“I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” —John 15:5, 7
Scripture Reading: Matthew 6:5-8; Luke 18:9-14
God is extremely concerned with our actions, but He is just as concerned with the condition of our heart. One of the ways we can know where our heart is at is by our prayer life. When we’re a person of prayer, then our heart is in tune with God.
If we’re not a person of prayer, then we know that our heart is far from God. Beyond this, our willingness to grow and change is evidenced by our prayer life—if we won’t change, then it follows that our prayer life is either non-existent or completely misdirected.
How our prayer-problems surface in our interaction with others can also be revealing. Too often, we’re willing to pray with a sick friend, ask the blessing on our food, or give the closing prayer for church but refuse to develop the discipline of private, personal prayer. Like the Pharisees Christ so often rebuked, we’re willing to pray in front of others but not willing to establish a relationship with the One we’re praying to.
The distinction between public and private prayer is made clear in Matthew 6:5-8. Christ instructs us to forsake the rewards of men and enter into His eternal rewards by communing with Him in our closet. When no one else knows we’re in prayer, it’s virtually impossible to receive their recognition.
Public prayer wasn’t condemned by Christ. On the contrary, Christ Himself prayed while others could see (John 11:41-42). What was condemned was the public spectacle and vain repetition of the Pharisees. We too, need to be careful that our prayer life remains sincere, and isn’t done for public approval.
- “When you pray” begins Matthew 6:5-7. Did Jesus assume His disciples would be people of prayer? John 15:1-5; Matthew 26:40-41; Luke 21:36; Philippians 4:6-7; Ephesians 1:15-16.
- How can we be like the hypocritical Pharisees in our prayer life? Luke 18:9-14; Matthew 23:14b; James 4:1-3; Numbers 22:1-6 (note vs. 6).
- Matthew 6:6 says God will answer our prayers if they’re made in secret to Him. What other conditions must be met in prayer? John 15:7; 1 John 3:22; 5:14-15; 1 Timothy 2:8; 2 Chronicles 7:14; Jeremiah 29:13; Mark 11:24; James 5:16.
- Does the phrase “enter into thy closet” in Matthew 6:6 teach absolute seclusion in prayer or does it address our attitude and motivation toward public prayer? Acts 1:14; Acts 12:12; 21:5.
- Why is frequent seclusion necessary for effective prayer? Mark 6:31; Luke 5:15-16; 6:12-13; Acts 10:9-16.
- Is there an acceptable repetition in prayer? 2 Corinthians 12:8; Genesis 18:23-33; 2 Samuel 12:15-17; 2 Thessalonians 5:17; Luke 18:1-7.
- Why should we ask God for something if He already knows what we need? 1 Corinthians 3:7-10; Deuteronomy 9:13-20; Luke 11:9-10; Job 1:5, 8-10; Jude 1:20.
Dedicate three to four separate times to pray in seclusion for an extended period. Ask the Lord to reveal areas of your prayer life that need to be transformed or are hypocritical/self-serving. Also, commit to specific times of prayer with other Christians in your Sabbath school/church. Ask God to reveal how corporate prayer can be improved in your life.