You walk in the door carrying your take-out coffee and get offended when you’re told you’ll have to leave it outside. You let your cell phone ring repeatedly. You let your child wander around. When you can tell it’s getting close to the end you start gathering your stuff together, and right before the official end you walk out the door.
It’s all pretty standard behavior in a movie theater, but I’m talking about church. I’ve seen all of this through the years, and much more, and it sickens me that we’ve reached a place culturally where such behavior is acceptable (by some) even in God’s house.
People leaving during the altar call is the worst. There are souls hanging in the balance. If we really are Christians we should be praying for those around us. Unfortunately too many seem to think they’re in a theater and the altar call is like the credits: Let’s leave now to beat the rush.
5 “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.
Again, here are those hypocrites, and again I reiterate that I do not want to be like them! What must I do…or not do?
First, God says when—not if. Obviously, the Christian is to pray. It is obvious, too, that the Christian is often called on to pray in public, corporately, in the church, in one accord… So this verse, like so many others, speaks to the motivation of the heart. Why do I pray where I pray and in the manner in which I pray? If I pray “out there” so that men will see me and be impressed, then the only reward I’ll get will be for those men to see me and be impressed. Oh, but does this also mean that such prayers go unanswered and, perhaps, even unheard by God? If the motivation of my heart is to be heard by men, am I only heard by man? Now there’s a sobering thought, because the answer affects not only me, but everyone I would be praying for in this hypothetical situation.
And if this applies to charitable deeds and prayer, does it also apply to praise? In charitable deeds I see no danger, but only the loss of God’s reward. In prayer, it would seem the loss of God’s reward would also be the loss of answers to prayer. This is dangerous in many ways. Now, if the same holds true for praise—for giving praises to God by singing in the choir, for instance—what then? The individual has lost his reward from God, gaining only the attention of men, but is there more? Does he, perhaps, in his hypocrisy, hinder God’s ability to move? Is he more of a stumbling block to freedom in the Spirit because he is a hypocrite (or at least an ignorant and misguided man) in a place of spiritual leadership? Does he, in truth, affect what the congregation is capable of doing, the heights the people are able to reach in Him?
These are sobering thoughts.
6 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.
Back to prayer.
I read this verse and think of a time or two when I was praying with groups and certain people were obviously praying specifically so that others would hear and be impressed. Mind you, I’m not saying their prayers were any louder than the next person’s. What I am saying is that, as one who was praying with the right motivation, I easily sensed their wrong motivation.
So that’s another thing about praying openly so that men can hear. Men do hear, all right, and those who are sensitive to the Spirit know exactly what is going on around them. No one likes being caught faking anything, so this one thought should be even more motivation, more reason to keep one’s heart pure and motivation right.
7 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.
8 “Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.
This passage reminds me clearly of all the times one of my young sons would come to me and begin a long dissertation, taking forever to give me endless details when I already knew what he was preparing to ask. It is a frustrating thing for a parent, and there were many times when I’d want to say, “Get on with it,” or was tempted to settle for a simple, “No,” just to end quickly a conversation that was already grating on my nerves. There are few things more frustrating than listening to a seemingly endless spew of words.
My daddy already knows what I need and want. He knows full well what I’m going to ask of Him. He does want me to ask, but He wants me to get down to the business of asking so He can get down to the business of answering. Too, like any parent, He wants our time together to be filled with meaningful interaction, warm hugs, expressions of love and thanksgiving…not gimme, gimme, gimme…
So how do I pray?
9 In this manner, therefore, pray:
He really is always right there with the answers to our questions.
Our Father in heaven,
I believe I could write books on these two words—Our Father. They mean so much!
First, they tell me about Him and the relationship He wants to have with me. He wants to be everything my earthly father is and more. He wants to be the one I run to when I’m joyful and when I’m sad, when I’m confused and when I’ve just made an exciting new discovery. He wants me to fling my arms around His neck when my heart is overflowing with love and cry on His shoulders when my heart breaks and I can’t seem to stop the tears. Above all else, He wants me to trust Him and His love for me; He wants me to believe with all my heart that no matter what things look like around me His choice is to stay at my side, holding my hand as we walk through things together. He wants to see my face as I stand before Him, not my back as I walk away.
Second, these words tell me about me. If He is my father, then there are things in Him that are also in me. Sometimes we hear people say things like, “He is the very image of his father.” We, too, having been made in His image and likeness, having been made His children, can (and should) be the very image of our Father.
