As is our custom each month, we will now take a short break from our studies on Genesis in order to explore an aspect of the Christian faith in more detail. Abraham’s prayer in Genesis 18 provides an opportunity to discuss this important means of grace, and so we will spend our time over the next few weeks basing our studies on Dr. R.C. Sproul’s teaching series The Lord’s Prayer.
When we consider the life and ministry of Jesus, we should not lose sight of the awesome privilege His disciples enjoyed as first-hand witnesses of His person and power. Unlike us, they were able to see with their own eyes miracles like the resurrection of Lazarus (John 11:1–44) and the changing of water into wine at Cana (2:1–12).
Yet when the disciples had the chance to ask Jesus to instruct them in a particular subject, they did not ask Him to tell them how to perform miracles. Rather, as today’s passage indicates, they asked Him to teach them how to pray (Luke 11:1). Jesus would routinely retire from the crowd and spend hours in prayer, because He was strengthened by communing with His Father (6:12). Evidently, His followers saw a direct link between Christ’s prayer life and His teaching, character, and power. They also viewed a similar connection between John the Baptist’s devotion to prayer and his ministry (11:1). Therefore, it is no surprise they asked for instruction in this area as sanctification and ministry are both empowered by prayer.
The bulk of our studies on prayer will look at the Lord’s Prayer in Luke 11. But before we examine this model for intercession, let us turn to Matthew 6:5–6 and look at Jesus’ instructions on public prayer. These verses are primarily concerned to warn us against hypocrisy in our devotion to God. Many in Jesus’ day loved to pray lengthy, elaborate prayers in public for the purposes of showing their devotion. This was unacceptable, not because public prayer is evil, but because their hearts did not match this practice.
God is not pleased with us when we pretend to be more committed to Him than we really are. He will reject any public prayer that is offered with the intent to put our own devotion on display.
Jesus emphasizes that prayer should reflect a certain private intimacy between the believer and God in Matthew 6:5–6. There is something so intimate about prayer that we should long to pray in private long before we do so in public. It is good to pray in public, but our prayers should always be genuine prayers before God Almighty. Refrain from praying in public if you are not communing with Him in private.