Prayer is that wonderful gift given us of our heavenly Father whereby we may communicate with Him and glorify Him. As children of the covenant, prayer has been an integral pan of our lives. When we were small prayers were said at the table and we were taught to fold our hands and close our eyes and to be quiet while Father prayed. As we got a little older we were taught prayers to say at mealtime and bedtime. When we entered school, we heard more prayers and soon we became accustomed to prayers at home, then at school, and then at church. They became a starting off point in our lives. You didn’t begin classes in school until devotions were over; you didn’t hear the sermon on Sundays until after long prayer; you didn’t go to sleep at night without first saying your prayers.
As we grew older we were told that it was time we learned to pray by ourselves. So we haltingly stumbled through prayers that sounded like miniature forms of our parents’ prayers. And the more we listened, and studied God’s word and grew in grace, the easier our prayers became. From studying God’s word in Matthew 6 we learn that Jesus spoke to His disciples on the proper attitude we must assume when we pray: “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions as the heathen do; for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.”
First, we are instructed to pray in private. Before God we are a distinct individual with our own individual sins, weaknesses, trials and temptations. We all have our own need of God and His love and grace. We have things that we must confess to our heavenly Father and to Him alone.
Secondly, we are told not to use vain repetitions- in other words, flowery speech that means nothing. God is not glorified by it.
We also read in this chapter in verse 8: “for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask Him.” This means that our Father in heaven knows what our needs are for each day. In His divine providence He will provide for us the food, clothing, and shelter necessary for us to survive in this world each day anew. This does not mean it will always be convenient for the flesh. Maybe the way before us is harder than that of our neighbor and as His humble servants we accept this, knowing that this is for our strengthening and purification. Our God is a holy, perfect being who has dominion over all that the eye can see and touch and hear. He controls all things and works all things to His glory. It has pleased Him to call into being a people that will honor and glorify His name continually. He has chosen us for His glorification. And with humbled hearts we kneel before His mighty throne of grace and honor Him and seek His strength and guidance in our lives, so that we may more perfectly walk in that way which He has set before us.
Today around us, we are hearing more prayers that fall far short of this reverence to God. Recently I attended a meeting, and since it was a Bible Study class, the meeting was opened with prayer. As far as I can recall, this is similar to what was offered as a prayer: “Dear God we come to you and thank you for this beautiful day. We are so glad that we have such a nice turn out today and we ask that we may have an enjoyable time over our coffee later on. Amen.”
A prayer such as this never even reached God’s throne of grace, for where was the reverence and love that He demands of us?
Jesus and God are now portrayed to those around us as friends or buddies. We talk to them all day long while we clean the house, or do the shopping. God is being asked for carpet in the living room, and for parking spaces. Prayers are made by students that they may pass their tests. God is being looked to as some kind of a magic genie who can provide any little thing for us that will make life more convenient. They seem to have forgotten the petition in the Lord’s Prayer: “give us this day our daily bread”. The awe and holiness of our glorious Father is stamped out with rite phrases and nonsense requests.
As we hear such things do our hearts shudder? Do we feel uncomfortable? I know I was ashamed to have bowed my head to what I thought was going to be a prayer. We must not lose sight of who our Creator is and what our relationship to Him must be at all times, but especially in prayer, when we are speaking to Him from our hearts and communing with Him. And if we at times are confused by what is going on around us and we don’t know how to answer them, we can say with the disciples in Luke 11: 1-Lord, teach us to pray. And Jesus’ answer is there in the beautifully complete Lord’s Prayer.