Day 20: January 20, 2014

Today's Reading(s)

Matthew 6:5-15
5 “Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward!

6 But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

7 When you pray, don’t babble like the idolaters, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words.

8 Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask Him.

9 “Therefore, you should pray like this:
    Our Father in heaven,
    Your name be honored as holy.
    10 Your kingdom come.
    Your will be done
    on earth as it is in heaven.
    11 Give us today our daily bread.
    12 And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
    13 And do not bring us into temptation,
    but deliver us from the evil one.
    [For Yours is the kingdom and the power
    and the glory forever. Amen.]

14 “For if you forgive people their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well.

15 But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.



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How We Pray
by Steve Layton, Discipleship Minister, Brentwood Campus

Today’s reading in Matthew 6 is a part of a larger discourse, or teaching, of Jesus known as the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is instructing His followers (us) to seek our reward from God instead of people and to live for God’s approval, not the praise of others.

The curtain opens on the passage with religious leaders standing in synagogues (churches) and on busy streets praying in a manner that compels others to observe their piety. Jesus addresses an important issue in this passage—praying in such a way that attention to oneself instead of focusing our prayers on God and entering conversation and communion with Him.

After addressing the position of prayer, Jesus instructs those listening to be confident in their prayers. He tells them not to babble or ramble on as God already knows what you need and He wants you to come confidently before Him in praise, thanksgiving, petition, confession and intercession. Jesus demonstrates this by praying what many call the” Model Prayer.”

Simply stated, prayer is taking with God. In the Bible, we read where Jesus invites and commands us to pray. He teaches and models prayer for us. He instructs us to come boldly before God and to approach the throne of grace with confidence.

Yet many Christ-followers have a weak or non-existent prayer life. Many wonder if God actually hears their prayers and even more if He answers their prayers. Yet they are in good company. Even the disciples of Jesus felt inadequate in prayer and asked Him to teach them to pray.

Prayer is vital and ultimately important to the life of a Christ follower. It strengthens our fellowship with God and reminds us that we are His children. That we are accepted, that we have access to Him and that are invited to have conversation and to make our requests known to God.   

U.S. News and the online site Beliefnet funded a poll to learn more about why, how, where, and when people pray. Here’s a summary of the findings:

  • 75% percent of those who prayed were Christian
  • 64% say they pray more than once a day
  • 56% say they most often pray for family members
  • 3.3% say they pray for strangers
  • 38%+ say the most important purpose of prayer is intimacy with God
  • 41% say their prayers are answered often
  • 1.5% say their prayers are never answered.
  • 73%+ say when their prayers aren’t answered, the most important reason is because they did not fit God’s plan.
  • 5% say they pray most often in a house of worship
  • 79% say they pray most often at home.
  • 67% say, in the past six months, their prayers have related to continually giving thanks to God

Prayer is a habit in my life. My mother taught me to pray using children’s prayers like “Now I lay me down to sleep” and “God is Great, God is Good.” Growing older, she taught me that prayer was talking with God and that I shouldn’t be afraid to talk to Him about anything that was on my heart.

We memorized and prayed the model prayer and other key prayer passages. Childlike prayers led to conversations with God. Practices became habits that shaped my spiritual formation. Today, prayer is a natural conversation leading toward a Christ centered life.

I like to pray using a prayer pattern. I usually begin my prayer time with praise. This is all about God and should not be confused with thanksgiving. I often praise God using His names and characteristics from the Bible. For example, I praise God because He’s Jehovah Shalom, a God of peace.

From here, I move into thanksgiving. I often spend a great deal of time here reflecting on God’s blessings and goodness to me and my family. When I recognize how blessed I am, I usually realize where I fall short in my journey toward Christlikeness.

This leads me to confession of sin. After I’ve spent time with my shortcomings and sin, I enter a time of petition. This is where I ask God for what I need personally. This pattern ends with intercession where I pray for others and their needs.

Praxis

  • Let’s keep it simple. Begin to practice the discipline of prayer by using the prayer pattern outlined above. Start with praise, move to thanksgiving, confession, petition and end with intercession. Don’t worry if you are praying correctly or not. The bottom line is if you are sharing your heart with God, you are doing it right.
  • Another way to practice the discipline of prayer is by reading and reflecting on the model prayer. Read slowly, word by word, then phrase by phrase. Ask yourself introspective questions such as “What does it mean to pray Our Father?” If God is my Father, what does that say about my relationship with Him? What would I say to Him if I were to talk with Him as my Father? In this same manner, work through the entire passage.
  • Once you have completed your reflection and introspection, give prayer a try. Simply be still and tell God what is on your heart and mind. Once you are through talking to Him, be quiet and listen to what He says to you. You have to take the first step to reach your destination. Keep practicing and soon you will become comfortable talking with God in prayer.

About JourneyOn Today

Today's devotional series accompanies the Spiritual Practices Foundations Curriculum which deals with 24 different spiritual disciplines. We will break for an Advent series in December and continue the second half of Spiritual Practices during the first quarter of 2015.