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Food For Your Soul
The Expository Teaching Ministry of Dr. D. Richard Ferguson 

Spreading & deepening delight in Christ

Matthew 6:5-6
Go To Your Room

   Jesus’ Pattern for Prayer  part 1
Why does God promise reward for private prayer in Matthew 6? How can you make your daily prayer time the most enjoyable part of your day, instead of a drudgery or chore that is dry and boring? This message will help you actually look forward to your prayer time each day, and come away closer to God. 

If you don't have time for whole sermon, I recommend starting at the 25-minute mark. I found the most helpful parts from that point on.
 Go To Your Room
 Jesus’ Pattern for Prayer  part 1
 Matthew 6:5-6    8-29-10
Matthew 6:5-16 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. 6 But 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. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do 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, 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.' 14 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Introduction: Israel’s commitment to prayer
I do not think you could find any nation, anywhere in history that placed a higher priority on prayer than ancient Israel. They believed prayer was supremely important and they acted on that belief. Every morning, as soon as it was light enough to tell blue from green, and every evening before dark, the devout Jew was supposed to recite Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 11:14-21, and Numbers 15:37-41 as a prayer.  Additionally, three times a day they were to recite the Shemena Esra, which was made up of eighteen prayers.  That was to be done at 9:00, 12:00, and 3:00. On top of that they had prescribed prayers for every possible event. Light, darkness, fire, lightning, seeing a new moon, comet, rain, storm, sea, lakes, rivers, good news, bad news, new furniture, leaving a city, on the road, entering next city, etc. No nation in history that I have ever heard of has had the kind of devotion to prayer that ancient Israel had. Imagine their shock in the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus says for the men who were the most devoted to all that, all those prayers are absolutely worthless. And the thing that makes them worthless is also a surprise – love. A certain kind of love can make all your prayers completely worthless.
Authentic Prayer: Do not pray like the hypocrites
A bad love
Matthew 6:5 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.
The whole problem with the hypocrites is that they have a bad love. The most fundamental issue in assessing the condition of the heart is always to look at what it loves and does not love. Evil people love bad things and righteous people love good things. The problem with the hypocrites is not just that they pray in public in a way that impresses people, but that they love doing that.
Matthew 23:5-6 Everything they do is done for men to see … 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues
Matthew 23:7 they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them 'Rabbi.'
They love the honor of men. They love the feeling of being looked up to and respected by men. This is exactly the sort of thing John is talking about in 1 John 2.
1 John 2:15-17 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For everything in the world--the desires of the flesh, the desires of his eyes and the pride of possessions--comes not from the Father but from the world.
We are not to love anything that does not come from the Father. And the fact that Scripture so often focuses on the love of a bad thing rather than on the action itself can be very convicting. So often we avoid certain sins because of one kind of pressure or another, but in our hearts we still love those things. There are some people who would never dream of showing off, but in their heart they love human acclaim just as much as the worst show-off in the world. They would never be so ostentatious as to pray out loud on a street corner or to announce their giving with trumpets, so their desire for human approval just goes unfulfilled, but that desire is there nonetheless. That love of human acclaim is still there.
So Jesus goes right for the jugular. He skips right by all the external actions and hammers us right in the heart where our desires and appetites are. This is the same thing we saw all the way through chapter 5 – regardless of what you do and do not do, the issue is what is in your heart – what you love and do not love.
This opening paragraph to Jesus’ teaching on prayer (Mt.6:5-6) has a very simple structure. There are two commands and a promise. And Command #1 is Do not pray like the hypocrites. In other words, our prayers must be authentic.
Public worship
Jesus’ instruction about prayer here applies to all our worship. In our culture we do not have as much of an emphasis on public prayer as they had, but we do have a strong emphasis in modern church culture on public worship – praises and singing to the Lord. And so we would do well to keep this principle in mind with regard to our public worship.
We must never worship to impress people or to show people how spiritual we are. But that brings up some interesting questions. Does this mean that when you sing at church you should have no awareness at all of the people around you? When a pastor prays from the pulpit before a sermon, should he pray exactly the way he would pray in private? Or should he take into consideration the fact that all the people are listening and praying along with him? Does Jesus’ command here forbid us from adjusting our praises and prayers and singing for the sake of those around us? No, Jesus forbids us from praying or worshipping in a way that is designed to impress those around us, but He does not forbid us from praying or worshipping in a way designed to encourage those around us. That is not to say we have a green light to be phony in any way. But it is appropriate to take the people around you into consideration in public worship and prayer. Daniel went out of his way to open his windows when he prayed just so people would see, and Scripture presents that as a godly example for us. Jesus also prayed publicly. The issue is not public prayer but rather prayer for self-glorification.
