April 25, 2010

#17

Sermon on the Mount,

Matt 6:5-15

Prayer

This chapter can be divided into two sections:

First, vv. 1-18 the hypocrites are exposed.

V. 2, hypocrisy in alms/righteous works-they have their reward
V. 5, hypocrisy in prayer/humility-they have their reward
V. 16, hypocrisy in fasting/self-denial-they have their reward

We can add another hypocrisy in vv. 14, 15, forgiveness. It is easy to retain bitterness and unforgiveness in the heart though our actions and words may be completely proper.

The second section is vv. 19-34, proper attitude toward and use of money.

We dealt with hypocrisy in alms/righteous works.

This time, let us look at vv. 5-8, hypocrisy in prayer/humility.

In these four hypocrisy sections, counting forgiveness, the Lord makes it clear that the motive for everything we do is to bring glory to God.

V. 1 made it clear that our righteous acts required by God are not to be done for the praise of man. If we perform these acts of righteousness for the praise of men, we have already gained our reward.

Christ's teaching on the proper motive in prayer will be put together in the so-called, "Lord's Prayer."

Let me mention here that though this is called "The Lord's Prayer", it is not. The "Lord's prayer" is found in John 17.

This could actually be considered The disciples' prayer, as the Lord teaches on prayer. In Luke 11, the disciples asked the Lord to teach them how to pray, and his teaching there is almost word for word what he gave here.

The Lord establishes the general essence of prayer in Mat 6:5-8, and then He illustrates His teaching in vv. 9-15.

Let's look as some general points given by Christ concerning prayer:

The FIRST general point, v. 5, when thou prayest. The Lord assumes that we will pray.

The Lord clearly commanded that men ought always to pray, Luke 18:1, And he spake a parable unto them [to this end], that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;

Paul commended God's people to pray without ceasing, 1 Thes 5:17, Pray without ceasing.

Prayer shows our humility and dependance upon the Heavenly Father, so the child of God is to have a continual attitude of prayer.

In Mat 5, we saw that Christ commanded us to pray for those individuals who persecute us. But, on the other hand, we read in John 17:9, I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. Christ tells us that we cannot pray for the world, we cannot pray for the Lord to bless those who are hostile to the cause of Christ. Rather, we must pray against the world.

The so-called imprecatory psalms are to be prayed against those who are actively warring against Christ and His kingdom. We cannot pray that God would overlook their evil and wink at their sin. We must pray that God would judge the world, hinder its projects and bring its ungodly goals to nothing.

Num 16:15. Moses prayed against Korah and his company: he was very wroth, and said unto the Lord, Respect not Thou their offering,

Paul quoted the imprecatory Psalm 69:22, 23 in Romans 11:9, 10.

Psalms 69:22 Let their table be a snare before them, and their prosperity their ruin. 23 Let their eyes be blinded that they see not: and make their loins always to tremble. 24 Pour out thine anger upon them, and let thy wrathful displeasure take them. 25 Let their habitation be void, and let none dwell in their tents. 26 For they persecute him, whom thou hast smitten: and they add unto the sorrow of them, whom thou hast wounded. 27 Lay iniquity upon their iniquity, and let them not come into thy righteousness. 28 Let them be put out of the book of life, neither let them be written with the righteous. 29 When I am poor and in heaviness, thine help, O God, shall exalt me.

Romans 11:9 And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them: 10 Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway.

Paul's quotation of Psalms 69 was not a matter of personal revenge, but a reflection of godly thinking. It is a prayer that God would vindicate his holy name and exalt his kingdom here on earth by destroying the enemies of righteousness and preserving those who love his name and kingdom.

According to Walter Kaiser:

They [these hard sayings] are not statements of personal vendetta, but they are utterances of zeal for the kingdom of God and his glory. To be sure, the attacks which provoked these prayers were not from personal enemies; rather, they were rightfully seen as attacks against God and especially his representatives in the promised line of the Messiah

There are a good number of other such Psalms: 55:15, 58:6, 69:28, 109:9, 137:9, &c.

 

Certainly, we must pray for individuals and work to snatch them from the fire, but we are strictly forbidden to pray in anyway for anything but the failure of and judgement against the efforts of the ungodly against Christ and his kingdom.

*** Prayers are not heard because of the words used, but because of the heart attitude. Are we desiring to speak to God or to man? I have heard of more than one prayer offered in public for the purpose of speaking to those present.

