The possibility of praying is astonishing. Jesus Christ has made it possible for us to pray — that is, for us to speak to God, knowing that he hears us and takes what we say seriously.
I would like to share with you some reflections on this extraordinary possibility in these Bulletin letters over the coming weeks.
Let’s begin by asking: How are we to pray?
Jesus had this to say about “how you should pray” (see Matthew 6:9):
(1) Do not pray to “be seen by others” (Matthew 6:5). This speaks of the motivation of our prayers. We are not to pray so that others will think well of us. We are not to pray so that we can tell others that we pray. We are not to pray because others expect us to pray. Rather, we are to pray because we have a Father in heaven who knows everything, and who sees what others do not see (Matthew 6:6). We pray because he invites us to pray, and as we pray we look to him for every good thing.
(2) Do not “keep on babbling” (ESV, “heap up empty phrases”) (Matthew 6:7). This suggests the manner of our praying. We do not pray in order to change God’s mind, or to impress him, or to convince him to be favourable towards us. We do not even pray to inform God of anything he does not already know. We pray because he has shown his love to us, and because he knows our needs better than we know them ourselves (Matthew 6:8). Therefore our praying is to be simple, direct and straightforward.
(3) Jesus provided a model for our praying in the words we know as the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13). The model prayer is addressed to our Father in heaven (verse 9), seeks first his kingdom (verse 10), acknowledges our dependence on him (verse 11), and recognises our greatest need is forgiveness and help with temptation (verses 12, 13).
Who will pray like this?
Only those who have been deeply touched by God’s kindness and forgiveness. Such people will, of course, forgive others (Matthew 6:14, 15).
And we will pray. How good is that!
John Woodhouse (Acting Senior Minister)