Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Jesus' Advice on Prayer

There are those passages in Scripture that are widely known - in fact, some are so well known that even non-Christians can quote them without batting an eye. The Lord's Prayer is one of those passages. It's quoted in movies (think about every sports movie locker room scene before the big game), memorized by children, said in unison in get the point. Sometimes, I like to look at what is mentioned before and after these frequently quoted passages in Scripture because we tend to look over them. Yesterday's thought ended with Matthew 6:5-8, the verses leading up to the Lord's Prayer. Scroll down to yesterday's post and read that version first. Then, here is that same passage from a different translation...then we'll look at what the advice we can pull out from Jesus Himself.
"And when you come before God, don't turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat? Here's what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won't be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace. The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They're full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don't fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need."

Prayer isn't about getting the spotlight. It's about intimate fellowship with God. Think about those late night conversations that you have with your best friend at a sleepover. Chances are, you wouldn't want those broadcast to the world. That is how you should view your prayer life. Prayer is a way to come before God - no hide and seek, no masks - just you as you are before your Savior. Look back to the version we read yesterday where it speaks of how the hypocrites who pray with the intention of attention "have their reward in full." This means their reward for being "prayer warriors" was given by man. What does it say about the man who prays in private? He gets his reward from God! Let's stop a minute to think about this. Would you rather have an ordinary person or a King show up with a present at your house? Umm...I'm gonna go with King on this one. Rewards of this world are meaningless - they break, they go out of style, whatever. God's rewards are eternal - they never end they continue to grow.

Don't pray on autopilot. Communicate the words of your heart to God. Sure the "God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for our food. Amen!" prayer is fine when you're three, but have you really moved past that? Do you find yourself saying the same things over and over to God? "I'm sorry for my sins." "Thank you for everything you've given me." "Be with me in all that I do today." "Help me on my test." "Make that really cute guy in Algebra talk to me again." Wow, that's deep. (Sorry, sarcasm is my spiritual gag gift.) So what can you say instead? Let's just take that whole sin apology and look at the difference that you can make. What about, "Father, I'm sorry that I gossiped today. Forgive me, and give me strength to ask for her forgiveness as well. Lord, I ask that you would not let me be tempted to gossip in the future. Keep me pure of mind, mouth, and heart." Is that a little more meaningful to God than, "I'm sorry for my sins." Be genuine, and don't short-change the One who gave up everything for You.

You can't fool Him - God knows your sins, needs, wants, hopes, fears, desires, etc. before you even tell Him. Other than because it's the right thing to do, what is the number one reason for being completely real before God? HE KNOWS ANYWAY! You can't keep secrets from God. He sees everything, knows everything, hears's pointless to try and act like you're something you're not. So don't put up a front. Don't act like everything is fine when it's not. Don't pretend like you haven't done anything wrong when you've sinned. Don't try to be tough when you need help. That's why He's there - He is the Ultimate Helper, Best Friend, Listener, King, and Daddy. Now that's a package deal.

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Esther 4:14b

"And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?"