Saturday, June 28, 2008

Jesus' Advice on Prayer

There are some passages in Scripture that are widely known. In fact, some non-Christians can even quote a few of them without batting an eye. The Lord's Prayer is one of those passages. It's quoted in movies (think about every sports movie locker room scene before the big game), memorized by children, said in unison in get the point.

Do you ever fast forward in a good movie to get to your favorite scene? Or skip to your favorite song on your iPod instead of waiting until it pops up on your playlist? I think I do that when I read the Bible too. I rush through reading the verses before and after my favorite passages...or just the passages I know well.

For example, read Matthew 6:5-8, the verses leading up to the Lord's Prayer. He completely lays out for us how we should pray - yet so many times, we look over Jesus' powerful advice.

"And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him." (NKJV)

Prayer isn't about getting the spotlight. It's about intimate fellowship with God. Think about those late night conversations that you have with your roommate. Chances are, you wouldn't want those broadcast to the world. That is how you should view your prayer life. Prayer is a way to come before God - no hide and seek, no masks - just you as you are - before your Savior. The passage speaks about the hypocrites praying with the intention of attention. Sure, they get their reward of being labeled "prayer warriors." But they are given that label by men - NOT by God. The man who prays in private is rewarded by God Himself. Let's stop a minute to think about this. Would you rather have an ordinary person or a King show up with a present at your house? Umm...I'm gonna go with King on this one. Rewards of this world are meaningless - they break, they go out of style, whatever. God's rewards are eternal - they never end.

Don't pray on autopilot. Communicate the words of your heart to God. Sure the "God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for our food. Amen!" prayer is fine when you're three, but have you really moved past that? Do you find yourself saying the same things over and over to God? "I'm sorry for my sins." "Thank you for everything you've given me." "Be with me in all that I do today." "Help me on my test." "Make that really cute guy in Algebra talk to me again." Wow, that's deep. (Sorry, sarcasm is my spiritual gag gift.) What do you think you should say instead? Take the apology for sin, and be more specific. What about, "Father, I'm sorry that I gossiped today. Forgive me, and give me strength to ask for her forgiveness as well. Lord, I ask that you would not let me be tempted to gossip in the future. Keep me pure of mind, mouth, and heart." Is that a little more meaningful to God than a vague phrase? Don't short-change the One who gave up everything for you, and be genuine.

You can't fool Him. God knows your sins, needs, wants, hopes, fears, desires, etc. before you even tell Him. Other than because it's the right thing to do, what is the number one reason for being completely real before God? HE KNOWS ANYWAY! You can't keep secrets from God. He sees everything, knows everything, hears's pointless to try and act like you're something you're not. Don't put up a front. Don't act like everything is fine when it's not. Don't pretend like you haven't done anything wrong when you've sinned. Don't try to be tough when you need help. That's why He's there.

He is the Ultimate Helper, Best Friend, Listener, King, and Daddy. From an experienced shopper, I can tell you...that's a package deal.

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