Pray Like This...
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
September 23, 2007
Main Passage: Matthew
6:5-13; Luke 11:1-4 (NLT)
you ever heard somebody pray and found yourself thinking, “If only I
could pray that like? If only I had that kind of passion, that kind of
conviction, that kind of eloquence… If only I could pray like they
pray, I could be so much more effective. If only I could pray like they
pray, I’d feel like I was accomplishing something. If only I could pray
like they pray, I know God would listen to me.”
I know I’ve
thought like that. There was one preacher in particular that I remember
when he would pray, he’d work up this big head of steam, and he’d get
louder and louder, and more passionate and more powerful in how he was
praying, and by the time he was done everyone would just be in awe. It
was as if he was on a first-name basis with God. And he’d usher us all
into His throne room. If only more people could pray like him.
then, he ended up splitting his church and hurting a lot of people and
even turning some people away from God. So much for him being a model
of what it meant to really pray and be in communion with God.
there was a professor I knew… one of the best speakers I ever heard.
And boy, did he ever seem to have it together when he prayed. If
anybody had it all together… if anybody knew what it meant to really
know God… this guy did. And then he left his wife and kids to run off
with one of his students.
Powerful pray-ers… both of them. They
could inspire you, they could amaze you, they could challenge you, they
could convict you… all through their prayers. They seemed to have it
all together, but then they fell… and the evidence pointed to the
possibility that perhaps they didn’t know God quite as well as they
appeared to. Perhaps when they were praying, they weren’t connecting
with God quite so much as they were impressing me.
to have the mechanics of prayer down pat – the vocabulary, the passion,
the eloquence – but they were missing the whole point. Prayer isn’t
about saying all the right words, entering the right combination, using
the right code, putting in the change in the right order, pushing the
right buttons and getting what we want. Prayer is about knowing God…
discovering who He is and what His will is… it’s about connecting with
the God of the universe, and that’s done through a relationship and not
through some secret formula or ritualistic process.
addressed all this in Matthew 6 (which we read earlier this morning)
and in the parallel passage in Luke 11, which tells us how Jesus’
disciples actually came to Him and asked Him to teach them to pray. His
disciples had been noticing how Jesus prayed and realized that He knew
something that they didn’t. His prayers were real, they were genuine,
they were personal. His prayers really mattered. And they observed that
prayer was so important to Jesus that he would sneak off by Himself to
a quiet place where He could be alone to talk with His Father.
so they started to ask Jesus about it. “Why are your prayers so much
more fulfilling? Why are your prayers so much more meaningful? Why are
your prayers so much more intimate? What’s your secret, Jesus?”
of course Jesus told them, “I don’t need to teach you nothin’! There’s
nothing to it. It’s just talking to God… surely you don’t need someone
to teach you how to do that.”
No, that’s not how Jesus responded
at all, is it? Because Jesus understood that there is a right way to
pray and a wrong way. And so Jesus set out to teach them about what it
really meant to pray. And he started off by giving them a couple of
conditions. He said, “Okay, I’m going to teach you. But before I do, I
want you to understand these two things… First of all, when you pray,
you’re not praying to show off.”
for Real Prayer:
Do not pray for show.
Matthew 6:5-6 (NLT)
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. 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
“Look, I’ve seen what’s happened with these Pharisees… these religious
leaders. They started to pray and it became a pride thing for them. Now
they just pray to show off. They want everyone to see them praying and
think, ‘Wow, how holy they must be! If only I could be like them! I’m
not worthy to even be in their presence.’ They’re only praying so they
can gain the applause and approval of others. So if I’m going to teach
you to pray, I want you to understand that this isn’t the way to do it.”
wait a minute. Can’t you pray anywhere? Well, yeah. And there is a
place for public prayers. Jesus Himself prayed in public. But when
Jesus said if you want to pray pray… if you really want to get serious
about prayer… instead of just showing off, how about getting away from
the crowd? Go to a solitary place… maybe even a closet in your home.
