A Father's ear

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Prepare

Long ago a hypocrite was a masked actor who played a stage role to entertain the audience. As Jesus tells us more about the Father, and about how to pray, we’re invited to pray without wearing masks.


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Bible passage Matthew 6:5–15


Prayer
 5"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 6But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

 9"This, then, is how you should pray:
   " 'Our Father in heaven,
   hallowed be your name,
 10your kingdom come,
   your will be done
      on earth as it is in heaven.
 11Give us today our daily bread.
 12Forgive us our debts,
      as we also have forgiven our debtors.
 13And lead us not into temptation,
   but deliver us from the evil one.' 14For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society


Audio Bible passage


The audio version of the passage is taken from the Contemporary English Version (CEV).


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Points for prayer
As Jesus offers the Lord’s Prayer – or, better, the Disciple’s Prayer – he uses striking contrasts. One is the preferred place for prayers; another is the prayer’s word count; and the third is the expectation a disciple brings to the prayer.

First, Jesus reminds us how the Father is personally devoted to us. So he prefers private places for conversation, not crowds.

Sincerity over hypocrisy
Second, he reminds us that the Father doesn’t need to be educated, so a few brief and heartfelt words are enough for him. And, finally, he already knows our needs, so prayers don’t inform him. Instead it’s our chance to embrace him as a caring Father.

Notice each feature. We ask God for his point of view; for his continuing providence; for our own moral change; and for his spiritual protection. And we abandon hypocrisy.


Respond


As Jesus offers us the Father’s heart we’re invited to find more secret time with him to pray. He’s a willing listener who has been awaiting us for a long time. Toss away any masks and enjoy his company.

Ron Frost


Deeper Bible study


‘A Christian without prayer is just as impossible as a living person without a pulse.’ (Martin Luther, Luther’s Works 24:89)

Some years ago, I taught a class for new believers and we covered the Lord’s Prayer. I asked the group what made this prayer different from the prayers they offered to the deities they used to worship. One thing that stood out was the prayer for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. These new believers confessed that they had always understood prayers to deities as presenting requests for their own material well-being and personal wishes. Prayers were never to seek for the will of God to be done. This is what marks the significant difference in Christian prayer.

Jesus hit the nail on the head when he described the way the religious leaders prayed in public so that they would be seen by others. Not unlike my group of new believers, the motive of the prayers of the religious leaders was self-centred rather than God-centred. Jesus taught us how we should pray. The Lord’s Prayer is what distinguishes us: we are to honour God in our prayers; we are to focus on doing his will; we are to pray against covetousness by asking for our daily bread. We are to pray for forgiveness just as we extend forgiveness to others; we are to guard ourselves so that we do not fall into temptation and do evil. In summary, if we take the Lord’s Prayer seriously it is a prayer that shapes us and transforms us as we align ourselves to the values of the kingdom of heaven.

Have we ever wondered whether, by praying the Lord’s Prayer, the answer to seeing God’s will be done on earth actually lies in us? We should take seriously the way we live as citizens of this kingdom, because we might be the answer to God’s will being fulfilled on earth.

Kar Yong Lim


Wisdom from Cyprian of Carthage


Explore this ancient commentary on the Lord’s Prayer and discover some timeless advice.

Cyprian was born into a rich and cultured pagan family in the city of Carthage in AD 200. He excelled as an orator and became a teacher of philosophy and rhetoric. Through the writings of early church leader Tertullian, Cyprian was persuaded of the truth of the Christian gospel. He was baptised at the age of 46, an experience which so changed him that he gave away his possessions and felt himself to be truly a new person. Only two years later, and to popular acclaim, he was made bishop. He led the church through some turbulent times including a severe plague epidemic, demonstrating skill and grace. During a wave of persecution he was arrested, tried and beheaded in AD 258.

Cyprian wrote a commentary on the Lord’s Prayer, urging every Christian to meditate on each phrase of the prayer daily.

Our father…
When we pray … We should be humble, aware of our own weaknesses, and be eager to receive God’s grace.

Hallowed be your name…
We do not imagine that God will be made holy by our prayers … We can become holy because he is holy.

Your kingdom come…
When has God not reigned as king? God has reigned since before time began and will reign until after time has finished. Thus we pray that we may acknowledge God as king, and that he may rule our own hearts and minds. Yet we also ask that we may share his sovereignty. He sent his Son to proclaim his rule, and inherit his kingdom; and his Son has made us his fellow heirs.