The first characteristic most people think of where God is concerned is love. He is love, therefore I have it within me to be love as well. I Corinthians 13 talks about this very thing and in John 13:35 Jesus said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” The first characteristic of God that is mentioned in the Bible is creativity. (Gen 1:1 “In the beginning God created…”) I can never say that I am not creative, because as one who is made in the image of my Father, I definitely am. In fact, I create truths every day in the very same way God does, with the words I speak, which is one reason the Scriptures so often command us to control our tongues.
Third, these words tell me some about others who call Him “Father.” I have one full sister and one half sister and all three of us share the same father. Stick us together and you’d never know by looking at us that we’re sisters. Spend time with us and you will discover that while we are three wildly differing individuals we are also very much alike in an astounding number of ways. The same is true in the family of God. We are all children of the same Father and are often both more alike and more different than we may want to admit. I may be instinctively drawn to some and not others, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re all my brothers and sisters and my only choice is to love all them.
Hallowed be Your name.
This is a concept modern day man, as a whole, has absolutely no grasp of. From completely ridiculous profanity (Really, like any man can tell God to damn someone.) to the frustrated teenager’s use of, “God!” accompanied by rolled eyes and slammed doors, our culture shows clearly that it is clueless about the holiness of God and His name. In this, I am humbled by the Jewish manner of refusing to even spell His name. God becomes G-d as a reminder that His name is hallowed—holy.
He and His name are HOLY. Why do I feel like it is pointless to even continue with this prayer until one has a true understanding—revelation—of these four words?
10Your kingdom come. Your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.”
Oh, but this is one verse I wish I really could get a revelation of. I know what it’s saying here; I really do. I just have trouble, sometimes, transferring that head knowledge into the right place.
Jesus would not have told his disciples to pray this thing if it could not come to pass. He simply wouldn’t. So it IS possible for God’s will to be done right here on Earth like it is done in Heaven. Oh, His will does get done here on Earth, but never to the extent that it ought to. In Heaven, though, it is His will that gets done and done unconditionally. I can only imagine what it will be like when His will IS done on Earth as it is in Heaven. Now, if I could only get past the imagining and into true envisioning.
11Give us this day our daily bread.
Here is another brief request that is full of meaning.
For Israel in the wilderness, their daily bread was manna, food that came straight from Heaven every single day. I have lived like this, seeing God bring to us, each day, food enough to make it through that day. Like the Israelites, I was also tempted to store up the leftovers, and like the Israelites, I sometimes forgot to be grateful. It is so easy to forget, when buried within our own selfish flesh, that this daily bread is a gift from God.
The Word of God is often likened to bread and this is something else I truly do need every single day. Just as my body needs fresh bread daily, so does my spirit need “fresh bread” daily. I ask that God give me that bread, yes, but then I must receive it. I must take time out to read it and really chew on it—to meditate on His Word.
And Jesus, in that last night with His disciples, referred his body as bread, broken for them—for me. I do not take that bread in a literal sense, as communion, every day, but I should seek that fresh revelation of Him and what He did for me every day. It is this daily bread, this continually renewed revelation of who He is, what He did, and who I am in Him that keeps me aware of my purpose and working on doing my part to see to it that His plans for me are fulfilled.
12 And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.
This one is interesting. In praying these words I am asking God to forgive me, yes, but I am also acknowledging that there is a limitation. If someone who has wronged me asks my forgiveness and I refuse to forgive him, then I know that God will also refuse to forgive me. However, this is also a promise, as I do unto my debtors, so does God unto me. Forgive!
13 And do not lead us into temptation,
Amen! Temptation, in this sense, essentially means “to test.” God, please, save me from all of the tests you can.
But deliver us from the evil one.
If I am being delivered from something, I am being rescued, obviously. I looked the word “deliver” up in the Greek on a hunch and found that it also means “to rush or to draw.” This takes me right back to God being my Father. A natural father, when he spies something unsafe, will rush or draw his child away from danger. At times, a child will fight, refusing to be drawn away, and at such times he may be endangered.
So this part of the prayer also involves me and my actions. I am asking my Father to alert me to evil, to draw me away, and I am committing to go where He leads.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.
They’re His. They are ALL His and I had best not forget it, best never fail to acknowledge His supremacy and give Him His due.