9 Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! (Matthew 7:9–11, NKJV)
Fathers desire to fulfill the requests of their children. Indeed, fathers bear a particular responsibility to provide for their own house, and failure to do so is a grievous sin (1 Tim. 5:8). If earthly fathers give good things to their children when they ask, how much more does our heavenly Father do so. Jesus reasons from the lesser to the greater to impress upon us a fundamental truth: Our heavenly Father gives us the “good things” we need when we ask of Him. God hears and answers the prayers of His children, and He does so in ways that are best for us. God not only supplies our daily bread, He also supplies us with every spiritual blessing in Christ, which sustain our spiritual life. In the parallel passage of Luke 11:13, Jesus identifies the “good things” given by the Father as the “Holy Spirit” (whose presence confirmed the kingdom had come, Lk. 11:20; Matt. 12:28). God answers our prayers in harmony with His purposes and for our spiritual good. This is our faith as we pray to our heavenly Father.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. (Matthew 6:13, NKJV)
Our prayers should not only be about our needs and desires (Heb. 4:16). They should not only be supplications on behalf of others (1 Tim. 2:1-2). They should also be filled with adoration for our Heavenly Father. Reverent respect and regard for the Almighty ought to be evident in our manner of prayer (Matt. 6:9). Acknowledge the regal, royal, sovereign rule of our Father as we pray. It is precisely because He reigns supreme that we are impressed with His willingness to hear and answer our prayers. His eternal power, announced by His whole creation, assures us of His ability to act on our behalf. His majestic glory humbles us in His presence and impresses us of His love toward us, low as we are in comparison to His majesty (Psa. 8:4). As we pray, let us remember to whom we are addressing our petitions. This will help define our attitude in prayer as well as shape our faith in our Father to “do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Eph. 3:20).
In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. (Matthew 6:9, NKJV)
In what manner do you pray? Some approach prayer as a very casual conversation. While we are to avoid “vain repetitions” (empty rhetoric) when we pray, that does not do away with the awesome nature of prayer, or the awe-inspiring One to whom we pray. We must pray with utmost respect and regard for our Father. (We have been told of those who have tried to personalize prayer by beginning with, “Hi Dad” – a gross distortion of reverently addressing “our Father in heaven.”) God’s name – all that He is (His divine nature, holiness, grandeur and greatness) – shapes the reverence with which we must approach Him with our prayers. When you pray, fully recognize God’s sovereignty and absolute holiness (Rev. 4:8-11). Magnify His greatness and rejoice that we have the privilege of approaching Him in prayer. Although many call this passage “The Lord’s Prayer,” it is more aptly called the “Model Prayer,” from which we pattern the manner and content of our prayers (Matt. 6:9-15).
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)
How do you pray? The volume of words used in prayer does not constitute a prayer that pleases our heavenly Father. Liturgical attempts to approach the Almighty are met with the Son of God’s rebuke and rejection. Jesus likens empty rhetoric in prayer to the attempts of the heathen to move their lifeless gods to action (cf. 1 Kgs. 18:26-27). Citizens of the kingdom carefully avoid useless, purposeless words in prayer. The reason is obvious (yet, Jesus remind us, for we have a tendency to forget) – our heavenly Father knows our needs before we ask Him. Prayer expresses the deep yearnings of the heart to Him who made the heart and who knows what is in our heart better than we do ourselves. Our prayers express our trust in and dependency upon God, not our ability to repeat phrases men have deemed pious and persuasive (1 Pet. 5:6-7). Let us adorn our prayers with simple communication from trusting hearts, not with mindless prattle that offends the One to whom we pray.
5 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. 6 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. (Matthew 6:5–6, NKJV)
Why do you pray? What is the driving motive behind your prayers? God, who knows the human heart, knows the insincere motives of prayer. Prayer is not a public display of a Christian’s devotion to God. We are warned not to pray desiring that people praise us for our piety. Hypocrites pretend to pray out of devout dependency upon God, but their motive is to be seen by others. Faithful Christians do not pray for the accolades of others, but so that the Father will hear and help them. They do not make sure everyone knows all about how and when they pray to God; they are content to communicate privately and earnestly with the Father. God promises to hear and answer these prayers. If we pray to be praised by others, men will answer our prayers with their praises. But, God will not answer us, for we have elevated ourselves above Him and trusted in ourselves instead of trusting Him.
1 Hear my prayer, O Lord, and let my cry come to You. 2 Do not hide Your face from me in the day of my trouble; Incline Your ear to me; In the day that I call, answer me speedily. (Psalm 102:1–2, NKJV)
Burdensome trials are common to us all as we travel through life; none of us are immune from the pains and sorrows of the flesh. Those who live by faith face the additional stresses and strains brought on by seeing and hearing the lawless deeds of the wicked (2 Peter. 2:8). Yet, just as God “delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked”, the Lord knows how to “deliver the godly out of temptations” (2 Pet. 2:7, 9). One way He does so is by hearing and answering the fervent prayers of the righteous. The Lord hears the cries of His people. He sends forth His goodwill from His throne of grace to help us in time of need (Heb. 4:16). God is our “very present help in trouble” (Psa. 46:1). Do not forget to pray, and do not fail to trust that God will hear and answer your prayers (1 Jno. 5:14-15).
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. 3 For You have been a shelter for me, a strong tower from the enemy. 4 I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings. Selah (Psalm 61:1–4, NKJV)
David, the sweet psalmist of Israel, raised his voice in a cry of lamentation to God. This causes us to reflect on the abiding truth that God attends to the prayers of His people. When your heart is overwhelmed, weakened and strained by the burdens of life – illness, grief over the death of loved ones, uncertainties and doubts – it is God who hears and gives you shelter from all these storms. Like David, trust God to lead you to safety and salvation. He is your defense against every enemy, a comforting presence when life overwhelms. Trust in the protection of His wings and His dwelling place. Say with David that God is “my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be greatly moved” (Psa. 62:2). Truly, God is “the rock that is higher” than any of us. He hears and heeds prayers that trust in Him. Pause today to meditate on God’s comforting presence and His promise to be “a very present help in trouble” (Psa. 46:1).