I must admit that I have prayed the "gospel" to more than one person who would not let me go through the gospel with them. Is that hypocrisy?

*** Prayers are not heard because of the number of words used. Normally, public prayers should be short and to the point; lengthy praying is to be done in private. According to our Lord's words here, lengthy public prayers are usually motivated by wanting to be seen of men, or to impress others with our spirituality.

I cannot help here but recall preachers' meetings I have been in where "public" prayer, including blessing the food, was a joke. Certain ones who were asked to pray in the meeting or maybe even pray for the food would pray around the world.

I would hear, "I hope they do not ask so and so to pray." People would time how long the prayers would last, and it would not be unusual for them to last up to 10 minutes. People would even start setting back down.

I found it especially bad when the one praying was not the speaker. He seemed to think this was his opportunity to preach, and did it with a sermon ending with "In Christ's name we pray, amen."

Public prayer and blessings on the food is not time to try to get right with God. This idea goes into all areas of public prayer; public prayer is normally not the time to get right with God.

There are times to publicly get right with God and even pray around the world such as meetings called specifically for prayer. Otherwise, the time for long prayers and to get right with God is at home in the closet, between you and God alone.

Solomon gave us some excellent advise concerning prayer in the house of the Lord:

Ecc 5:1, 2, 3: Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil. Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter [any] thing before God: for God [is] in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few. For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool's voice [is known] by multitude of words.

The SECOND general point concerning prayer: the Lord clearly tells us here that outwardly godly actions do not necessarily mean a godly heart (nor do material blessings, 5:45).

The THIRD general point, the Lord defines a hypocrite, v. 5.

The Lord will speak many times on this very important subject of prayer. It is interesting that here, at His very first mention of prayer, the first words out of His mouth are a warning against hypocrisy. He is speaking specifically against the attitudes of the Pharisees, and their long, loud prayers that drew attention to themselves.

The key is in the phrase, that they may be seen of men. The hypocrite wants everyone to know that he is being religious; he wants every one to know that he prayers. Sadly, his religious activity will be held against him, and his prayers will not get out of the sound of the human ear. Three times the Lord says They have their reward. Vv. 2, 5 & 19.

The Lord does not really say what their reward is, He implies that their reward is limited to only what praise they might get from other people. They have no reward of praise from the heavenly Father.

Our Lord said that the hypocrite used righteous acts to impress others and to cover over his own ungodly motives, Mt 23:14 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.

The FOURTH general point, v. 6, the Lord defines proper prayer.

Although prayer is nothing to be ashamed of, proper praying that sees God move takes place in the closet.

However, like the giving of alms above, closet praying is not to be taken literally. The Lord is not forbidding public prayer; rather, He is developing a general principle as He did with giving. Neither our giving nor praying is to be for the praise of men. He did not say we should avoid public alms giving or public prayer because it might lead others to praise us.

He did say that the desire for praise must be absent in order to be rewarded by the Father. The one who prays for praise has already received his reward: the praise of men.

There are several reasons for "closet prayer."

First reason: the person who prayers in secret is sincere in his praying, or he would not pray.

Second reason, shut thy door... Christ does not say, shut thy closet door. Clearly, Christ is saying that all interference from the world is to be shut out when we pray. Prayer is between the individual and God. All prayer, public and private, is to be as though we were totally alone before God.

Third reason, closing the door also speaks of the need of personal, private time with the Lord in prayer. There needs to be a set time when everything is quiet and we are able to concentrate totally upon the Lord in prayer. Even the Lord Jesus needed time when He could withdraw by Himself alone for prayer.

into thy closet... The word closet is only used 4 times in the NT, and it speaks of a chamber, esp an inner chamber, secret room. It speaks of a specific private place, shut in for quiet privacy and shut out from all hearers; a place where one meets regularly and alone with the Father. To Christ's hearers, it probably reminded them of the secret room in the temple, the holy of hollies.

The book of Hebrews approached prayer as free access into the Holy of Hollies and the Father's presence through our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ the Lord.

Forth reason, we must not go to the other extreme and avoid public prayer altogether. Daniel, though the king forbad it, prayed as before in public.

We should not be ashamed to pray in public over our food, and neither should we make a public spectacle of our prayer. I have heard of fellows standing up in restaurants and demanding every one be quiet while they pray.

