The Privilege of Prayer
Text: Matthew 6 : 1 - 18
One of the greatest blessings that God has given is the privilege of being to commune with Him in prayer. Prayer is essentially communion with God.
1. It may be Praise.
2. It may be Petition.
3. It may be Intercession.
Whatever form prayers take, there must always be the sense of great privilege in the heart, that a mere human being, laden with so many sins, can commune with God in prayer meaningfully.
GREAT EXAMPLES OF INSPIRING PRAYERS IN THE SCRIPTURES
How does one learn how to pray meaningfully? A person needs only to turn to the Book of Psalms and he will find many great examples of soul-stirring prayers!
1. Heart-rending confessions (Psalms 32, 51)
2. Desperate petitions (Psalms 42, 43)
3. Up-lifting exultations (Psalms 103, 104)
These are some types of prayers found in the book of Psalms. All prayers were made in consciousness of the privilege of a covenant-relationship with God.
GREAT EXAMPLES OF INTERCESSORS IN THE SCRIPTURES
The Scriptures contain great examples of intercessors whose prayers were honoured by God. If one wanted to learn how to pray significantly, he could do no better than to study the prayer-life of Moses (Cf. Exodus and Numbers).
THE PRACTICE OF PRAYER
However, no matter how priceless the gift from God, because of the sinfulness of man, the privilege of prayer can be greatly abused. This certainly was the case in the days of Jesus. The practice of prayer had been reduced to such a low level that Jesus had to address the problem forthrightly.
“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.”
The concept of prayer was for man to cry out to God in his hour of need. How did this concept degenerate to mere showmanship in the days of Jesus?
1. The prayers of the hypocrites
The attempts to offer prayers were well described by Jesus. They must have loved to hear their own voices to pray the way they did. They must have enjoyed basking in the compliments that came their way each time they prayed. These sought to have their prayers heard by men rather than by God.
2. Their earthly reward
The “prayers” offered by the hypocrites were more like oratorical presentations meant for human ears. Outward expressions of piety were the main concern of the hypocrites. Somehow, they missed the very essence of prayer.
JESUS’ CONCEPT OF PRAYER
Jesus did not dismiss the concept of prayer just because some hypocrites abused this gift from God! The challenge was to teach the disciples the true concept of prayer. Jesus’ concept of prayer was both simple and profound at the same time.
“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.”
For easier comprehension, let us enumerate two things Jesus highlighted here.
1. “Pray to your Father who is in the secret place”
The expression “in the secret place” is best understood as the antithesis of “the corners of street” or even “synagogues”. The hypocrites feel that God would be in public places like synagogues and street corners! This was not entirely wrong, for God is found everywhere.
The concept of the “secret place” teaches us that God disdains ostentation. He refuses to be found in the “public place” where He is supposed to be entertained by the showy and superficial prayers of the hypocrites. God values our prayers. He would take time to listen to us when we truly cry out to Him in faith, in trust and in love.
2. “Your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly”
The reward that God gives is quite different from that which man offers. There is really no comparison at all! The psalmist David beautifully introduces the idea of how God will bless those who seek Him and desire to walk in His ways.
“Bless the Lord O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits.”