Someplace that’s quiet, free from distractions, and private. Jesus said
if you would do this, you would be rewarded for it.
said, “First of all, when you pray, don’t pray simply as a way to show
off.” And then he added, “Another thing, these Pharisees… they just get
into these rituals and they start repeating the same words over and
over and over again and they think that’s going to get God’s attention.
It’s as if they think God’s going to have an “A-ha!” moment and
suddenly realize you’re talking to Him. And then He’ll understand that
you have some needs and He’ll answer.” Jesus said, “That’s the way
these Pharisees are praying. But I don’t want you to pray anything like
that, because God already knows what you need before you even ask Him.”
So that’s the second condition…
Do not resort to formula prayers.
Matthew 6:7-8 (NLT)
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. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you
need even before you ask him!”
know, sometimes we treat prayer like a magic incantation. We feel like
we have to say everything right to have a response from God. And if we
DO say everything right, and if we say it enough times, then God has no
choice but to answer. That’s the attraction of magic, isn’t it? We
think that we can take a power stronger than ourselves and learn to
control it to get what we want.
But that’s not what prayer is.
It’s not a magic formula, it’s not a religious ritual, it’s not a
secret password. You don’t need to go through any rituals or know any
prescribed formulaic prayers.
I’m a fan of the old TV show
M*A*S*H. And in particular, I really enjoy Father Mulcahy. I remember
one episode where they build a new hospital building and laid a
concrete floor. And when it was ready, Father Mulcahy prayed a blessing
on it. Then when he was done, Colonel Potter turned to him and asked if
it was a standard prayer. Father Mulcahy informed him it was a “golden
I expect he learned all those “golden oldies” out of a
book like this one. This is a prayer book. Filled with prayers written
by… well… mostly dead Germans. You know, theologians, monks… the guys.
And you can find a prayer for just about anything in one of these books.
really, something like this can be wonderful to enhance your prayer
life. But not if that’s where ALL your prayers come from. Not if you
think you’re praying when you simply recite the prayers as some sort of
Here’s something else… prayer beads. Many
denominations… not just Catholics… use prayer beads. In fact, they can
be traced back to some Eastern religions. People use each bead to
represent a prayer, and they’re not finished praying until they get all
the way through. Problem is, your prayers can become very mechanical
with very little meaning. Plus, you can go through all the beads and
figure you’ve done your duty and get all puffed up about it. But that’s
not what it’s all about.
Other people use candles. They light a
candle, pray until the candle burns out, and think they’ve done
something great. They don’t understand that it’s your heart of prayer,
not your time of prayer, that really matters. And by the way, if you
know anybody that uses candles, I think a great prank would be to go
out and buy some super-long-lasting candles and slip them in with their
Let me ask you this: what was the very first
prayer you learned? Was it, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the
Lord my soul to keep…”? Or maybe, “God is great, God is good, let us
thank Him for our food”? Those were the first prayers I learned, and I
think there’s some value to them. We’ll probably be teaching similar
prayers to our kid.
But you know what will be even better? When
they learn to pray on their own. When they don’t rely on formulaic
prayers like that anymore. When they understand that prayer is a
personal conversation with God, and that they don’t need to rely on the
right combination of words to get God to listen to them.
must grow beyond rote and repetitive prayers such as ‘Now I lay me down
to sleep’ and ‘Bless this food.’ Our prayer life should become ever
richer, fuller, and more joyful as we learn to talk with our heavenly
~ Mike McIntosh
from Falling In Love With Prayer
taught that what makes prayer powerful is not the combination of words
or the number of times we repeat them; what makes prayer powerful is
the One to whom our prayers are directed.
Okay, so Jesus
laid out those two conditions: Don’t pray only to show off that you’re
praying, and don’t let your prayers become routine, ritualistic, and
repetitive. And then he set out to teach us what we call “The Lord’s
Now, let me ask you this, right at the beginning of our
Worship Celebration, I asked how many of you already knew the Lord’s
Prayer? When you were able to raise your hand and say you knew it, how
proud were you of that? And let me ask you this: How many times have
you recited the Lord’s Prayer during your lifetime? A dozen times? A
hundred times? A thousand times? Ten thousand times? Isn’t it
interesting that we’ve taken the very prayer Jesus taught us and we’ve
broken both His conditions?
