of my heart. They make me tremble. Here God commands us to do everything that is good in secret so as not to be seen of men. How unlike our religion this is! When Burmans make offerings at the Pagodas, they make a great noise with drums and musical instruments, that others may see how good they are; but this religion makes the mind fear God; it makes it, of its own accord, fear sin.’”
This passage then in Matthew 6, the Sermon on the Mount, has the capacity and potential to make our minds and hearts fear God in the right sense of the phrase. We need to learn how to pray because it makes us fear sin.
Is the reason for looseness and immorality amongst professing believers an absence of prayer?
Is the reason for a lack of power in Gospel work of every kind an absence of prayer?
Is the reason for our reluctance to be involved in the work of the church, be regular at the means of grace, an absence of prayer?
Is the reason for this so-called “day of small things” in our land an absence of prayer?
Is the reason for professing Christians who backslide into worldliness an absence of prayer?
Is the reason for a departure from Godly and reverent worship and a serious appreciation for God and His word an absence of prayer?
I suggest to you my friends that the answer to all of these questions is YES. We do not pray enough – in private or in public.
And we all need help! We need a form and an order for our prayers which is illustrated by the Lord’s Prayer. This wonderful prayer is not a haphazard stringing together of words or phrases that have no sense or meaning.
The prayer begins with the GLORY OF GOD. Every prayer should start like this. It extends to the KINGDOM OF GOD and the WILL OF GOD. Everything in life should start with God Himself.
Then we descend to our needs, our sins and our problems. We have basic physical needs, and bread is the example of this. We need forgiveness for our sins, and we need help to forgive others. We need protection and deliverance from the evil one and his tricks and temptations.
Finally we come back to the kingdom, power and glory of God, which is where we started – God first, ourselves second and God last. This prayer envelops us mortal beings with the spiritual power and grace of God.
There is orderliness and method in this praying and we need to learn how to do it. It is a Biblical practice and a Biblical thing to do.
Each one of us as believers must stir up the gift of prayer within us. Let us not paddle about in the shallows of mediocre prayer life – but begin and endeavour to become better and stronger in prayer every day. The Lord Jesus Christ has given us this prayer – with His mouth He spoke the words of it that day on the mountainside.
But more than this he has sent His Holy Spirit, who in Romans 8 is called the Spirit of prayer –
26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
After this manner therefore pray ye.
The Lord then has instructed the disciples in GENERAL PRAYING. But now He comes to instruct them on
3. Praying Specifically.
And this is the Teaching of the Lord’s Prayer – or should it be called “The Disciple’s prayer?” Certainly it is the prayer that the Lord taught as a pattern. But who is it that prays the prayer? Disciples – Christians – those who are born from above and are the children of God – who address Him as their Father, who hallow His Name – who believe in His Kingdom and by grace desire that His will be done; who desire that they would have the power and grace to fit into that will – here on earth while they live and in heaven throughout eternity!
Disciples are those who recognise their dependence on their Heavenly Father for their sustenance (not just bread) and their total submission to Him recognising their need of forgiveness from Him. He provides the power for them to forgive others, to deal with temptation and resist the devil – so in prayer they ask Him for these things. And it is true disciples who can acknowledge the glory and power of His Kingdom of which, by grace, they are members.
The Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 6 teaches us that we are to pray with reverence – never approaching God in a flippant way either in public or in private prayer. This will take some effort as we think seriously about how we address God, the creator.
We are to pray with humility. There is no place for human pride or self-projection when we come to God in prayer – to come proudly would be to blaspheme His name – as the Pharisee did in Luke 18.
We are to pray with seriousness recognising the need of the hour. We come with respect for Almighty God not speaking to Him as a mate or a chum, but as the Creator God who has almighty power and the ability to strike us down at a moment, should He so desire. We are thankful that he has not stuck us down when we have deserved His anger. Rather His Fatherly love, kindness and grace has put up with us.
We are to come in confidence TOWARDS Him – not cowed or timid, but boldly to the throne of grace – simply because he is our Father who has invited us!
We are to come with concern for His glory, not our own. John the Baptist said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” He spoke of the Lord Jesus Christ – He spoke of the One who was to be His saviour – the One whom he recognised as His Lord and the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world. We too must be zealous to see our Lord God glorified – made much of – concentrated on and uplifted before men.
These and other things are taught by the Lord in the Disciple’s prayer. May we all learn how to pray. May we be so familiar with this Pattern prayer that we may be enabled to truly pray with all supplication and earnestness using the pattern to help us.