Everyone has seen this adorable photograph that has circulated over the Internet.
What does God say about prayer?
And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. After this manner therefore pray ye:
Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.
For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.
I think we can easily understand what Jesus was saying here. Don't have the wrong motives for praying. If your motives are pride so others will see you and think what a devout person you are, your prayers will go nowhere. Prayer is suppose to be a conversation with God, a communion with Him, a recognition of our need for Him. He is the focus not ourselves. In fact, He tells us NOT to pray with exterior motions that can be observed by others for the purpose of showing off. If we are showing off, it's pride and self and flesh. Your prayers will go nowhere.
Notice how the Lord's Prayer starts with acknowledging God as our Father and for worshipping Him. "Hallowed be Thy Name." The word "hallowed" means highly respected, honored, to realize how holy He is. Then it goes on to asking for God's Will on earth as it is in heaven. Not our will but God's Will. Then we humbly ask Him to provide for our needs. Then we ask forgiveness for our sins and ask God to help us to forgive others who have hurt us. Asking God to help us when temptations come, to protect us and deliver us. And then it ends with praise and worship again. Again, it's all about Him, He is our focus.
When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood. "Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow. "Come now, and let us reason together," Says the Lord, "Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool. If you are willing and obedient, You shall eat the good of the land; But if you refuse and rebel, You shall be devoured by the sword";
The Lord knows our heart. He knows if our motives are pure when we pray. He knows if our hearts are right when we bow before Him. You aren't fooling Him. He knows if you are doing it to get attention, playing along, wanting to look good, self righteous. He knows if your heart is really in it. He doesn't want or need your worship if it's insincere. If it's all a put on, then you've wasted your time. You can wear the clothes of a priest, live in a parsonage, attend youth groups, sing with the voice of an angel from the church platform, hope that the church TV camera is on you, act all holy and righteous...but if your heart is cold as stone, He is not fooled and He is not happy!
On the other hand, if you do love the Lord and you honestly and sincerely praise and worship Him. He hears your prayers. God is looking for a heart who seeks Him, who longs for Him. Would you want to be with a snotty brat that could only talk about themselves and demand attention for themselves, someone so full of pride and arrogance and selfishness? Or would you rather spend time with someone who loves you, who has a good time just being with you? If you can tell that your peers are snobby and self centered or sincere and kind, don't you think God can? You better believe it!
Psalm 95: 1-7
Oh come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the Lord is the great God, And the great King above all gods. In His hand are the deep places of the earth; The heights of the hills are His also. The sea is His, for He made it; And His hands formed the dry land. Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture, And the sheep of His hand.
Psalm 96: 1-4, 9 Oh, sing to the Lord a new song! Sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless His name; Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day. Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples. For the Lord is great and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods...Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!
Have you ever thought about Jesus praying? I used to think that because He was the Son of God, He wouldn't need to pray. But I was wrong. As I studied the New Testament I found that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, often prayed. He went off alone and prayed, sometimes at dawn, sometimes after a long day, sometimes at night.
Mark 1: 35
Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed
Matthew 14: 23
And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there.
Matthew 26: 36-39
Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, "Sit here while I go and pray over there." And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me." He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed,...
We are to pray in faith for God's Will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. I know if I ask anything according to God's Will, it will be done. It is promised.
So Jesus answered and said to them, "Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses."
It is not praying in faith for MY will to be done. I.e. if I pray for a pink Cadillac and a matching pink "Michael Jackson" mansion I probably won't get an answer to my prayer. If I pray for someone to be saved, or a church to reach the lost, or a missionary to be given courage to preach the Word...it's guaranteed that He will hear my prayer.
James 4: 2-3
You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.
But what about all those things in between? Is it wrong to pray and ask God for a new home, another job, for a spouse? How do we pray for specific needs and desires?
I think it all has to do with our heart and our relationship with God. If we are new Christians we may ask amiss until we learn better and God understands that. If we are in need or have concerns, then God wants us to discuss it with Him in prayer. He can give us a new perspective. But we must go to Him in humble adoration, in recognition that He is our source, showing our love for Him. And then, we must be willing to lay down our rights, our desires, our demands and be willing to accept His answer and to recognize that He is in control and is working for our best interests no matter what happens.
Matthew 7: 7-11
"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!"
Romans 8: 26-28
Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
I Thessalonians 5: 16-18
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.
And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints.
And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour. And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets. And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand. And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake.
The harps were instruments of praise; the vials were full of fragrance, or incense, which signify the prayers of the saints (believers in Jesus Christ): prayer and praise should always go together. The prayers of the saints themselves stand in need of the incense and intercession of Jesus Christ to make them acceptable and effectual, and there is provision made by Christ for that purpose; He has His incense, His censer, and His altar; He is all Himself to His people. The angel merely burns the incense given him by Christ the High Priest, so that its smoke blends with the ascending prayers of the saints. The saints themselves are priests; and the angels in this priestly ministration are but their fellow servants. These prayers that were thus accepted in heaven produced great changes upon earth in return; the same angel took of the fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth, and this presently caused strange commotions, voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake; these were the answers God gave to the prayers of the saints, and tokens of His anger against the world and that He would do great things to avenge Himself and His people of their enemies. There is only one mediator between God and man, Jesus our Lord (1 Timothy 2:5). The angel here did not produce the incense; it was given to him. "Therefore, the angel is not here represented as giving efficacy to prayers." The incense is "the prayers of the saints;" these to reach the throne must be lighted from the altar of sacrifice; or by faith in the blood of the Lamb of God. As the smoke arose before the throne, so the prayers of the saints in the name of the crucified Savior arise to God. The special significance of all this is that in the terrible judgments about to follow, the prayers of the true and faithful saints will still come before God, and his providence will be over them. And the angel . . . filled it with the fire of the altar, and cast it upon the earth. Fire is usually a symbol of suffering. This fire cast from the altar upon the earth indicates that the judgments of God are about to fall upon it.