Church of Christ
Locks Cross Roads
2) Matthew 6 - Praying
Matthew 6:6

Jesus lays another specific charge against the hypocrite:  loving to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the
street corners.  Their sin is not in the "standing and praying publicly," but in their "being seen of men and loving it."  
Standing while praying, as such, is not censured (Mark 11:25, Luke 18:11 and 13), but the pride which feeds on
praise for piety is condemned.

Their choice of such places for prayer was not mere chance in the sense that at the hour of prayer they happened
to find themselves in some public place, but rather they made it their point to be found praying at the prayer hours.  
They derived particular enjoyment from this habit.  He does not condemn public prayer for the public benefit, in
which others participate.  Rather He denounces private devotions made public for private benefit.  To be seen of
men:  they may have formally addressed their prayers to God, but they really directed them to men.  Thus God had
nothing to do with either hearing or answering their prayers.  This is why the hypocrite has not reward coming from
Matthew 6:6 but thou.  Observe the change from plural to singular, a remarkable change from the preceding
lessons addressed to the audience in general.  As if Jesus were saying, "And now, my disciple, a word to you
personally. . . "  The "closet" (King James Version) is any room that provides a place for private prayer.
    1) The place of prayer:  thine inner chamber (Luke 3:21, Luke 9:18 and 29, Luke 11:1).  He encouraged His         
         disciples to unite in prayer, even if just two or three of them so met (Matthew 18:19-20).  He purified the            
         temple to be a "house of prayer for all the nations" (Mark 11:17).  The early Church met together for prayer      
         (Acts 1:14, Acts 4:23-31, Acts 12:5, Acts 16:25).  Many a time Jesus' own "inner chamber" was the solitude       
         of the great out-of-doors (Mark 1:35, Luke 5:16, Luke 6:12).  Thus, Jesus means "any place of privacy             
         which permits being alone with God."
    2) The privacy of prayer:  having shut the door.  This emphasizes the strictness of the solitude, for Jesus is          
         concerned that His follower learns how to isolate his spirit in the midst of the crowd, the hurry, the confusion
        and lure of the world, and how to talk with God in perfect intimacy.  Even those who pray in public must learn    
         to shut out of their mind all awareness of human listeners, at least to the extent that they neither fear their        
         censure nor seek their praise.
    3) The privilege of prayer:  pray to thy Father in secret.  This face-to-face encounter of a conscience with its        
         God is calculated to create a sense of the proper perspective:  though He is your Father, yet when you call      
         upon Him, you should expect Him to act like God, like the Ruler of the Universe.

Matthew 6:7 not as the Gentiles do. . . Be not therefore like unto them.  Why the pagans?
    1) The gods to whom the pagans continuously repeated their cries differ greatly from the God of Israel, "your
        Father."  Heathen deities, being human imagination, never answer prayer.  Thus, they are forced to plead to    
         these non-entities with a never-ending, useless succession of prayers (1st Kings 18:26, Acts 19:28 and 34).
    2) By using the Gentiles as an example of what not to do, Jesus brings to the Jewish mind, "do not act as if
        your God is no better than theirs."

They think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.  This conclusion arises from their constant struggle with
non-existent gods, from their seeming successes caused by freaks in nature or else by the generous blessing of the
true God.  But the Jews had no reason ever to think this, since God had always demonstrated Himself more than
ready to answer their prayers (Psalms 91:15, Isaiah 55:6, Isaiah 58:9, Isaiah 65:24, Daniel 9:20-23, Daniel 10:12).
Matthew 6:8 Your Father knoweth:  this is the key to solution of the whole problem for God knows heart motives as
well as what things we have need of.  We matter to God!  There are times in our life when we despise ourselves
because of the painful awareness of our sin and unworthiness.  But God's detailed concern about each of our
individual needs restores our self-respect (Philippians 4:6-7).  By saying "your Father" rather than "God," Jesus
refers to the Almighty, not merely as Ruler of the Universe, but in the terms of the special relationship with which His
child might readily approach Him in confident trust.

If God knows our needs already, why pray for them?
1) Because He wants to hear from us, because He desires our fellowship and love.  This is the most natural relation
that could exist between a Father such as Him and children such as us.
2) Because the Father wants us to acknowledge our dependence upon Him.  After all, He still gives and withholds
(James 4:2).
3) Prayer is also necessary because right praying puts us into communion with Him so as to make us ready to
receive those choice blessings.
4) We need to pray to express our gratitude for the Father's bountiful provision (Philippians 4:6).
Prayers must never become a babbled formula in which the mind does not participate.  The way our thoughts
wander from our talk with God must be recognized for the lack of reverence it is for Him.

Two keys to a right heart are undivided attention fixed upon the Father, and earnestness of purpose.  These are far
more important than choice language or correct posture.
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