3.2 The Gift of Prayer

Welcome to the second part of the 3rd course of Red Bricks

Read Matthew 6:5-15

This is quite a long passage which begins with Yeshua’s (Jesus) continued teaching against the way that the Pharisees had been teaching people how to worship God, before describing good practice for praying to God. The second part of the passage is often referred to as the Lord’s Prayer. That description or title is inaccurate really. This is Yeshua teaching us how to pray, and not what He would have prayed Himself. If you want a good example of Yeshua praying Himself, then take a good, slow read of John chapter 17, when He prays for His disciples, Himself, and all other believers to come.

The Pharisees, the inventors of what was known as the Oral Tradition (extra rules added to God’s Law), liked to have rules and rituals for all aspects of worshiping God. It is clear that God didn’t like their teachings because it focused upon a ritualistic and legalistic approach. Yeshua’s teaching challenged their way of doing things, and showed the everyday people that it is all about a personal relationship with God. God despises ritual that doesn’t enhance a personal relationship with Him. The Pharisees taught that you should stand up in view of all when you pray. Their rules said it was in order to set an example to others, but in truth, it was to satisfy their inner need for recognition of being spiritual by other people.

Just like when He taught on doing charitable acts in secret, Yeshua here teaches that when we pray, we should do it in secret also. The reward that the Pharisees hoped for in the recognition of other men, is all that they were going to receive. In other words, if you pray in public in order to be noticed in public, then don’t expect God to answer, or even respond to your prayers.

The New Testament was originally written in Hebrew before being translated into Greek, and in the text, where we see the word pray in English, it is transliterated from the Greek word proseuchomai. This word is made up of two words which have been joined together in order for us to be able to grasp the true meaning of prayer. The first word is pros – which means to draw close to or alongside. The second is euchomai – which means to wish. So, the true meaning of pray is not what we understand today – something like a ritual, but rather shows it to be about a relationship in which we can draw close to God and tell Him the wishes or desires of our hearts.

Here, in this passage, the word for pray is proseuchomai, which empathizes this relationship. There are other words in Greek for pray. One example can be found later on in Matthew when Y’shua tells us that we should pray to God for workers for the harvest. On that occasion, the word we read as pray, means to petition God (Matthew 9:38).

Yeshua followed His own example when it came to prayer. Frequently, He withdrew to lonely places with the purpose of speaking to God. This is prayer. Talking to God about anything and everything is to pray. He delights to hear from us. Yeshua encourages us to do this away from other people’s eyes in order for the time with God to be special. God always looks for quality and not quantity when it comes to our prayers. We don’t need to use many words or big words. Just honest words. Sometimes, our spirit will pray for us when we have no words, as the Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 8:26.

Yeshua tells us not to babble to God. Our many words don’t make a difference, for He already knows everything about us, our every need is already on His heart. He is just waiting for us to ask Him for them. He loves to hear our voice speaking to Him.

In verse 9, Yeshua then gives us some guidelines for how we should pray. Many people use these words exactly. That is fine, providing your heart is in the words. Anyone brought up in the English speaking world will probably know the so-called Lord’s Prayer off by heart. Sometimes it is good to rethink it, in order to rediscover the true meaning of what Yeshua teaches us. Here is how one translation of the Bible has rendered the passage. I like it because it makes you think differently:

“You, therefore, pray like this:

Our Father in heaven!
May your Name be kept holy.
May your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven.

Give us the food we need today.
Forgive us what we have done wrong, as we too have forgiven those who have wronged us.
And do not lead us into hard testing, but keep us safe from the Evil One.
For kingship, power and glory are yours forever.

Amen.” [Mattityahu (Matthew) 6:9-13 Complete Jewish Bible]

Different isn’t it? And yet it manages to convey beautifully what Yeshua was talking about. Let’s break the prayer down into something practical.

Yeshua has already told us to find somewhere private to pray. I am fortunate to have a room where I can go and close the door and be alone with God. But this closeness with God that the word pray points us to, can easily be achieved anywhere you can be uninterrupted. I often walk alone on the beach, or what I refer to as my mountain (this is Norfolk, when I say mountain, I mean very small hill). God can hear us, even when we pray silently in our heads, because His Holy Spirit lives within us.

Start by remembering that He is in heaven. This unseen world is all around us. We have no real understanding of it because we process everything through our senses. Our known senses are limited and cannot detect heaven. It is a spiritual realm which we can’t see. But, just because it is invisible, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. It is. And God reigns supremely there.

Acknowledge that He is holy and so too is His Name. In this world of impurity, God is holy and He calls us to share in His holiness. We can’t achieve this ourselves. Only God’s grace given to us through Yeshua can cause God to look upon us as holy. But, because He is holy, we should approach Him with humility.

When we pray your kingdom come and your will be done, we are effectively entering into a verbal contract with God that says we are prepared to be His subjects in His kingdom – to follow His commands. And by saying that we welcome His will in our lives , we are saying that we will accept whatever comes our way that day. Good or bad. Once we have said that we trust His will for our lives, we must back that up with accepting whatever shape that might take and surrendering to it. Too many Christians miss this and fight against circumstances that are often a way of God helping us to trust fully in Him.

To pray is to enter into a conversation with God, who is spirit. It should follow then, that what we ask of Him is for our spiritual well-being. When we ask Him to feed us bread this day, we are really asking Him to feed us spiritually, not physically. Later on in Matthew chapter 6, we learn the secret of this, but for now, practice asking God only for what you need spiritually. He promises to look after all of us, but if we seek the spiritual, the rest will be satisfied also. This is not the time to ask Him for things that will only satisfy a fleshy desire. In fact, there is never a time for that.

Then follows the most important part of our prayers – forgiveness. Our forgiveness is achieved by Yeshua’s life being taken on the cross. If we ask God to forgive us, He will do it because of Yeshua. Not because of anything we have done, but only because of Yeshua. If we ask for forgiveness as part of our repentance for the things we have done wrong before God and to others, then we are forgiven. That gives us the clean slate we need. However, if we fail to forgive others, that in itself is wrong. It will deeply affect our prayer life. Sometimes forgiveness is very difficult, but God’s will for all of us is to be made more like His Son (see Romans 8:29), who forgave freely. If you are having trouble forgiving someone who has hurt you, bring it to God. He will show you the way. In order to point out the importance of forgiveness, Yeshua continues to talk about it, after He has taught us how to pray, at the end of the passage.

We can also ask God not to lead us into hard testing. If we follow God’s will for our lives, we will experience testing. It is how He refines us. However, we can ask Him not to be too severe, or allow us to fall into the hands of the devil.

Y’shua teaches us to finish our conversations with God by glorifying Him. The sole purpose for us being put of the earth, is to glorify God. By doing so we accept and acknowledge before Him that we can’t do any of this without Him. The glory, the power, and everything else all belong to Him. It is as much to remind ourselves that we know where we stand, as acknowledging it before God.

To pray is to come close to God. My own experience is one that teaches me that there is always something more to learn about praying. Whatever God has called you to do or to be, none of it will ever happen without you learning to enjoy His presence in your quiet times alone with Him. Get into the habit of starting each day with Him. Get up early in order to have the house to yourself. What God sees in secret, He always rewards.

He loves you, and longs to hear from you, every day.