If you are enthusiastic about worship, that is an encouragement to the people around you. So for those of us who are naturally not very demonstrative physically, the loving thing for us to do is to have as much physical expression as possible without being phony so we are not a drag on the joy of the people around us.
It is a good thing to pray or sing or praise in a way that is designed to encourage others. What is never a good thing, though, is to do anything in a way designed to cause others to be impressed with you. Adjusting our worship to impress men is hypocrisy, and there is more than one way to do it. One way is to lift up your hands or bow or kneel or stand or clap or whatever for the purpose of making people think you are highly spiritual. But another way we adjust our worship to impress men is in the opposite direction. We hold back on our physical expression because it is so important for us to maintain our dignity. We do not want to look silly. We read in Scripture that we are to have all those kinds of physical expressions in our worship, but we resist them because we are afraid we will look goofy to people. Passionate worship is undignified. When David danced before the Lord it brought ridicule even from his own wife. And David himself referred to what he was doing as “undignified” (2 Sam.6:22). We do not want people to think we look silly – or in some cases we are afraid people will think we are being phonies. We are afraid if we do something we have not done in the past people will think what we are doing is contrived. And so we remain casual and unexpressive in our worship because we are so afraid of what people think. This is simply another form of adjusting worship for the purpose of having favor in the eyes of men, which is exactly what Jesus is forbidding here. Whether you are dialing it volume up or down – either way it shows that you love the high opinion of those around you more than you love the approval of God.
Do not judge others’ worship
One additional implication of this is that it is not our place to critique the worship of others. If God tells you to pray to Him and not to worry about whether others are impressed, does it not follow that it is not their place to require that you impress them? It is not our job to evaluate one another’s worship.
And that is important to know because judging other’s worship is a constant temptation for those who tend toward more expressive worship. What’s wrong with him? Why is he such a bump on a log?
This is also a temptation for people who are leading on stage. If the congregation seems lifeless or unresponsive or not very animated there is a temptation for worship leaders to assume people are not really worshipping very much. But that is never a good assumption. We do not know what is going on in someone’s heart.
Does the Bible call us to have physical expression in our worship? Yes. Does the Bible teach us that we are to lift up our hands, or clap, or kneel, or bow, or stand, or dance? Yes – all of those things. But how much and when and what form it takes – that is between the individual and God. And it is never our place to determine that a particular person is not worshipping because they are not animated enough. The minute we do that we become legalists.
Use privacy as a test
So Command #1 – Do not pray like the hypocrites. Offer only authentic prayer and worship. And how can you tell if your prayers are authentic? Examine your private prayer life. The you in verse 6 is emphatic in the Greek.
Matthew 6:6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father
In contrast to the hypocrites, you go into your room. The word translated room refers to the store room in the center of the house, which had no windows. Very often this was the only room in the house that could be locked. Usually it was a very small storage closet that they used to store feed, tools, or other valuables. The point is, go somewhere where no one will see you. That is the test of your prayer life and your worship. What is your worship like in private? If you pray and worship more in public than in private that is a big red flag.
Planned Prayer: Go into your room
So we understand Command #1, now let’s take a look at Command #2: Go into your room. At this point some of you might be wondering, If the issue is secrecy why do I need to go into a room? Why didn’t Jesus say, “But when you pray, pray in your head and keep your eyes open so no one will know you are praying”? Then it is really secret. Why do I need to go into a private room somewhere? Evidently Jesus is talking about a kind of prayer that must be done in seclusion. This is the kind of prayer that requires that you go somewhere.
Sometimes people will say, “I don’t have any set-aside, structured, formal prayer time. I just pray all throughout the day. My whole life is prayer – constantly aware of God’s presence, constantly breathing little prayers to God every hour of the day.” That is a great thing to do. Every Christian should strive to commune with God all day long throughout the day.
