In this session of Secret Church 19, Pastor David Platt explores how the gospels speak about prayer and fasting. In these books, we see the One to whom the entire Old Testament was pointing—Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God. Through his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus secures the salvation of his people and teaches them what it means to be a citizen of his kingdom. Through Jesus’ teaching and example, we understand that prayer, fasting, and the pursuit of God are central to Christian discipleship. In a passage known as “The Lord’s Prayer,” Jesus gives us a kind of template, or pattern, for how to pray, and it’s a pattern that he embodied in his own life and death. The One who taught us to ask that God’s will might be done on earth submitted to his Father’s will at the cost of his own life.
The table is set, the foundation is laid, for prayer and fasting and the pursuit of God in the Gospels.
78. Matthew 4 and What the Gospels Say About Prayer and Fasting?: Fasting and Temptation
Let’s jump right in. Matthew 4:1–11 tells of Jesus’ fasting and temptation. “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.” That is an understatement. It may be the biggest understatement in the Bible. This leads into three different temptations. We don’t have time to study this in-depth, but I want you to see how fasting and prayer guarded Jesus and guards us when we face temptation.
Fasting and praying are guards against self-gratification, as we are tempted like Jesus was tempted to fulfill our wants apart from God’s will. Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy 8:2–3, which we looked at earlier. As we fast and pray, we remember that we can trust in the all-satisfying, all-sufficient goodness of the Father. Fasting is an expression that God fulfills us more than even daily bread, more than food. Andrew Murray put it this way: “Fasting helps express, deepens, confirms the resolution that we are ready to sacrifice anything, even ourselves, to attain what we seek for the Kingdom of God.” I also like this quote from Stephen Um: “Jesus absorbed the famine so that we might be able to feast. He absorbed the desert so that we might be able to drink from the fountains of life.”
Fasting and praying are guards against self-protection. As Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy 6:16, we are reminded that we are tempted to question God’s presence and manipulate God’s promises. As we fast and pray, we remember that we can rest in the shelter of the Father’s unshakeable security.
Finally, fasting and praying are guards against self-exaltation. Just as Jesus was tempted to turn aside from the worship of God, we are tempted to assert ourselves in the world while we rob God of His worship.
As we fast and pray, we remember that we must refuse to exchange our end-time exaltation by the Father for a right-now exaltation from a snake. “It is the Lord your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear” (Deuteronomy 6:13). The point is fasting and prayer are critical in all our lives when it comes to battles with temptation and sin.
79. Matthew 6; Luke 11: The Lord’s Prayer
That leads to Matthew 6 and Luke 11, parallel accounts of the Lord’s Prayer. We’ll camp out here a bit, so let’s read it in full. Jesus said in Matthew 6:5–15:
And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Again, let’s ask some key questions about prayer, based on what Jesus just said.
Why Do We Pray? What Do the Gospels Say About Prayer and Fasting?
First, why do we pray? We pray to express the depth of our daily need for God. If you look at how Jesus taught us to pray, this prayer is filled with requests for help from God. Just look at the words. Give us. Forgive us. Lead us. Deliver us. The attitude of prayer in our hearts is clear: we need God to do things for us. We need God to do things in our lives. Prayer is an expression of our need for God.
Think about football. What’s the pass that a team throws when they’re losing by a touchdown and they only have one play left? Hail Mary, right? To be clear, that is an unbiblical prayer, but what’s the reason for naming a play after a prayer? The whole idea is you plan the whole game, but when you don’t have anything left and you need a miracle, you call in Mary to see what can happen. Now, just to be clear, we don’t pray to Mary—we pray to God. And the reason why we pray to God is because we’re desperate, but we don’t just need Him in extreme situations. We’re desperate for Him in every single situation in our lives. There is no activity in our lives that doesn’t require a prayerful attitude—a dependence on God and a desperation for His help.
I think about my life. I can’t be the husband God desires and calls me to be, the dad God desires and calls me to be, the man, the witness, the pastor God calls me to be, apart from God’s help. I can’t breathe apart from God’s help—and neither can you.
You need God for everything good in your life. This is a massive realization that I pray God opens your eyes to—either right now, or in a deeper way through His Word right now. You cannot carry out your marriage, parenting, your life as a single, your job. You cannot make wise decisions. You can’t love and serve. You can’t be the man or woman or student God has designed you to be, experience the life God has created you to live, apart from daily divine intervention. Every moment of every day is a Hail Mary in that sense. We need God. That’s why we pray.
Prayer is probably the most clear, critical, central expression on a daily basis, throughout the day, of the reality that we need God. We need God’s grace, strength, wisdom, sustenance, peace, joy and provision for everything we do every single day. Prayer is an expression of that. Our conviction in prayer is that we can do nothing without God. “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Prayer is an expression of humility. As Conrad Mbewe put it: “It is in the place of secret prayer that the truths of the man of God become clothed in the fiber of His being.”
Think about this. If we’re not praying, then what are we saying? We’re saying we don’t need God. This is where we realize that prayerlessness at the core is pride. Prayerless in our lives is evidence of pride in our lives. Prayerlessness is an attitude that says, “I can do this on my own,” but it’s not true. We need His help to pray. That’s why our confession in prayer is, “Lord, teach me to pray” (Luke 11:1). Even this I hope is encouraging and comforting. Listen to the words of J.C. Ryle. “For not because your prayer is stammering, your words feeble, and your language poor. Jesus can understand you.”
We pray to express the depth of our need for God, and second, we pray to explore the mystery of intimacy with God. This is where I want to be careful with the first reason to pray—to express our need—because our need is not just to get stuff from God. We’ve talked about this. Even here—daily bread, forgiveness, leadership, deliverance—our greatest need is not to get stuff from God. Our greatest need is to know God. But we miss this if we’re not careful.
Look at how Jesus teaches here. When you pray, don’t heap up empty phrases. Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. God knows what you need. Think about that. Apparently, God is not up in heaven with a steno pad, writing down your requests. “Oh, man, I hadn’t even thought about that. Thank you—that’s a good one. Ah, yes, there are so many things you’re informing me of.” No, He already knows what you need.
