God's Precautions for Prayer

Faith Church January 2, 2010 Matthew 6:5-13

 

Introduction:

1.  Think about this phrase (it’s really profound!!): If you’re going to make progress, you have to keep moving!

- you can’t be stagnate, you can’t stand still, or not put forth any effort and expect to make any progress in whatever you’re facing or trying to accomplish

- that’s true from a practical/daily life perspective as well as SPIRITUALLY!

2.  Our theme for 2010: Taking the Next Step!

Q: What does that imply about your life, your marriage, your family, your church, ABF, our ministries to each other and to our community?

Answer: We have to be growing – making progress, getting better, moving ahead!

3.  We’d like to begin a series today: Taking the Next Step: In Our Spiritual Growth of PRAYER!

4.  Martyn Lloyd – Jones wrote:– MacArthur’s, Alone With God, p. 7.

“Prayer is beyond any question the highest activity of the human soul.  Man is at his greatest and highest when upon his knees he comes face to face with God.”

5.  I’d like to begin our study with * A series of questions for us to consider:

1)  How would you define prayer? 

Talking to God as you would to a beloved friend – without pretense or flippancy” – Ibid, p. 7

2)  What would be our adversary’s view of prayer? 

- He constantly introduces errors into our understand of and commitment to prayer

- He will never tell you that it is NOT IMPORTANT, but he will instead tell you ________________?

  • Not as important
  • Don’t get so consumed with it
  • You can try, but you probably won’t get your answer (doubt)
  • Something else. is more important (i.e. certain activity – so you are too busy to pray)

3)  What emphasis does the Bible give on this subject, and what passage could you give to support your answer? (various answers)

- The Bible places an HEAVY emphasis on prayer!

- You see the emphasis in the OT, the life of Christ, and in the Epistles:

  • Psalm 5:3 In the morning, O LORD, Thou wilt hear my voice; In the morning I will order my prayer to Thee and eagerly watch.
  • Matthew 5:44 But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.
  • Luke 6:12 And it was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:17 Pray without ceasing.

Point:  Nearly 300 verses recording in the Scripture about prayer!

Q:  Is that the kind of emphasis I give prayer?  My family?  Our church?

- Explain why we want to do this series

- Our plans to include times of prayer DURING our ABFs (& personally, couples, families)

4)  Why don’t we pray?  Why is this area of Christian discipline so difficult an area in which to grow? (various answers)

  • It’s work – it takes effort and personal discipline
  • It’s spiritual warfare – Eph. 6 – we usually stop @ the last piece of armor – keep going
  • Ephesians 6:18 With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.

6.  While prayer is not the most important things – i.e. us talking to God – but rather, God speaking to us through His Word, it is one of the major disciplines of the Christian life

  • I need it; You need it; Our church needs it

7.  The purpose of this series: 

  1. To help us develop a more biblical understanding of God's purpose and goal in prayer
  2. To motivate individual believers to pray more and to pray in a more biblical manner
  3. To help us as a church family grow in our focus and practice of corporate prayer

Point:  When you think a/b what characterized the NT church, one of those characteristics was PRAYER!

8.  Corporate prayer is probably a reflection of our individual prayer, couple’s praying, families praying together, friends praying together

-  If we think we can ‘run the church’ without help from God, we are very deceived!

9.  Over the next few weeks, I’d recommend reading Matthew 6 – memorizing the Lord’s prayer

10. Recommend the following resources:

  • Alone with God by John MacArthur
  • The Prayer of Jabez, Bruce Wilkerson
  • Too Busy NOT to Pray, Bill Hybels

[Read Matthew 6:5-13] – Context: Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5, 6, 7 – Jesus is teaching and beginning His public ministry)

I.  God’s Precautions Regarding Prayer:  What to AVOID – v. 5 - 8

- Knowing the Jewish background (historical context), Jesus as addressing:

A.  Ritualized Prayers – v. 5

- The problem was this:  The word and form of prayer were set, and prayers were then simply read or repeated from memory!

- There was no ‘heart’ in the process – no real ‘compassion’ and ‘burden’ that motivated the prayer

- Prayers became driven by ‘ritual’ – for us, it would be:  “We’ve always done it that way!”

- For example:  Quoting “The Lord’s Prayer” just for the sake of quoting a prayer!

>  It wasn’t given as a prayer to be repeated any more than John 17 should be memorized and quoted as a prayer by all believers (Jesus’ high priestly prayer before His crucifixion).

- For many in Israel:

“Prayers easily became a routine, semiconscious religious exercise, able to be recited without any mental or passionate involvement by the individual.” - MacArthur

*  Our prayers ought to be sincere (genuine), passionate, humble!!

- this is different than the ‘hypocrites’ Jesus spoke of in v. 5

- Another problem they had that we need to make sure we don’t repeat is the issue of …

B.   Long Prayers – v. 5

- The religious leaders put a lot of emphasis on LOOOOOOOOOONG prayers

* Believing a prayer’s sanctity and effectiveness were in direct proportion to its LENGTH!

Q:  What was the nature result of that belief? ... THE LONGER THE BETTER! (like sermons!)

- Jesus warned about the scribes who:

  • Mark 12:40 – “. . . for appearance’s sake offer long prayers”

- The bible doesn’t place any time limits on prayers:

  • Some were SHORT: “Lord save me” (when Peter walked on water)
  • Others were LONG: Jesus prayed all night!

Point: It’s not the LENGTH, but the ‘heart motives’ & ‘thinking’ behind the prayer!

