Series 57


by Francis Dixon
(Scripture Portion: Matthew 6:1-15)

In Matthew 6:5-6 Jesus contrasts true prayer with false prayer, prayer that is real with prayer that is sham. One kind of prayer is seen by God and is of inestimable value to Him; the other is seen by man and is useless. In this study we are to emphasise the fact that the vital requirement in every Christian is private prayer, for which there is no substitute. The first thing that really counts in our lives as Christians is not the amount of service we render, the number of meetings we attend, how many sermons we preach, nor even the fact that we are regularly present at the prayer meeting; the one thing that counts for more than anything else is our appreciation of, and our practice of, private prayer. The test as to the real value and power of a Christian life is not made in the realm of outward things, such as our Christian service which others can see, but in the realm of inward things – what we engage in when we are shut away from every human eye and are alone with God.

In every life where there is a ‘shut door’ there will be an inflow of God’s peace and the conscious joy of His presence; then there will be an outflow of fruitful service which will remain for eternity. There can be no deep realisation of the peace and presence of God and no real Holy Spirit fruit if the place of prayer is neglected. Notice that Jesus takes it for granted that His people will be men and women of prayer, for He says, “And when you pray…” (verse 5). How much do we know of the secret place of prayer? Mark the following characteristics of private prayer:-

1. There must be RELATIONSHIP

Notice in verse 6 – “…to your Father….your Father…” – not the Father.” Before ever we can enjoy the privilege of prayer or know anything of its power we must first know God as our loving heavenly Father. We must be “born again” (John 3:3) and made a member of His family (Ephesians 3:15). Notice how the Lord’s model prayer begins – “Our Father …” Is He truly your Father? If not, receive the Lord Jesus Christ now and become a child of God (John 1:12; 1 John 3:1).

2. There must be REVERENCE

Who is our Father? Turn to Isaiah 57:15 and read what happened when Moses suddenly became conscious of the presence of God (Exodus 3:3-6). When we pray we may come to the Throne of Grace with holy boldness (Hebrews 10:19-22); but we must come with reverence, remembering to whom we are coming, aware of our unworthiness (Daniel 9:3). We must always come, however, with great humility.

3. There must be REALITY

C. H. Spurgeon said, ‘The prayer of the heart is the heart of prayer’. Prayer is meaningless if our hearts are not in it. We must not pray as the hypocrites do, like play-actors. Look up the very solemn words spoken by Jesus and recorded in Matthew 15:8-9. How easy it is to engage in a form of prayer and yet for our hearts not to be in our praying! How frequently we have done this!

4. There must be RETIREMENT

Verse 5 tells us how the Pharisees prayed – to be seen of men – but the Christian must meet God privately, secretly, unheard by men but seen and heard by Him, anywhere and at any time. We need to retire to a place alone in the presence of God and have an audience with Him.

5. There must be REPETITION

But what about verse 7? It is vain repetition which Jesus condemns. In prayer it is really unavoidable, and all the way through the Bible it is commended. We must persevere in prayer and be persistent; and such prayer demands repetition (Luke 11:8; 18:7; 18:39). Some of our prayers fall short of their goal because we give up just when we ought to hold on and persevere.

6. There must be RELIANCE

Compare Hebrews 11:6 with the last part of Matthew 6:8. We must believe that God is not only able and willing to answer us, but that He knows our needs before we ask Him. We do not pray to instruct God how to act, but to entreat Him that He may perform His will through our praying. Why then do we need to pray at all? The answer is that God has ordained it this way; indeed, He has commanded us to pray, and not to pray is to disobey; moreover, not to pray is to block the channel through which God is waiting to work and reveal His will and then to pour out His blessing.

7. There is always a REWARD after praying

In verse 5 our Lord tells us that the Pharisees have their reward here and now. Their reward is to be seen of men. The Christian, on the other hand, who has experienced being alone in prayer with the Lord also has his reward now and in eternity (verse 6). His reward now is the answer to his prayers; his reward in eternity results from the fact that whenever a Christian prays he is laying up treasure in heaven (Matthew 6:20).

Notice how personal the Lord’s word is on the subject of private prayer (verse 6) – “But when you pray, go into your room … your … your … you.”