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. 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. Matthew 6:5-6
Jesus endorses both public and private prayer, but there is a difference. Public prayers should be simple and brief. In our private prayers we share more specifically what is on our hearts. For example, if Aunt Jane has started drinking and running around with men again we do not need to bring that up in public prayer. When we do this it is nothing more than gossip. We save this news for Jesus’ ears only. Also our private prayers have no time restraint. Jesus spent all night in personal prayer but did not spend all night in public prayer. When we have the morning prayer for church and pray a long prayer what we are telling everyone is that we have no personal prayer life, so we have to make up for it by making long public prayers. Jesus’ public prayers were very brief because He had a personal prayer life outside of public speaking.
But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen [do]: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Matthew 6:7
A vain repetition is when we recite words that do not come from the heart. Songs as well as prayers can be vain repetitions if we are not singing from the heart. God wants us to share our hearts with Him not just our lips. I love the way one author puts it:
“Keep your wants, your joys, your sorrows, your cares, and your fears before God. You cannot burden Him; you cannot weary Him. He who numbers the hairs of your head is not indifferent to the wants of His children. “The Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.” James 5:11. His heart of love is touched by our sorrows and even by our utterances of them. Take to Him everything that perplexes the mind. Nothing is too great for Him to bear, for He holds up worlds, He rules over all the affairs of the universe. Nothing that in any way concerns our peace is too small for Him to notice. There is no chapter in our experience too dark for Him to read; there is no perplexity too difficult for Him to unravel. No calamity can befall the least of His children, no anxiety harass the soul, no joy cheer, no sincere prayer escape the lips, of which our heavenly Father is unobservant, or in which He takes no immediate interest. “He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3. The relations between God and each soul are as distinct and full as though there were not another soul upon the earth to share His watchcare, not another soul for whom He gave His beloved Son.” – Steps to Christ, p. 100
Remember God wants a relationship with us. He is not a vending machine, where we just tell Him what we want, get it and go. Also while many wonder why they do not get there requests in the time they would like there may be many reasons (See Psalm 66:18) but the biggest reason may be as simple as we are not God’s boss!
Let’s take a look now at the model prayer Jesus gave us. This prayer does not need to be repeated word for word. Many recite this prayer with no thought and thus it too becomes a vain repetition.
Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Matthew 6:9
We begin by acknowledging Who we are talking to. Yes He is our friend but He is also ruler of the universe and more than capable of handling any problem we may have.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as [it is] in heaven. Matthew 6:10
God drove Lucifer out of heaven and He can do the same here on earth. God’s will can be done in our hearts, homes, and communities, as we pray for God’s will to be done in those places as well as in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread. Matthew 6:11
Jesus never asked for anything just for Himself. He also asked for the blessings of others as well as Himself. When Daniel’s prayer was answered in Daneil 2 it was not only his own life that was saved but that of all the wise men as well. When the disciples prayed Jesus to save them from the storm at sea, it was not just their boat that was saved from the storm but all those around them on the sea as well.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. Matthew 6:12
Again no self or pride in Jesus’ prayer. He does not pray “forgive everyone else but as you know I have never sinned.” No, there is no pride in His prayer. Pride may allow us to pray on our knees while we are still standing in our heart.
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. Matthew 6:13
Christ’s prayer concludes with again reaffirming Who it is we are praying to and acknowledging that He is more than able to care for all our needs.