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The Essentials of Prayer

Matthew 6:7-15 

Jim Davis

Christian living is a life of calling upon God. Christian living begins with baptism into Christ. Baptism into the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the foundation of all Christian experience. We seek to renew the baptism experience each week as we observe the Lord’s Supper by recognizing and renewing our lives to the basic principles of baptism as we focus upon the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. However, it is our calling upon God through prayer between baptism and our weekly renewal through the Lord’s Supper that gives substance to Christian commitment.  

Initially it is through prayer that our commitment and worship give way to a life completely devoted to God’s purpose. When our lives give way to our initial commitment to God something amazing happens. Our worship and commitment to God become the overflow of our personal walk with God. Psalms 23 was written as a result of God overfilling the psalmist cup. His praise was the result of his cup running over with God’s provisions. God’s overflow became the motivation for his psalm of praise. When this happens we begin to discover the joy of calling upon the name of the Lord through a life of worship.

This type of worship begins outside the sanctuary in the context of a daily walk with God through the dangerous valleys of life. All the beautiful psalms David wrote and the music he sang and played grew out of his personal walk with God. Even the victories he won in his battles were an overflow of his personal relationship with God. God’s power was exerted in David’s life because of David’s commitment to walk in the light of  God’s presence.

“Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O LORD. They rejoice in your name all day long; they exult [revel, rejoice, triumph] in your righteousness. For you are their glory and strength, and by your favor you exalt our horn. Indeed, our shield belongs to the LORD, our king to the Holy One of Israel.” (Psalms 89:15-18 NIV)

Paul reaffirms this principle in Rom. 12:1 as he encourages us to offer our lives as a living sacrifice. If our worship is to be a biblical worship, it will be a way of life, the willing and daily sacrifices to God of everything we are, everything we have, and everything we do.

This approach to worship is exemplified in Jesus’ model for prayer. Jesus said, “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.  

“’This, then, is how you should pray:  

"'Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name,

your kingdom come,

your will be done

on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

Forgive us our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from the evil one.'


“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:7-15 NIV).


Jesus reveals the essentials for coming to God through prayer.


Prayer Based Upon Relationship


Prayerful Christian living is based upon a Fatherly relationship. It is this relationship we have with God which motivates our prayers. Jesus’ encourages us to be so bold in prayer that we call upon God as our Father. God is our Father. We are his children. The Fatherhood of God is not something merely recognized through Christ, but it was established in creation. In Luke’s genealogy of Christ Luke refers to Adam as the son of God (Luke 3:38). We are the children of Adam; therefore we were God’s children in creation.


The Fatherhood of God was lost when Eve sinned. God wishes to restore it through his redemptive work through Christ.


1 John 3:1-3

3:1 How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. NIV


The Fatherhood of God says volumes about who God is, and who we are. God being in heaven doesn’t mean he is far from us. It doesn’t mean he is an absentee Father, for he knows what we have need of before we ask. He is not in heaven trying to dodge his responsibility to us. He is there orchestrating the world through his sovereignty to fill our deepest needs.


Matthew 6:25-27

25 "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? NIV


Luke 11:9-13

9 "So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.


11 "Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" NIV


God is a Father who hears our faintest cries. I would like to read to you a story I ran across just before class:


“The cat had kittens on the trundle bed in the downstairs guest room. We didn’t think that was such a good idea, so we collected them and placed them on rags in a cardboard box in front of the kitchen fireplace until we could come up with something more suitable.


“But the mother cat had a mind of her own. We watched with amusement as she entered the kitchen silently, stood on her back legs, front legs on the box, sniffing for her babies. Then leaping nimbly over te side, she checked them over, picked one up by te back of the neck, leaped out, and quietly returned it to the trundle bed. This was repeated until all that was left was the runt of the litter.


“She did not come back. She may have been exhausted from her efforts, or she may have been busy playing lunch counter to the others.


“We waited.


“Finally the tiny scrap in the bottom of the box let out more of a squeak than a mew. It was almost a non-sound.


“Instantly, soundlessly, the mother cat appeared, bounded in and out of the box, the littlest kitten in her mouth, and carried it back to the guest room.


“Three doors, two rooms and two hallways away, and yet she heard. And it wasn’t even a full-fledged cry.


“Nor are our prayers necessarily full-fledged prayers—or even articulated cries for help. According to the Bible, God responds to our sighs, our tears and our murmurs. Even our longings can be interpreted as prayer.


“John Trapp said in commenting on Psalm 145, “The Lord is near to all that call upon Him; yea, He can feel breath when no voice can be heard for faintness.”  (Ledgacy of a Pack Rat, “by Ruth Bell Graham, Oliver-Nelson Books, Nashville Tenn. Via Decision Magazine.)


Prayer Based Upon God’s Sovereignty


God’s sovereignty is what makes his name worthy to be hallowed. Sovereignty simply means that God is Lord of Lord, and King of Kings—God fully controls the universe. When you pray imagine yourself kneeling before the ruler of the universe. You have seen and heard children brag about their fathers being able to do anything; well our heavenly father can do anything. Try to imagine God ruling the universe as a loving Father directing the world affairs to provide for the needs of his children. God’s sovereignty meets out justice to the evil as it protects the righteous from an evil world.