Your will be done…
We are not praying that God may accomplish what he wants to do; nothing can prevent God from succeeding in whatever he intends. Rather we are praying that we may accomplish what God wants us to do. The devil constantly tries to direct our thoughts and actions away from obedience to God. Thus we pray that our wills may be perfectly aligned with God’s will.

Give us today our daily bread…
We are asking God literally to ensure that our spiritual needs are met. But we are also making a spiritual request. We know that Christ is the bread of life. We pray that we may both receive this bread and also become part of it.

Forgive us our sins…
… since we are required to pray daily for forgiveness, we are prevented from imagining that even a day can pass in complete innocence.

As we forgive…
… we must first be reconciled with each other and only then can we turn to God … our mutual harmony … is our greatest act of worship to God.

Lead us not into temptation…
All power comes from God, so when we are assailed by temptation, we should turn to God in a spirit of fear and trust – fear of what would befall us if we gave way to temptation, and trust in God’s strength to enable us to resist.

Deliver us from evil…
We pray these simple words in the conviction that God will always give help to those who ask for it – that we can utterly depend and rely on him … there is nothing left to ask.

These extracts are taken from Robert Van de Weyer’s Illustrated Book of Christian Literature, published by Arthur James, 1998.

Bible in a year


Read the Bible in a year.

Genesis 16,17

Matthew 6
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Learning to pray


How’s your prayer life?
Do you need to learn how to pray? Simply tick one of the boxes for each question and work out your score at the end. Read below to find out whether or not you need to learn how to pray.

1. When you try to have a quiet time with God, do you:
a. Fall asleep?
b. End up daydreaming?
c. Bore God silly with a long list?
d. Do really well?
e. Other?

2. When you pray do you:
a. Go on and on for hours and hours, praying for everything you can think of?
b. Say ‘me’, ‘my’ or ‘I’ lots more than focusing on God’s character and love?
c. Imagine you have to use the ‘right’ words to get a ‘result’?
d. Have a sense that you’re really getting somewhere?
e. Other?

3. When you hear other people praying, do you think:
a. ‘I’m so much better at silent prayer’?
b. ‘Wow – that’s amazing – I wish I could pray like that’?
c. ‘Are they going to be much longer?’
d. ‘That’s great – when’s it my turn?’
e. Other?

If you ticked mainly box (a) you need to learn to pray.
If you ticked mainly box (b) you need to learn to pray.
If you ticked mainly box (c) you need to learn to pray.
If you ticked mainly box (d) you need to learn to pray.
If you ticked mainly box (e) you need to learn to pray.

Whoever we are, whether we’ve been praying for years, or whether we’re new to it, we need to learn to pray – and there is always a steep learning curve ahead of us. But help is available: the Lord’s Prayer is a God-given and therefore reliable model for turning our focus on our Father and our relationship with him.

Spend some time now thinking about your response to each question above. Do they provide you with any clues to the actions you need to take in your prayer life? Try turning your thoughts about this into a prayer to your heavenly Father who loves you.


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Audio


‘Search me oh God’
Peformed by : Vicky Beeching
Written by: Vicky Beeching
Copyright: © 1997 Thankyou MusicYou can buy this and other great worship songs here

Awesome God (Your Voice)
Vicky Beeching
Copyright© 2001 Vineyard Songs (UK/Eire)
Buy this and other great worship songs at www.vineyardrecords.co.uk




Comments
  • Hannah Watson | Monday, 08 January 2018

    Mike's blog for today https://bttb365.wordpress.com/2018/01/08/08-01-2018-purposeful-prayer/

  • David Forbes | Monday, 08 January 2018

    Maybe i need to re- kickstart my prayer life. Or maybe i should actually start praying to be honest

  • Angela Munday | Monday, 08 January 2018

    God always knows what is right and good for us; He has always known and it is wonderfully comforting that we do not need to ask for anything. We can always remain in God's good company forever; resting assured....... "Anyone who lives in love lives in God and God lives in him." (1John 4:16)

  • Lynn Creation | Monday, 08 January 2018

    I echo your comment, DAVID!

