Guide to Prayer

So far in out walk through Matthew, we covered a lot of the Mosiac laws and how Jesus expands those laws to include your thoughts and what is in your heart.

Last time I started the subject of prayer and let everyone know that God dislikes a motormouth.

For those of you who don’t know what a motormouth is, I’ll explain that. A motormouth continually babbles and repeats themselves. They use way too many words and explanations in their prayers in an attempt to impress God.

We even covered prayer wheels and cylinders that offered up a prayer for each revolution. We even talked about connecting windmills and waterwheels to these cylinders to offer continuous prayer.

Jesus told us that God does not like these things.

We have just sung Stormy Monday, one of the classic blues songs. Not many people would suggest that Stormy Monday is a spiritual song, but I think we can learn from it.

According to the song, Monday turns out to be a rough day and it all goes downhill the rest of the week until Friday comes.

Friday was a special day in musicians lives from the 1920’s until the 1950’s. You see, an estimated 95% of the musicians worked for the Post Office, either full or part time.

“Why is that?” you might ask. (Listen for someone to ask, if not prompt the question again.)

That is an excellent question and I will be more than happy to provide an answer.

The Post Office job of sorting mail for the local routs is a real pain, and back in the 1920’s on, the Post Office accepted just about everyone without a felony conviction. The best part of it was that you could set your own hours day by day.

You could just show up and decide to work 3-1/2 hours if it suited your fancy.

“The Eagle flies on Friday” comes for the government issuing checks every Friday for your work the preceding week, and yes, the check had a big ol’ bald headed eagle on it.

That’s why when the eagle flew on Friday, it was a good day for the musicians,

Now on Saturday, a lot of musicians would play. Actually, they played all weekend long in addition to musical performances, so by Saturday night much of that money was gone.

So Sunday comes along and a lot musicians would get down on their knees and pray. Many were praying to the porcelain god and swearing to abstain from all adult beverage consumption in the future.

Others would pray to God:

“Oh LORD, have mercy on me.” This is clearly asking God to have mercy on us and forgive and spare us from the evil things that are happening to us, many which were of our own choices.

“Because without you LORD, my life would be nothing but pain and misery.” This is a very true statement. By saying this, we are admitting that we need God in our daily lives.   Clearly, a live without God will be loaded with pain and misery. It is also a reminder of what we will suffer when we die if we do not go to heaven.

So now you have an idea of how I think Stormy Monday is relevant in our lives, both physical and spiritual. I have a question for you to ponder: Does God like this prayer?

So far in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount we have learned what God dislikes in prayer, we will now listen to what Jesus tells us that God likes in prayer.

Matthew 6:9-13 (NIV)
9 “This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’

Jesus told people how to pray. Rather than using a fixed prayer, Jesus instead set up a structure for us to follow. This can be seen in Luke’s reporting of how Jesus taught people how to pray.

Luke 11:1-4 (NIV)
1 One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
2 He said to them, “When you pray, say: “‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.
3 Give us each day our daily bread.
4 Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.'”

The basic structure is still there.

So how do we pray?

At the very least you want to to the following:

  • Acknowledge God as holy.
  • Promise you will obey His commandments by matching our earthly behavior to what is in heaven.
  • Acknowledge that God provides for our daily food, both physical and spiritual.
  • Ask God to forgive our sins and promise to forgive the people who have sinned against us personally.
  • Ask God to protect us from falling into temptation and sinning.
  • Ask God to protect us from Satan and all things that are evil.


The rabbis or teachers in Jesus’ time often gave outlines or forms to their students for them to use for prayers. Jesus just followed this by giving people a structure to use when they pray.

Many have adopted this as The Lord’s Prayer, but it is just an outline ready to be filled in by our own prayers to God.

So let’s look into exactly what Jesus is telling us.

Our Father – The “Our” reflects on the fact that God is the Father of all of us. We must remember that we become a son of God only through faith and the acceptance of Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

In heaven – We are acknowledging that God is above all of us in heaven, which is our ultimate destination we strive for. Jesus throughout His preaching refers to the Old Testament frequently. This part is taken from Psalms 115:3 (NIV)
3 Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.

We also remember that God’s throne is in heaven and the earth is his footstool.

