Reflections on Prayer - October

Matthew 6: 6 “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

By Lisa Espinoza

If you liked Batman Begins and Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, you’ll love this month’s Prelude to a Prayer. We’ve been looking at the Lord’s Prayer since January, but Christ’s instructions in Matthew 6:5-8 are just as important as the prayer that follows.

Ironic, isn’t it. Jesus prefaced a model for prayer with a lesson against using prayer as a showcase for piety.  Who would do such a thing? Oh, come now…admit it with me. The pastor closes with, “Let’s say the Lord’s Prayer together.” While others may hesitate, especially at “forgive us our trespass—uh—debts,” we never skip a beat, moving smoothly from one phrase to the next regardless of the chosen translation. Boo-ya! Not quite the spectacle Jesus mentions in verse 5, but you get the idea.

Jesus wanted to steer us away from using a mere form of prayer that left out the main ingredient—a sincere relationship with Him. So in a take-off of the hit TV show What NOT to Wear, Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:5-8 how NOT to pray.

Week 1

Read Matthew 6:5-8.

Three times in this short passage, Jesus refers to God as “your Father.”  How would a father feel if the only time his child approached him was to conduct a transaction? Can I borrow the keys? Can I have some money? Can I go to the movies? God is our Father and desires relationship with us that is built on more than a series of transactions. Can you heal my back? Can you send me a job? Can you show my spouse that I’m right?  Of course, God wants us to present our needs and desires honestly to him, but He also wants to just hang out with us.

This week practice hanging out with God as a Father who loves you and desires your company.

Week 2

This week’s experiment in prayer is this: abandon everything you know about prayer. Don’t lean on your extensive grasp of Christianese or formulas you’ve used in the past. If prayer is new to you, or you’ve struggled with prayer, set all that aside. Come to God humbly, like a little child, asking, “Father, teach me to pray.” At the end of the week, write down what God has taught you. Pray for the grace to remain each day with Christ in the lifelong school of prayer.

Week 3

Read II Corinthians 4:18

Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:6 to pray in secret for an audience of one—our “Father who is unseen.”   These passages reveal to us a kingdom reality that contradicts everything we learn here on planet earth. Success, material possessions, status, accomplishments—things we can see and measure—are what matters. Jesus reminds us that God is unseen. He is the ultimate reality. A life of prayer, of nurturing the inner life with Christ, is a decisive statement that we truly believe that what is seen is here only temporarily, while that which is unseen is eternal.

This week, set aside time to nurture your inner life with Christ. You won’t land on the front page of People magazine or get paid overtime for it. But your relationship with Christ is real, and it is eternal.

Week 4

I heard a famous motivational speaker once say in all seriousness, “It’s important that we appear to be sincere.” Jesus is saying the opposite in Matthew 6:7,8. Repeating the right words and keeping up appearances doesn’t impress Him in the least. God is after the heart.

Each day this week, pull out your journal. Forget about saying the “right” things. Pour out your heart to God. Tell Him your fears, your struggles, your joys, what you’re angry about, who you’re ready to punch in the nose…even if He’s the one you’re angry with. God won’t be surprised by any of it, and your honesty will open the door to a deeper relationship with Him.