  • Thelma Edwards | Monday, 08 January 2018

    Prayer. So simple yet so complex. As natural as breathing for a Christian yet often undertaken shallowly and never reaching the depths. The Lord's Prayer or the Disciple's prayer? That made me stop and ponder. If Jesus is giving us a model of prayer and starts by addressing 'Our Father' why do I so quickly slip into 'Lord'? Who am I praying to? Does it really matter? If God is three in one, does it matter who I address? I have read that we pray to God the Father, through the Holy Spirit and in the name of Jesus. Yet we talk to Jesus as a friend. Jesus taught us to pray to God the Father. His death bought for us direct access to God so we don't need to pray to anyone else to be our intermediary. Jesus is praying for us right now at the right hand of the Father. When I think of the prayers of my friends, those in church, in home group, those,prayers that are spontaneous prayers rather than liturgical ones, when I think of my own prayers, I can see the need for the check list above and for reflection. I may start by addressing Father God, but quickly slip into Lord. And I hear that word used very frequently, sometimes after every phrase, as if we need to draw His attention to what is being said. The Lords Prayer - so familiar yet so challenging!

  • David Forbes | Monday, 08 January 2018

    Yes Lynn- I at least tried it. Thoughts wondering all over the place thinking what I should do today. Then noticed even some wrong thoughts fleeting across my mind. All I could do was ask God to help me learn to pray. I feel that He likes those sorts of prayers. The habit is bound to be good and hopefully I'll discover a new closeness with Him in due course. I know many of you here know each other and pray for various ailments. I am not a regular customer so never get to grips with your health situations. It's great that you are able to support each other through this medium.

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Monday, 08 January 2018

    I have always struggled with this prayer as I've never believed Jesus meant us to recite it 'off pat'. Then I read the following. First, “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name” admonishes us to recognize our relationship with God and praise Him for it. Second, Matthew 6:10 shows us to intercede for the furtherance of God’s kingdom in the hearts of people (Luke 17:21) and their affairs. Third, Matthew 6:11 tells us to ask for our daily needs (John 16:24). Fourth, Matthew 6:12 shows us to confess our sins (1 John 1:9) for the purpose of forgiveness and that we should also forgive others (Mark 11:25-26). Fifth, Matthew 6:13 says to resist the devil (James 4:7) by receiving God’s protection (Psalms 91). And finally, the prayer should be ended with praise once again (Matthew 6:13), because if we ask, we receive (Matthew 7:7-8). I like the MSG version which reads Our Father in heaven, Reveal who you are. Set the world right; Do what's best- as above, so below. Keep us alive with three square meals. Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil. You're in charge! You can do anything you want! You're ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes.

  • Roger Hall | Monday, 08 January 2018

    Do not babble like the pagans! I looked this up the other day, and I found the answer in the great battle between Elijah and the prophets of baal. They did everything, Goaded by Elijah, to no avail!

  • Gill Glass | Monday, 08 January 2018

    Rachael, thank you so much for mentioning gracegems.org. I’d been thinking I needed to concentrate more on what God says to me in his word and maybe stop reading comments and commentaries for a while but the 3 daily emails I’ve received since subscribing to this site have been such a blessing. The wisdom of the Puritan writers, made more accessible to us through this resource, is Bible meat for our souls.

  • Ruth Chisholm | Monday, 08 January 2018

    THELMA I think you've just summed up a lot of my thoughts of the last hour embracing prayer. It is quite a challenge to avoid returning to "Lord" when I'm sitting talking to God, my Dad. I have previously written the Lord's prayer out and written my own words in after each line, it was really helpful. My process this morning was a little similar to yesterday's Psalm, I've wrestled with whether to share considering today's theme but thought it might help others. It's loosely based on something I read by John Ortberg. 1. I took a deep breath and then, like I try to tell my husband, but our humanness often gets in the way, I pictured sitting with God, and said can I just tell you about this knot in my stomach, and what's buzzing around in my head threatening my peace. I was reminded of times in the past, and God saying do you remember when, you came through that with my strength. 2. After thanking him for that reassurance he acknowledged my limitations, I know you try to acknowledge me in all your ways, and you sometimes you get sidetracked, but its ok I'm always here, I love it when you remember to thank me, and tell me how your days going. 3. I shared my plans for the day, my desires, and asked him for his thoughts on it, for wisdom, a sign for something specific I need guidance on, for His will to be done, for His glory, for His kingdom to come here and now, in me and through me. Please say if this is inappropriate as I've grappled with posting it as I've by no means got it tapped as the quiz revealed, and made me chuckle.