Now, that causes many people to wonder, “What’s the point, then?” As soon as you ask that question, you’re on the verge of an incredible breakthrough in prayer, because you’re realizing the primary goal of prayer is not to get something. The primary goal of prayer is to know Someone. The heart of prayer is what happens when you’re in a room alone with the Father in heaven and you realize there’s intimacy to be found with Him. Realize this! The most important thing in the world is not your family, not your husband, not your wife, not your kids, not your job, not your finances, and not your health. The most important thing in the world is your personal relationship with God—your personal intimacy with God.
Jesus says, “Set aside a time.” In the words of Hudson Taylor, missionary to China, “Whatever is your best time in the day, give that to communion with God.” Regardless of when, set aside a time and go to a place. Go in a room, close the door, then pray. That one practice will revolutionize your life. Not just your prayer life—your life.
Thomas Brooks wrote: “Christ choosing solitude for private prayer, doth not only hint to us the danger of distraction and deviation of thoughts in prayer, but how necessary it is for us to choose the most convenient places we can for private prayer. Our own fickleness and Satan’s restlessness call upon us to get into such places where we may freely pour out our soul to God.”
Set aside a time, go to a place, and receive your reward (Matthew 6:6). Jesus is saying the Father has so much for you. In the words of Charlie Dates, friend and fellow pastor of a church in inner-city Chicago, “Prayer is not merely a way to get more things from God, but prayer is the way to get more of God Himself.” God has invited you and me into a relationship that is characterized by intimacy, by what happens behind closed doors—just between you and Him.
Third, we pray to experience the power of being used by God, which we’ve already seen over and over again. God uses our prayers to accomplish His purposes. It’s the way prayer is designed. We get the help; God gets the glory. So set your life up this way, set your church up this way, so when good things happen it’s clear that God gave the help and God receives the glory.
George Muller wrote:
“If I, a poor man, simply by prayer and faith, obtained, without asking any individual, the means for establishing and carrying on an Orphan-House: there would be something which, with the Lord’s blessing, might be instrumental in strengthening the faith of the children of God besides being a testimony to the consciences of the unconverted, of the reality of the things of God. This then was the primary reason for establishing the Orphan-House… The first and primary object of the work was (and still is) that God might be magnified by the fact that the orphans under my care are provided with all they need, only by prayer and faith, without anyone being asked by me or my fellow-laborers, whereby it may be seen that God is faithful still and hears prayer still.”
Who Do We Pray To?
We pray like this: “Our Father in heaven…” (Matthew 6:9). That’s huge!
We pray to God our Father. You know what’s interesting? This title for God is only used 15 times in the entire Old Testament and none of those references are praying to God as Father. You get to the New Testament, though, and Jesus comes. God is addressed as Father 165 different times in the Gospels alone. All but one of those times is when Jesus is telling those who follow Him, His disciples, about God.
So the picture in the New Testament is that followers of Jesus have the right, honor, privilege, and blessing of using the title “Father” for God. When we pray, we don’t talk to God or about God in some theological monologue of high-sounding, pious phrases. We don’t just pray, “Almighty God, feared God among gods, dreadful Creator, Ground of all being.” He is so many things, but we have the privilege of coming to God and saying, “Father. Dad.” He’s not an impersonal Ground of all being—He’s our Father. That’s why I’m including this great quote from J.I. Packer about knowing God as your Father:
What is a Christian? The richest answer I know is that a Christian is one who has God as Father. If you want to [know] how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all.
Knowing God as Father is in essence the definition of a Christian’s life. Then there are all these different places in just the opening pages of the New Testament where God is called our Father (Matthew 5:16, 45, 48; 6:1, 4, 6, 8–9, 14–15, 18, 26, 32; 7:11, 21)..
Think about the contrast with earthly fathers here. Jesus points this out in Luke 11:1–13. At the end of that passage, He says, “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
I’m a father. I love my kids. But I’m also a sinner. Jesus points out that when it comes to God as Father, even the best fathers on earth are evil. We’re evil, but God is perfectly good. We have limited wisdom, but God our Father has infinite wisdom. We have imperfect love, but God our Father has perfect love.
Just think about what the Bible says about the care of our Heavenly Father. He loves us (1 John 3:1). He understands us (Psalm 103:13–14; 139:1–6). He forgives us (Matthew 6:11–15). He provides for us (Matthew 6:25–33). I think about Matthew 6’s exhortation not to worry. It transforms our prayer lives. Thabiti Anyabwile said, “Do not grow weary in prayer, because a good God is listening Who does not fear man and will respond out of His goodness to provide for His people.”
As our Father, God disciplines us (Hebrews 12:5–11). He leads us (Romans 8:14–17). He indwells us (Luke 11:13). He lives in us by His Spirit. Think about it. Our Father, to Whom we pray, has all authority. The earth belongs to Him. He has all supply. He has all sovereignty over all things.
Our Father has all authority (Psalm 23:1–2; Psalm 50:7–12; Job 42:4; Psalm 33:10–11; Proverbs 19:21; Isaiah 14:24) and our Father is always approachable (Psalm 27:8). Look in Luke 11:5–8 and you see Jesus teaching on prayer thereby telling a story:
Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him”; and he will answer from within, “Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything”? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs.
This is a great story. Get the picture. First-century Palestine, food not quite as readily available as it is today, so no late-night Taco Bells. It was a battle for bread every day. You bake enough to meet that day’s needs, then it’s gone. So a guy shows up at his buddy’s house at midnight and he’s hungry. Now, in first-century Palestine, hospitality is huge. The buddy has a dilemma. One option, he can be a poor host and not give this guy any food. His second option is to go try to find bread from somebody else at midnight. So it’s either be a poor host or a poor neighbor.
He takes what’s behind Door #2. His neighbor, already fast asleep and enjoying his dreams, with everybody else in the house asleep. Houses in that day were one-room affairs, which meant everybody in the family slept in—you got it—one room. So the family is asleep sometimes in the same bed or on the same mat. I can just picture our family. You get kid one, kid two, kid three, kid four down—then you and the wife pull the door closed, you lay down next to each, then nobody’s getting up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom without causing major commotion in this scene. Everything is quiet. Especially if you have toddlers or babies: Do. Not. Make. A. Sound.
