“Men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” – Luke 18:1
What is prayer? Prayer is to seek out God. To make your requests known to Him. To bow before the throne and humble yourself before the Lord, the King. Simply put, prayer is communicating with God – listening and talking to Him – having a conversation with him. R.A. Torrey defines prayer as “having an audience with God.” How would our prayer lives look in comparison to this? A good relationship with the Creator requires communication with Him daily. Jesus speaks plainly on the subject of prayer. Let’s glean for a bit.
v. 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. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get.”
- Jesus does not say “If” we pray, but “when” we pray. To have a relationship with Jesus, we must talk and commune with Him. We can’t have relationships with people on earth if we do not talk to them or get to know them. So it is with God. When Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose again on the third day, he made a way for us to communicate one-on-one with God. Prayer is our direct line to Heaven. All we have to do is pick up the phone and call out to Him.
- Jesus is once again dealing with the issue of the hypocrite. A hypocrite is someone who is an actor or pretender. There must have been many hypocrites in that day, especially the religious leaders, because Jesus addresses their hypocrisy many times. They would stand in places where many people could see them praying. They wanted to portray the “Holier than Thou” persona. Jesus tells them straight up that their reward is the praise of men and not the praise of the Father. Their motive was self-righteousness and their hearts were deceitful. ““What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence!’ (Matt. 23:25)
- This is a good heart check for us. Are we coming to God to “look good” on the outside yet our hearts are not behind the words we say? Do we want others to believe we’ve got everything together when we are really falling apart? Father, help us not to be pretenders but to be those who are transparent and real with You and those closest to us.
v. 6 – “But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”
- Again, Jesus reiterates “when you pray.” Communication with our Father is key!
- Jesus was addressing the difference between heartfelt prayer and hypocritical prayer. It wasn’t a question of praying privately or publicly but behind the true motive of the prayer. Public prayer is an overflow of much prayer in secret. Wiersbe explains that “it is wrong to pray in public if we are not in the habit of praying in private.”
- To quote Precept-Austin, “Jesus reveals that one of the real secrets of prayer is secret prayer.” When Jesus says to “go away by yourself,” he means to go to a place where we can be quiet with God. Not just a physical place but a spiritual place. A place where our hearts pour out love, thankfulness, desires and needs to Him. He desires for us to bring our requests to Him. Matthew 7:7 says we should, “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” He is an all-knowing God and already knows our needs before we ask them. But he wants us to ask Him because that shows our dependence and need for Him.
- “As the very soul of prayer lies in communion with God, we shall pray best when all our attention is confined to him; and we shall best reach our end of being accepted by him when we have no regard to the opinion of anyone else. Secret prayer is truly heard and openly answered in the Lord’s own way and time. Our King reigns ‘in secret ‘: there he sets up his court, and there will he welcome our approaches.” – C.H. Spurgeon
v. 7 – “When you pray, 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.”
- Other religions would pray nonsense words and would “babble” things that didn’t make sense or say the same phrase over and over. These words are just words and had no meaning behind them. The Jews would pray long and hard because they believed the things they did made them right with God. If they prayed for a long time, that would make them more righteous! Jesus’ target here was not the length or the beautiful words and phrases of the prayer, but the motive behind the prayer. When we come to God in prayer, are we just praying wishful, hopeful prayers? Are we trying to be more righteous when we pray? God does not desire for us to come to Him wishing and hoping that He’ll answer nor does He make us more righteous because we pray for a long time with beautiful phrases. God desires for His children to pray, expecting Him to answer, not because we are faithful but because HE is faithful. The words and phrases we use won’t mean a thing unless they come from a heart of faith. God, strengthen our faith as we pray to You!
- “It is not very easy to repeat the same words often without it becoming a vain repetition. A repetition, however, is not forbidden, but a “vain” repetition. And how greatly do they err who measure prayers by the yard. They think they have prayed so much because they have prayed so long, whereas it is the work of the heart — the true pouring out of the desire before God — that is the thing to be looked at.” – C.H. Spurgeon
v. 8 – “Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!”
- If God knows what we need before we ask Him, then why do we ask Him? God wants our complete trust and dependence. He wants us to completely surrender our desires, needs, wants and will to Him. It shows that we completely depend on His provision and guidance for our lives. Prayer is not for God’s good, but for our good. Wiersbe explains that, “Prayer is the God-appointed way to have these needs met. Prayer prepares us for the proper use of the answer. If we know our need, and if we voice it to God, trusting Him for His provision, then we will make better use of the answer than if God forced it on us without our asking.“
Prayer humbles our hearts. Prayer strengthens our faith. Prayer deepens our trust. Prayer helps us to hold fast to His promises. And He is only one prayer away.