Lesson 89—November 8, 2015
My Prayer Life—Part 1
Scripture: Matthew 6:5-6
Lesson Goal: To better understand how to pray with a pure heart.
As a nation, we join together this week to observe Veterans Day, the official federal holiday honoring those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. Would you take time to recognize and say thank you to the veterans in your class and to those of this congregation who have honorably and proudly served our country? Let us all remember that we enjoy the wonderful freedoms of this great nation because of the faithful service of so many heroic men and women. Please take time this Sunday morning to express your love, appreciation and gratitude to them. And as we honor the veterans among us, let us take time to honor our God. I ask each class to stand together to honor Him with the singing of “God Bless America.” Let our honoring of God be heard up and down the hallways on every floor of every building on this campus.
God bless America
Land that I love,
Stand beside her and guide her
Thru the night with a light from above
From the mountains, to the prairies
To the oceans white with foam,
God bless America,
My home, sweet home
God bless America
My home, sweet home (Berlin).
Lesson introduction: In today’s Scripture passage, Jesus turns our attention to prayer. Just as Jesus warned His followers of hypocrisy when they give or do charitable deeds, now He warns us, His followers, concerning hypocrisy when we pray.
(V5) “And when you pray”
The followers of Jesus are to be people of prayer. Prayer is a vitally important part of our daily lives, not
just reserved for mealtimes and special holidays.
Prayer is not to be an afterthought or merely a presentation of our wish list to God. As breathing is to our bodies, prayer is to be to our spiritual lives.
• How is your prayer life? Please answer honestly and openly before God.
• When do you pray? Again, please answer honestly.
• Please list some times when Jesus prayed.
In verse 5, Jesus is not condemning prayer, for we are to pray (see 1 Thessalonians 5:17; James 5:16; Acts 4:31). But He is strongly warning His followers concerning the purity of their hearts as they pray. He warns that His followers should not purposely position themselves in public areas so others will see them praying and be impressed by their piety.
“You shall not be like the hypocrites.”
The word hypocrite means “actor,” or “one who impersonates another.” It also means “to wear a mask.” The hypocrites were pretenders, and the Pharisees were the greatest pretenders of all. See Matthew 23:5 and verse 14. We must remember that as Jesus spoke these words to His disciples (His followers) many of the Pharisees were listening.
“For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men.”
Once again, Jesus is warning against impure motives in prayer. He is speaking to the purity of the heart. The prayer of a pure heart is not offered for the purpose of being noticed or to impress men. The Pharisees wanted the people to think they were very holy, and public prayer was a way they could draw attention to their appearance of holiness.
• Jesus knows the motives and purity of our hearts. Have you ever given the outward appearance of being holy or living for Jesus, when your heart was not pure? Please ask the Lord’s guidance as you answer.
Jesus is not stating that public prayer is wrong or unacceptable. He is saying that any prayer, public or private, which is prayed with impure motives from impure hearts, is really not praying at all. “There is a place for public prayer, but to pray only where others will notice you indicates that your real intention is to please people, not God. For these hypocrites, people’s praise will be their only reward” (Barton).
(V6) “But when you pray, go into your room (closet), close the door, and pray to your Father who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
The prayer life of Jesus’ followers is to be radically different than that of the religious leaders’ of His day. Jesus’ stern words to us, His followers, help us to understand that public prayer should flow from a heart of private prayer. Public prayer and corporate prayer were vitally important to the early church, just as for the church today. As followers of Jesus Christ, we should not pray more publicly than we do privately. The essence of our prayer life should be done in the privacy of our prayer rooms alone with God. Private prayer allows us to literally pour out our hearts to God with honesty and purity. It also allows us a time to be silent and listen for God’s voice and His answer. Jesus called out and prayed to the “Father” which shows us the intimate relationship we are to have with God our Father.
When Jesus speaks of going “into your room, and when you have shut the door,” He is speaking of a private or secret place. May I loving remind you that your secret place does not have to be an inner closet inside your home, although it may be. Your private place may be your back porch or inside your car. It is not so much about a specific place as it is about the purity of the heart of the one praying.
• Do you have a special, private prayer place?
• As we study the life and ministry of Jesus, where do you often go to pray?
Perhaps to help others in your class, you could share some of your special, private prayer places.
• What is the benefit and blessing of having a special, private place to pray?
• Where did Jesus often go to pray when He sought privacy and fellowship with the Father?
• Please complete the following statement:
My prayer life is…