Sermon Notes: Matthew 6:5-15


Jesus assumes we are praying. The wording and the way Jesus uses the language here (middle voice and subjunctive mood) indicates Jesus is telling us that in praying we are a real part of this divine conversation and we should pray expecting that our conversation with the Lord moves outcomes. 

I don’t know and I can’t explain how that truth jives with the reality of God’s sovereignty, and yet it is written in God’s word, and it is a glory for us to think on and be in awe of and actually participate in. 

Perhaps these seemingly juxtaposed realities are meant to give us double hope.

God is the absolute sovereign who ordains over his people nothing but good. 

Genesis 50:20 (CSB) 20 You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result—the survival of many people.

And God delights in talking with us and hearing us and answering us according to our needs and he desires to do us good that he already knows we need, and our asking moves the supply. 

Maybe that thought is a tiny glimpse at the greatness of his great and glorious love for us. 

Jesus invites his people to talk with the Father, to be seen by the Father, to be heard by the Father, and to know that God loves us.

I’m convinced that any lack of prayer is because the curse of sin in all it’s dark shades hides this reality from our knowledge and experience. 

This morning, may the powerful and potent grace of God enable us to see this facet of God’s love and move us to rich lives of prayer individually and together.

What do we see in Jesus’ preaching on prayer?

  1. Jesus assumes we are praying. 6:5a
    1. Remember, Jesus is not introducing prayer. Jesus is instructing on how to pray correctly. 
    2. Jesus is assuming we are praying because that is what God’s people do. 
  2. Jesus teaches us to NOT pray like hypocrites who pray to be seen by people. 6:5b
    1. A hypocrite is one who is a counterfeit. They act pretentiously.
      1. A little insight into the background Jesus is speaking from:
        1. At the time of feasts or the afternoon sacrifice, there would be a horn blast to signal what is happening, and devout lovers of God would face the temple and pray. 
        2. This situation provided a ripe opportunity for one wishing to be seen by man to put on a show with hands raised and other gyrations or grunts or whatever, and people would think of them as really spiritually tuned in. 
        3. AND Jesus is not outlawing a public display of serious heart-felt worship at this moment.
          1. Jesus IS condemning any such display that comes from a heart that is set on being seen and honored by man for it’s external devotion. 
        4. Jesus calls acts for the eyes of man hypocrisy and tells us to NOT do that. 
    2. We might say here that prayer is not to be used to make oneself look like someone they are not. Prayer is not to be used that way. 
    3. We can misuse prayer in this way also when:
      1. We use prayer for sermon summary so that we can get one more explanation in because we think it’s our job to be Holy Spirit. 
      2. We use prayer to make transitions in a worship service. 
      3. We use prayer for announcement-making.
        1. All of these make the person or something else the point and not a heartfelt fellowship with God seeking God’s glory and our need. 
  3. Jesus commands us to pray primarily in private. 6:6a
    1. Remember, Jesus is not condemning public prayer.
      1. The church prays together in public all through the Bible. 
      2. Individuals pray publicly in the Bible.
      3. Jesus is condemning prayer that has other people as the audience. 
    2. Jesus commands (“go” is imperative) us to get into a quiet and private place where we know we have God’s ear and he has our ear.
      1. This instruction can apply to so many things, and I don’t want to distract from prayer, yet it would be wise for us to throw in a few examples of things we might be tempted to do in addition to prayer to be seen and admired in public.
        1. Serve for God’s eyes. 
        2. Preach/Teach for God’s eyes.
        3. Lead whatever you lead for God’s eyes.
          1. Don’t strive for man’s approval. That is full of snares. 
  4. Jesus reminds us that the Father sees the secret prayer. God hears also, and we should expect to receive all the good God has in his good time when we ask, seek, and knock in prayer in private. 6:6b
    1. We are to believe verse 6 and practice it. 
    2. Believing prayer is one of the ways we exercise active and living faith.
      1. Luke 18:1-8 – Faith prays and waits and keeps praying. 
  5. Don’t pray like unbelievers by babbling on with lots of meaningless words. 6:7
    1. It’s noteworthy that Jesus tells us to NOT pray LIKE “Gentiles”.
      1. Gentile was synonymous with an unbeliever. 
      2. In other words, unbelievers in God still pray to whatever false “god” they have set up for themselves. 
      3. NOTE: Atheists pray, they use means of therapeutic self-connection as ends in themselves rather than good means to Godward ends. They just pray to themselves.
        1. I would be willing to bet Jesus has in mind Elijah and the prophets of Baal.
          1. 1 Kings 18:20-40
    2. Jesus uses an onomatopeia here with “bable”, “battalogeo” which means to babble on in meaningless words and lots of them.
      1. What should we watch out for so that we don’t do this?
        1. We should be careful with long prayers that contain meaningless chatter because we are not being thoughtful.
          1. We would never talk to a real person in front of us like we may often pray, and if we do, we would likely not have many friends. 
        2. We should be careful with long prayers because we are not disciplined with our words.
          1. Notice that the prayers recorded in the Bible are not long.
            1. Practice short prayers in public and in private. 
            2. Short non-babbling prayer forces you to think, connect to the Lord, hear him, and respond like we are having a real conversation because that is what it is. 
    3. Why is this important? Because the Father knows our needs before we ask. 6:8
      1. Prayer is not informing God. 
      2. We are not kingdom CIA agents passing on vital intelligence to God. 
      3. Prayer must make time to sit and listen for the Holy Spirit and affirm his presence. 
      4. If God knows our needs before we pray, then why pray?
        1. Simple: God has wired his world to work on prayer, thus he teaches us to pray, and Jesus modeled it for us. 
        2. God desires to meet our needs and get his kingdom work done and to get it done in relationship with us, not in spite of us. 
        3. Prayer simply does something that releases the good and needed resources of God’s kingdom for us. 


