8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation (Romans 10:8–10, NKJV).
Does this passage teach sinners are saved by praying and asking Jesus to be their Savior? If so, it does it without mentioning prayer at all. Yet, this is exactly how some use it as they tell people to pray and ask Jesus to save them. The Bellingham Baptist Church (Bellingham, WA) has a teaching pamphlet that says, “Pray and ask Jesus Christ to be your Savior,” which then quotes Romans 10:9. But, to “confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus” is a profession of faith, not a prayer to God. For example, in Acts 8:36-37 when a lost soul asked what was keeping him from being baptized (to be saved, Mark 16:16). He was told by the preacher Philip, “If you believe with all your heart, you may,” to which he answered, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” When this believer confessed his faith, he was ready to be baptized and saved by Christ according to Christ’s word (Acts 8:38; Mark 16:15-16). Belief and confession that Jesus is the Son of God are unto (in the direction of) salvation. The believer who confesses faith will repent and be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:37-38). The word of faith the apostles preached says to believe in the resurrection of Jesus, confess Him as Lord, repent before God, and be baptized to be saved (Rom. 10:9-10; Acts 2:38). Reread today’s passage; Prayer is conspicuously absent. We must be careful not to add to God’s word.
1 Hear my cry, O God; Attend to my prayer. 2 From the end of the earth I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I (Psalm 61:1–2, NKJV).
Prayer is a constant, comforting, and calming spiritual blessing we have in Christ (Phil. 4:6). The Son of David, the Son of God, taught “that men always ought to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1). David knew the blessings of prayer. In this beautiful psalm, he praises God as his great protector in times of trial, pain, and uncertainty (Ps. 61:8). Consider David’s trust in the Lord in moments of distress. (1) David had faith God would hear and respond to His prayers (v. 1). Take heart, beloved, God’s ears are open to the prayers of the righteous (1 Pet. 3:12). (2) Difficult circumstances of the moment did not prevent David’s prayerful trust in God (v. 2). Regardless of where we are and what we face, prayer reaches the throne of grace (Heb. 4:16). God fills heaven and earth and is not far from any of us (Jer. 23:23-24; Acts 17:27). (3) When we are weak, prayer brings us under the shelter of God’s strength (v. 3). Safe from the fierce storms of doubt and despair, God’s people “trust in the shelter of Your wings” (Ps. 61:4). Put your faith in God; He is faithful (1 Cor. 10:13). As Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me” (John 14:1). Along with David, let us plead with the Lord to lead us to the rock of sheltering protection. God, Himself will be “our refuge and strength…A very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1). Indeed, “You have been a shelter for me, a strong tower from the enemy” (Ps. 61:3).
35 Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed. 36 And Simon and those who were with Him searched for Him. 37 When they found Him, they said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.” 38 But He said to them, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth.” 39 And He was preaching in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and casting out demons (Mark 1:35–39, NKJV).
There were great demands on Jesus’s time. He came to the world to preach “the gospel of the kingdom of God” (Mark 1:38, 14-15). People gathered around Jesus to hear His teachings and be healed (Luke 5:15). His apostles needed personal training before going into the world to preach the gospel, so He taught them privately (Luke 9:10). Religious opponents pressed against Him to undermine Him and His work (Luke 11:53-54). He saw long days and short nights. Yet, Jesus took personal time for prayer and meditation (Mark 1:35; Luke 5:16; Matt. 14:13). He managed His time effectively, even when everyone was looking for Him. He set and kept priorities for how He used His time (in Mark 1:38, Jesus chose to go to “the next towns” to preach even as people searched for Him in Capernaum, Mark 1:21-34). We all have demands on our time as parents, children, employers, employees, etc. Like Jesus, remember your faith priorities each day without distraction. Take time to pray, read God’s word, meditate, and serve others (1 Tim. 4:13, 15). “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness… (Matt. 6:33).” Redeem your time with wisdom and faith (Eph. 5:15-17).
2 Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; 3 meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, 4 that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak (Colossians 4:2–4, NKJV).
