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Discover the original intent of Scripture. Make good application to our everyday lives.
Become equipped to correctly handle the Word of Truth!

Read His Words Before Ours!

Matthew 6:5-8

“Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward.

6 But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 7 When you pray, don’t babble like the Gentiles, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words. 8 Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask him.

The Original Intent

1) What are the markers of prayers God does not accept? (verse 5)

The most striking word the Lord Jesus chose for instruction and conviction of His hearers on how not to pray is the Greek word for hypocrites, transliterated phonetically as “hypokrínomai”.

Trending at the time of Jesus’ teaching were the wildly popular Greek theatre troupes. With relatively nearby theatres across the Sea of Galilee in Tiberias and in Sepphoris, north of Nazareth, and, of course, the Roman theatre, stage acting and masks were just beginning to make their mark on culture. Of course, masks were required to depict one actor taking on a character role that wasn’t his real self in everyday life. This was hypokrínomai in action. The root word is defined by “taking up another’s statements in reference to what one has decided for one’s self; to feign, impersonate, and pretend.”

One has decided who he is in himself, but then takes on another’s statements, impersonating their life, ideals, and beliefs as if they were their own. Jesus took the popular Greek trend and, flipping it on its head, applied it to the most elite of the Jewish sect, Scribes and Pharisees. (Matthew 23:13)

Right there in the public streets, He called the religious ones spectacle actors for they were just as much putting on a show as Greek performers. They spoke loudly not out of bold confidence in relationship with God, but to be heard and seen.

The whole point wasn’t to be heard and known by God, but by the onlooker, and perhaps, God would notice also and be astounded by their overt muchness. (verse 7)

The Everyday Application

1) What are the markers of prayers God does not accept? (verse 5)

Paul writes to the Corinthians, whose culture had become even more embedded with the popularity of stage performances and hypokrínomaiKnowledge puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone thinks he knows anything, he does not yet know it as he ought to know it.” (1 Corinthians 8:1-2)

With this unmasking of heart motivations to display the stark distinction between “show off knowledge” and genuine, affirming love, Paul cuts to the quick of Jesus’ teaching. The religious elite felt they were truly special, garnishing the applause of men, and surely God, by their loud speech, many words, and ornate garments, but they were merely puffing themselves up, proving they actually understood nothing.

Paul continues with the antidote, “But if anyone loves God, he is known by Him.” (1 Corinthians 8:3) Arrogant, puffed-up hearts are not always easy to recognize in ourselves, but regardless of our self-perception, the Lord clearly sees our hearts; we cannot put in a mask for Him! (1 Samuel 16:7)

We can be assured that prayers marked with arrogant, self-exaltation, and inflated views of ourselves and our understanding will not be received by God. While we all would love to say we steer clear of these kinds of prayers, it’s easier to be arrogant than we would like to admit.

As I reflected on this (in prayer!), the Spirit revealed how my attempt to humbly surrender to His ways tonight wasn’t genuine surrender; I was secretly holding onto my ways as superior. I was wearing a mask and thinking I could sneak past the God who sees all and knows all.

Thankfully, Paul’s words remind me of the right heart-motivation in prayer, simply loving God for Who He is. When I pray with love for God instead of self, He aligns my heart with His own!

The Original Intent

2) What are the markers of prayers God does accept? (verses 6-7)

Arrogant, brassy, self- flaunting prayers are met with God’s rejection, but Jesus didn’t come to condemn, instead, He came to show us the fullest way of deep life. (John 10:10)

Jesus loved using relevant topics and trends to teach people about the spiritual realm, for this was His purpose, to make the Father known. (John 17:26) With a little imagination, you can see Jesus walking village streets, nodding towards the loud, babbling scribe whom everyone took for granted, as His disciples began seeing their world through a different lens.

His purpose was first to correct their perspective, and second to align their hearts toward full reliance on God. Jesus points out the babbler as an example of how not to pray, but then with a softer tone and invitational voice as if  sharing the sweetest of secrets, begins to describe how to really pray in such a way as to be received, “Go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (verse 6)

Prayers weren’t for the sight and sound of the many, but for the ears of the One who, remarkably, already knows all and sees all, for here, relationship flourishes in the context of singularly focused adoration. There are no distractions in a closed private room, which wouldn’t even have boasted a window.