I want you to notice some very important words. When Jesus started into
that prayer, He said…
Matthew 6:9 (NLT)
like this.” He didn’t say, “Pray using these words.” He didn’t say,
“Make sure you memorize this and repeat it regularly.” He said, “Pray
like this.” “Pray in this way.”
In fact, if you think that
Jesus was actually telling us to always pray using those words, they He
broke His own rules. Because we know of several times when Jesus or His
disciples prayed, and as far as we know they never again repeated these
Jesus said, “Pray like this… not with these words, but in this way.”
let’s take a look at how Jesus said we should pray. He took the time to
teach it to us, so there are some important things here for us to
catch. Looking at the way Jesus taught us to pray, we notice first of
all that He began by…
Begin by Declaring God’s Greatness
did Jesus start out? He started out by saying. “Our Father, who art in
Heaven. Hallowed be Thy name.” That means “honoured be Your name… great
is Your name… to be praised is Your name…” In the New Living
Translation, it puts it this way:
Matthew 6:9 (NLT)
Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy.”
says, “Yeah, I know you have this grocery list of things you need to
ask God for. But before you get to the ‘give me, give me, give me, help
me, protect me, help me, bless me, give me, bless me, give me’ part of
your prayer, take the time to recognize who it is you’re talking to.
Declare God’s greatness. Declare God’s glory.”
Why? What’s the
point? I mean, is God really that insecure that He needs us to tell Him
how great He is? No, of course not. So why did Jesus tell us to start
with this? I think it’s because when we start by declaring God’s
greatness, it help put everything else into perspective. It’s for our
benefit, not God’s.
“The more time you spend recognizing who it
is you’re talking to, the less concerned you will become about all
those unresolved issues you can’t wait to ask Him to resolve.”
~ Andy Stanley
Permission to Speak Freely part 2
come to God with financial problem, you come to God with health
concerns, you come to God with a broken relationship, you come to God
with your fears and disappointments, you come to God with whatever you
need… and if you start off by declaring God’s greatness, all those
things don’t seem to cast as great a shadow. Because you know the
Master of the Cosmos. You know the Creator of all things. You know the
One who is ultimately in control. And when you realize who He is and
that He’s on your side, it puts everything else into perspective.
“Prayer is the act of seeing reality from God’s point of view.”
~ Phillip Yancey
Prayer, p. 29
what happens is this: When you see life from God’s point of view, your
problems don’t seem as big or insurmountable. As one old hymn says…
O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Saviour,
And life more abundant and free!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
~ Helen H. Lemmel, 1922
you pray, before you do anything else, take the time to recognize who
it is you’re talking to. Take the time to declare God’s glory.
can you do this? Well, you can talk about who He is to you. You can
talk about how good He has been to you in the past and how He has
blessed you. You can find a Psalm that describes the greatness of God
and say, “God, this is who you are. This is all about you.” You can
sing a worship song to Him. You can write a poem. You can express His
greatness in a journal. However you do it, make sure you take the time
to acknowledge who He is and get everything else into perspective. How
long will it take? I don’t know. How long will it take you to settle
down and recognize who He is?
When you pray, start out by
declaring God’s greatness. Then Jesus went on to the next part… “Your
Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” What’s
Jesus doing here? He’s saying that you need to…
Align Your Will with the Will of God.
is the part we want to skip over. We’d be quite happy to Declare God’s
Greatness and then skip right to telling God what we want. I mean, two
out of three ain’t bad, is it? Why do I have to align my will with the
will of God? I’d rather tell Him what my will is, what I want, what I
need. I’d rather this be all about me.
But Jesus says, “No!
don’t skip this. This is crucial. When you pray, you need to get your
will aligned with God’s will. So pray something like…
Matthew 6:10 (NLT)
your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in
other words, “Before I get to my needs, wants and wishes, I want you to
know that whatever the answer is… Your Kingdom not mine, Your will
before mine. I’m surrendering to You. I want you to know, Your agenda
for my family comes before my agenda. Your design for my future come
before my design. Your goals for my career come before my goals. Your
plans for my finances come before my plans. May Your Kingdom come, may
Your will be done on earth—in my world—as it is in Heaven.”
this can be tough. It can be difficult for you to tame your own desires
and your own will and submit it to the will of God. Our prayers are
more apt to go something like…
“My kingdom come, my will be done on earth, who give a rip about Heaven.
me this day everything I want and everything I can stick in my bank
account and everything I can consume and everything I can pursue.
