Sermon: How to Pray
Scripture: Matthew 6:5-8
In this week’s lessons, we learn three great principles of prayer, and how we can pray with confidence.
Theme: In the Holy Spirit
But prayer is also one thing more. It is prayer to God the Father. It is through Jesus Christ. And it is also in the Holy Spirit. This is the third great principle of prayer. That is why Ephesians 2:18 says of the Jews and Gentiles, “For through him” (that is, through Jesus Christ), “we both may have access by one Spirit unto the Father.”
You will see at once, of course, that this verse reinforces the truth we have just been considering. For it says that prayer is to be made through the Lord Jesus Christ. But this is not the only idea in the verse. It also says that prayer is to be made in the Holy Spirit. What does this mean? Well, it is the work of the Holy Spirit to lead us into God’s presence, to point out God to us, and thus to make God real when we pray. Perhaps I can make this point by the underlying meaning of the word “access.” The Greek word that lies behind our English translation is prosagōgē, which means literally “an introduction.” The Holy Spirit introduces us to God. Thus, the Holy Spirit makes God real to us while, at the same time, instructing us how we should pray (Rom. 8:26-27).
Have you ever begun to pray and had the experience that God seems to be far away and unreal to you? If you have, one of two things may be wrong. First, it may be that sin or disobedience to God is hindering you. The Bible quotes David as saying, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the LORD will not hear me” (Ps. 66:18). If that is the case, you need to confess the sin openly.
It may also be the case, however, that things are filling your mind or that worries are obscuring the sense you should have of God’s presence. What are you to do in this case? Should you stop and pray again another time? Certainly not, for it is then that you probably most need to pray. Instead of stopping, you should be still and, looking to God, ask Him to work through His Holy Spirit to make Himself real to you and to lead you into His presence. Many Christians find that their most wonderful times of prayer are those in which they start without a clear sense of God’s presence but come to it fully by praying.
All this is really an exposition only of the first part of Jesus’ introduction to prayer in the Sermon on the Mount. There is a second part also. It is the part in which Jesus teaches that God is more willing to answer our prayers than we are to pray and that, as a result, the Christian who prays in God’s will can pray with great confidence. Jesus said, “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the pagans do; for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye, therefore, like unto them; for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.” Perhaps it was these words of which John Newton was thinking when he wrote:
Come, my soul, thy suit prepare:
Jesus loves to answer prayer;
He Himself has bid thee pray,
Therefore will not say thee nay.
Now there is a great deal involved in this. For it certainly does not mean that God will grant any stupid thing we ask for. God is willing, but if we are to receive the things we ask for, we must have a knowledge of God’s will and God’s ways. These are given to us only through Scripture.
What is the third principle of prayer? Explain what this means.
List some reasons why God might seem far away from us when we pray.
Why can we come to God in prayer with confidence?
Prayer: Ask the Lord for a greater knowledge of His will and ways, and that you would pray with boldness.
For Further Study: Download for free and listen to Donald Barnhouse’s message, “How to Pray.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)