By Kevin Dye
Jesus had much to say concerning the power of prayer and the importance of praying in what we refer to as the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s gospel account. Do we use the blessed privilege of prayer as we should in our daily lives? Do we allow God’s power to work in and through us by laboring in prayer each day?
Jesus begins in Matthew 6:5-15 by teaching us how to pray. He first calls on us to pray sincerely. “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.” (Matthew 6:5)
He calls on us to pray from the heart. Hannah describes herself as “pouring out her soul before the Lord” (1 Samuel 1:15) as she prayed. First let us give ourselves to praying sincerely and from the heart, not to be seen of men, so that God’s power can work in and through us as we pour out our hearts and souls to Him.
Secondly, Jesus calls on us to pray secretly. “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” (Matthew 6:6) He is calling us with these words to pray in a private and quiet place. Jesus’ way of praying shows us how to pray secretly. “Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed. And when He had sent them away, He departed to the mountain to pray.” (Mark 1:35; 6:46) “Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.” (Luke 6:12) If Jesus, the very Son of God, got away like He did in secret places to pray to His Father very early in the morning, or sometimes at midday, and other times all night long, how much more do we need to do the same?
Thirdly, Jesus calls on us to pray simply. “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.” (Matthew 6:7-8) He teaches us to not offer complicated or long, wordy prayers. Instead we are to pray simple prayers to the Father being to the point for He already knows what we need.
Lastly, Jesus calls on us to pray specifically. “In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:9-15)
From Jesus’ teaching here in what we refer to as the model prayer or Lord’s prayer, we are to pray to the Father. (Matthew 6:9) We should begin and end our communication to God with praise to Him. (Matthew 6:9, 13) Our prayer should also be God oriented for His will to be done. (Matthew 6:9-10) We should also pray for our personal needs seeking God’s blessings upon our lives in both spiritual areas (Matthew 6:10, 12, 13, 14, 15) and physical areas. (Matthew 6:11) It will be very helpful at this point to prepare a prayer list to pray from to guide us in being specific in our prayers to God.
Later in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus returns to the teaching of prayer a second time in Matthew 7:7-8. In this teaching, He calls upon us to ask, seek and knock. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” (Matthew. 7:7-8) Jesus teaches us to be persistent in prayer by expressing degrees of intensity with these words. Many ask, fewer seek, and still fewer knock. Ask probably refers to simply the spoken words of prayer. Seek refers to seeking in putting forth the efforts and labors of carrying out prayer. Knock refers to knocking at the gate with the urgent demand that claims admission to the Father’s house. When I ask about a man, that’s one degree of intensity. When I seek out the road to that man’s house, that’s a greater degree of intensity. Then when I stand at the door and knock to be admitted into his presence, that’s the greatest degree of intensity.
Whoever asks, seeks, and knocks in a sincere way is assured that he or she will receive. (Matthew 7:8) The three words ask, seek, and knock correspond with the other three words given, find, and opened.
The power of prayer is tremendous if we will only believe and pray. Notice the following scriptures with me. “And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13). “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7). “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them” (Mark. 11:24).
“Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (John. 16:24). “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him” (1 John 5:14-15). “Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1).
We must believe the promises of God concerning prayer, be persistent in prayer by asking, seeking and knocking, and not ever give up. If we will believe and truly be men and women of prayer, we will see the power of prayer in our own lives and in our congregations and throughout the whole world too. However we, like Jesus, must take time to pray. Do not limit the power of God at work in and through you by neglecting to pray.