But if that is the extent of your prayer life, is that enough? Our little prayers we pray all through the day – how long are those prayers? One or two seconds? Sometimes ten or twenty? I doubt Jesus is telling us to drop what you are doing, go to your house and into the storage closet and close the door and then pray for ten or twenty seconds. If you are going to go to all the trouble to go to some private place, obviously it is going to be for an extended time of prayer.
And that fits with Jesus’ example. In Matthew 14 Jesus goes up into the mountains to pray. In the Garden of Gethsemane He told His disciples to keep watch while He went a little farther and prayed, and when He came back they were all asleep. I do not think that was a twenty second prayer (unless they all had narcolepsy).
There are different kinds of prayer. There are the little five-second prayers we offer all through the day and there are those prayers that require a quiet, secluded place for an extended period of time. And both kinds are important.
Was Jesus in constant communion all day long with the Father? Absolutely. Did He pray without ceasing and turn His attention to the Father all throughout the day. Of course. But was that enough? No.
Luke 5:16 Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
Even though Jesus had, no doubt, the best hour-by-hour fellowship with God that any man has ever had – still it was not enough. Jesus felt the need to spend extended times in prayer in seclusion – times of prayer that were long enough that it required that He actually travel somewhere on foot to be alone.
Spontaneity vs. Discipline
That is important to note because for some people the idea of planning an extended time of prayer feels legalistic. Some people think the only way to avoid legalism is for everything to be spontaneous – nothing planned. They say, “I have freedom in Christ. I do not have to recite some prescribed prayer or go to any particular place or pray for any predetermined amount of time. I just prayer whenever I feel like it for as long as I feel like it. And if I make a rule for myself, or if I start praying just out of resolve and not sheer desire – that ruins it.”
But it is wrong to think of resolve as being opposed to desire. It is true that if all you have is resolve and no desire that is bad. But the solution to that is not to eliminate resolve; it is to increase desire. And desire alone with no resolve or commitment or discipline is no good either. They go together. If I have genuine love for my wife and I desire to spend time with her, that will manifest itself in both spontaneous ways and planned ways. There will be spontaneous things – out-of-the-blue stopping and remarking about how beautiful she is, and there will be planned things – taking the time to plan out a wonderful weekend away together.
Effort and grace
Another false dichotomy some people have is the idea that effort is somehow opposed to grace. They have been taught that grace means no hard work on your part. You just let go and relax and let God do everything. That is not grace. Just the opposite – grace energizes and compels us to work.
1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them
The effect of grace is hard work. The fact that someone is laboring and striving and working hard does not mean that person is being legalistic or trying to earn God’s grace. I read a great statement this week: “If you were starving, and the food of life were in a locked container, and Christ died to open the container, you would not be a legalist if you walked five miles and stood in line all day to receive your food with tears of expectancy and gratitude. Knowing that he had absolutely secured your food at the cost of his life would make you confident and humble and grateful, but it would not make you say, “I don’t need to travel or put forth effort. I don’t believe in such discipline. I will just wait till the food spontaneously falls into my mouth.” No – God’s grace calls for effort.
And prayer is effort. It is work.
Colossians 4:12 Epaphras … is always wrestling in prayer for you
It is effort. True love for God says,
Psalm 63:1 O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you … 8 my soul follows hard after you
God who is unseen (hard)
My guess is many of you are fighting a war in your conscience right now. I am up here making an argument that we need to be disciplined in times of isolated, extended prayer. But something in you is fighting against that. You are searching high and low for some line of reasoning that would exempt you from having to do this. You do not want to have to make the changes necessary in your life to include this as part of your regular practice. You do not want to have to do it because it is so hard. It is hard enough for you to pray for two minutes, much less an hour or several hours at one time. Extended prayer is hard.
Why is it hard? It is hard because of what Jesus says in verse 6.
Matthew 6:6 … pray to your Father, who is unseen.
Prayer is hard because you are talking to someone you cannot see. I can talk to a friend for an hour because he talks back. I can see him and hear him. But talking to an invisible God who does not answer back audibly is very hard. I resolve to spend an hour in prayer, I kneel down and close my eyes and begin talking to God, and suddenly I am golfing – trying to figure out what is wrong with my swing. And soon my imaginary golf game is interrupted by the fact that I just remembered I forgot to make an important phone call. Oh, and I need to remember to pay that credit card bill today. And speaking of the credit card, we are spending way too much money on groceries – we have got to get a handle on that. Oh, that reminds me – I’ve still got that gift card to Chili’s. Maybe I should surprise Tracy today and take her out to lunch. If we shared a burger, I could get some of that Paradise Pie for dessert….Boy, my knees are getting kind of sore … Oh, that’s right, I’m praying! I’m sorry Lord, please help me to concentrate…And I get to the end of my hour and realize I only spent a total of about four minutes actually paying attention to God. Carrying on an extended conversation with a silent, invisible God is very difficult.
