The Ministry of Prayer
Text: Matthew 11 : 20 - 30
Jesus was given to prayer. Matthew has noted a number of things concerning prayer in the life and teaching ministry of Jesus.
1. Jesus was well-schooled in the ministry of prayer
The clearest proof of Jesus as a Man of prayer must be His sojourn in the wilderness for forty days and forty nights, just prior to His public ministry (Cf. Matthew 4:1-11). No one could attempt this feat unless he is well-schooled in the ministry of prayer.
2. Jesus believed in prayer
He took time to teach and encourage people to pray. Many had unfortunately appropriated wrong concepts and practices in prayer. These had to be corrected.
a) He corrected wrong concepts of prayer (Matthew 6:5-7)
Hypocrisy and ostentation are to be avoided! They have no place in the school of prayer!
b) He gave the most wonderful pattern for prayer (Matthew 6:8-13)
The Lord’s Prayer was an excellent model to study and to apply! Those who were new to praying couldn’t have asked for a better model. Those who were accustomed to prayer would be deeply challenged by the profundity of The Lord’s Prayer.
c) Further words of encouragement concerning prayer
Prayer was made to God as Father. Therefore there should be great confidence in the heart whenever prayer was offered. Asking, seeking and knocking were some aspects of prayer that must be pondered over and practiced diligently.
A NEW DIMENSION – SPONTANEOUS PRAYER
Matthew introduced us to a new dimension of prayer. The usual practice of prayer among the Jews was to be properly garbed first! Without being properly dressed no Jew would think about approaching God in prayer. This aspect of spontaneous prayer must have caught many people by surprise.
Spontaneous prayer was almost unheard of in those days! How should this concept of spontaneous prayer be understood?
“At that time Jesus answered and said, ‘I
thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and
earth, that You have hidden these things
from the wise and prudent and have
revealed them to babes. Even so, Father,
for so it seemed good in Your sight. ‘ ”
1. A Good and Natural Thing
Jesus showed that spontaneous prayer was a good, natural and healthy thing to practice.
a) It meant that He was in constant touch with God.
b) It meant that prayer may be seen as an interactive relationship with the Father.
This would explain why Matthew used the word “answered” in this text. What question was being answered? No questions were raised to Jesus? One may postulate that He was always in communion with His Father in heart and mind, and this “outburst” reflected the depth of relationship sustained with God.
2. Not unwholesome in any sense of the word
a) There was proper address of God
Jesus still took time to say, “Father, Lord of heaven and earth…” even in a spontaneous prayer.
b) There was awe and reverence
The regard for the Father is reflected in the phrase, “Lord of heaven and earth”. Spontaneous prayer need not be abrupt and rude.
Some may fear “spontaneity” because there may be a loss of reverence for the Person of God! Jesus showed that it was possible to breathe a quick word of prayer without losing any sense of reverence at all.
3. Not a substitute for special seasons of prayer
Spontaneous prayer was not a substitute for other seasons of prayer. Jesus practiced communing with His Father early in the morning (Cf. Mark 1:35). He would end each night in prayer as well (Cf. Mark 6:46-48. Jesus came to His disciples on the fourth watch – about 3am – after communing with His Father in prayer).
Praying spontaneously complemented the other practices of prayer. Together with the other practices of prayer, a deep and meaningful relationship with God can be cultivated.
4. No loss of depth also
Short prayers do not mean that there would be a lack of depth! In this simple spontaneous prayer, Jesus reflected an important truth! He could offer a deep and profound word of prayer to His Father in a few words! In this instance He took time to express how He marveled at the profound wisdom of God. He had “hidden” great truths from those who thought themselves “wise and prudent”. On the other hand, He had revealed Himself to the humble, whose knowledge was as limited as that of babies.