PRAYER THAT GETS HEARD by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: Today I am starting a brand new series on prayer through the Sermon on the Mount called “Talking to the Father.” Prayer is not just some formal communication with some distant deity or the CEO of the universe. Prayer is a child talking to his/her Father. Prayer is family talk. The first message is titled – “Prayer that gets heard.”
Matthew 6 7 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. 8 Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.
Overall Background: If there’s one thing that stands out more than anything else about the ministry of Jesus, it is His prayer life. Repeatedly, the gospels tell us that Jesus prayed. He prayed in the beginning of His ministry. He prayed throughout His ministry. He prayed at the close of His ministry. He would pray early in the morning and He would pray late into the night. Not only that but He also told His disciples to pray and taught them to pray. Prayer undergirded everything that Jesus did. That’s mind blowing to me! Jesus – the Son of God, the second person of the Godhead, the One who made this entire creation, the One who came to fulfill the promise to save us from our sins – constantly prayed to His Father!
Question: If Jesus took the time to pray, if Jesus believed in the importance of prayer, why is it that many of us hardly pray or don’t pray at all? If God the Son prayed, shouldn’t we pray? How is your prayer life? Do you take the time to pray daily? What are you struggling with today that you haven’t prayed about yet? Are you saved? Have you prayed to receive Jesus as your Savior?
Today our passage is very short. I was tempted to skip over it but I felt that the Holy Spirit wanted me to preach on it because there are 3 very important truths buried here that have a great significance for our daily prayer life:
TRUTH #1 – PRAYER IS ABOUT COMMUNICATION NOT COERCION.
7 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.
Background: The word for “vain repetitions” is a Greek word battalogew, which is a very unique word. It is not found anywhere else in the New Testament or in ancient Greek literature or the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament). This was somewhat of a derogatory term. Let me give you an example – there’s a word in the English language called “Hottentot.” It was a name given by the Dutch settlers to the Khoikhoi people of Southwestern Africa. They got the name because the Khoikhoi used a lot of clicking sounds when speaking. Now it is very insulting to use that word to describe these people. In my opinion, the word battalogew was also an insulting word used to describe pagan worship. “Look at those mumblers. Listen to them stuttering.”
Jesus is using that same insulting word to apply to the people who were claiming to be praying and saying – “You sound no different than those pagans whom you mock.” He says to them in verse 8 Therefore do not be like them…” You can hear them say – “What?! We don’t stutter or mumble. We know what we are saying.” Jesus is exposing them because they too are repeating words and ancient prayer and old rituals, albeit in coherent words. He says to them – “Your prayers are like the Gentiles.”
Folks, this is no different from what we do even today.
- Father God
- Give us your Grace and Peace
- Give us your Mercy and Grace
- Shine your light on us
By the way, sometimes it is not repeated words due to habit but because we really want God to do something for us and so we use magical formulas like –
- Plead the blood of Jesus (Do you think that you can coerce God through some magic formula.)
- In Jesus Name (Is it another way of saying – the plane has landed?) I am guilty of much of this too.
Other times we repeat the Lord’s Prayer or the Doxology or the Apostles Creed. I’m not suggesting that any of this is sinful or wrong but the point is this – “Have you lost the meaning and focus of what you are saying by mindless repetition?
Here’s the whole point – Prayer is family talk. It is a loving conversation between a father and a child. Just listen to the number of times Jesus says, “Father” throughout the Sermon on the Mount:
- 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
I don’t have time to go through all of them.
- 5:48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
- 6:6 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.
- 6:9 In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.
- 7:11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!
Application: When you pray to God, how do you see Him? Can you visualize Him as your Father? By the way, if we have damaging experience with our earthly fathers we will have a distorted view of our Heavenly Father. The only way you can move forward is ask for the Holy Spirit to forgive your father where he failed, give him grace, and recast your view of your Father in heaven. Are you ready to pray – “Our Father in heaven?”
TRUTH #2 – PRAYER IS ABOUT COOPERATION NOT NOTIFICATION.
8 “…For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.”
Background: On the surface this seems like an ordinary statement. Of course – God knows what I am going to say to Him before I say it to Him. After all Psalm 139 says, 1 “O LORD…2 You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. 4 For there is not a word on my tongue, But behold, O LORD, You know it altogether.” Here’s where it gets complicated – “If God already knows what I am going to say to Him, why do I have to say it to Him?” “If God already knows what I need, why doesn’t He just give it to me instead of waiting for me to ask for it?” Don’t we do that with our children? For example: Summer is on its way and Nicole told me the other day – “I need to look for some sandals for the boys. They’ve grown out of there’s.” She didn’t wait for the boys to come ask her – “Dear earthly mom, we just want to thank you and praise for being such a wonderful mom. We thank you for how you have bought sandals for us through the years. Now we ask for sandals for this summer to come. We thank you in advance for what you’re about to do.” Why doesn’t God just do that? Why do we need to ask Him? In fact, further down Jesus even says in Matt. 6 31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?’ or “What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 …For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. It almost appears that Jesus is implying that prayer is a non-essential, doesn’t it? Not true.
Here’s the point again – Prayer is not notification. God already knows. Prayer is not handing God His “to-do list.” He is already working on our behalf. Prayer is coming to God and submitting your will and your desires to Him. It is really saying – “God, I know that you know. I know that you are already working on my behalf. Change my mind and my heart to align with your perfect and good will for my life.”
Question: Wouldn’t you agree that many times the way we began our prayer is not the way we ended our prayers? Wouldn’t you agree that many times we don’t know what we’re asking for? Aren’t you glad that God didn’t answer some prayers in your life? In the words of the great theologian Garth Brooks –
“Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers
Remember when you’re talkin’ to the man upstairs
That just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean He don’t care
Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”
Prayer is learning to cooperate with God and His best for our lives. Someone said it this way – “It is we who need to pray, not God.”
III. TRUTH #3 – PRAYER IS ABOUT CASTING YOUR BURDEN NOT QUITTING THE BATTLE.
Now someone is bound to say – I guess I am just going to come to God and say – “Hi God. Just do whatever you think is best. Amen.” No use trying. God’s going to do what He wants to do anyways. Not true
I don’t understand why but God has chosen to partner with us in doing His will in our life and in this world. John Wesley once said – “God does nothing but in answer to prayer.” On the other end of the spectrum, A.W. Pink said – “God has decreed that certain events shall come to pass, but He has also decreed that these events shall come to pass through the means He has appointed for their accomplishment.” C.S. Lewis said it best – “God has not chosen to write the whole of history with His own hand. Most of the events that go on in the universe are indeed out of our control, but not all. It is like a play in which the scene and the general outline of the story is fixed by the author, but certain minor details are left for the actors to improvise.”
I can go on and on but here’s the point – “Yes God is sovereign but He has sovereignly chosen to work with us through prayer.”
Truth #1 – Prayer is about communication not coercion. Truth #2 – Prayer is about cooperation not notification. Truth #3 – Prayer is about casting your burden not quitting the battle.
Question: Are you willing to battle in prayer for your spiritual life? Are you willing to battle in prayer for your marriage? Are you willing to battle in prayer for your children? Are you willing to battle in prayer for your church? Are you willing to battle in prayer for your community, for the lost?
Are you saved? Is God your Heavenly Father?