The Lord recognizes that it is difficult. That is why He pronounces a special blessing on those of us who have never physically seen Him.
John 20:29 Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
Often people think the most spiritual folks are the ones who have visions of God. They say God speaks to them audibly, and they see Him in visions, and they take trips to heaven. Meanwhile I close my eyes to pray and all I see is the backs of my eyelids, and the experience is so boring it is all I can do not to be distracted with thoughts of some dumb TV show I watched last night. And so we think, “I must not be at the same level as that person, because I’ve never had a vision or heard a voice.” Just the opposite. Blessed are those who have not seen and believe. The less you have seen, the more faith is required and the more blessed you are when you act on that faith.
God is there
So how do we overcome distraction? And how do we overcome the horrible but unavoidable fact that we do not pray more because we just simply do not like praying? How do we get so we like it – so it is our favorite part of the day? Part of the answer to that question is found in this same word translated unseen. Literally it says pray to your Father who is in secret. When you go to some private, secluded, secret place to pray, God is there in that secret place.
The new Holy of Holies is the storage shed. Jesus told the woman at the well that the time was now here when you do not go to the Temple in Jerusalem to worship God anymore. You do not have to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem or any special place – you just have to find a closet. The most secular kind of place is transformed into a sacred place as long as it has a door that can be closed behind you. Go to a secret place for prayer and God is there.
And the key to overcoming distraction, and the key to turning your prayer time into a wonderful, satisfying, delightful, enjoyable experience is to have an awareness of and an experience of the presence of God.
One of the most important things I have learned in recent years about prayer is the importance of taking time at the beginning and reminding myself of the presence of God in the room. Before I start asking for anything, or saying thank you for anything, or confessing any sins, or anything else I close my eyes and quiet my heart and I think about God. I think about Him creating the earth, or I think about Jesus stilling the storm, or I think about the great throne room scene in heaven in Revelation 5-6. And then I think this, What if right now I opened my eyes and looked up and saw the Lord physically standing right here in this room? What would I do? Would I stand? Would I fall on my face? And then I say, “Lord God – You are here in this room. Not figuratively but literally – just as literally as this chair is present in the room.”
Have you ever been alone in the dark and you heard someone or felt that someone was present in the room with you and it made your heart jump? There is something about having another sentient being in the room with you that changes everything. And sometimes it takes me several minutes to wake myself up to the reality of the fact that there is not one person in the room. I am not the only one here. There is another Person here in the room with me and He is looking right at me. He came here to meet with me, and He has something for me. He has some things He wants to show me and He has some gifts He wants to give me during this time of prayer. He has in mind a special experience of His presence that will come with many wonderful benefits (like joy or peace or awe or strength or insight or encouragement). He wants me to pour out my heart to Him, and when I do He will respond – not audibly, but by showing me some things in His Word. Some of those benefits of His presence I can already feel. Some mornings the cool, crisp air does not have any effect on me – today it is delightful. That ability to enjoy a good thing is one of the benefits of His presence. Some days I have a splitting headache, but today I have no headache pain and so I can think clearly. Some days I feel discouraged or overwhelmed but today I don’t. I could list a million examples. Whatever it is – I think about the forms of grace that I am enjoying right at that moment and I remind myself that those are not accidental or random or incidental. They are benefits that come from being in the immediate, favorable presence of such a wonderful Being as God. Everything good about my situation right now – I take time to draw the connection to His presence. And now, finally, I am focused on Him and I am ready to begin praying. Then what? How do you pray for an extended period of time? What if you say everything you can think to say and it has been five minutes? I say some things about that in a moment, but first let’s look at the rest of verse 6.
Reward for prayer
Is there part of you that is still resisting this? Do you still need motivation? Jesus knew we would, so He gives us an incentive.
Matthew 6:6 But 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.