While this guy, his four kids, and his wife are nicely asleep on the mat, all of a sudden a knock comes at the door. The guy outside says, “Friend,” which is a good way to start when you’re waking up somebody at midnight for a piece of bread, because friendship is walking a tight line at this point. I can just picture it. You see these little eyes start opening on the mat. It’s one thing to wake up Dad. It’s a whole other ball game to wake up the kids in the middle of the night. This friend thing is seriously in question.
So the guy inside is not too happy right now. He says in the most polite way possible, “Don’t bother me. I’m not getting up and giving you a thing.” Then Jesus says even though the guy won’t get up because he’s his friend—and that’s in question—he will get up because the guy is impudent. The word there means bold; literally shameless. He keeps asking until the dad gets out of bed and gives him some bread.
Here’s the interesting thing about prayer. We hear that and think, “Okay, somebody in the parable is me, somebody in the parable is God.” The disciples are thinking, “I think we’re like the guy knocking on the door. So Who is God? The grumpy guy inside yelling, ‘Don’t bother me!’” That’s weird. What is Luke 11 teaching about prayer? If you want something from God, you just keep banging on the door, and eventually, He’ll get up and do something for you—not because He loves you, but because you bothered Him to death, so let’s pray.
Is that the point of the story? I don’t think it is. The point of the story goes back to this boldness, this shamelessness. Some translations say, “annoyingly relentless.” We’ll only understand the parable rightly if we do it through the lens of the guy on the outside in need. Jesus tells the whole story from that guy’s perspective. You’ve got to keep his perspective through the whole thing. Don’t compare God to the guy inside. Just put yourself in the shoes of the guy outside.
Jesus phrased the whole thing as a question. Imagine if you were bold enough, shameless enough, to go to your friend at midnight just to ask him for a piece of bread. In other words, imagine somebody with enough nerve to knock on his friend’s door at midnight just for a piece of bread. I think the picture Jesus is painting is of a guy who’s in a sense just rude, one of those guys who just doesn’t know which social lines to cross, what not to do—you know, that kind of person. Are you that kind of person? You probably would not know if you are that kind of person.
Anyway, the guy doesn’t seem to get the hint. You don’t wake up your buddy and his entire family at midnight unless you have a really good reason. This guy doesn’t know that. He’s shameless. He’s so socially out of it, he thinks it’s no big deal to wake up his friend at midnight. “He won’t mind. I need some bread. He’s got it.” Jesus says, “That’s how we should approach God.” This story is a perfect illustration of us going to God and saying, “I know it’s just a little inappropriate to interrupt You, because You’re, like, running a universe. You’ve got a lot of things going on.”
Think about how bold prayer is. “God, You’ve got a lot going on right now, but I’ve got a few things in my life that I need You to pay some attention to. I just need to share some things with You, so I need You to give me Your attention.” That’s over the top, isn’t it? Feels pretty bold, almost shameless. And Jesus says, “Be as bold and shameless as you want, because you are invited to come before God.” I think Jesus is saying here that God delights in revealing Himself to those who are bold enough to bother Him.
I hesitate to use that word, because we usually think of “bother” with a negative connotation. Nobody wants to be a bother. But think about this with me. I’m traveling somewhere and call home, talk to my wife and discern that she has something heavy on her heart. So I say, “Hey, how are things going?” She says, “Ah, there are some things going on, but I don’t want to bother you with that.” Let me tell you what I’m not going to say. “Well, good. Because the last thing I need right now is you bothering me with things that are heavy on your heart. So if you have anything else, let me know, otherwise…”
There are so, so many reasons I’m not going to say that in that moment. The primary reason is because I delight in being the one she bothers with the things that are heavy on her heart. It would be an unhealthy thing in our relationship if she didn’t share those things with me. This is part of a love relationship that we experience. God, the sovereign King of the universe, is your Father and He has given you full access into His presence. He is asking you, He has designed you, to bother Him with the things that are heavy on your heart. This is an amazing truth. God invites us to bother Him any time. It’s never too early; it’s never too late.
And He invites us to bother Him in everything (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Sometimes we think that things we’re praying for might not be important enough to warrant mentioning them in our time with God. But look at this story. This is not an emergency. The guy’s not saying, “My wife is having a baby! My wife is dying! My kid broke his leg! We’ve got a robber in the house!” It’s in the middle of the night and he says, “I want some biscuits.” Talk about presumptuous. Would the friend die if he just waited until breakfast? Tell him to go to bed; he’ll forget he’s hungry. That’s what we tell our kids. Right? Oh, but this is the beauty. There’s nothing too small. Our simplest prayers are not insignificant to God.
Remember Nehemiah. “Strengthen my hands.” Nothing too small and nothing too great (Luke 1:37). The Bible never cautions us about the size of our prayers. It’s not about the size of our prayers; it’s about the maintenance and the intimacy of our relationship. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). Do you know what “everything” means in that verse? It means everything. If God gave you all that you were asking for right now, what would you have? You have not, because you ask not (James 4:2). He’s approachable.
Our Father is always active. It’s what this guy thought, “My friend is able. I know I’ll have some bread.” He’s active. So the picture we need to see is that God is never asleep. When we pray, we’re not trying to rouse a sleeping giant here. We don’t have to wake God up. It’s really even a picture of intercession, which is a privilege we need to embrace. We’ve already seen throughout Scripture that God has actually invited us to participate with Him in His provision for others through prayer.
As we pray, prayer to God is never, ever, ever in vain (Jeremiah 33:3). “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (Luke 11:9–10). If you read that, you might think, “Hey, I’ve asked for things and I’ve not gotten them, so what does that mean?” Well, that leads to the next question.
What Do We Pray For? What Do the Gospels Say About Prayer and Fasting?
