And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:
‘Our Father in heaven,
Do you long for a deeper connection to God through prayer? What would it look like for you to pray with power and effectiveness? Throughout this series we will answer those questions by looking at Jesus’ teaching on prayer. Jesus was the Master Teacher, and He gives us the model for how to pray. Within this model we find six Powerful Prayer Principles that have the potential to reshape your view of God, yourself, and prayer.
Before you meet with your group, take time during
the week to answer the questions in the response box to the right. Consider these questions daily. Spend time talking with the Father before your meeting. Ask Him to prepare your heart for your discussion and allow Him to reveal His truth to you.
MY PRAYERS THIS WEEK
What or who are you praying for this week?
How is God answering your prayers?
What is He revealing to you?
Truth in Life
Prayer draws me close to the Father’s heart and His love for me.
Your relationship with your earthly father was (and is) more significant than you may realize. For some, the word “father” brings up good memories of a father who was supportive, loving, encouraging, and self-sacrificing. For others, however, the word “father” takes on a different meaning. Maybe their father was distant or altogether disengaged. Perhaps he wasn’t around or left the family long ago. Some even experienced abuse from their father, verbally or physically.
The truth is, all earthly fathers, whether good or bad, fail us at some point. But Jesus came to redeem our understanding of “father.” God the Father is always faithful, and He desires a love relationship with you. He never fails to love you. Prayer draws you close to the Father’s heart and His love for you.
Q: What words do you associate with “father”?
Q: How have you experienced God’s love in prayer? Give examples.
LEARNING FROM THE MASTER
The Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) is Jesus’ teaching on what it looks like to live with God and for His kingdom. In Matthew 6:5-13, Jesus teaches on one of the most essential aspects of a life with God—prayer. To do this, He gives instructions on how to pray (vv.5-8) and a model for prayer (vv.9-13).
Overall, Jesus is concerned about the condition of our hearts.1 And our posture in prayer is influenced by the condition of our hearts. That’s why Jesus instructs His followers to pray: 1) Regularly, 2) Secretly, 3) Naturally, and 4) Believingly.2 Prayer isn’t about putting on a show for others to see or praying as a repetitious ritual to get God to hear you.3 It’s about coming before God.
When Jesus gives the model for prayer, He first tells us to pray to God as “our Father.” Jesus uses the everyday Aramaic term “Abba,” which is the word Jewish children used to refer to their earthly fathers.4 “Abba” conveys the warmth, intimacy, and care of a loving father.5 This would have been radical in Jesus’ day, because “Abba” is a word of relationship, and it’s a relationship based on love. Jesus is telling His followers that this is the kind of relationship we can have with God, our Father.
Q: Consider the four ways Jesus instructs us to pray. Which way is most challenging for you? Why?
Q: How would your prayer life be different if you saw it as an expression of your love relationship with the Father?
POWERFUL PRAYER PRINCIPLE
The first Powerful Prayer Principle we see in Jesus’ teaching on prayer is love. If you are a child of God, you have a love relationship with the Father. Prayer is your way of accessing this love relationship in a powerful way. Prayer works because your Father loves you.
Q: Explain the following statement in your own words: “Prayer works because your Father loves you.”
CHANGED BY PRAYER
Jesus teaches us to pray to the Father honestly. You should give God who you really are. If you’re struggling, pray. If you have doubts, pray. Even if you’re mad at God, pray. God is big enough to handle the real you. The first step towards real life change is to be real with God in prayer. Admit your weakness. Acknowledge your small faith. Confess your sin. Like David, ask God to search the depths of your heart to reveal these things (Ps. 139:23-24).
Q: What keeps you from being real with God in prayer?
Jesus also teaches us to pray expectantly to God. He even goes a step further to say that God rewards those who pray to Him! This is the kind of relationship Jesus invites us to have with the Father. Do you ever feel like your prayers just hit the ceiling and bounce back to you? Jesus assures you that the Father knows you and knows what you need before you ask.6 He hears you when you call to Him, and He answers you.
Q: What does it mean to pray with expectation?
Reflection & PRAYER
Take five minutes to complete the Reflection and Response section below.
HOW IS GOD SPEAKING TO...
What is He teaching you?
In what ways is He reshaping how you see Him? How you see yourself?
What is He calling you (or your group) to do?
Pray aloud as a group. In your prayer, do the following:
Thank God for His love and the love relationship you have with Him.
Praise Him for specific ways you see Him expressing His love in your life.
Ask the Father to help you believe and pray with bigger faith and expectation.
1. For passages where Jesus addresses the heart, see Matt. 15:18-20; 22:37; Mark 7:21; Luke 12:33-34; Heb. 4:12-13 (the ‘word of God’ is understood to be Jesus, see John 1:1-14).
2. Charles Price, Matthew: Can Anything Good Come Out of Nazareth?, Focus on the Bible Commentary (Fearn, Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 1998), 103–104.
3. Jesus exposes the true motives of someone who prays more in public than in private. This person is more concerned about praise from men and their reputation than in God’s approval. He also exposes the misconception that the length of our prayers makes them more e ective. Jesus called this pagan because pagan gods required incantation and repetition in order to be appeased. D. A. Carson, “Matthew,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition), ed. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland, vol. 9 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 199-200.
4. Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 1831.
6. “Prayer is not for the purpose of informing God. Rather, prayer expresses to him (and to ourselves) the fact of our impotence to meet our own needs.” Stuart K. Weber, Matthew, vol. 1, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 80.