Does that surprise you – that God would offer a reward just for praying? On Judgment Day God will present you with some wonderful reward and you will say, “What’s this one for?” and He’ll say, “That’s for when you were generous with that person in need.”
“OK, and what about these rewards over here – what are they for?”
“Those are because during your life on earth you asked Me for stuff all the time. Remember that one time back in August of 2010? You wanted something, and you asked Me for it, and I gave it to you. That’s what this reward is for.”
“Let me get this straight – I asked you for something and You gave it to me back in 2010, and now, on the Day of rewards You are giving me this magnificent treasure that I’ll enjoy for all eternity just to reward me for asking for stuff?”
Isn’t that amazing? God rewards us for asking for stuff. God rewards us just for talking to Him. When Judgment Day comes you are going to be glad for every time you prayed.
Why does God reward prayer?
Why does God reward prayer?
He loves it
Because He loves it! He loves it when we pray to Him. In Psalm 141 the psalmist makes an outrageous request – one that many Christians would never even dream of having the boldness to ask.
Psalm 141:2 May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.
God has prescribed the various sacrifices as acceptable worship and said that when the people offered those sacrifices it was a sweet smelling savor to Him. It brought Him pleasure. So the psalmist says God, “God, may my own personal prayers be like that. I am asking that when I come before you and lift up my hands in worship and prayer that my worship and prayers would rise up to heaven and be like those offerings You prescribed in Your law. They would be like sweet-smelling incense and bring You pleasure and delight.” Is that far-fetched? Does it seem to you like a fairy tale to think of God enjoying it when you pray?
Revelation 5:8 the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders … were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
Revelation 8:3 Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of [only the top-flight saints? Only the spiritual giants? No - ] all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne.
God loves your prayers.
He loves them because it is a good thing to pray to God. Praying to God is an action of righteousness. It is like feeding a hungry person or proclaiming the Gospel or caring for the sick. For some people that is very counter-intuitive. Feeding the hungry seems like a good deed – asking God for stuff does not. But it is because it is an act of faith, and faith is what pleases God. Faith is such a rich and wonderful aspect of a relationship. Trusting, relying, resting, delighting in advance – all of that showcases God’s goodness.
So God rewards prayer because prayer is an act of faith. Another reason God rewards prayer is to give us an incentive to pray. God is generous by nature and anytime He calls us to do anything that costs us something, He promises to repay us. And prayer costs us. It costs us one of our most valuable and prized commodities – time. Not only that, it costs us effort. It requires energy and thought. It is hard. It costs us our leisure.
And whenever serving God costs us anything (even if what it costs is temporal and miniscule), God promises to repay us a thousand-fold. And so he promises reward for prayer. And He expects that to motivate us.
Conclusion: How to do it
Command #1: Authentic Prayer: Do not pray like the hypocrites
Command #2: Planned Prayer: Go into your room
The Promise: Your Father will reward you.
Now I would like to take the rest of our time to offer some ideas on how to do this.
Jesus gives a very clear command in this text: “Go.” So the first tip comes right from the lips of Jesus: Go do it. Plan a time of extended prayer. I can promise you – you are not going to find yourself in a secluded place praying for an extended time if you do not plan it. It does not happen by itself. You need to take a day off work, or take a Saturday, find a babysitter, get up really early while everyone else is still asleep – something that will require some planning.
How often? That is between you and God. In my routine I like to have a somewhat extended time of prayer every morning. I try to get up early before anyone else is up and have a time alone with God that goes a lot deeper than the quick little prayer times throughout the day. And then once or twice a year I like to go up into the mountains for a longer time – where I can spend a day or at least several hours alone with God.
But that will happen either rarely or never if you do not plan it. Why not commit today, over lunch, to plan out when you are going to do this? Or if not at lunch, sometime before the sun sets tonight get a calendar and sit down and plan your daily routine as well as periodic special extended times of prayer.
Prepare your heart
Secondly, prepare your heart. After I take some time to wake myself up to the reality of God’s immediate presence in the room I have an acronym I go through to prepare myself.  The acronym is I.O.U.S.S. (I am indebted to John Piper for most of this.) Each one of those letters is to remind me of a prayer from the Psalms. The “I” stands for “Incline.”