The clear emphasis in this verse is on secrecy. Christ could not be clearer in His command that the child of God must spend time alone with the Father.

Fifth reason for closet prayer, enter into thy closet. The Lord tells us that we can meet with the Father any place and any time. A set location of prayer and worship of the Father was abolished when Christ came upon the earth. Remember what He told the woman at the well? John 4:24 God [is] a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship [him] in spirit and in truth. A person can draw as near to God in a field or closet as he can in a church building or prayer chapel.

I have had people say to me, "I can worship God on the golf course." I am sure they are not worshiping God when they miss the shot they worked so hard to get to.

Sixth reason, the primary Godly attitude for the child of God is found in Jas 4:10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. The promise to the child of God is that if he will honestly humble himself privately before the Father (closet) and pray, God will reward him openly.

1 Pe 5:5 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all [of you] be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

Now, the Fifth general point as given by Christ concerning prayer is in v. 7, proper attitude in prayer.

1) our Lord is not condemning repetition in prayer. The widow in Luke 18 cried over and over to the judge. What the Lord is condemning is vain repetition. The widow cried out from the depths of her heart and soul; whereas, the pagans use only empty words to present their request to their gods. Thus, Godly prayer is the expression of sincere desire of the heart to the right source from where answers come.

1 Kgs 18:26 And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed [it], and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But [there was] no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made.

Ac 19:34 But when they knew that he was a Jew, all with one voice about the space of two hours cried out, Great [is] Diana of the Ephesians.

Notice that the pagans above were as sincere as a heart attack in their prayer, but their prayers were not directed to the God of the Bible.

How many offer nice sounding prayers in public, even on TV, yet they fail to stamp those prayers with Jesus' name.

Sincerity does not equal Biblical prayer to the Heavenly Father.

2) clearly forbidden by our Lord is what the Papists do in counting beads with a prayer for each bead.

One of the schools I attended where my dad pastored was very small. I remember going home with a friend to spend the night. Before he went to sleep, he had to say so many "Hail Marys".

WNTS was a Christian radio station out of Beech Grove, IN. On Sunday afternoons, there was at least a 30 minute Papist program that consisted of repeated prayers to Mary and the "Lord's Prayer."

The rosery and the hail Marys are clearly vain repetitions, which the Lord marks as heathenism, v. 7.

The Sixth general point as given by Christ concerning prayer, v. 8: I have heard, and even said, these discouraging words: "The Father already knows what we need, so why pray?" But our Lord gives this verse as an encouragement to pray.

There are several obvious reasons to pray:

1) the primary reason for everything we do is summed up: THE LORD COMMANDS IT.

2) prayer is the means whereby God has chosen to advance the cause of Christ on earth and bless and supply the needs of His people.

3) prayer reminds us of our complete daily dependance upon the heavenly Father for our very life. Prayer keeps us humble and dependant upon His mercy and grace. Prayer admits our total helplessness and dependance before the Father.

4) prayer honours the Father when we respond to Him as children to a loving Father.

The Seventh and last general point under Christ's general essence of prayer as we conclude this section:

Prayer is not a blank check:

Isa 55:7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

One of the most revered names among Christians, Baptist particularly, is George Muller. He is held up as a model for prayer, as he supported his orphanage through prayer. He was a godly man, who did not like the Baptists, because he considered them to restrictive.

His emphasis was on prayer can give the wrong impression of prayer. When we read about him, it seems that prayer is a blank check. In the books I have read about him, I saw no conditions upon prayer–such as holy living, though I am sure he was a godly man.

Prayer has conditions:

Jas 5:16 Confess [your] faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

Those who are proud, lifted up and do not realize their dependance upon the Lord, have no need nor time for prayer. Of course, the hypocrite has no need to pray because the only reason he prays is to impress others.

One of the biggest battles we have is this personal time before the Heavenly Father in the closet. The reason we have such a battle is because it is one of the 4 necessary ingredient for advancing the cause of Christ here on this earth.

R.A. Torry said:

And there is no place where the devil so resists us as when we pray. Sometimes it seems as if all the forces of hell sweep between us and God when we pray. What shall we do? Give up? No! A thousand times NO: Fight the thing through on your knees. Wrestle in your prayers to God and win.
It is the prayer in which we actually wrestle in the power of the Holy Spirit that wins out with God."