And lead me not into temptation, because I can find it all by myself.
you know, all through the Bible people struggled with this. The Jews
wrestled with this throughout their history. In fact, the very name
“Israel” means “God-wrestler.” And that’s what prayer can be like… like
wrestling with God. You come to God with your own agenda, and toughest
thing you can do is set it aside and let your will become aligned to
“Prayer in its highest form and grandest success assumes the attitude
of a wrestler with God.”
~ E.M. Bounds
this isn’t a bad thing. It’s a necessary thing. We’ve turned prayer
into a polite monologue. But real prayer is wrestling with God and
haggling with Him and crying out to Him. Phillip Yancey in his book on
“Not communicating is worse than fighting. In a wrestling match, at
least both parties stay engaged.”
~ Phillip Yancey
Prayer, p. 98
through this part of prayer that you are change. It’s where you
declare, “Your Kingdom, not mine. Your will before mine.” This is where
your faith intersects with His faithfulness. It’s where your prayer
becomes more than just a shopping list… it’s where your prayer become
intimate and relational and real.
So how long should you take
here? Well, remember, there is no formula. This will be different for
everyone and it will be different every time you pray. Because the
length of this prayer does not depend on God; it depends on you and the
condition of your heart. Are you aligned with His will? Maybe you’re
already there and so this will take no time at all. Or maybe it’s
something that you’ll really wrestle with.
One day Jesus got
some bad news. One of His friends… one of His best friends… Lazarus…
had died. Jesus had known Lazarus was sick… people had sent word to
Jesus that Lazarus was dying and asking Jesus to come heal him… but he
had delayed in going to see him. And He did it on purpose, so we know
that sometimes God does that: He delays on purpose because He has
So when Jesus finally showed up at the tomb where
Lazarus was buried, He found that the tomb had already been sealed with
a stone. So Jesus asked the people who were there to roll the stone
away. Well, the people weren’t really anxious to do this. If you want
to understand why, go smell your compost bin. Lazarus had been dead for
four days! But Jesus insisted, they rolled the stone away, and then
Jesus began to pray.
John 11:41-43 (NLT)
Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me.
You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these
people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.” Then
Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!”
How long did that prayer take? 10 seconds? In that time, Jesus declared
God’s great faithfulness, He knew that His will was aligned with the
will of the Father, and He called for Lazarus to come forth. And that’s
exactly what happened. Lazarus came back to life, walked out of the
tomb, and went and took a bath (I hope).
A ten second prayer.
Then there was the time Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane.
This was right before Jesus was to be arrested and eventually
crucified, He knew what was about to happen, and He wasn’t too eager to
go through it. So He really wrestled with the Father. All night long He
prayed and He prayed and He prayed. He prayed until He was sweating
drops of blood. That’s how intense His prayer became.
And do you
remember what He was praying? He was praying to God the Father, “I
don’t want to do this. I don’t want to go through it. I know You sent
me here for this very purpose, but I don’t want to go along with it.
Why would I submit myself to that torture? Why would I willingly lay
down my life? I don’t have to do this, you know. I could decide to call
down angels to protect me from the soldiers coming to arrest me. This
isn’t my will.”
That’s what Jesus was praying, and He prayed like that all night long.
But do you remember how He finished?
Luke 22:42 (NLT)
want your will to be done, not mine.”
prayed and prayed and prayed, and He wrestled and He fought and He
begged, until His will was aligned with the will of the Father.
ten second prayer. A prayer that took Him all night. I can’t tell you
how long your prayers should be. How long will it take for your will to
be aligned with His will… for your heart to reflect His heart?
Present Your Requests to God.