Here’s the twofold secret to prayer, based on what Jesus teaches in Matthew 6 and everything we’ve seen in the Bible to this point. First, we must make our wants God’s wants. Psalm 37:4 tells us to desire what God desires: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Delight yourself in Him and He will give you—He will put His desires in your heart. This is the mystery of intimacy. In prayer, in that time when you go in your room, close the door and get alone with God, you begin to want what He wants. You begin to long for what He longs for. This is key in prayer. If we skip this step, we miss out on the point of prayer altogether and can’t go on to step two. So make your wants God’s wants.
Then—step two—ask for whatever you want. There is it is. John 15:7 says, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” What do we ask for, according to Jesus’s words? We ask for God’s glory. “Our father in heaven, hallowed be your name….” (Matthew 6:9–10). That’s not a description of praise to God as much as it is a petition for God to be praised. “God, cause Your name to be praised in all the earth, to be hallowed in my life, family, church, and in the world.” The great God, the sovereign Father in heaven, the Holy One above all, is the coming King over all (2 Samuel 7:22; Ezekiel 36:23). Michael Oh states, “[Hallowed be Your name] is the heartfelt prayer that God will be worshiped and adored. It is the prayer that our affection for God would be rivaled by no other affection.”
This is our consistent cry: “Cause people to hallow Your name. Bring people to submit to Your Kingdom. Enable people to obey Your will. Enable me, my family, and my church to obey Your will. Cause the nations to obey Your will. Hallowed be Your name.” These are prayers God is calling us to ask that He will answer. Again from Michael Oh: “God’s people should have a holy dissatisfaction with the worshiplessness of the world, a holy dissatisfaction that more than two billion people in the world have little or no access to the gospel of Jesus––and those two billion do not worship or hallow the blessed and worthy name of the God Who created them.
Ask God for His glory, and then ask God for His gifts. “Give us this day our daily bread…” (Matthew 6:11). God daily satisfies our hunger (John 6:35) and God daily sustains our faith (Deuteronomy 8:3). We need to pray for our daily bread like Jesus taught us to pray. Let’s be honest, many of us live in a culture like I’m in right now, where praying like this makes no sense to us. We’re so well off that it doesn’t make sense to pray for our daily bread, but that’s exactly where the problem lies. We are people who have grown so accustomed to depending on our own things to satisfy us instead of God that we don’t need to ask for daily bread. Most of us didn’t ask for it today, because we can take care of that on our own.
God, help us see we can’t.
As I look at my own life and the state of Christianity in the Western culture around me, I’m convinced that one of the greatest reasons why we are so casual and flippant with prayer is because we have actually convinced ourselves that we can sustain ourselves, but we can’t. God alone can satisfy our hungers. God alone can sustain our faith. Prayer is the guard in our lives that keeps us from thinking this world can give us what we want, when only God can do that.
We ask God for His gifts, and we ask God for His grace. “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debts” (Matthew 6:12). We’ve obviously seen the need for confession of sin in our prayers. Jesus teaches us to pray here in such a way that we experience His forgiveness continually and specifically (Psalm 66:18). As we confess sin, we experience God’s forgiveness, which then leads us to extend God’s forgiveness to others (Matthew 6:14–15, 18:21–35).
Finally, we ask God for His guidance. “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (Matthew 6:13). God gives protection amidst the temptation we face (1 Corinthians 10:13) and He gives perseverance amidst trials we encounter (James 1:3–8).
With all that, this is where I want to give you a specific personal excursus—a practical discussion of one way you can apply this in your daily life. I offer this to you under the banner of the acrostic PRAY. This is an acrostic I’ve used in the past and that we use here at McLean Bible Church just to encourage one another when it comes to what to do when we pray all together or personally.
When you go in your room, close the door and pray to your Father in heaven, what do you do? Start with P—Praise. Worship God for Who He is. Prayer starts with fixing our eyes, hearts, attention, and affections on God. I would encourage you to consider journaling. As a window into my own life, my times with God in the morning most often begin with writing out prayers of praise and prayers of thanksgiving.
I’ll mention journaling at a few different points, but when it comes to spiritual disciplines, journaling has probably been the single biggest factor in fueling intimacy with God in my own life. It’s enabled me to go deeper in prayer and reflection on the Word in so many different ways. There’s not a verse that says you must journal, but I’m saying for practical encouragement, I would urge you to consider journaling.
I would also encourage you to consider different postures of prayer. Based on what we see in Scripture—especially the Psalms—there are pictures of sitting, standing, kneeling. Spend time on your knees before God. Raise your hands in prayer and worship. Lie prostrate with your face to the ground. These should be familiar postures for all of us.
I would encourage you to consider resources. Use musical worship. Draw on some music. You’re in the room alone. Sing as loud as you want. Shout. You might use prayer books, like The Valley of Vision—an excellent resource. Or even just a hymn book you can read. Spend time in Praise, just worshiping God for Who He is.
Then R—Repent. Confess your sin to God and acknowledge your need for Jesus. Pause when you come before God to ask Him, “What in my life is not honoring to You?” He will show you. Examine your heart and confess your sin. Often I’ll write this out. Again, consider journaling, writing out your specific confession of sin. As you do, also write out specific promises of grace. Consider some of the same resources: musical worship that expresses your need for God’s grace. There are great prayers of confession and good, strong, biblically sound prayer books.
Repent, and then A—Ask. Intercede for specific needs in your life and others’ lives. Yes, prayer is asking for specific needs in these ways. But our asking looks a lot different when we pray for what Jesus teaches us to pray for. Instead of saying, “God, here’s a list of what I want,” what we’re asking for is actually what God wants. Ask God for His glory: “Hallowed be Your name. I ask for Your name to be honored in my life, in this person’s life, in that country, in this current event.” Ask God for His gifts: “Give us this day our daily bread. God, I need You for everything today. This person needs you for this today.” Ask God for His grace, which we’ve already done in repentance, as well as for His guidance in your life and others’ lives.
