In 1975, at the Western Open golf tournament near Chicago, the legendary Lee Travino was one of three golfers struck by lightning on the same day. Later, when he was interviewed on television, he was asked what he had learned from the experience which had caused a back injury that hampered the rest of his career, Travino said, “I learned that if the Almighty wants to play through, you better get out of His way.” (cited by R. C. Sproul in The Holiness of God, pp. 77-78)
That true story illustrates the posture of heart that we should have when we approach God in prayer. When we approach the throne of God we need to recognize that the heavenly Father to whom we pray is also God Almighty, and His will is always over and above our will. Therefore, Jesus teaches us to enter the Father’s presence with a “Your will be done” attitude of heart.
It is that kind of humility and submission that we learned about last week in our first exploration of this well-known passage in Matthew 6. We noticed that God is so concerned about the heart of the person who prays that Jesus preceded His teaching on prayer with a warning against pretending to be righteous (Matthew 6:1-4). He said, “Do not be like the hypocrites.”
The word “hypocrite” is an interesting word. Literally and historically it refers to “play actors;” that is, actors on a stage who changed masks to become different people. When the word is brought into the religious realm, as Jesus uses it, it becomes a negative word. When we put on masks—pretend to be people we are not—we are hypocrites. One area where play acting is especially dangerous is prayer.
Stop here. If you have not already done so, take a moment to read the first post.
Clearly, prayer is not a means by which we impress or manipulate God. God already knows what we need before we ask Him (Matthew 6:8). Therefore, we must approach Him with a heart of humility and submission.
WE SHOULD PRAY FOR GOD’S GLORY TO BE SEEN (vv. 9-10).
First, we should pray for God’s glory to be made visible as His will is accomplished among us.
- Pray for God’s name to be exalted. To pray “Hallowed by Thy name” is to say, “Father in heaven, may Your name be set apart as holy.”
- Pray for God’s kingdom to expand. God’s reign on earth is not accomplished through political victories, but by the victory of the gospel to conquer the hearts of men, women, and children. Let us pray for powerful gospel advancements.
- Pray for God’s will to be executed. Since all heavenly subjects cheerfully submit to God now, let us pray for His will to be followed here on earth.
But not only should we pray for God’s glory to be seen, but we should also pray for our needs to be met.
WE SHOULD PRAY FOR OUR NEEDS TO BE MET (vv. 11-13).
Jesus points out three needs.
Our need for provision (v. 11).
First, we should pray for our personal physical necessities even though God has already promised to give to us food, clothing, and shelter (Matthew 6:25-33). This daily dependence upon God in prayer is part of God’s prescription for the anxious heart.
Notice Jesus tells us to pray for “daily” bread, not our monthly grocery bill or our annual salary. Why daily? To demonstrate our dependence upon God. This daily bread reminds us of how God provided for the Israelites during their 40 years in the wilderness. Manna was provided 6 days/week, as much as they needed. On the 6th day they were to take twice the allotted amount since they were not to gather on the Sabbath. Each day, they were to take only what they could eat. If they hoarded some for the next day (failing to trust God), it would breed worms and stink. Thus, the expectation was that they would learn to lean on God for their daily provision. Ultimately, this was to point them to the Messiah whom the manna portrayed (read John 6).
Our need for pardon (v. 12)
Daily prayer includes recognition of our need for forgiveness from God. We need the heart attitude of David displayed in Psalm 51:1-3. We also need forgiveness from others, which Jesus had just taught in the same sermon (Matthew 5:23-24). But we are also required to forgive those who wrong us, “as we also have forgiven our debtors.” This is so important that Jesus wrapped up His model prayer with a strong warning (Matthew 6:14-15). If we refuse to forgive others then we should seriously examine the genuineness of our salvation. True Christians forgive, but a life pattern of unforgiveness reveals an unregenerate heart. That’s Jesus’ point.
Our need for protection (v. 13)
We should also pray, “lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil.” Since temptation originates in our hearts (James 1:13-16), we need to ask the Lord to protect us from ourselves. In Mark 14:38, Jesus connected prayer to strength against temptation: “Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
We also need to pray for personal deliverance from the evil one. Satan is like a roaring lion who is always seeking for his next victim, prowling about to devour true followers of Christ (1 Peter 5:8-10), and he and his demons waste no time or energy. Therefore, we should also pray for the spiritual protection of our fellow believers, especially preachers of the gospel (2 Thessalonians 3:1-2).
If we’ve learned one thing from this passage of Scripture it is that we desperately need God and, therefore, must become people of prayer. Jesus teaches us to come to God humbly in prayer, not seeking public praise, but with a heart of surrender and dependence on Him for all our needs, and a will that is submissive to His will. We should come to God in bold confidence, but without white-knuckled resistance or demands—holding our requests in open palms. As we pray this way, we consciously follow our Lord’s example when He prayed to the Father, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
[This post is adapted from a recent sermon at Cornerstone Community Church (EFCA) in Mayfield Heights, Ohio.]
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