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Jesus Taught Men To Pray

We find in the gospels numerous places where Jesus instructed on prayer.  Jesus taught us both how to pray, and how not to pray. And some of the his instruction on prayer appears contrary to human nature.  For example, in these next verses we see Jesus telling us to pray for our enemies, and those that use us:

but I say unto you, love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you;(Matthew 5:44)

bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you.(Luke 6:28)

Jesus spent as much time talking about how not to pray as he did telling people how to pray.  For example, he says that we are not make a big deal in front of people with our prayer.  He further says that those that pray in front of men because they want to be praised for their great prayer have received their reward.

And when ye pray, ye shall not be as the hypocrites: for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have received their reward.[Matt 6:5]

So, instead of making a big deal of our prayer, Jesus tells us to go by ourselves, and pray somewhere where it’s just between you and the father.

But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thine inner chamber, and having shut thy door, pray to thy Father who is in secret, and thy Father who seeth in secret shall recompense thee. [Matt 6:6]

Here is some food for thought: Jesus never once led the group in prayer.  Every time it talks about Jesus praying he is doing it alone.

Another warning that Jesus gave about prayer is that we are not to pray the same prayer over and over again.  Rote repetition of prayers is fruitless.

And in praying use not vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
Be not therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. [Mat 6:7-8]

How does this fit with the Catholic practice of saying Rosaries or praying repetitious prayers for “penance”?  For example, I remember confessing sins to a priest one time and being told to say five Our Fathers , five Hail Marys, and an Act of Contrition.  Did I have to say those prayers repeatedly so God would eventually hear?  Is it penance to pray to God?  It doesn’t make sense.

Here is another account where Jesus tells a parable that compares a hypocritical prayer to a righteous one.  The Pharisee is proud, and thinks that he is praying justly but he is bragging.  He brags that he is not a sinner, and that he fasts and faithfully tithes.   On the other hand the humble publican beat his breast and asked for mercy.  Jesus praised this man’s prayer.   He ends the parable with the proverb that if you exalt yourself before God you will be humbled, but if you humble yourself before God you will be exalted:

Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week; I give tithes of all that I get. But the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote his breast, saying, God, be thou merciful to me a sinner. I say unto you, This man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be humbled; but he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. (Luke 18:10-14)

How to Pray

Jesus said:

After this manner therefore pray ye. [Mat 6:9 ]

“After this manner therefore pray ye” does not mean to say these exact words, but to use the example as a guide for what is a righteous prayer.  Here is the “Lord’s Prayer”:

Matthew Luke
Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

(Matthew 6:9-13)

Father, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we ourselves also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And bring us not into temptation.

(Luke 11:2-4)

I have included the versions of the Lord’s prayer from both the gospel of Matthew and the one on Luke. There is no doubt that while they are very similar, they are not the same, especially that Matthew has phrases that Luke does not. This is not cause for alarm as it is more than reasonable that Jesus would teach the same teaching more than once.  But if we are to speak exactly the same words each time, wouldn’t the above prayers be identical.  Yes, they would.  So the “Our Father” is a model upon which to base our prayers, not the one prayer that we are to memorize and say repeatedly.

Some of the some of the elements in the Lord’s prayer include praising God for the great things he has done for us, asking for our needs to be met, asking for forgiveness, guidance, and deliverance.

Pray from the heart. Speak to God, telling him the great things that he has done for you and everyone. Confess your sins to him, and ask for forgiveness. Ask the Lord to guide you and provide for you. Recognize his greatness, and talk to him. That is how you pray

The Power of Prayer

The Gospels give us clear accounts of what is possible when we pray:

And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Rabbi, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away. And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou taken up and cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that what he saith cometh to pass; he shall have it. Therefore I say unto you, All things whatsoever ye pray and ask for, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. And whensoever ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have aught against any one; that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.(Mark 11:21-25)

Here we have clear guidance from the Lord on the tremendous availability of power when we pray. There’s more on this in a previous post.

More Encouragement on Prayer

While we are told not to use vain repetitions as in one of the verses above, the next verses tell us that there is power in presenting our case to the Father more than once.

And he spake a parable unto them to the end that they ought always to pray, and not to faint; saying, There was in a city a judge, who feared not God, and regarded not man: and there was a widow in that city; and she came oft unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest she wear me out by her continual coming. And the Lord said, Hear what the unrighteous judge saith. And shall not God avenge his elect, that cry to him day and night, and yet he is longsuffering over them? I say unto you, that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:1-8)

Some of the things that we are guided to pray for include praying for workers to evangelize and disciple new believers, and to help us avoid temptation:

And he said unto them, The harvest indeed is plenteous, but the laborers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he send forth laborers into his harvest. (Luke 10:2)

Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. (Matthew 26:41)

Lastly, if we take to heart that Jesus taught us to pray from our hearts to the father, then this is something that we can do whenever and wherever. Certainly we can take a few minutes to pray when we get up, before we nod off to sleep, and before we receive a meal. But if prayer is just talking to God, then this is something that we can do all day long.

© copyright 2010 Mark W Smith, All rights reserved.

November 24th, 2010 Posted by | Jesus' Teaching and Miracles | no comments

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