  • Eileen Smith | Monday, 08 January 2018

    I too have problems at addressing God at times as you mention THELMA & RUTH . Re the Lord’s Prayer— I find it a helpful framework to praying using each phrase to pray for different issues eg “ your kingdom come. Your will be done earth as in heaven “ to pray this for eg government — education & various world situations etc, & for those I want to pray for to become Christians . “Give us this day our daily bread “as a reminder to pray for provision for the homeless— jobless etc here & in other countries — those who need healing etc “ using the words “ daily bread” in its widest meaning .as provision in whatever way . Each section involves thanks too. I find it a help to keep me focussed Hasten to add I don’t use the words eg & etc when praying!!!

  • Rosemary Fairweather | Monday, 08 January 2018

    Yes Gilvin I have in the past wondered if the Lords prayer said parrot fashion was useful but in my darkest times when my spirit fails to conjure up prayer, this is the prayer I fall back on and I thank Jesus that he left us this example of how to pray. Slowly going through it line by line, especially after the analysis we have learnt, I do feel closer to my Father. Who are we to judge what God makes of our feeble human attempts at prayer. However it is said, it is a cry of a child reaching out to God the Father and he hears. I believe he and we are blessed by this great prayer Jesus taught us. I agree the MSG version is simply lovely!

  • Jack Russell | Monday, 08 January 2018

    When I hear or read "you need to", it reminds me of a particular charismatic pastor I have in mind who would repeat that that can result in self flagellation with words. In keeping with what has been mentioned about masks today I have until recently seen masks negatively as is portrayed in this context. I find it helpful now to likening masks to the ego - sometimes being a friend and sometimes being an enemy. I think of masks as being needed to be socially acceptable but also a hindrance to connection. Here with the prayer there is the direction to go to your room and what is being said not to be for everyone, but to be as with the most loving connection possible. It's helped me consider the use of the word Lord hmmm. Are we so inclined to have adversity to authority as to not think what we can have a loving connection with someone in authority? What about Father - is that a problem for some of us if we have not had the best of experiences with our natural father or our father has been absent for whatever reason? What about praying to mother God? The Holy Spirit in the Hebrew is described in powerful female terms as is wisdom, so surely that must be OK to do. I think the grace of God frees us to be able have that loving connection with God in whatever way we need it to be. So where the Lord's prayer is a one size fits all, of course their is nothing wrong with being in your room on your a tailor made perfect fit. Each one of us is uniquely different as created by God!

  • Barbara Sabin | Monday, 08 January 2018

    JACK you are right when you say each of us is uniquely different and so are our prayers. Often I like to start my prayers with Father God, I wonder how I managed to exist without the knowledge of your parenthood and your loving care. But now I am your child, I am adopted in your family, and I can never be alone, because Father God, you're here beside me., so I will sing your praises, Forever more. Then I love you Lord, and I lift my voice, To worship You Oh, my soul, rejoice! Take joy my King In what You hear Let it be a sweet, sweet sound In Your ear. I leave the rest then to God to prompt me, usually with the TeaSPoon prayer of Thank you Sorry and Please. Sometimes I just sit and ponder how much God has given me ,taken from me and then left with me. I ask for enlightenment on my daily reading of the Word. I commit my day into His hands and leave the rest to Him. During the day I often send up an arrow prayer as Nehemiah did. When I go to bed I go over my day, ask for forgiveness for my slips, ask for help for anyone who I am aware needs prayer, remember the persecuted Church then lastly my ownfamily then commit my night to Him and then say Goodnight to my husband settle down to sleep.

  • David Chipchase | Monday, 08 January 2018

    I need

  • David Chipchase | Monday, 08 January 2018

    One thing I do need is more adept fingers on a touch screen! I need to learn to pray! Every time I think I am getting somewhere I end up more confused. The Lord's prayer is the epitome of conciseness yet in John 17 Jesus' prayers for his disciples is nowhere near as brief. I remember one prayer suggestion I will try for a while; "Father, this is my problem. These are my thoughts about it. I thank and praise you that you have the wonderful solution to this issue. May your will be done."

  • Michael Garner | Monday, 08 January 2018

    I have never really seen the Lord’s Prayer as an actual prayer but as a guideline as to what content should be in a prayer and in what order. I’ve never really liked it when the Lord’s Prayer is recited in church, as I feel it is just that - a recitation. Rather than a heart felt sincere conversation with our father, which is what prayer is meant to be. I try to use the P.R.A.Y principle: Praise, Repent, Ask (for others), Yourself. I find this helps keep priorities in order.

