Praying Effectively

Part 1

Text: Matthew 6: 5-13,


According to a well known business axiom, "If you want to know something ask an expert." It makes sense then, if you want to learn to pray, to ask the number one expert, Jesus Christ himself. No one in history has ever understood prayer better then Jesus. No one has ever believed more strongly in the power of prayer, and no one has ever prayed as He did. His disciples recognized His expertise. Once they stumbled upon Him while he was praying privately (See Luke 11:1). They were so moved by His earnestness and intensity when He got up from His knees one of them asked, "Would you teach us to pray?" They knew in comparison they were novices, first-graders in the school of prayer.

Jesus did not object to their question. Instead, He took this as an opportunity to teach them how to pray. See Matthew 6:5-13. No other Scripture tells us so straightforwardly how to pray, and the advice Jesus offered His disciples two thousand years ago applies to all of us today.

Prayer - the most powerful tool we have as Christians, yet so often underused or misunderstood. How can we learn to pray effectively? Christ gave us seven principles, (Matthew 6:9-13) that when followed can change us into people of dynamic faith who have learned the reality of powerful effective prayer that touches every aspect of our lives. We are going to learn and practice these Biblical Principles of Prayer.

In these principles are answers to "prayer problem" we face that can potentially hinder us from experiencing the supernatural benefits of this time spent with God. The disciples said, "Lord, teach us to pray..." Learning and living are two sides of the same coin. Practicing these principles will change your praying. And your praying will change you. And God will use YOU to change the world!

Let's learn to pray together.....

I.  A Pattern For Prayer
In developing your prayer life you need a pattern to avoid becoming imbalanced. Without a routine you will probably fall into the Please God  trap: "Please God, give me, please God, help me, please God, cover me, please God, arrange this."

I can tell you from personal experience where imbalanced prayer leads. Sensing the carelessness and the one-sidedness of your prayers, you begin feeling guilty about praying. Guilt leads to faintheartedness, and that in turn leads to prayerlessness.

Prayer Pointer: When praying makes you feel guilty pretty soon you stop praying.

I'm going to offer you a pattern to follow. It's not the only pattern or the perfect pattern, but it's a good pattern that has been used for many years in Christian circles. It's balanced and easy to use. All you have to remember is the word ACTS. An acrostic whose letters stand for adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication.

Adoration sets the tone for the entire prayer. It reminds me of whom we are addressing, whose presence we have entered, whose attention we have gained.

How often our problems and trials and needs seem so pressing that we reduce prayer to a wish list. But when we commit ourselves to beg2 says, inning all of our prayer with adoration, we have to slow down and focus our attention on God. How do you adore God? Example: Think about His attributes. Worship Him for His providence or power.

Confession is probably the most neglected area in personal prayer today. We often hear people pray publicly, "Lord, forgive us for our many sins." A lot of us carry that approach into our private prayer. We throw all of our sins into a pile without so much as looking at them, and we say, "God, please cover the whole dirty heap."

This approach to confession is a cop-out. When I lump all my sins together and confess them, it's not too painful or embarrassing. But if I take those sins out of the pile one by one, it's a whole new ball game.

Psalms 103:2 says, "Praise the Lord O my soul, and forget not all His benefits." Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:18,  "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." There is a difference between feeling grateful and expressing thanks. God our Father is moved when we express thanks.

I thank God every day for four kinds of blessings" 1. answered prayer, 2. spiritual blessings, 3. relational blessings, 4. and material blessings. Almost everything in my life fits into one of those categories.

Philippians 4:6 says, "In everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your request to God." If you have adored Him, confessed your sins and thanked Him for all His good gifts, you are ready to tell Him what you need.

Nothing is too big for God to handle or too small for Him to be interested in.

Suggestion: Break your request down into categories: ministry, people, family, personal.

