What Jesus Taught About How to Pray
How often do you pray? I read something recently that I found surprising and alarming in PewResearch. 54% of Christians between the ages of 18-49 say they pray seldom or never. And 46% of those above age 50 say they pray seldom or never too! That baffles me. So how often should we pray?
The Apostle Paul implores us to “pray continually.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Te picture is that prayer becomes a part of our natural rhythm throughout the day, every day. Some people just pray when they’re in crisis or when they’ve experienced a loss. Others pray only when they want or need something from God. Some don’t pray often because they don’t see any value in it or the point of it. Some don’t pray because they don’t know what to say or even how to go about it.
Jesus actually spent time during His Sermon on the Mount teaching His followers how to pray by contrasting people who prayed to win the applause of others with people who prayed to win the blessing of God. (Matthew 6:5-14)
Jesus teaches us to remove any distractions so we can fully focus on God. (Matthew 6:6).
Jesus encouraged His disciples to get away from prying eyes, distractions and disturbances to be alone with God. Do you think this is important in our time? You better believe it!
If you find yourself struggling in life, seeking direction in life, or celebrating in life, there is no more rewarding time spent than in a quiet place, seeking God in prayer; praising Him for who He is to you, thanking Him for what He has done for you, and asking Him to meet whatever need you might have. Will you find that time daily to seek God in prayer?
Jesus teaches us to pray thoughtfully, not mechanically. (Matthew 6:7).
Some people in Jesus’ time spoke without thinking when they prayed. Jesus called that “babbling.” It’s the idea of not really caring about what you’re saying. I have to admit, sometimes I can slip into that kind of thoughtless prayer before a meal. When I’m in such a hurry to eat, already salivating, but want to check off that prayer box, I might just offer an obligatory, mindless prayer. That’s exactly the wrong way to pray.
God is looking for thoughtful, meaningful, not mechanical prayers. Any kind of prayer that allows us to approach God with our lips when our hearts are far from Him can lapse into this mechanical form of prayer that Jesus forbids. Jesus wants our mouths and our minds to be fully engaged in prayer. In fact, think about it, keeping our mouths and our minds in unison is an important principle not only in prayer, but other areas of life too!
Jesus teaches that an effective prayer can be simple and direct. (Matthew 6:7b)
Some people don’t pray because they don’t know what to say. The truth is, God is most interested in what’s on your heart, so just share your heart with Him. Your prayers don’t have to be droning, wordy, and glossy orations. They can, and should, be simple, honest, and heartfelt. That’s really what God is looking for from us.
Jesus teaches that God already knows our needs, but our prayers express our trust and faith in Him. (Matthew 6:8)
Some may ask, “If God knows my needs, then why pray?” We don’t pray to inform God of needs He doesn’t already know; and we don’t pray in an attempt to inspire or convince God to do something for us that He may not want to do. We pray to seek Him, to exercise our faith in Him and to relieve our anxieties through Him. Martin Luther answers this question much more succinctly: “By our praying… we are instructing ourselves more than we are Him.”
Jesus goes on to instruct us exactly how to pray with His beautiful, all-encompassing model prayer, which we refer to as The Lord’s Prayer, in Matthew 6:9-13. We took a really deep dive into this prayer in an entire sermon series earlier this year, so if you’re interested, you can listen to those messages online. But for much more, including Six Powerful Prayer Principles, click here to listen to: Sermon on the Mount - Part 8 - Praying Like Jesus.