Prayer is a powerful spiritual blessing we have in Christ. Paul trusted the power of patience, persistent prayers offered by his fellow Christians in Colossae. His exhortations encourage us to pray in the same manner. (1) Continue earnestly in prayer (v. 2). Devoted diligence to prayer is a trait of faithful disciples. Jesus taught a parable that we “always ought to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1-8). We show faith in God to hear and answer us by continuing to pray (Luke 18:7-8; Heb. 4:14-16). (2) Vigilant prayer is vital (v. 2). Prayer is practical, expressing daily supplications, praises, and petitions (Phil. 4:6). Be alert in your prayers, attuned to immediate circumstances, and trusting God to respond (1 John 5:14-15). (3) Pray with thanksgiving (v. 2). God gives us every good gift that sustains our lives now and into eternity (James 1:17-18). His children remember to honor Him with thankful prayers. (4) Pray for others (v. 3). Paul yearned for their prayers. We “pray for one another,” not just ourselves (James 5:16). (5) Pray for opportunities to teach the gospel to the lost (v. 3-4). Paul asked them to pray that God would open a door to speak His word that saves those imprisoned by sin. Paul also asked them to pray that he would effectively speak God’s word that saves souls. May we continually be devoted to thankful prayer, petitioning God to open doors for His word and help us speak it properly.
1 O Lord, do not rebuke me in Your anger, nor chasten me in Your hot displeasure. 2 Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak; O Lord, heal me, for my bones are troubled. 3 My soul also is greatly troubled; But You, O Lord—how long (Psalm 6:1–3, NKJV)?
David’s soul experienced deep agony due to his sin that was always before him (Ps. 51:3). David’s sin greatly displeased the Lord, but David repented with a contrite heart, and the Lord was merciful to him (Ps. 51:1-2, 7-13, 17; 2 Sam. 12:13). Nevertheless, enemies and “workers of iniquity” would grieve and afflict David; Sin brings consequences (2 Sam. 12:10-11, 14; Ps. 6:6-7). Today’s psalm reflects David’s distress before his enemies who were sinning against the Lord. He prayed to the Lord for mercy to relieve his pain (Ps. 6:1-7). He also prayed to the Lord for justice against his enemies (Ps. 6:8-10). Like David, our sins and the sins of others bring hardships into our lives (Prov. 13:15; 2 Tim. 2:9; 3:12). If you are groaning and suffering because of your sin, turn to God for mercy. Do not remain silent before Him (Ps. 32:1-3). God will forgive you when you come to Him through His Son (John 6:44-45; Matt. 11:28-30; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; Acts 18:8). Christian friend, do not become embittered if you are suffering because of someone else’s sin. In prayer, turn to God for strength to faithfully endure (Heb. 4:15-16; 10:35-39). Ultimately, He will right every wrong (2 Thess. 1:5-10). Praise God today for His mercy. Depend on Him today for the strength to remain faithful went confronted with evil.
16 “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Matthew 6:16–18, NKJV).
After elaborating on prayer’s motive, method, and manner in Matthew 6:5-15, Jesus returns to the motives of personal piety in today’s passage. Fasting often accompanied prayer. Like prayer, hypocrites used fasting as their chance to be praised by others for their voluntary deprivation and affliction of the soul. While not commanded under the new covenant, fasting was (is) a period of intense spiritual devotion. It was associated with recognizing one’s sin with godly sorrow and repentance (Nineveh, Jonah 3:5-10; Luke 11:32; Saul, Acts 9:9-11). The broader principle Jesus taught applies to every action of self-sacrifice. Instead of bragging and displaying religious practices to be praised by others, we aim to please the eyes of our heavenly Father. The reward of human praise momentarily feeds pride and fades quickly. But attentive, faithful service to the Lord will be evident and eternally rewarded. When we love the praise of men more than the praise of God, we confess ourselves, not Christ (John 12:42-43). So, go about your daily service to the Lord without regard for whether others see you. The Father sees you, and that is enough.