II.  Preparation For Prayer
When the disciples asked the Lord if He would teach them to pray He did not object. Instead, He took the opportunity to teach them how to pray. Matthew 6:5-13 records what He said. In this passage the Lord also gives us some very practical "prayer pointers" that help us deal with some of the common hindrances we face in our prayer time.

As we study this passage together it might be helpful to record some of the hindrances to your prayers and how the "prayer pointers" given to us from the Lord help solve them. (It will be a way for you to be reminded and encouraged to see how practical God's Word is in relating areas of our Christian walk.)

"Prayer Pointer" #1: Pray Secretly
Scripture Reference: Matthew 6:6
Why the emphasis on privacy? Why shut the door? A private place insures a minimum of distractions.

Almost any kind of noise can cause you to lose your concentration during a time of prayer. Jesus knows how our minds work and He counsels, "Don't bother fighting distractions, because you'll lose. Avoid them. Find a quiet place where you can pray without interruption."

The practical reasons for privacy are important, but there is also a more subtle reason in Jesus' advice to pray in secret. Once you identify a place and begin to use it regularly, a kind of aura surrounds it. Your prayer room becomes to you a holy place, the place where God meets with you.

When you create a secret place where you can really pray, over time you will look forward to going there. Go there during the best part of your day - in the morning if you are a lark, late at night if you're an owl, or whatever time you feel most alert. Meet with the Lord there regularly, every day.

"Prayer Pointer" #2: Pray Sincerely
Scripture Reference: Matthew 6:7
Not only did Jesus tell His disciples to pray secretly; He also told them to pray sincerely. "Do not keep on babbling," He said.

Be careful of clichés. Don't fall into the habit of using meaningless repetition.

It is very easy for our praying to become routine because of meaningless repetitions. Certain phrases sound so appropriate, so spiritual that many Christians learn to string them together and call them prayer.

Can you think of some examples when you have heard this kind of praying or maybe you have prayed this way yourself.

 (Take some time this week and write out some repetitious phrases you have used or heard.)

God doesn't want us to pile up impressive phrases. He doesn't want us to use words without thinking of their meaning. He simply wants us to talk to Him as a friend or father - authentically, reverently, personally, earnestly. Psalms 62:8 says, "Pour out your hearts to Him."

Remember: Prayer should result in the development in your relationship with God NOT repeating dull repetitions to God.

Prayer is about relationship NOT repetition!

"Prayer Pointer" #3: Pray Specifically
Scripture Reference: Matthew 6:9
Jesus counseled his disciples to pray specifically. He showed them what he meant by giving them a model prayer, the prayer we have come to call "The Lord's Prayer."

God-honoring prayers are not simply shopping lists. They are more than cries for help, strength, mercy and miracles. Authentic praying should include a variety of different elements. That is why he used the Lord's Prayer as a model.

A good way to learn how to pray specifically is to write out a prayer and then read it to God.

One of the greatest hindrances to praying effectively is praying too generally. You need to think about your praying. When you pray specifically it helps you to "see" when God answers your prayer. And the greatest motivation to pray is answered prayer.

Evidence that God is answering your prayers is an indication that you are praying effectively! The result is you are encouraged in your praying.

 Are you encouraged or discouraged about your prayer life? The answer is directly related to the evidence you "see" prayers are being answered. Again the ability to "see" when your prayers are answered is directly related to how specific you are in prayer.

The two primary purposes for prayer are:
1). To bring glory to God.
2). To bring growth in your relationship with Him.
Both of these are accomplished when you pray specifically.

III. Principles of Prayer
Christ gave us seven principles of prayer in Matthew 6:9-13. These principles are embodied in the life and ministry of our Lord. Remember, as a result of the disciples hearing the prayers and observing the life of Jesus they made the request, "Lord teach us to pray..."

Learning and living these principles will effect not only your prayer life, but every area of your life. The possibilities can be summed up in three words: maturity, ministry and miracles.