To this point, I would encourage you—as a practical side note—consider some structure. For me, I have a specific prayer list that I use that’s organized by day and by person. I think about all the people in my life whom I want to be intentional about praying for. These are great words from A.W. Pink:
The most important duty, respecting both the temporal and spiritual good of your children, is fervent supplication to God for them. Without this, all the rest will be ineffectual. Means are unavailing unless the Lord blesses them. The throne of grace is to be earnestly implored that your efforts to bring up your children for God may be crowned with success.
I would say that doesn’t just apply to kids, but to spouse and parents and others. Apply it to friends, coworkers, the church God has made you a part of, plus the lost in your sphere of influence. I have specific things I pray for my kids on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. I have specific things I pray for myself and Heather on those days, specific things I pray for co-laborers in the church each day.
I also pray by topics. So on certain days I also pray for the poor and hungry, the oppressed and persecuted. I hope praying for the persecuted church is not a once-a-year thing for you. Why not be intentional about praying in some way every week for our persecuted family around the world? I pray for those in authority, for peace among the nations, for the unreached who have not heard the gospel, for current events and concerns. I would highly recommend the Joshua Project app, where you can pray for a different unreached people group every day. It would take you 60 seconds to intercede on behalf of people who have never heard the gospel.
I would just encourage you to plan how you can most faithfully pray on a regular daily basis. But in this, don’t lose your spontaneity. Don’t be so chained to a list that you don’t stop and listen as God brings people to your mind. As we listen, the Spirit will lead. I love those moments when God brings somebody to my mind and I pray for them in that moment—then shoot them a text or a note. So often they say, “You have no idea what I was going through when you sent me this text. Thank you.” Others perhaps don’t have anything special going on. They say, “Okay, thanks.” But it’s still good that you prayed for them. It doesn’t hurt. So ask. I just think if God’s given us this privilege, let’s be intentional in maximizing it.
So there are some practical encouragements to ask what Jesus told us to ask for in our lives and in others’ lives.
All of this leads to Y—Yield. Surrender your life to following Jesus wherever and however He leads you. Remember how the Lord’s Prayer closes: “God, lead us…” What I’ll try to do in my time with God in the morning is pray through the details of my day. I pray for the people I’ll be around and the things I think I’ll be doing, obviously knowing that some things can change and often do change. But even in that, make sure you surrender your schedule. “God, please lead and guide every schedule change today.” Having this time of prayer in the morning at the start of my day is huge.
Let concentrated time in prayer fuel continual time in prayer. When you have this time with God at the start of the day, it fuels conversation with God throughout the day. It leads you to be more sensitive to opportunities to pray with others, flash prayers like we were talking about earlier. Let personal prayer before God transform corporate prayer with others.
And finally, let communion and conversation with God lead to proclamation of the gospel. Specifically, pray for opportunities to share the gospel. Pray for boldness to speak the gospel as these opportunities inevitably arise and pray for people to believe.
PRAY – Praise, Repent, Ask and Yield. If you have personal, practical time like this in the morning, I think you’ll begin to experience a ton of what we’ve seen in God’s Word so far. God, teach us to pray…and to fast.
80. Matthew 6 and 9: Fasting for Reward
After teaching on the reward for prayer in the Sermon on the Mount in the book of Matthew, Jesus jumps right into teaching on fasting for reward. He says in Matthew 6:16–18:
And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Hear that language. Jesus says to His followers, “When you fast” —not, “If you fast.” He assumes they will fast. Matthew 6 makes clear that fasting is basic to following Jesus. Fasting is as basic as giving (Matthew 6:2) and as basic as prayer (Matthew 6:5.) “When you give…when you pray…” and He follows this by saying, “When you fast…” We don’t ever seeing praying or giving as optional in following Jesus. They’re basic to following Jesus. So why have we not seen fasting in the same way? We need to see fasting as a basic, elementary, given practice for any follower of Jesus. Jesus teaches that fasting is fixed on seeking the Father. He makes clear that we do not fast so others might see us and think we’re spiritual in some way. We fast so that we might know God. There is reward to be found in it.
Fasting is feasting on fellowship with God. “Your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” With all that said, when we get to Matthew 9, we learn why Jesus’ disciples weren’t fasting and the religious leaders were wondering why not. Read why this was happening in Matthew 9:14–17:
Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”
What does that mean? Jesus is saying that you don’t fast when the bride and bridegroom are together. Throughout the Old Testament, God had been promising He would come as a husband—a Groom—for His people, His bride (Hosea 2:16; Isaiah 62:5). Jesus was the fulfillment of that promise. After a thousand years of waiting, the King had finally come. Jesus said, “Now is not the time for fasting.”
That leads to why the disciples of Jesus fast now and the answer from Matthew 9 is clear. Jesus, the Groom, is no longer here. Acts 1:11 tells us He has ascended into heaven and we are waiting and longing for His return. Those who celebrate the ascension of the King now crave the consummation of the Kingdom.
This is why we fast. It’s why we periodically set aside food and we pray, because more than we want our hunger to cease, we want His Kingdom to come. More than our stomachs long to be full, our souls long to see Christ (Revelation 22:20). Think about it. This is a humbling thought. When you think about how so few of us fast, so few of our churches emphasize fasting, if one of the reasons we fast is because we long to be reunited with Jesus, to see Him, and for Him to return, then if we don’t fast, what are we saying? We’re saying we’re content with Him not coming back. We don’t long for His return. May it not be so.
Let’s fast. Let’s express our longing for His return and as we do, we realize why the disciples of Jesus won’t fast in eternity. Because once Jesus comes back, Revelation 19:6–9 gives us this picture in heaven:
Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”—for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”
One day we will be with our King, our Groom, as His bride, and we will be with Him forever, which means we will have no need to fast. So we fast and pray, “Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly. And for as long as You tarry, teach us to fast in anticipation of Your coming.”