So you can acknowledge your dependence upon God. Because everything you
are and everything you have… great or small… comes from Him. So come to
Him with your needs in order to acknowledge that it all comes from Him.
some people see this as all prayer is. So this is all they do when they
pray. The completely ignore what what’ve been taking about so far. This
isn’t the only thing prayer is. It isn’t the main of prayer. But it is
part of prayer. And Jesus told us to go ahead and present our request
He told us to go ahead and pray…
• For Provision to meet your needs
Matthew 6:11 (NLT)
us today the food we need…”
know it better as “Give us today our daily bread.” And for the
disciples, this would have held tremendous meaning. When they heard
Jesus say that, they would have thought way way way way back to the
time their ancestors were wandering through the wilderness, and they
didn’t have a source of food. They didn’t know what they were going
eat. They didn’t know how they would survive. But that’s when God
stepped in, and every morning when the people woke up, they would crawl
out of their tents and discover that God had provided Manna… some kind
of a food or bread that would crystallize on the ground overnight. God
miraculously provided for them in their time of need.
said, “Go ahead… ask God for what you need. He cares for you, He wants
to give good gifts to His children, so go ahead and ask. God’s not
going to resent you for asking, so go ahead and ask for His provision.”
And then Jesus went on and told us to pray…
• For Pardon from your sinfulness
Matthew 6:12 (NLT)
forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.”
for the times you’ve let God down… the times you’ve ignored Him, the
times you’ve gone your own way and done your own thing… the times
you’ve done things that you knew were wrong… apologize for those times
and ask Him to forgive you.
And notice, too, how by the time you
get to this stage in your prayer, your will is aligned with God’s will.
Because you’re willing to forgive others who have wronged you, too.
And then Jesus said to pray…
• For Protection from sin and evil
Matthew 6:13 (NLT)
don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.”
already prayed for pardon for sins you’ve already committed; now you’re
praying that God will protect you and will strengthen you so you don’t
keep giving in to sin. And you’re also praying that He’ll protect you
from any other attacks of Satan or any other calamities that may arise
in your life.
And that’s how the model prayer that Jesus
taught ends. And you say, “Now wait a minute. I know there’s more to it
than that. What about that whole ‘For Thine is the Kingdom and the
Power and the Glory forever and ever’ part? I know that’s part of it.
Hey, we even sang it earlier!”
Well, that’s a nice bowtie to go
on the end of the prayer, but the truth is that the oldest manuscripts
we have of the New Testament, some dating back to the late first /
early second century, don’t have that at the end. What happened was
this: Some later manuscripts did have that tag at the end, which
actually comes from a verse in the Old Testament book of 1 Chronicles
(29:11). And when the King James Version of the Bible was translated
way back in 1611, those were the manuscripts that were available.
since that time, older manuscripts have been discovered and we’ve
learned that those words weren’t part of what Jesus originally taught.
that’s where the prayer ends. “Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Your
name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins as we forgive
those who have sinned against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation
but deliver us from evil.”
Seems short, doesn’t it? But Jesus
says, it’s not about the length. It’s about the priorities. It’s about
your heart. It’s about your submission to God’s will. That’s what’s
Okay, so how about this afternoon you find someplace to get alone with
God and start praying like Jesus taught?
Start out and declare His greatness. How long is it going to take? I
don’t know, how long have you got?
make sure not to skip over this part – get your will aligned with His.
How long will that take? I don’t know, it depends on where you’re
coming from and what’s going on in your life right now. But if He’s
really as great as you’ve just declared, then certainly He deserves for
us to submit our will to His.
And maybe you say, “I’ve never
done this; it scares me.” That’s fine… God understands. Work it out
with Him. But what if you wrestle with it as much as you can and you
can only get to, like, 8 out of 10 today?” That’s fine, just agree with
God that you’ll continue to wrestling over those other two. Let God
know that’s your desire, and that you’re not going to be satisfied
until you’re there.
And then go ahead and present your requests. How long will that take?
Depends on how many things are on your list.
you start with God and you end with you and in the middle is the issue:
Whose agenda? Whose will? Who takes priority? This is how Jesus taught
us to pray, and there’s no one more qualified than Him.