Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Authentic Prayer

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. 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. (Matthew 6:5-6)
Jesus was not banning public prayer meetings; He was putting a check on the motives of the heart. It we are doing it to be seen by men, to show off our devotion, we are simply play-acting, hypocrites. The satisfaction it brings, if any, will quickly evaporate, and we will have nothing left to show for it. James pegged it pretty well: “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3).

God has no regard for prayer that arises from the actor’s repertoire; He is looking for prayer that comes from the secret place of the heart. That is the place where we are most able to be ourselves, to be open and honest before God and pour ourselves out to Him. Authentic prayer is about personal relationship, not public performance.
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. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. (Matthew 6:7-8)
The Greek word for “heathen” is ethnikoi and refers to the Gentiles, the nations, the pagans, who had no covenant with God. “Vain repetitions” speaks of babbling, spouting meaningless words, without thought—and without faith. Pagan prayers regularly piled up many words and names for their deities, hoping to get divine attention. But the idea that such mindless multiplication of prayers and words was effective had also begun to slip into Jewish devotional practice.

Regardless of how many times they are repeated, words without faith do nothing to please God. “For without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). Jesus said that we shall have to give account for every idle word at the day of judgment (Matthew 12:36). As Martin Luther wisely put it, “The fewer words, the better prayer.” But let them be faith-filled words. These are the kind of prayers God answers.

The kingdom of heaven on earth requires authentic prayer.



The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth
Keys to the Kingdom of God
in the Gospel of Matthew

by Jeff Doles

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Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.