“When You Pray” – don’t simply ‘Tembak or Hantam’! – Matt 6:5-15

by Steven Chan

  1. When you pray, do NOT pray “like the hypocrites who…love to pray…to be seen by men” (6:5).

One should not “simply simply” pray – just simply ‘tembak or hantam’ (Bahasa language – simply shoot/hit, i.e. say anything, without careful thought or giving due respect for God)!

We will do well to remember what the Lord said about those who come to Him: ““This is what the Lord spoke, saying: ‘By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; and before all the people I must be glorified.’” If we show disrespect to God when we offer our prayers, then remember what He did to Nadab & Abihu when they made their offerings!  Remember the warning of Heb 12:28-29: “serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire.” Are you glorifying God in the offering of your prayers?

Remember the warning of the Scriptures of offering worship to God in vain as highlighted by Jesus: “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.” (Matt 15:8). Our prayers must proceed from our hearts. What fills our hearts?  Jesus said: “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45) If one is not humble & penitent and does not fill his heart/mind with spiritual things (Col 3:1-2,10; Rom 8:5-6; Rom 12:1-2) then he struggles with what or how to pray.

Not all prayers are acceptable to God (Isa 1:15); neither are all prayers effective (James 5:16; 1:5-8).  We need to be careful with our attitude, with what we say when we pray and how we say it. It s not for show to man. We are NOT to ‘ask amiss’ (James 4:2-3) – not aligned with the will of God (1 John 5:11) – for example for self-gratification or self-interest only. Neither are we to pray with no understanding of what we are saying – 1 Cor 14:15 – saying things which are not consistent with the will of God or even contrary to the will of God! We are not to pray when we doubt that there is a God or that God will hear and answer our prayers (James 1:5-8).

  1. Jesus said: “When you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Matt 6:6).

Obviously, in this context Jesus is discussing the offering of personal prayers. He was not talking about prayers in the public assemblies; in the latter, prayers must be said with clarity so that others can hear and say “Amen!”: “Otherwise, if you bless with the spirit, how will he who occupies the place of the uninformed say “Amen” at your giving of thanks, since he does not understand what you say?” (1 Cor 14:16)

The practice of personal prayers ought to be done “in secret” i.e. “in your room” and “with the door shut” – this is not to prohibit praying in the open but to emphasize that personal prayers ought to be done such that it is not for public exhibition. It is an emphasis on personal piety towards God.  This emphasizes the personal aspect of one’s relationship with God – it reminds us of the hymns entitled, “My God and I” and also “Be with me, Lord”: “Be with me, Lord–I cannot live without Thee, I dare not try to take one step alone. I cannot bear the loads of life, unaided, I need Thy strength to lean myself upon.”  The secret of the victorious Christian life is the time spent in secret prayers to the Lord where:

  1. We acknowledge and give glory to God (Matt 6:9)
  2. We affirm the over-powering and over-riding priority of God’s will in our lives (Matt 6:10)
  3. We seek God’s provision for our daily needs.

The fact that Jesus asked us to ask to “give us this day our daily bread” implies the practice of personal prayers on a daily basis. Jesus prayed early in the morning (Mark 1:35) and also at night (Luke 6:12). The Psalmist shared his personal practice: “I rise before the dawning of the morning, and cry for help; I hope in Your word” (Psa 119:147). He also stayed up at night to study and meditate on God’s Word: “My eyes are awake through the night watches, that I may meditate on Your word.” (Psa 119:148)

When we follow the example of Jesus and the Psalmist in personal prayers and meditating on His Words, every morning and night, we shall be blessed as testified by the Psalmist: “He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.” (Psa 1:3)

  1. We seek to maintain a healthy relationship with God and with those around us, by acknowledging our own shortcomings before God, and having the attitude of forbearance and forgiveness towards others even as we ourselves have sought forgiveness from God. (Matt 6:12). None of us is perfect.
  2. We acknowledge the daily challenges of temptations and therefore our dependency upon God for His wisdom, grace and strength for deliverance from all temptations (1 Cor 10:13; 2 Cor 12:9; Heb 4:16). We acknowledge that God is in control and He will prevail (Matt 6:13). The Bible exhorts us: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. 7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and depart from evil.” (Prov 3:5-7)

The Bible warned us of the danger of falling away from our faith: “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; 13 but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end” (Heb 3:12-14). It is not how we start but how we end that matters. For many have started but only a few have reached the end with their faith intact (Matt 7:13-14). So many have fallen along the way – just like the Israelites (Heb 3:16-19; 4:11).

“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Heb 10:24-25)

  1. When we pray “do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.” (Matt 6:7)

It’s not the number of words, or the number of times one repeats the words that will ensure that God hears and answers our prayers.

Jesus highlighted this in the account of the Pharisee and the publican (tax collector): “And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:13-14).

Our attitude in prayer matters much more than the words we use (1 Pet 5:5-6; Rom 8:26-27). We need to have the attitude of humility and reverence before God.  There’s no place for any pride or feeling of being proud of anything when we approach His throne of grace and seek His mercy for our sins and grace to help us in time of need (Heb 4:16).

Let’s “pray without ceasing “(1 Thess 5:17) “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints (Eph 6:18). We will have the peace of God when we pray: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:6-7).

It’s truly a great blessing and privilege to be able to pray to God through Jesus Christ. “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Heb 10:19-23)