What’s the most revolutionary idea in human history? Would you say it was when Copernicus discovered that the earth orbits the sun and not the other way around? How about Isaac Newton’s insights into gravity when the apple fell on his head? What about the invention of movable type with Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press or Thomas Edison’s incandescent light bulb? Perhaps it’s something more modern, like the invention of the personal computer, internet, or smartphone.
While all of these ideas and inventions are amazing, they still can’t take away from the most earth-shattering reality in human history. It was God’s idea—we can talk with the Creator of the universe.
1. How NOT To Pray (Matthew 6:5-8)
- Don’t Brag When You Pray (Matthew 6:5)
Whether on street corners or in synagogues, the scribes and Pharisees loved to pray with their hands stretched out, palms facing upward, and their heads held low or high. They performed these physical postures to be admired by others. The problem with the Pharisees’ intercession was not the mode of their praying, but the motive for their praying. Jesus isn’t concerned about the place or the posture of your prayer but the purpose of your prayer.
- Don’t Babble When You Pray (Matthew 6:7-8)
In Greek, the phrase, “meaningless repetition” found in verse seven is “battalogeo.” Matthew used it as onomatopoeia, where the sound of the word reveals its meaning—in this case, “babble” or “babbling.” Some translations like ESV, NIV, and NLT use the phrase “do not keep babbling” or “do not babble.” Prayer is simply speaking to the One who wants to bless us. All He asks is that our motives are right and that we concentrate and speak clearly. We are to pray as if we were speaking with our spouse or a close friend about something important.
2. How TO Pray (Matthew 6:6)
- Pray in Secret
Do you have a place where you can be alone with God? Throughout my life, I’ve had places I would go to pray. When I was in high school, it was in a park across from the school I attended. Then, when I got married, it was at a baseball field several blocks from our home. Now, I pray by the couch in my office. Regardless of the location, I’ve tried to set appointments with God when I can meet with Him privately and tell Him what is on my heart.
- Pray Simply
Whether we are praying in public or private, our prayers should be simple. There’s no need for long, complex prayers containing complicated theological words that require a dictionary to understand. Simple and straightforward is just fine—and that is just how Jesus taught His disciples to pray in Matthew six.
3. A Model For Praying (Matthew 6:9-15)
- The Audience for Our Prayers (Matthew 6:9)
Jesus began, “Our Father who is in heaven…” The word “Father” in English is considered a formal tone. By directing us to approach God as “Our Father who is in heaven,” Jesus wasn’t establishing appropriate etiquette, as if we were addressing the queen of England with a bow or curtsy saying “Your Majesty.” Jesus encourages us to remember that God is our loving, almighty Father, which puts us in the right frame of mind before asking Him to do something on our behalf.
- The Petitions of Our Prayers (Matthew 6:9-15)
- Pray for God’s reputation to be honored in your life.
- Pray for God’s will to be done in the world and in your life.
- Pray for God to take care of your daily needs.
- Pray that God would forgive you and would make you a forgiver.
- Pray for God to protect you from temptation.
3. Three Words To Remember For Powerful Praying
When you get up—before your feet touch the floor in the morning, take a moment or two and talk to your heavenly Father. Offer a prayer of gratitude by saying, “God, thank You for the gift of life. Thank You for protecting me through the night.” Ask God for protection for yourself and your family. “Lord, keep my family and I safe today from evil and adversity.” Submit your plans to God. “Father, You know my plans for the day, but please make me sensitive to those opportunities I have to glorify You.”
As you go through the day—give God your whispering thoughts. You don’t need to leave your office or kneel in your kitchen, just pray where you are. Let the kitchen become a cathedral or the classroom a chapel.
Before you drift off to sleep—talk with God about your day. Review the high points and the disappointments. Tell Him your worries.
Writing out my prayers helps me stay focused on my conversation with God. If you don’t like writing them out, try vocalizing your prayers instead of just imagining them. This will help keep your mind from wandering.
Prayer is neither a theological formula nor a religious ritual. Instead, prayer is an intimate conversation with the Creator of the Universe. He loves you and is vitally concerned with every part of your life.
Full Passage: Matthew 6:5-15