Matthew 5:34-35 (NIV)
34 But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne;
35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King.

Hallowed be your name – We admit that God’s name is holy. We should strive to hold his name high and in honor. We can honor His name by striving to use it in reverence and respect. In fact, we are promising God to do just that.

We also celebrate God’s name in praise!

Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven – We need to pray for God’s work in this world. Remember that Jesus established His kingdom on earth. We need to try and follow God’s ways He has prescribed for us as though we are with Him in heaven.

Our behavior and hearts must be acceptable to God so we may become righteous.

God has promised that Jesus’ kingdom is above all other kingdoms so we need to strive to hold His Word above all things on earth.

Give us today our daily bread. – The bread mentioned here is the food we need for today for our physical survival. It also includes our spiritual food and grace from God just for today.

Notice that Jesus didn’t say “Give us lobster and crab and fish and wine”. We are only to ask for what we need for our survival – both physical and spiritual. If God wishes us to have more than the bare necessities, he will.

Also, by asking daily for our bread, we enforce in our minds and souls that we are truly dependent upon God for all things.

We should remember that the Israelites gathered manna just for the day. They were not permitted to gather up for the next day or even for the next week.

Deuteronomy 8:3 (NIV)
3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.

Remember that we are totally dependent upon God for our needs. Do not believe the illusion that we provide all for ourselves; God is the Creator of All and He has decided to share with us.

I have a question: Why did Jesus use the plural “we”? Shouldn’t He have used the singular “I” or “you”? It seems that Jesus meant this prayer to be inclusive of more than one person? We see plural forms used throughout this prayer.

Jesus is telling us to be inclusive of others when we pray. This also makes a strong case for family prayer every day.

Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. – some translations say “forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.”

Jesus is telling us that we should ask not only for God’s forgiveness, but to forgive those who do bad things against us.

You might remember a few years ago there was a person who went into an Amish community and murdered a lot of people. The Amish gathered together and prayed for God for forgiveness from wanting retribution and they also prayed to forgive the murderer!

Look at Ephesians 4:32 (NIV)
32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Remember, if you cannot forgive others, how do you expect God to forgive you?

Lead us not into temptation – this is not telling God not to cause us to be tempted, but is asking God not to have us suffer temptation. Other translations suggest “Leave us not in temptation.” and “Do not allow us to succumb to temptation.”

In other words, ask God to help us not to sin.

God Himself tempts no one. Go to:

James 1:13-15 (NIV)
13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;
14 but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.
15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

deliver us from the evil one. – Satan, the evil one, can be a threat. People used by Satan can also be a threat. We are not only asking God for protection from Satan, but are asking God to remove us from Satan’s grip if he does manage to get his claws on us.


Remember Jesus is telling this prayer in the plural so others are also included in our prayer. For instance, we need to be sure that we explain Jesus’ Gospel in a way that it is understandable.

In Matthew 13:19 (NIV)
19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path.

We can pray for God to help them understand so that the too are protected from the grasp of the evil one.

We need to ask God to keep us from sin and all of its flavors, tasty and tempting that they may be.

Now I ask you: Is the prayer offered to God in Stormy Monday pleasing to God?

It does admit a dependence upon God our Father and it asks Him for forgiveness. So in a way it is pleasing to God, but it just doesn’t go far enough.

Let’s compare it to a 12-bar blues solo. Tony, come on up here for a sec. Start at the 5 for an intro in G. [Play just 4 bars of the solo and stop.]

The solo was great for those first 4 bars, wasn’t it? But you just have to ask yourself where are the other 8 bars. Even worse, in the blues world very few solos are 12 bars. They usually go 24, 36 or even 48 bars. 4 Bars is definitely incomplete.

So let’s review Jesus’ template of what makes a prayer that is desired by God:

  • Acknowledge God as holy.
  • Promise you will obey His commandments by matching our earthly behavior to what is in heaven.
  • Acknowledge that God provides for our daily food, both physical and spiritual.
  • Ask God to forgive our sins and promise to forgive the people who have sinned against us personally.
  • Ask God to protect us from falling into temptation and sinning.
  • Ask God to protect us from Satan and all things that are evil.

Let us Pray.

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