When You Pray

Read: Matthew 6

“When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get.”  (Matthew 6:5, NLT)

In Jesus’ day, prayer had been hijacked.  The culprits were the religious leaders and the Pharisee—Jesus called them “hypocrites”. They had turned the simple and wonderful practice of talking to God into a ritualized, formalized, mechanized and stylized event. As a result, something meant to connect people with God had turned into a intimidating, joyless experience since few people were eloquent enough to pull off the impressive public prayers demanded by the spiritual elite.

This misuse and abuse of prayer disgusted Jesus, the master of prayer. So in a teaching moment that was both scathing, yet soothing at the same time, he sat the record straight as to what the kind of prayer that truly pleases God really looked like.

First of all, Jesus taught that God-pleasing prayer is authentic.  Jesus said in verse 5, “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them.” The hypocrites—the Pharisees and religious leaders—were pretentious. Their motive for praying was to impress the crowds, but they were anything but real. God wasn’t, and isn’t, impressed by the style or the content of our prayers. He’s moved by our honesty—even if it is not too articulate and especially when it is heartfelt.  Jesus is saying that God wants his children to just “get real” before him.

Secondly, Jesus taught that God-pleasing prayer is intimate.  Verse 6 says, “when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private.” The use of the name “Father” isn’t a mistake.  Jesus is painting an altogether different picture of what God intended prayer to be than what man had turned it into. Jesus is referring to a childlike quality and posture that payer is to take before the Father. That’s because God-pleasing prayer is really a parent-child exchange. It is simply being with a Father who longs to be close to his kids.

Finally, Jesus taught that God-pleasing prayer is simple.  He said in verse 7, “don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again.” I can’t help but think if Jesus was here today to teach us about prayer, he would instruct us in the KISS method:  Keep it simple, sweetheart! 

Jesus is calling us out of the legalistic, joyless, intimidation of misunderstood and malpracticed prayer to an authentic, intimate, simple day-by-day, moment-by-moment practice of the presence of God. That is the kind of prayer that pleases God more than anything. “When you pray” like that, the Father opens up all of heaven to you!

“Heaven is full of answers to prayers for which no one ever bothered to ask.” ~Billy Graham

What If God Took Over?

Practice brutally real, child-to-Father, very simple prayers throughout the day.  You will please God more than you know!

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