9 In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen” (Matthew 6:9–13, NKJV).
Jesus left us a model prayer that teaches disciples what to pray. Matthew 6:9-13 is a digest of the manner or form our prayers should take. (1) Prayer recognizes God’s paternity: “Our Father in heaven.” (2) Prayer revers God’s person: “Hallowed be Your name.” (3) Prayer respects God’s program (His rule and reign): “Your kingdom come.” (4) Prayer submits to God’s purposes: “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (5) Prayer gives thanks for God’s provisions: “Give us this day our daily bread.” (6) Prayer petition for God’s pardon: “And forgive our debts.” (7) Prayer’s proviso for forgiveness: “As we forgive our debtors” (Matt. 6:14-15). (8) Prayer seeks God’s protection: “And do not lead us into temptation.” (9) Prayer praises God’s preeminence: “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” May our hearts form these worthy expressions of faith and dependence on our heavenly Father when we pray.
7 “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. 8 Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:7–8, NKJV).
While continuing to address the correct motive of prayer (v. 7; Matt. 6:5-6), Jesus turns our attention to the method of prayer. How we pray (method) will align itself with why we pray (motive). The pagans repetitively ritualize prayer to their gods. Such prayers are nothing more than empty phrases of useless babblings. Like the false prophets who called on the name of Baal, vainly repeated prayers in the name of the Lord are void of meaning and efficacy (1 Kings 18:26). Ritualized prayers may have a form of godliness, but they deny it power (2 Tim. 3:5). Ironically, millions vainly repeat in ritualized worship the model prayer Jesus is about to teach (Matt. 6:9-13), the very thing Jesus warned against doing. Our Father knows our needs, anxieties, pains, struggles, joys, and so much more. He knows our requests before we bring them to Him in prayer. As a result, our Father receives and responses favorably when we come to His throne of grace with words of reverent humility, not rehearsed blather (v. 8; James 4:6; 1 Pet. 3:12). Don’t pray like the heathens. Pray like a citizen of the kingdom of heaven.
5 …and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. 8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:5–8, NKJV).
God is ready, willing, and able for us to cast our cares on Him. But how do we do that? When facing trials and trouble, we often hear it said, “Just give it to the Lord.” But, how? Today’s verse gives needed instruction on how to cast all our care upon Him to avoid being distracted and overwhelmed by life’s circumstances that test our faith. (1) It takes humility (1 Pet. 5:5-6). Pride prevents turning to God and obstructs grace from His throne of mercy (Luke 18:9-14). (2) It takes trust that God cares for you (1 Pet. 2:7). Faith in God’s mighty hand and attentive care compels us to prayerfully throw our anxious distractions at His feet (Matt. 6:24-25). (3) It takes self-control (1 Pet. 5:8). Anxious care is the devil’s tool to distract and devour us. Sober thinking is needed to make righteous choices when faced with difficult times of temptation (1 Thess. 5:6-10). (4) It takes vigilance (1 Pet. 5:8). Apathy prevents seeking God’s care and grace and prepares us to be an entrée for the devil’s dinner. Casting our care on God takes being watchful to do God’s will and avoid sin (Eph. 5:15-16). We cast our care on God by humbly trusting God (walking by faith), being diligent to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” and boldly approaching His throne of grace for “help in time of need” (2 Cor. 5:7; Matt. 6:33-34; Heb. 4:16).
I waited patiently for the Lord; And He inclined to me, and heard my cry (Psalm 40:1, NKJV).
We must learn to wait patiently on the Lord. That is made difficult in our world of instant gratification. The internet brings “next-day delivery” via Amazon. Cell phones are now walking computers giving immediate contact to the world. Texting is “instant,” and any disruptive delay of service causes anxiety. By contrast, the agricultural life commends patience to us. “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand” (James 5:7-8). God does not work on our schedule of expectations. Prayer is not a demand list we take to God. No, we humbly petition Him with trust that He hears us (Ps. 40:4-5). And He does hear His people. “Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me; O Lord, make haste to help me!” is the patient prayer of the righteous (Ps. 40:13). Those who patiently wait on the Lord praise Him for His deliverance and are obedient, delighting in His will (Ps. 40:2-3, 6-8). Patient trust in God’s salvation compels us to “proclaim the good news of righteousness” rather than hide God’s faithfulness and truth (Ps. 40:9-10). At all times, patiently waiting on the Lord means we seek Him and love His salvation above anything this world offers (Ps. 40:16; Matt. 6:33). Be patient, endure, imitate David’s faith, and say along with him, “But I am poor and needy; Yet the Lord thinks upon me. You are my help and my deliverer; Do not delay, O my God” (Ps. 40:17).