81. Matthew 9: Praying for Laborers
We’ll talk more in a few minutes about practical tips for fasting. We’ll do an excursus on fasting in the last section, after we’ve seen a couple more passages. But now we move on to Matthew 9:35–38, praying for laborers. It’s a baffling passage where Jesus sees how the crowd is harassed and helpless, then and He says to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
We see the condition of the lost when we see their size, we feel their suffering, and we realization their separation. The picture here of a harvest is used throughout Scripture in reference to judgment, where multitudes of people are under the judgment of God and are in need of the good news about the great God (Isaiah 17:10–11; Joel 3:2–3, 13; Matthew 13:36–43); Revelation 14:14–20). Jesus says, “The harvest is plentiful. They’re waiting to hear. The problem is there are not enough workers.”
So how does this change? Pray. “Pray earnestly,” Jesus says, “for the Father, the Lord of the harvest, to send out workers into the harvest.” The commission of Christ is this: Jesus beckons us to pray. Consider this quote from Edgar Aponte:
“The key to the missionary’s difficult task is prayer. Ask God to inspire and send laborers willing to go to unreached peoples and places. Ask God to open doors in difficult places and the hearts of people who need to hear His gospel. Ask Him to sustain believers already serving Him on mission.”
Then Jesus summons us to go. This is what happens right after this in Matthew 10:1–7. It starts with prayer.
God, even right now, we pray that You would send out more workers into the harvest. We’re going to do this right now. We pray that You would send out more workers into the harvest fields right where we live, right around where all of us are gathered. Send out Your people. Send us out as workers laboring for the harvest, sharing the good news of Your grace and Your salvation from the coming judgment.
God, we pray that You would send out more laborers, particularly in the places where there are no laborers, where there are hardly any Christians. I think about the Kapali people of Bangladesh. There are no Christians there—none. O God, please send laborers to the Kapali people in Bangladesh and thousands of other people groups like them. We pray that You would send out laborers from among those gathered tonight for Secret Church. I pray that You would send out laborers from among us who would go to the harvest fields where there are no laborers.
Jesus, You told us to ask for this, so we’re asking according to Your Word. You tell us we have what we ask when we do that, so we’re asking for more laborers to go into the harvest field according to Your Word, in Your name. God, raise up missionaries from Secret Church tonight who will take the gospel to the nations. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
82. What the Gospels Say About Prayer and Fasting according to Matthew 14: Praying with Faith
That leads to Matthew 14:13–21, praying with faith. This is the story of the feeding of the 5,000. There are so many takeaways from this story, as you realize that the Jesus Who performed this miracle in Matthew 14 is the One Whose Spirit is dwelling in you. That means the compassion of Jesus is in you, the resources of heaven are available to you and the plan of God is to use you in ways that are far beyond you.
So make these ties to prayer as we pray. Prayer unlocks Jesus’ compassion in you, it opens heaven’s resources to you and prayer involves you in God’s plan to bless others.
83. Matthew 17: Beholding God’s Glory
Matthew 17:1–13 speaks of beholding God’s glory in the Transfiguration. Jesus goes up on a mountain with Peter, James, and John. He meets with Moses and Elijah, and we learn that God reveals His glory in the face of His Son. As we read earlier tonight, Moses had reflected divine glory (Exodus 33:18–23, 34:1–8, 29–33), Elijah had proclaimed divine glory (1 Kings 19:9–13), but now Jesus reveals divine glory (John 1:14–18). He radiates the splendor of God (Hebrews 1:3), He unveils the presence of God (1 Kings 8:10–11), He embodies the pleasure of God (Psalm 2:7; Isaiah 42:1) and He speaks the Word of God (Deuteronomy 18:15). He is the prophet promised by Moses. The Father sent Jesus to deliver His people from sin (Luke 9:30–31). He is the messenger preceded by Elijah, as it talks about in Malachi 3:1 and 4:4–6. And the cross of Jesus paves the way for prayer that beholds the glory of God (Matthew 17:12).
84. Matthew 22: For the Love of God
Keep going in Matthew 22:34–30, for the love of God. We see here what we saw in the Old Testament—in Deuteronomy 6—that the greatest commandment is made clear from the mouth of Jesus. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment” (Matthew 22:37–38).
See this. A wholehearted pursuit of God is our divine duty. We are commanded to love God. And this is a great and glorious command, because at the same time, a wholehearted pursuit of God is our deepest delight. Just think about it again. It’s a theme we’re seeing over and over again tonight. We have been created for a relationship with God marked first and foremost by love. God, help us experience a relationship with You marked first and foremost by love.
85. Mark 9: Help My Unbelief!
Mark 9:14–29, help my unbelief. Our confession in prayer is: “I believe!” We pray because we believe. At the same time, our cry in prayer is, “Help my unbelief!” We want to believe more. We pray because we have faith that God hears, and at the same time we want more faith. We want to grow in faith. And the more we pray, the more our faith grows. I love this quote from Andrew Murray:
Beware in your prayers, above everything else, of limiting God, not only by unbelief but by fancying that you know what He can do. Expect unexpected things, ‘above all that we ask or think.’ Each time, before you intercede, be quiet first and worship God in His glory. Think of what He can do and how He delights to hear the prayers of His redeemed people. Think of your place and privilege in Christ and expect great things!
The more we pray, the more our faith grows, and the more God’s provision flows. In the words of Martin Luther, “God is like an eternal, unfailing fountain. The more it pours forth and overflows, the more it continues to give. God desires nothing more seriously from us than that we ask Him for much and great things.”
O God, we believe—help our unbelief. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
86.What Do the Gospels Say About Prayer and Fasting in Mark 11: A House of Prayer
I want you to picture a sandwich here in Mark 11, with two pieces of bread and some meat in the middle. All right? Two pieces of bread, at the beginning and end of this passage. It begins in Mark 11:12–14 and it ends in Mark 11:20–26, where Jesus teaches us that we pray with faith according to God’s Word and we pray with forgiveness for others in the world. We won’t dive into that in-depth, but I want you to see the “meat in the middle.” You can look at the pieces of bread and see how they relate. But then look in the middle, Mark 11:15–19:
And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations? But you have made it a den of robbers.” And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. And when evening came they went out of the city.