  • Practicing these principles will promote growth in your life - that's maturity.
  • Practicing these principles will prompt you to do good - that's ministry.
  • Practicing these principles will prepare you for the power of God - that's miracles.

In these principles are answers to every "prayer problem" we face that can potentially hinder us from experiencing the supernatural benefits of our time spent with God.

Jesus begins this passage on prayer by saying, "After this manner pray ye..." He didn't say, "Pray this prayer." This is a prayer that is to be a guide. Using this prayer as our "guide" we are going to learn to pray effectively...

IV. Principle of Relationship
In one word describe your personal perception of God._______________

It is difficult, isn't it?

Your perception about God will effect your personal relationship with God.

What one word best describes your relationship with God. _____________

Your attitude about your relationship with God will effect how you approach God.

Why is this important? Because understanding your relationship with God is essential to effective life changing prayer.

The principle of relationship helps us deal with the problem of reluctance.

 This problem manifest itself in at least two ways:
1. We feel like we are "bothering" God with our prayers.
2. We spend a majority of our time "begging" God in our prayers.

God is not "bothered" by our praying but blessed by our fellowship in prayer. Why did God create Adam?

Prayer is NOT overcoming God's reluctance to our requests. It is the means of "laying hold" of the resources He willingly gives to meet our needs. When we understand the kind of relationship we have with God, our response will be a eagerness to pray and an expectation to receive.

"Our Father Which Art In Heaven..."

Jesus opens his teaching with an emphasis on our relationship with God as "Father." There is nothing more crippling to effective prayer than not having confidence in our relationship with God. When Jesus refers to God as the "Father" he helps us to understand the relationship we are intended to have with Him. Unfortunately, the concept of "father" has been marred for many through disappointing earthly relationships with parents or authority figures.

When our Lord said when you pray say, "Our Father..." we are not just ascribing human attributes to God. This is not an analogy. It doesn't mean that God is like a father. God is a Father.

Understanding the kind of relationship that God wants to have with you is essential to effective prayer. You'll never overcome the problem of "reluctance" until you know God in that kind of relationship.

Relationship Realities: The Basis For The Relationship

God is the Father of those born into the family of God.
John 1:11-12, "He came unto his own and his own received him not, but as many as received him gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.

You become a child of God by faith in Jesus Christ.
Galatians 3:26,"For ye are all children of God by faith in Jesus Christ.

God becomes your Father not by creation, but by conception...when you're conceived of the Holy Spirit of God, when you are born into the family of God. (See John 3).

Relationship Realties: The Benefits Of The Relationship

When you say "Father" you express God's nature and you can expect God's nurture. What does that mean? It means, he's going to take care of us like a father does his children. You see, we are His children.

Benefit #1: You Have The Father's Care
We are His children and God is honor bound to take care of His children.
Matthew 6:26,"Behold the fowls of the air; for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are you not much better than they?"

Benefit #2: You Have The Father's Correction
See Hebrews 12:5-7.
God's correction as a Father is proof of your sonship. God loves you too much to leave you alone.

Benefit #3: You Have The Father's Compassion
Matthew 6:8,
"Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things you have need of before you ask Him.
Your Father knows what you have need of before you ask Him. What does that mean? It means when you say "Father," He is a Father that compassionately wants to meet your need.
See Psalm 103:13.

God loves you. When you know that you are speaking to God not as a judge, not as a ruler, not as a king, not as the Almighty (He's all these things) but as your Father, the result is "...hallowed by Thy Name."

In presenting to us the portrait of God as Father, Jesus is teaching us the foundation for all prayer is a growing relationship with God. We can come boldly to God (Hebrews 4:16) in prayer and KNOW we are not bothering Him. The basis for that confidence is the bond we have as Father/Child. We can make our petitions (requests) known to Him without "begging" (Matthew 7:9-11) because we are His children.

If imperfect fathers love to bestow blessings on their children, imagine how our perfect Father in heaven must delight in giving good gifts to us, His children.



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