Prayer is one of the most fulfilling aspects of Christian spirituality. It’s time set aside to simply listen to God, to place our lives in his hands, and to pray in response to the desires of his heart. In 1 Thessalonians 5:17 Scripture tells us to “pray without ceasing.” In John 14:13-14 Jesus states, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” But perhaps the most important Scripture on prayer is when Jesus taught us to pray in Matthew 6:5-15.
Because First15 is meant to stir your affections for God and lead you to a transformational encounter with him, I won’t walk you through an exegesis of verses 9-15. There are numerous resources (one of which I will point out in the extended reading) to assist you in coming to a better understanding of the depth and applications of Jesus’ model prayer. However, I want to focus your attention on verses 5-8 and lead you to a broader definition of prayer so that your prayer life would be marked by God’s nearness. Let’s walk through that text and then apply it as a model we will use daily in First15. In Matthew 6:5-8, Jesus says:
And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
First, Jesus teaches us that we are to pray in secret. What an amazing God we have that he desires to meet with us in secret! All of us have a longing to know our Creator in a way that no one else is allowed into. We each need a secret place with our Maker. It’s vital to our relationship with God that we set aside time to listen to him and talk with him one on one. It’s in this secret place that our relationship with him will go deeper and our lives will be radically transformed.
Next Jesus teaches not to “heap up empty phrases” just to be heard for our “many words.” Jesus makes it clear that prayer is more about relationship with the Father than the words we say. Prayer is more about the heart than the lips. It’s about opening our hearts to God and letting him show us his plan for transformation in both our lives and in the world around us. Mother Theresa said, “Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.” C. S. Lewis wrote, “I don’t pray to change God. I pray because I have to. I pray because I can’t help myself. It doesn’t change God. It changes me.”
Do you need God today? Do you need his presence in your life? Do you need to be changed through an encounter with your heavenly Father? Take time in guided prayer to “place [yourself] in the hands of God” and allow him to change you by his goodness and love.