Because Jesus has instructed us about prayer, the Lord then gives the application, and he indicates verses 9-15 is an application by saying, “Therefore you should pray like this…”, and Jesus gives us what has been traditionally called the “Lord’s Prayer”, and I believe is better titled the “Disciple’s Prayer”. 

This model prayer has rightfully been the subject of great volumes by Church Fathers and notable teachers and preachers in Christianity’s 2 millennia of writing and preaching. 

We’ll try to do it justice in our remaining time together this morning. 

  1. What does Jesus mean by “you should pray like this”?
    1. Jesus is speaking to individuals and all of us at the same time.
      1. “You” is plural because he’s talking to a group of people. 
      2. “You” is also plural because later in the prayer he will say “us” not “me”.
        1. Therefore, our prayer is personal and it is never divorced from the corporate. 
        2. We as persons are to be part of a whole, AND our individual needs and corporate needs work together. 
    2. Jesus intends this prayer’s order and content to serve as a model to guide our communication with the Father.
      1. This prayer’s  “…initial focus is upward, with its first three requests having to do with God’s glory. The remaining three requests are for our well-being. God first, man second—that is the ideal order of prayer. His glory before our wants.” – R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount: The Message of the Kingdom, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2001), 153–154.
  2. We should address God as a good Father who is transcendent and whose name is to be honored as holy. 6:9
    1. Jesus calls God “Abba”, a term for “father”.
      1. God is not a distant and cold entity.
        1. The God of the Bible is a good Father and loves us like a good Father.
      2. John 16:25-27 (CSB) 25 “I have spoken these things to you in figures of speech. A time is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures, but I will tell you plainly about the Father. 26 On that day you will ask in my name, and I am not telling you that I will ask the Father on your behalf. 27 For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.
    2. Jesus tells us that God is “in heaven”, that is he is transcendent (this is part of his holiness).
      1. God the Father is not a man so he acts like a man. He is God, and we revere and honor him as God.
        1. Psalm 50:21 (CSB) 21 You have done these things, and I kept silent; you thought I was just like you. But I will rebuke you and lay out the case before you.
      2. God’s transcendence keeps us humble as we confidently come to him.
        1. Bold humility is a proper place to be in prayer. 
    3. Jesus instructs us to pray for the Father to make his fame increase as he is honored as holy.
      1. Isaiah 26:8 (CSB) 8 Yes, LORD, we wait for you in the path of your judgments. Our desire is for your name and renown.
  3. Ask for Father’s kingdom to come and will to be done on earth as in heaven. 6:10
    1. We pray for the reestablishment of Eden and for Revelation 21-22 to come. 
    2. We pray for the effects of the curse of sin to be done away with. 
    3. We pray Isaiah 9:7 for the increase of his kingdom and for Colossians 1:15-20 in all things being made Jesus’ footstool to come about.
  4. Ask for Father to supply our needs. 6:11
    1. The word “daily” is a rarely used adjective in the New Testament and can mean today or tomorrow.
      1. The consensus is that we are to pray for what we need now and in the future. 
    2. “Bread” was their most basic and available food, and therefore their sustenance.
      1. Praying or “bread” is to pray for our needs. 
  5. Ask Father to forgive our “debts” as we actively forgive as we have been forgiven. 6:12, 14-15
    1. Jesus uses two different words here in verse 12 and verse 14.
      1. “Debts” is not borrowed money.
        1. It is a transgression and violation of the boundaries of holiness toward God and others, thus putting us in debt to others.
          1. When we sin against God and man, we need to repent and set things right because sin ultimately hurts people in our lives and puts us in a hole with people relationally.
          2. So, in asking for God to forgive us, we are living in the reality of the gospel and asking God for help for us to repair what we’ve broken without sin.  
    2. We pray for help to freely forgive as we have been forgiven.
      1. Enjoying forgiveness only happens when we release as we have been released.
        1. NOTE: Forgiveness does not equal the removal of consequences. Consequences are the fruit of God’s world that is wired for sowing and reaping. 
        2. Forgiveness does, however, release us from having to play God and hand all things over to his justice and good mercy. 
  6. Ask Father to NOT let us give in to temptation and evil. 6:13a
    1. “And do not bring us into temptation” does not imply “don’t bring us to the place of temptation” or “don’t allow us to be tempted.” God’s Spirit has already done both of these with Jesus (4:1). Nor does the clause imply “don’t tempt us” because God has promised never to do that anyway (Jas 1:13). Rather…these words seem best taken as “don’t let us succumb to temptation” (cf. Mark 14:38) or “don’t abandon us to temptation.” – Craig Blomberg, Matthew, vol. 22, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 120.
      1. So, we pray for help to navigate temptation and to overcome it.
        1. 1 Corinthians 10:13 (CSB) 13 No temptation has come upon you except what is common to humanity. But God is faithful; he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to bear it.
  7. Ask Father to keep us from evil. 6:13b
    1. We have an enemy, and it is altogether appropriate to ask the Father to keep us from that enemy and his ultimate effects. 

Some questions to help us:

Do I make time to just pray and listen regularly? Why?

Do I pray frequently or more passionately when I am alone with God than when I am in public? 

Is my public prayer an overflow of my private prayer? 

What do I think of when I am praying in public and private? Do I talk too much? Do I make time to listen for the Holy Spirit?

Am I thinking of myself or what others might think more than of God when in public prayer? 

Is it possible that the reason more of my prayers are not answered is because I am more concerned about bringing my prayer to men than to God? – 4 These questions are suggested by D. A. Carson, The Sermon on the Mount (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1978), pp. 60, 61.

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