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. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.(Matthew 6:6-9)
In Jesus’ teaching on prayer, not only the Words of prayer are emphasized, but also, and perhaps primarily, the Spirit of prayer is taught.
First of all, Prayer is not a performance, for we have an audience of One. True prayer is intimacy, as Matthew’s version points out, it has to do with your secret life. It is so often the laying bare of our soul, to God. We appeal to the “Father who sees in secret”, bringing our needs, problems and trials unto Him who knows the very secrets of our hearts. Thus we go into our closet, for there is a place in our soul that only we know about, and God.
This is not to say we never pray in public, for the model prayer begins “Our Father”, there is a very public and corporate aspect to prayer. We pray together, as the body of Christ. I learned prayer by praying with other, spiritual people.
True prayer presupposes a loving, filial relationship. God is the Father. “If you being evil, know how to give gifts to your children, how much more will the Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him…”. It is the privilege of every born again believer to know God as Father, and to appeal to Him as His child.We will have more to say about God as Father in a future article.
The prayer that our Lord taught us is brimming with reverence and fear mixed with adoration. We look up to Him who is above, we know him as a loving Father, and we are aware that His requests and agenda are superior to our own personal needs in priority. We train our souls to want what He wants, and to long for his Kingdom and Will to be done, seen and glorified here on earth. The whole point seems to be the alignment of our soul with His.
The Spirit of prayer is humility. In this teaching on prayer, one senses the cultivation of an utter sense of desperate need for God, in our lives. What we are to ask for, presupposes that we are in constant and ongoing need for it; Daily bread, forgiveness of sins, power to forgive those who hurt us, and deliverance from temptation and evil.
We cannot presume on ‘daily bread’ in this wilderness of a world, we must make ourselves a supplicant, humble ourselves and ask for it. Even if we have a high paying job, and are tempted to imagine that we are beyond ‘hand to mouth’ existence, we are only fooling ourselves. God is the source and it is at his pleasure that we are able to maintain the skills and abilities to feed ourselves. “Give us this day our daily bread…”.
“…Lead us not into temptation”, for now we know that none of us are ever so very far from defection, and the very departure from the faith that the Apostle often warned about.
The entire tone of the LORD’s prayer is that of a supplicant, in reliance upon his LORD. He knows he lives in a world of evil, and in the “Evil day” and thus he prays “Deliver us from evil”.
The Prayer Jesus taught us is also full of faith. We are taught to know how vulnerable we are in this world, but we are also assured of the Goodness and greatness of God. He is our Father, He cares, so much does He care that He sent His Son to give us these requests.
Not only do we want these things, He wants us to want these things as well. What assurance!
Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.( I John 5:14-15)
Thus the Spirit of prayer according to Jesus is also one of Faith, and Hope. Biblical Hope is not mere wishing, it is rather an absolute assurance. Faith is “substance”, ie solid ground. Since Jesus is the one who brought this prayer to us, we are standing on solid ground when we incorporate it into our souls.
Without Faith it is impossible to please Him, for they who come to God must believe that HE is, and that He is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)
The Spirit of prayer is a childlike Spirit also. We are to come as a child, to the Father. To quote Saphir again,
There is in all of us a secret feeling of reverence and affection towards the days of our childhood….then we were free from care and anxiety; ambitious thoughts did not then alternate with despondency and fear; sin had not yet become the tyrant, exercising dominion over us; there was a certain peace and , purity and contentment, which have returned to us , not in the course of nature, but by the gift and new creation of Grace…The influence of the world is to lead us far away from the spirit and temper of childhood… (Saphir Adolph, The Lord’s Prayer)
How true it is that one of the great gifts of the new birth is deliverance from the cynicism, the disappointed self-consciousness, and the skepticism of adulthood. Little children are able to believe, they can be taught, and led, and have a simple trust in God, Heaven and are not full of pride and self importance.
The LORD’s prayer seems resonant with those very characteristics, there is something beautiful, unspoiled and childlike in it.