This is the cleansing of the temple, which as we saw early in the Old Testament had been set up as a house of prayer. Jesus is clearly teaching us to pray with a desire for the holiness of God in our hearts, what the money changers and pigeon sellers were totally missing. He taught us to pray with reverence for the greatness of God in our lives. Then Jesus said, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” So pray with zeal for the glory of God among all the nations.
Remember that passage from Isaiah 56 where God’s design for the temple is to be a place of worship for all nations? The people of God had totally missed it, because they had set up shop—and you’ll never guess in which court. Not in the court of Jewish men or Jewish women, but in the court of the Gentiles. They had taken the one place where the nations could come and behold the glory of God and had turned it into a marketplace. They were serving themselves and basically saying, “To hell with the nations” which incensed Jesus to holy anger.
If you put all this together, you realize the point is that faith in God yields fruit for God through lives of prayer for His glory among the nations. Lives of prayer mean praying with faith according to God’s Word, with forgiveness for others in the world, with the desire for God’s holiness, reverence for God’s greatness, and zeal for His glory.
God, help us pray like this.
87. Luke: Jesus’ Example of Prayer
Next, I included the Gospel of Luke as a whole to illustrate Jesus’ example of prayer, which Luke in particular helps us see. Jesus was always praying, which should tell us something. In Spurgeon’s words, “Though infinitely better able to do without prayer than we are, yet Christ prayed much more than we do.” See Jesus’ example of prayer in these ways. Prayer precedes Jesus’ anointing for ministry (3:21–22). Jesus prioritizes withdrawing for prayer amidst ministry (5:15–16). Jesus prays before choosing His disciples (6:12–16). Then He prays for His disciples to understand Who He is (9:18– 20). Jesus is transfigured while praying (9:28–29). Jesus’ prayers led to the disciples’ desire to learn to pray (11:1). Jesus prays for His disciples’ faith not to fail (22:31–34). Jesus instructs His disciples to pray that they might not succumb to temptation (22:40–46). Jesus prays for the Father to remove the cup of suffering and death from Him (22:41–42). Jesus prays for the Father’s forgiveness of those who crucify Him (22:32–34). And then Jesus entrusts Himself to the Father with a final prayerful breath (23:44–46). Lord, teach us to pray like You prayed.
88. Luke 2: Waiting in Prayer
Then specifically in Luke 2:25–35, we see examples of waiting in prayer. Simeon shows us that prayer waits with sensitivity to God’s Spirit and confidence in God’s Word. Sometimes God calls us to wait in prayer, but it’s not a passive waiting; it’s an active waiting. It’s not sit back and do nothing while we wait; it’s expectant. Pray and pray and pray as we wait. Prayer that waits culminates in praise and worship. We see a similar picture in Anna (2:36–38).
God, help us to wait in prayer.
89. Luke 18: Persevering Through Prayer
This leads right into Luke 18:1–8, persevering through prayer, in the picture of the judge. Jesus uses this parable to teach us that we pray constantly and confidently. We believe God is absolutely just, God hears all our cries, and that God will answer in due time, which we’ve talked about. It’s exactly what we saw in Jacob.
Jonathan Edwards said:
It is very apparent from the Word of God that He often tries the faith and patience of His people, when they are crying to Him for some great and important mercy, by withholding the mercy sought for a season; and not only so, but at first He may cause an increase of dark appearances. And yet He, without fail, at last prospers those who continue urgently in prayer with all perseverance and “will not let him go except He blesses.”
So in prayer, we wait with persevering faith and with eternal perspective. Robert Murray M’Cheyne said, “When Christ delays to help His saints now, you think this is a great mystery, you cannot explain it; but Jesus sees the end from the beginning. Be still and know that Christ is God.” God, we pray for patience in prayer.
90. Luke 18: Humility in Prayer
Patience in prayer comes from humility in prayer. Luke 18:9–14 teaches that the key to prayer is humility before God. In the words of Robert Smith, “The bigger we see God from a biblical perspective, the smaller we become in our own eyes.”
The result of prayer is humility before others.
God, we pray for humility in prayer.
90. Luke 10: The Priority of Prayer
Three times in the Gospels we see Mary of Bethany and all three times, where is she? At the feet of Jesus. How about that as a description for your life? May you and I sit at His feet (Luke 10:38–42). God, help us choose the good portion and do the one necessary thing that will not be taken away from us. Help us sit at Your feet.
May you and I fall at His feet, as Mary did when her brother Lazarus died (John 11:28–32). Then may you and I worship at His feet. like Mary who poured out an extravagant offering of expensive ointment at the feet of Jesus (John 12:1–8).
God, make us men and women who prioritize being at Your feet, who realize that sitting at the feet of Jesus precedes serving in the world for Jesus.
92. John 14–16: God-Led Prayer
Let’s look at three more texts in the Gospels. First, a summary of God-led prayer from John 14– 16. Look at John 14:12–14 where Jesus said:
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father maybe glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.
This is so great. We pray with the leadership of the Spirit, Who Jesus is promising here. We pray in the name of the Son and we pray for the glory of the Father. That’s God-led prayer: with the leadership of the Spirit, in the name of the Son, for the glory of the Father. We’ve already read in John 15:7 that we pray according to the Word. When you look at the promises at the end of John 16, we see that when we pray like this, we experience full joy. “Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24). We experience full joy when we experience communion with the Trinity in prayer and God gives us what we ask. How awesome is this.
Let’s look at another excursus here: PRAY the Word. This is what we’ve tried to do all night long. I just want to encourage you to practice praying this way. Under the leadership of the Spirit, in the name of the Son, for the glory of the Father, according to the Word.
R.A. Torrey said, “Prayer that is born of meditation upon the Word of God is the prayer that soars upward most easily to God’s listening ears.”
E.M. Bounds said, “The Word of God is the food by which prayer is nourished and made strong.” And I love this from George Mueller. So many times people struggle to know what to pray for. Our minds so easily wander in prayer. Does that ever happen to you? Listen to Mueller:
Formerly, when I rose, I began to pray as soon as possible. But I often spent a quarter of an hour to an hour on my knees struggling to pray while my mind wandered. Now I rarely have this problem. As my heart is nourished by the truth of the Word, I am brought into true fellowship with God. I speak to my Father and to my Friend (although I am unworthy) about the things that He has brought before me in His precious Word.