  • Hannah Watson | Monday, 08 January 2018

    Ruth I found your post a very visual, thought provoking image and much appreciated it, as I have with so many comments resonating with me today. I know what you mean Michael, a lot of liturgy can feel familiar and more of a recital so I remind myself of that as we all speak, God knows all our motives. Prayer is such a huge topic, we could comment for days on the topic, Thankyou to all for such a wide range of views and so much for me to think on

  • Graham Keen | Monday, 08 January 2018

    Just on the intercession side of prayer: I keep a list of missionaries, government, friends, unconverted et al. I recently came across an app for my new smartphone called Prayer Mate - developed in the UK, I think - and it's great for keeping such lists and for bringing up a selection from each list if you want to intercede for a few minutes at a time during the day. I have found myself praying a lot more in shorter bursts through the day as the app gives me a reminder (at times that I preset).

  • Oakley Bookworm | Monday, 08 January 2018

    In defence of the liturgical use of the Lord's Prayer. If it is not recited regularly, the next generation do not learn it. All other acrostic systems and models, some mentioned here, are shadows of the Lord's Prayer, thought up by grace-filled Christians no doubt, but the Lord's Prayer was taught by Christ Himself. Do truths learned by rote have any value? Of course they do. They form the framework to lean upon, to drape your own prayers over when you are too exhausted or far from God to use your own words. Spontaneous and extempore prayer is often free-floating during the good times, but can dry up completely during trials. The Lord's Prayer and other good liturgy provides balance and focus to our own prayers, which left to our own inclinations become shallow and narrow. It is not surprising that some churches, who eschew liturgy, eventually abandon confession. Let's be honest, confession doesn't always feel good. We need to be reminded to do it, just as the Lord's Prayer tells us to. Another area where learned by rote prayers are proving a rich blessing is with saints suffering dementia. I have heard of many living in a fog of confusion, but will smile at the recitation of the Lord's Prayer or the Doxology for instance. As a child, I received a rich diet of learning creeds, canticles and Psalms (parrot fashion) and it is a well of goodness that I draw on daily. If you have children or grandchildren, please do not overlook chanted, recitation too quickly.

  • Roger Hall | Monday, 08 January 2018

    A point I have found with dementia sufferers, is that the Lords Prayer in the old language which they may have received at Church or their school assembly, will wonderfully come back. Jesus looks after His own. Also, as hearing in someone who is dying is the last of the senses to leave, and recital is always a great final message. God bless!

  • Hannah Strachan | Tuesday, 09 January 2018

    Interesting for you to talk about masks JackRussell/AdamJulians...

  • Oakley Bookworm | Tuesday, 09 January 2018

    Thank you for your post HANNAH STRACHAN. Not an easy post to write (or read) but, perhaps, a necessary one.

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Tuesday, 09 January 2018

    Perhaps a bit below the belt though as God is a God of the second chance.

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Tuesday, 09 January 2018

    GRAHAM thank you for the suggestion of Prayer Mate. Have downloaded it today and feel sure it will be useful aid

  • Hannah Strachan | Wednesday, 10 January 2018

    Hi Gilvin, I'm sorry if my comment on Monday upset you. Adam, I'm also sorry if it caused you offense or upset. It was not my intention. On reflection, it was not right for me to make that comment on that day and I'm sorry that I gave into the temptation to do so. Reminding people of past upset is rarely helpful and I'm sorry that I ruined a lovely comment discussion on prayer by writing it.

  • Oakley Bookworm | Wednesday, 10 January 2018

    HANNAH If there is deliberate deception on the WL board, you have done us a great service in pointing it out. Dishonesty and subterfuge are not the hallmarks of a second chance, they are a continuation of controlling and disruptive behaviour. If what you say is true, and other WLrs knew about this and played a part in this collusion, then they should look to their own conscience and consider if this is Christ edifying behaviour and in compliance with WL rules.

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Wednesday, 10 January 2018

    No offense taken HANNAH. He is as loved by God as much you and me but none of us like to be exposed in public as your unanswered first question to him proved. Comments were not ruined that day as we all help make up a rich tapestry of Christian life.

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Wednesday, 10 January 2018

    Your comment came in as I was writing mine OAKLEY. Confirming our differences making a rich tapestry.

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