Notes on Matthew 6:5-15

General:

  • Part of the Sermon on the Mount
  • The “King’s manifesto”
  • The characteristics of the citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven
  • It is radically opposed to the moral and religious ideas of the time – and of today
  • God’s values are NOT those of men (cf. 1 Sam. 16:7)

THE NATURE OF PRAYER (vv. 5-8):

Prayer is expected/assumed – “WHEN you pray” and commanded: “pray then like this” (see v.7).

  • It is a natural constant of the believer’s (Kingdom citizen’s) life; it is as natural and indispensible as breathing (cf. 1 Thes 5:17).
  • Prayer must be for God, not for men. Nor is it a show of spirituality. It is not mere encouragement; we do not pray just “to feel better”. We pray because prayer is part of our Father-child relationship with God; because we pray to a God who actually hears us.

Prayer is private (v.6)

  • Although Scripture emphasises corporate prayer (cf v.9our Father), Jesus wants His hearers to understand that for believers, prayer is not a “church” ritual. It is the cry of a heart that beats in personal communion with God.

Prayer is not a ritual (v.7)

  • “do not heap up empty phrases” – the verb, βαττολογέω, means “to stammer; repeat several times; to babble”.
  • “as the Gentiles do” (ώσπερ οι εθνικοί) – The practice of pagan religions (and not only) views the god(dess) they address as an impersonal force that must be set in motion/activated by the exertion of the believer(s).
  • This attitude to prayer violates the foundation of Christian prayer, which is based on a personal relationship/communion/fellowship with his/her Father in heaven.
  • Once again we are to understand the closeness of the God of the Bible to His people.
  • God is a personal God, i.e. He is a Person.
  • God is Sovereign (cf. v.8). Empty ritualistic repetition/chanting is replaced by trust and faith that God already knows our needs (Phil. 4:6-7; 1 Pet. 5:7).

THE ELEMENTS OF PRAYER (vv. 9-13):

  1. Acknowledging of God’s supremacy (v. 9a)
  2. Prioritising God’s holiness (v. 9b)
  3. Seeking first God’s Kingdom and glory (v. 10a)
  4. Submitting to God’s will (v. 10b)
  5. Bringing life’s demands to God (v. 11)
  6. Seeking God’s forgiveness (v. 12a)
  7. Exemplifying God’s mercy in our relationship to others (v. 12b)
  8. Seeking protection from the enemy (v. 13a)
  9. Giving all glory to God (v. 13b)

All of the above focus predominantly on God and His character and NOT on our needs (cf. v.8)

THE CONDITION OF PRAYER (vv. 14-15):

  • Of all the prayer elements, Jesus draws our attention only to one: Forgiveness (cf. v.12)
  • Prayer cannot please God when it comes from a heart that does not know mercy because this is a heart that does not know repentance.
  • Remember that this addresses believers
  • Prayer engages/touches upon God’s holiness and character. Without knowing these, we simply cannot pray as God wants us to.

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