So let reading the Word drive you to pray the Word in all the ways you’ve already seen. As you read the Word, PRAY.
Praise. Worship God for Who He is. Read a text and see how it leads you to praise and worship God. What does it lead you to thank God for?
How does it lead you to Repent, to confess your sin before God, and acknowledge your need for Jesus?
How does it lead you to Ask, to intercede for particular needs in your life and others’ lives? How does it lead you to Yield, to surrender your life to following Jesus wherever and however He leads you?
John Piper said this well:
Praying over the Word has the effect of shaping our minds and hearts, so that we desire what the Word encourages us to desire, and not just what we desire by nature. That is why the prayers of Bible-saturated people sound so different. Most people, before their prayers, are soaked in Scripture, simply bring their natural desires to God. In other words, they pray the way an unbeliever would pray who is convinced that God might give him what he wants: health, a better job, safe journeys, a prosperous portfolio, successful children, plenty of food, a happy marriage, a car that works, a comfortable retirement, etc. None of these is evil. They’re just natural. You don’t have to be born again to want any of these. Desiring them—even from God—is no evidence of saving faith. So if these are all you pray for, there is a deep problem. Your desires have not yet been changed to put the glory of Christ at the center.
As a side note, this is why we started a podcast called “Pray the Word” that I would offer for your encouragement and edification. It’s a three-to-five-minute podcast where I take one verse or a short passage from Scripture, read it, make a couple comments, then just let it lead into praying. I want to help people pray the Word, because this is where the promises of God are unleashed in our lives. If that would be helpful, you can use it.
When I was out of town shortly after we started the podcast, Heather and the kids were using Pray the Word, having a devotional for five minutes. Then when I came back in town, they said, “Can we listen to Pray the Word?” I was thinking, “You don’t have to listen to it. You’ve got the real thing, right here.” They said, “Ah, we’d rather listen to it. It stays at five minutes.” That was a valid thought.
A couple other practical suggestions. I would encourage you to pray with a journal in hand. I mentioned that already. And then pray with the Word on your knees. It’ll change your prayer life. God, help us pray Your Word.
93. What Do the Gospels Say About Prayer and Fasting according to John 17: Jesus’ Pattern in Prayer
There is so much in all these passages. John 17 is Jesus’ prayer for His disciples and for us before He goes to the cross. It is breathtaking.
The Father Gives the Son…
In it we learn how the Father gives the Son authority to grant eternal life (17:2). He gives Him followers out of the world (17:6 and 24), work to accomplish in the world (17:4), words to proclaim in the world (17:8), His name (17:11–12) and His glory (17:22 and 24).
The Son Gives His Followers…
In turn, the Son gives His followers, His disciples—and then you and me today—eternal life (17:2). He gives us the Word of the Father (17:8 and 14), the manifestation or revelation of the Father (17:6 and 26) and glory from the Father (17:22). John 17:22 is mind-boggling: “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one.”
The Son Asks the Father…
This leads to what the Son asks of the Father. He asks Him to glorify Him (17:1 and 5), to keep His followers in His name (17:11), and to keep His followers from the evil one (17:15). He then asks the Father to sanctify His followers by His truth (17:17) and to unify His followers for His glory (17:21). Just think—Jesus has prayed for all these things for us. There’s so much to dive into here. John Perkins has written this:
His (Jesus’) prayer in John 17 made it clear that His heart’s desire is that we are one just as He and the Father are one. His will is for one Church that crosses ethnic, cultural and class lines and is focused on bringing Him glory until He returns to redeem His bride. This picture of the church is what must fuel our prayers.
Jesus’ Pattern in Prayer…
Let’s step back to see the big picture. Jesus’ pattern in prayer that He models for us, at its most basic level, is this: Prayer is acknowledging God’s gifts to us and prayer is asking for God’s gifts for others. That’s powerful, simple understanding of prayer.
Jesus, help us learn from the way You prayed for us in John 17, the way You intercede for us even right now.
94. Matthew 26: The Prayer of Surrender
Finally, the prayer of surrender in Matthew 26:36–44, as Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Not my will, but Yours be done.” Very simply, prayer involves honesty in the face of sorrow and prayer involves humility before the will of the Father. In the words of John Onwuchekwa, a pastor friend of mine in inner-city Atlanta, “Jesus stared death square in the face, knowing His fate was inescapable. How did He face it? On His knees in prayer.”
God, help us surrender our wills completely to You in prayer. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Session 6 Discussion Questions
Study Guide pp. 145-185
1. What can we learn from the way from the way Jesus resisted the temptations of Satan in the wilderness? (See #78, Matthew 4)
2. What is so significant about the fact that Christians are invited to call on God as their “Father”? (See #79, Matthew 6 and Luke 11)
3. Why is it important that we see prayer as a way to grow in our relationship with God rather than simply a way to get our wishes fulfilled? What are some signs that your prayers lack this God-centered perspective? (See #79, Matthew 6 and Luke 11)
4. How can the request “Hallowed be your name” help us to know what to pray for? (See #79, Matthew 6 and Luke 11)
5. How can the request “Hallowed be your name” help us to know what to pray for? (See #79, Matthew 6 and Luke 11)
6. Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love God with all that we are. How should this command affect the way disciples pursue God? (See #84, Matthew 22)
7. Jesus taught us to pray in faith. Does that mean that we should not pray if we are struggling with unbelief? Explain your answer. (See #85, Mark 9)
8. Give some examples from the life and teaching of Jesus that demonstrate the importance of prayer. (See #87, Luke)
9. Why is it so crucial that we persevere in prayer, even when it seems as if God is not listening? Make a list of biblical truths—God’s attributes and promises—you can meditate on in order to help you persevere in prayer. (See #89, Luke 18)
10. Prior to His arrest and crucifixion, Jesus prayed and submitted Himself to His Father’s will (Matthew 26:36–46). What role did Jesus’ submission play in our salvation?