Isaiah 3:8-11

8 Jerusalem staggers,

Judah is falling;

their words and deeds are against the LORD,

defying his glorious presence.

9 The look on their faces testifies against them;

they parade their sin like Sodom;

they do not hide it.

Woe to them!

They have brought disaster upon themselves.


10 Tell the righteous it will be well with them,

for they will enjoy the fruit of their deeds.

11 Woe to the wicked! Disaster is upon them!

They will be paid back for what their hands have done. NIV


Psalms 27:1-3

The LORD is my light and my salvation--

whom shall I fear?

The LORD is the stronghold of my life--

of whom shall I be afraid?

2 When evil men advance against me

to devour my flesh,

when my enemies and my foes attack me,

they will stumble and fall.

3 Though an army besiege me,

my heart will not fear;

though war break out against me,

even then will I be confident. NIV


God’s rule upon earth is the essence of salvation. Jesus says, “Hallowed be your name; your kingdom come; your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  The faithful prophets of old had no doubt about who ruled world affairs. They didn’t always understand why he ruled the way he did, but they believed he ruled.


1 Chronicles 29:10-13

Praise be to you, O LORD,

God of our father Israel,

from everlasting to everlasting.

11 Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power

and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,

for everything in heaven and earth is yours.

Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom;

you are exalted as head over all.

12 Wealth and honor come from you;

you are the ruler of all things.

In your hands are strength and power

to exalt and give strength to all.

13 Now, our God, we give you thanks,

and praise your glorious name.


14 "But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. 15 We are aliens and strangers in your sight, as were all our forefathers. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope. 16 O LORD our God, as for all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name, it comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you. 17 I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things have I given willingly and with honest intent. And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you. 18 O LORD, God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Israel, keep this desire in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you. 19 And give my son Solomon the wholehearted devotion to keep your commands, requirements and decrees and to do everything to build the palatial structure for which I have provided."


20 Then David said to the whole assembly, "Praise the LORD your God." So they all praised the LORD, the God of their fathers; they bowed low and fell prostrate before the LORD and the king. NIV


The Old Testament clearly and emphatically teaches God rules on earth and in heaven. The New Testament emphatically teaches God’s sovereignty extends far beyond this world.


Romans 8:28-39

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.


31 What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all-how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died-more than that, who was raised to life-is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:


"For your sake we face death all day long;

we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." 


37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. NIV


Prayer Based Upon Our Willingness to Obey


Jesus teaches us to pray that God’s will be done on earth in heaven, i.e., we must be willing to allow God to rule in our personal lives.


2 Chronicles 7:12-22

"I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices.


13 "When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. 16 I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.


17 "As for you, if you walk before me as David your father did, and do all I command, and observe my decrees and laws, 18 I will establish your royal throne, as I covenanted with David your father when I said, 'You shall never fail to have a man to rule over Israel.'


19 "But if you turn away and forsake the decrees and commands I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, 20 then I will uproot Israel from my land, which I have given them, and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. I will make it a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples. 21 And though this temple is now so imposing, all who pass by will be appalled and say, 'Why has the LORD done such a thing to this land and to this temple?' 22 People will answer, 'Because they have forsaken the LORD, the God of their fathers, who brought them out of Egypt, and have embraced other gods, worshiping and serving them-that is why he brought all this disaster on them.'" NIV


Prayer Requires Dependence upon God


Jesus teaches us to pray, “Give us today our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11 NIV). God’s sovereignty does little for us if we can’t bring ourselves to fully depend upon God.


Matthew 6:19-24

19 "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.


22 "The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!


24 "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. NIV


We must depend upon God to deliver us from temptation. Jesus taught to pray, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13 NIV).


1 Corinthians 10:12-13

12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall! 13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. NIV


God is deeply aware, and sensitive to our spiritual struggles. He knows how to deliver us from an ungodly world.


2 Peter 2:4-10

4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment; 5 if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; 6 if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; 7 and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men 8(for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)- 9 if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment.  10 This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority. NIV


Prayer Requires Forgiveness for Others


Jesus teaches us to pray to, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12 NIV). It is impossible to understand or receive forgiveness without understanding the need of others to be forgiven.


Ephesians 4:31-32

31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. NIV


Christianity is based upon relationships. Forgiveness is the oil that relationship must have to work smoothly.


Matthew 7:1-5

7:1 "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.


3 "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. NIV




The four elements in prayer are:


Prayer is seeking God’s rule in your heart. After all, the true church today, i.e., salvation, is nothing but the reign of God in the hearts of humanity.


Prayer is depending upon the sovereignty of God for your daily sustenance.


Prayer is developing the attitude of Christ toward those who have sinned against you.


Prayer is seeking God’s help in overcoming temptations.


These four qualities define the essence of Christianity.


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