The slow, emphatic details of His teaching make us wonder if Jesus’ voice caught in His throat as He taught them of the tender act of praying to the Father in quiet worship, neither bothered by what others thought, nor consumed by self-love. What Lovely Conversation prayer truly is!

The Everyday Application

2) What are the markers of prayers God does accept? (verses 6-7)

Single focused worship is hard when there are a hundred distractions on all sides. I’m mama to 7 Treasures who live on earth (1 sweet love already worshipping in glory!); finding quiet time without distraction to pray is laughable.

Someone is always asking for a snack, calling or texting me, building a fort, complaining about not having more food, or bragging about the giant mess of food they created in my once-clean kitchen. Even when I manage to bar the door of my bedroom, toss out electronic devices as bribes, and lock the bathroom door, and lock the closet door to sit in the dark, a hundred distracting thoughts plague me still. Did I start the washer? Was I supposed to make that dentist appointment today? Do we have ingredients for dinner? It requires discipline and consistent practice to follow the command of single-focused worship by closing the door on all other competing loves.

Whether we close ourselves within a physical room, are making dinner in a noisy kitchen, or stuck in busy traffic, we always have the opportunity to enter the secret place with God and pray deeply.

The more we practice shutting out distractions, the easier it becomes to relish deep communion with God no matter what’s happening around us. Anyone can begin practicing now in this very moment; what’s holding you back?

The Original Intent

3) Why can we be confident our prayers will be received? (verse 8)

Most often in His common personal prayers, Jesus demonstrates His relationship by calling out, “Father”. Take a minute to read John 17, picturing Jesus in the Upper Room with His disciples having shared His final meal with His beloved ones just hours before His betrayal.

He prays aloud in deepest of sweet intimacies to His Father. As you read, count the number of instances Jesus prays, “Father”, intonating intimate relationship. There is no need to address the Father as “God” for the two Beings are co-equal in divine title of God with the Holy Spirit, yet the title of Father reflects such rich depth and astounding shared beauty and adoring love. (John 5:20)

Matthew’s record of Jesus’ teaching on prayer sets up a clear distinction, “…they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask Him.” (verses 7-8)

Puffed up arrogant pray-ers think they will be heard by God for their words, because of what they can do, but those who pray with genuine love for God are confident their prayers will be received because their Father already knows.

The Everyday Application

3) Why can we be confident our prayers will be received? (verse 8)

It’s like the little boy, waking up sleepy-eyed from his nap, toddling to his mama, and stretching out his short arms in request for the snuggling hug he desires. Mama will give the hug for she knows his wanting desire. Mama will give the hug for she values the relationship with her son. His love is fixed on her, and she responds with gracious warm love because she knows him. 

So it is when we approach our deeply personal Father in Heaven with hearts bent on adoring love for Him and trust of His love already outstretched for us, as evidenced by the invitation to even call Him Father. (Luke 11:13) Responding to His disciples’ request to be schooled in authentic prayer (Luke 11:1), Jesus begins in the same way He Himself has always begun His prayers, warmly inviting His disciples to do the same.

It’s as if He grins with delight, His eyes warm with richness, and says, “You want to come in? To share with the Father as you’ve seen me do? (Revelation 3:20) Come then, come, and don’t be shy, call Him, ‘Father’, for He will adopt you through Me (Romans 8:15-16) when I lay down my life for you, paying the penalty for your sins that have always kept you separated from Him. (John 10:17-18) Come, share the Father with Me as co-heirs alongside Me. (Romans 8:17Revelation 3:21)”

Such richness is far beyond our reckoning! Yet, Scripture teaches its truth over and over. So, come, won’t you? Call Him, Father, and enter the Lovely Conversation!

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Mandy Farmer
Mandy Farmer
5 months ago

I often recall an evangelist’s sermon on prayer. He called it ESP … Enter, Shut, Pray

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Conversation,Lord,Lovely,tender,training
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