1. Pre-Remarks About Prayer

By Wolfgang Schneider

The record in Matthew 6 deals specifically with praying and prayer from verse 5 on. First of all, Jesus speaks of motives and attitude in prayer. Why do we even pray? To whom do we address our prayer? What attitude of heart do we have when we pray? What do we pray for? Jesus’ words tell us plainly and make clear how we too as his disciples can and should pray.

Matthew 6:5:
And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

“And when thou prayest …” – with this Jesus begins his instruction about the topic of prayer. To the disciples as well as other people in Israel, the idea of prayer was very familiar, prayer was of course regarded as a normal and regular part of life. However, this was no reason for Jesus to not teach about prayer for even the disciples had something to learn and they profited from Jesus’ instruction. Jesus spoke first about how one should not pray. He speaks of those people who pray in the synagogues and public places where they can be seen of many other people. The scribes and Pharisees did exactly that, and they “loved to pray”, but they did so with a wrong and perverse attitude for which Jesus called them “hypocrites”. They wanted “to be seen of men”, most likely because they thought to impress people and later on expect something in “response to their prayer” from them as “reward” as Jesus’ remark about “their reward” already indicates. The reward was indeed what they themselves “earned” with such a prayer.

Their prayers were certainly “good”, the words carefully thought through, the form nicely arranged and well balanced, the whole thing was presented with conviction and by utilizing their rhetoric abilities – and yet, all that was for naught! Jesus called them “hypocrites”, and their prayer were actually his example of how not to pray!

Matthew 6:6:
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.

Jesus emphasized, that prayer is a communication between us and God, our “Father which is in heaven”. “Enter into thy closet” is obviously a figure of speech which emphasizes that prayer is a very personal matter which concerns only the one who prays and of course it concerns God. Our prayer is addressed to God as our Father. We pray to Him, the eyes of our heart look to Him, and He will reward us! He hears our prayers and gives us what we may need.

How we do turn to God in prayer, Jesus explains in the words which follow. Again, he explains and speaks about how it should not be.

Matthew 6:7-8:
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.

Our prayer is not to be “babbling” – where we would use “vain repetitions”. These “vain repetitions” are the repeated saying of the same words and sentences, and Jesus makes reference to such practices by the heathen whose prayers many times consisted of the repetitious citations of certain “prayer formulas”. That is not real prayer for it is lacking the involvement of the heart. Also, it is not necessary that there be a loud speaking for God knows what we have need of even before we would ask. God sees and searches the hearts, He knows the thoughts of our hearts. Our requests, our cares, our desires – we do not have to voice them out loud, and yet God does know what we speak in our hearts. That of course does not mean we can’t pray out loud or wouldn’t be allowed to pray out loud; there are examples in the Bible of prayers in the church and also loud prayers by individuals.

Also, the truth that God knows what we have need of is not excuse at all not to pray! God is a loving God, and He leaves it up to man to decide as to how much man would like to ask for and acquire God’s help in his life. God does not “force” His blessing on us, He does shower His blessings on us when we ask and pray to Him. Therefore it is necessary that we pray to God and that we ask Him and request of Him when we are in need for something.

After these introductory remarks, Jesus gives to his disciples an example of prayer. We should not that this is not really THE PRAYER of the Lord, which the disciples and we in the Christian church were to learn by heart and simply recite. Jesus himself mentioned at a later time and in a different situation when one of his disciples asked him about prayer a very similar prayer which does however differ in the exact wording from this prayer here, but which consists of the very same elements as this prayer when we consider the main points and its outline.

Matthew 6:9:
After this manner therefore pray ye: …

“After this manner therefore pray ye: …” – and the word for “after this manner [outos]“ points to the then following instruction where Jesus then points out HOW (in which manner, with which attitude, in which way) one should pray. It is not a matter of the exact and precise form or the exact wording because that Jesus himself changed slightly at a later occasion.

Matthew 6:9–13:
After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

What Jesus said later about prayer when he responded to the request of one of his disciples is recorded in Luke 11.

Luke 11:1–4:
And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.

We see an important matter here – praying and prayer can be taught and in turn of course can be learned! Some may think that praying may be a special gift of God which some believers have been privileged with, but that is not true.

Jesus was the greatest example of a man of prayer. He prayed, and his prayers were always heard and brought the desired results. He knew how one should pray! And he didn’t keep this “secret” to himself, but he shared it and taught his disciples how to pray effectively. 

Pattern Of Prayer