- Which the next precaution addresses that very issue of motivation

C.  Self-Centered Prayer

“While the other faults are not necessarily wrong in themselves, having simply been carried to extremes and used in meaningless ways, the desire to use prayer as an opportunity to parade one’s spirituality before men is intrinsically evil because it both originates in and is intended to satisfy pride.” – MacArthur

1.  The problem was a heart full of pride.

- So the Lord deals with those who prayed with the motivation of showing their supposed spirituality before men

  • Matthew 6:5 And when you pray, you are not to be as the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners, in order to be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.

Point:  Prayer that focuses on self is always hypocritical because true prayer focuses on God!

* Consider what the following verses have to say about pride:

  • Proverbs 16:18 Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.
  • Proverbs 29:23 A man's pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain honor.

- No doubt, the Lord has a strong view of ‘pride’ and it is not a good view

>  You can see why Jesus was so hard on the Pharisees

>  You can see why we must do all we can to avoid ‘Self-Centered Praying”

2.  Jesus referred to them as ‘hypocrites.’

-  The term hypocrite originally referred to the Greek actors who wore masks that portrayed, in an exaggerated way, the roles they were dramatizing, so . . .

* The idea of a hypocrite is one of a pretender – persons who are playing a role, but their true identity is not revealed!

Q:  Is it possible for us to fall into the same category as the ‘hypocrites’ to which Jesus referred?

A: Yes – so we should acknowledge that fact and ‘TAKE THE NEXT STEP” to avoid it!

3.  Resulted in a False Audience:  Man instead of God!

- in reality, the TRUE audience is God the Father . . . who is in secret and will reward you openly!

- The hypocritical scribes & Pharisees prayed for the same reason they did everything else – to se SEEN OF MEN!  [To bring honor to themselves!]

- You can be certain, that attitude has no place in the kingdom of God!

>  That sin/heart attitude is what the cross is all about – PRIDE

  • All that started in heaven with Satan when he rebelled against God . . . it continued in the garden when Adam took of the fruit that God told him NOT to eat (warned him)

- Now, some might think that Jesus was being a bit hard on this group:

  • There was nothing inherently wrong with praying in the synagogues . . . or with standing – that was the most common position for prayer in the NT
  • Even the practice of praying at the ‘street corner’ was not wrong in itself [ At times, devout Jews would stop where they were & pray – even walking along the street

*  The problem was not the LOCATION or the POSITION, [what was the problem?] …

. . . it was the motive/attitude of the heart!

- You can be sure of this, when our motive is pride – God has no part in that pious activity!

LESSON:: Those who are motivated by the praise of men, ‘they have their reward.’

- Jesus also warned us about …

D.  Meaningless Repetitions – v. 7

  • Matthew 6:7 "And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition, as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.”

- While we are to be persistent, saying something over and over doesn’t necessarily get God's attention – especially the ‘vain’ or ‘meaningless’ words we may use!

Input:  What are some examples of words or phrases that can become ‘meaningless repetitions’ as we pray? (various answers)

  • “God bless us” // “Thank you for this day” OR “Give us a good day”
  • “Watch over us” (Why even ask that – God is ALWAYS watching over us!!)

Conclusion: 

1. Let’s put some of our principles into practice TODAY [James 1:22 – be DOERS of the Word]

2.  I want to lay out some specific prayers requests for our church this year and pray for each one!

3.  I’ll state the ‘request’ – we’ll give a biblical foundation for it – then go to the next one

- There are 12 of them, so we’ll do that 3 times as we pray for 4 at a time!

General requests:  Since it is God's will . . .

1.  That we as a church in general, and our leaders in particular, would be growing in holiness.

  • 1 Peter 1:16 Because it is written, "YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY."

2.  That we would lead balanced and priority-oriented lives.

  • Matthew 6:33 “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.”
  • Colossians 1:18 So that He Himself might come to have first place in everything.

3.  That we would be building strong marriages, families, and friendships.

  • Genesis 2:24 For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.
  • Ephesians 6:4 And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
  • John 13:34"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”

4.  That our corporate worship would be genuine and passionate.

  • Psalm 95:6 Come, let us worshipand bow down; let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.

 

5.  That our loyalty to God's Word would be unwavering (no matter how challenging the truth may be) and that we would obey it!

  • James 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only . . .

6. That we would increase our faithfulness in prayer this year.

  • James 5:16 The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

7.  That our children would be developing inner convictions that are strong, biblical, and real.

  • Joshua 1:8 "This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.”

8.  That we would see many people won to Jesus Christ this year.

  • 2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

 

9.  That new persons would be made to feel welcomed and accepted, and they would become members quickly and get connected in areas of growth and service.

  • Galatians 5:13 But through love serve one another.

10.  That our discipleship ministries would be effective and reveal the evidence of spiritual growth and development (ABFs, FCI, Men/Women’s Ministries)

  • 2 Peter 3:18But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.

11.  That our missionary outreach would grow stronger and our missionaries would know they are loved, appreciated, and supported.

  • Matthew 28:19"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations . . .

12.  That our influence in our community would be positive and honoring to Christ.

  • Matthew 5:16 “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

 

-  While we believe God will answer our prayers, we know that what the ‘answer’ looks like is up to Him.

-  Let’s not be guilty of ‘doubting’ God when His word is so clear on a number of these (and other) issues.

Specific Requests:  If it is God's will . . . ’ [Examples: The Purdue facility, Ministry Center]

Faith Church