God’s word is full of examples and guidelines about how we ought to pray. Our Christian life, on the other hand, is full of examples of how we are tempted to pray differently by the environment which surrounds us. May God, through His Holy Spirit and His Word towards us helps us to communicate with Him in the right way. Let us now turn together to Matthew 6:5-8, from where we can learn much about how we ought to pray.
And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
– Matthew 6:5-8, NIV
Maybe this is a well known passage for you, but maybe not. Either way, you can learn at least two basic principles from it, which will lead you in prayer:
1.Your prayer must not be tampered or spiced up. On the contrary – it ought to come directly from the depths of your heart and mind. Your prayer must be sincere, honest, authentic. Jesus gives a very good example of a tampered prayer – the one of the hypocrites. They are the Pharisees and other religious leaders from the time who worked hard to get to be in a busy public place at the time in which the daily prayers were to be said. They did this so that they will be noticed by everyone else and thus receive the praise and amazement of the people for their, actually, faked belief and devotion to God. Jesus couldn’t possibly be more precise in his words on that – they have received their reward, which is only this which they looked for – a few minutes of fame and glory before the people. This is why our prayers must not be like these of the hypocrites.
When you pray with your whole heart and mind, truly and sincerely, then you will not be tempted to think of what’s in the head of those around you concerning they way you pray or what you are praying for. On the other hand, it will be much easier for you to pray in this way when there are no other people around to make noise, disturb your attention, or to make you feel watched for the language mistakes you’ll make while praying.
When Jesus teaches us to lock ourselves up in our quiet room, He’s actually teaching us to pray at a place where it is quiet, so that we can turn all our attention to God. This, of course, doesn’t mean that we must never pray in public, when it’s noisy, or when it’s busy… Yet, we ought to always seek time for prayer in quiet.
Where is your quiet place? Do you switch your phone off when you pray? Do you always have to listen to music while praying? You are capable of securing a quiet place at least once each day – begin today!
2.God has not obliged you to pray eloquently or with well selected words. But He wants you to pray in such a way, so that you will realize more and more your complete dependency on Him. For us it might be impressive when someone prays with well chosen language, but it couldn’t matter less to God. Don’t waste your time in choosing the right words – they won’t make your prayer more effective. Moreover – God doesn’t actually need our prayers, so that He will know how we’re doing and what we are in need of. God knows even this which is in secret!
Our prayers, however, remind us in a very intimate way of our dependency upon God – that we are entirely and wholly dependable on Him. In the moment you realize this dependency it will be so much easier for you to leave what’s God’s job in His hands, and take the responsibility for what you ought to do. And then there will not be any barriers for God’s peace to embrace you completely.
If it is necessary – write yourself a note and place it before your sight, or do whatever else it might take, and be constantly reminded to regularly pray in your quiet room, and to pray with the words of your heart, but not as if you’re performing before an audience.