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THE LORD’S PRAYER SERIES

“INTRODUCTION TO PRAYER”

Matthew 6:5-13

STUDY (1)

Dr. Paul Ferguson Calvary Tengah Bible Presbyterian Church Shalom Chapel, 345 Old Choa Chu Kang Road, Singapore 689485

July 2010

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INTRODUCTION
Prayer is easy to talk about but difficult to put into practice. Prayer is the measure of our spiritual maturity and a gauge of spiritual growth. It is the most difficult spiritual exercise for believers – even more difficult than Bible study, preaching, teaching, and sharing of problems. It is little wonder that the devil assails this ministry of the Church with all his might to get the Christian to neglect prayer. Satan uses distractions and unbelief in order to tempt us to procrastinate or curtail this vital part of our spiritual life. Prayer is the acknowledgement that our dependence upon God is not partial, but is in everything. It is in prayer that the flesh rises the most and must be put down. If we can conquer the power of the flesh here, it will be critical to other spiritual activities in our lives. As Martyn Lloyd Jones put it, “Prayer is beyond question the highest activity of the human soul. Man is at his greatest and highest when, upon his knees, he comes face to face with God.” The prayer meeting is fundamental to the life of a church. Sadly, it is usually the lowest attended meeting in any local church. Attendance at the prayer meeting says a great deal about a person’s spiritual health. Someone once quipped, “Look at Sunday morning, and you will see how popular the church is. Look at Sunday evening, and you will see how popular the Pastor is. But look at the prayer meeting, and you will see how popular God is.” Many professing believers never attend the prayer meeting, never pray with their families, and some do not even pray at home. It seems they have no desire for prayer at all and hide behind unjustifiable excuses such as lack of time and all sorts of distractions. Few of those who claim to know God are interested in communing with Him. In essence, they seem to have no real faith in the power and glory of prayer.

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The apostolic Church was fervent in prayer. Church history also attests with the close relationship between praying and revival. Charles Haddon Spurgeon is considered the “Prince of Preachers,” but Spurgeon was always quick to point out that any blessing on his ministry was the direct result of his congregation’s faithful prayers. When visitors came to the Metropolitan Tabernacle, CH Spurgeon would take them to the basement prayer-room where people were always praying. Spurgeon would always declare, “Here is the powerhouse of this church.” The Metropolitan Tabernacle had a prayer-meeting every Monday night that Spurgeon attested, “scarcely ever numbers less than from a thousand to twelve hundred attendants.” In his autobiography, Spurgeon stated, “I always give all the glory to God, but I do not forget that He gave me the privilege of ministering from the first to a praying people. We had prayer meetings that moved our very souls, each one appeared determined to storm the Celestial City by the might of intercession.”

CHRIST AND PRAYER
The Lord’s Prayer is a great privilege. Here we have an opportunity to learn from the Master Intercessor. No one ever prayed like Jesus prayed. As H. A. Ironside explains, “Think of the privilege of sitting at the feet of the great intercessor Himself and hearing Him tell us how to pray! It is indeed a priceless opportunity not to be despised or passed on to disciples of some other age.” In Luke 11, after observing the prayer life of Christ that the disciples pleaded, “Lord, teach us to pray.” One of the most outstanding aspects of the ministry of Christ was His habitual prayerfulness. His praying is mentioned by each of the four evangelists who provide captivating glimpses into His prayer life. This should remind us that we also of necessity need a prayer life of total dependence on our Heavenly Father. Jesus Christ often spent all

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night in prayer before making great decisions (Luke 6:12). Often we fail to pray for wisdom in critical decisions in life. As Alexander MaClaren states, Thus He teaches us where and how we may get the clear insight into circumstances and men that may guide us aright. Bring your plans, your purposes to God’s throne. Test them by praying about them. Do nothing large or new— nothing small or old either, for that matter—till you have asked there, in the silence of the secret place, ‘Lord, what wouldest Thou have me to do?’ There is nothing bitterer to parents than when children begin to take their own way without consulting them. Christ also prayed before his baptism (Luke 3:21), before He taught His disciples profound truths of the kingdom of God (Luke 9:18), before He ate (Luke 24:30-31), on the Mount of Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-29), before facing great temptation and trial (Luke 22:39-41), and even on the Cross (Luke 23:34). Jesus Christ prayed alone (Luke 5:16), He prayed for others (Matt. 19:13; John 17:9), and He prayed with others (Luke 9:28). Christ is not just the object of faith, but the pattern of faith for us. He modeled a life of prayer coupled with the life of practical obedience. The more we labour like Him the more we need to pray like Him. ‘O Thou by whom we come to God, The Life, the Truth, the Way; The path of prayer Thyself hast trod; Lord! teach us how to pray.’ THE LORD’S PRAYER This advice on prayer is part of the Sermon on the Mount. It is a message that is for believers. All the theology in this great charter for kingdom disciples is meant to be practiced and applied by all believers. However, all of the practical applications portrayed in the message are unnatural to us. We can only fulfill them by the workings of the Holy Spirit in each of us.

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This prayer shows that the method and form of prayer are important to God. Jesus Christ not only told His disciples what they should not do and why, but positively what needed to be done. He specifically deals with the proper motive and place of prayer, as well as how to pray. When we approach God, we should use the language and form that He provides for us here. The fact that prayer can be taught means that it can and should be learned. Indeed, in Luke 11 we also learn that John the Baptist taught his disciples to pray so the method and motive of prayer is a vital lesson to learn. One of the striking things we can observe about this advice on prayer is that Christ does not command His people to pray. Instead, He assumes they will be praying as believers as He says, “And when thou prayest” in verse six and “After this manner therefore pray ye” in verse nine. The evangelist, Duncan Campbell said, “Revival is a community saturated with God.” In the great revival in 1949 in Lewis, an island of the coast of mainland Scotland, Campbell made this observation as to the evidence of a true conversion, “you see, in Lewis, and in the high land generally, they would no more believe that you were a Christian, than they would believe that the devil was a Christian, if you don’t attend the prayer meetings.” This was no subjective judgment by Campbell as the thing that God used to assure Ananias of the reality of Paul’s conversion was “Behold he prayeth” (Acts. 9:11). Matthew Henry also concurred when he observed, “You may as soon find a living man that does not breathe, as a living Christian that does not pray.”

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