Psalm 119:36 Incline my heart toward your statutes
“Father, during this time with You I am going to be reading things from Your Word. I don’t want to read something and have an evil heart that is inclined in the opposite direction. And I don’t want to read it and have a dull, dead heart that is unmoved by it. I want to be inclined toward it. Prepare my heart right now so that what I read strikes me as wonderful and my heart is inclined to receive it.”
The “O” stands for “Open.”
Psalm 119:18 Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.
So often I read a passage of Scripture and I am blind to what is wonderful about it. It just leaves me flat and I cannot see what is so great about it. So I pray to ask God to open my eyes to see what is so fantastic about what I am about to read.
The “U” is for “Unite.”
Psalm 86:11 Unite my heart, that I may fear your name.
Usually when I sit down to read the Bible my heart is all over the place. Twenty percent of me is thinking about the day to come, and thirty percent of me thinking about breakfast, ten percent is out golfing, and about five percent of me is actually paying attention to the Lord. So I need to ask God, “please, unite my heart so I can brush everything else aside and focus my entire being on You.”
“S” is for Satisfy.
Psalm 90:14 Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
“Lord God, don’t let me walk away from this prayer time with an unsatisfied soul. Let what I read today really hit the spot.” Scripture is clear that the presence of God is like food – so a greater experience of His presence will result in a greater sense of satisfaction. But if I do not experience His presence, and I walk away unsatisfied, that will leave me vulnerable to all the temptations of sin that promise to satisfy the longings of my soul.
And then the last “S” is for “Seek”
Psalm 119:176 I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant
If finding nearness to God were totally on my shoulders I would despair of ever drawing near to Him. And sometimes I am so weak or tired or distracted or rebellious in my heart that I just cannot seem to seek after Him with any real earnestness at all. And so I ask Him to seek me and move toward me.
And one last suggestion: listen to God. One thing that has really helped me is to have lots of avenues to hear from God during my prayer time. I am not talking about listening for a voice. I am not talking about a mystical thing where you have a feeling in your gut and you interpret that as God talking to you. I am not talking about emptying your mind and then when a thought comes into your head assuming that thought is the voice of God. I am not talking about any of that. I am talking about God’s Word. God speaks to us through His Word. So when I say it helps to have a lot of avenues to hear from God I am talking about a lot of different tools to help me understand the Bible.
The reason you can talk to a friend for an hour but you cannot pray for an hour is because the friend talks back. But God talks back too. He opens your eyes to wonderful things in His Word as you pray. If you want to spend an extended time alone with God don’t bring a long prayer list – bring your Bible. Open your Bible and turn everything you read into a prayer. Then praying a long time is not a problem – you can pray as long as you can read.
And do not just bring a Bible. Bring other resources that will help you see those wonderful things about God. I have a whole shelf full of books next to the chair where I pray in the morning. I like having a lot of variety. I have found that if I do exactly the same thing every day it eventually turns into a dry, empty routine. So I have within arm’s reach a Treasury of David and several commentaries on the Psalms. I have a book called “Face to Face,” which takes all kinds of passages of Scripture and turns them into prayers. I have a copy of The Valley of Vision,” which is a wonderful compilation of Puritan prayers. I have my book of meditations on about three hundred different attributes of God written as daily devotionals. I have a book titled “Psalms of Faith” by Ray Steadman. I have Piper’s little book “Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ” about several attributes of Jesus Christ. And I usually have some audio book of a good devotional that I can listen to.
I read from my Bible (usually the Psalms) and from one of those until the Lord opens my eyes to some insight about His glory. Then I stop and write out a prayer of my thoughts about that insight and praise God for it. That is what I do for my daily routine in the morning.
You do not have to do what I do, but come up with some kind of plan for your daily routine, and then plan some special times as well. Do what Jesus did and take advantage of the fact that you live near the mountains. Some places are definitely more conducive to extended prayer than others, and there is something about being alone up in the mountains that just makes prayer and fellowship with God so much more accessible. You turn your phone off, there is no email, no texts, no one walks into the room, no TV or radio – just you and God in the beauty of His creation. If you have never tried that, try it. Take your Bible, a pen and paper, a few good devotional books, maybe a hymn book or some lyrics from one of our song sets or some worship music on mp3 or something, and a camp chair; go up into the mountains all by yourself, build a nice fire, and spend a few hours alone with God. I bet you will have an experience unlike anything you have experienced in a long time.
So many people are frustrated because they cannot seem to find intimacy and closeness with God. But God said we will find Him when we seek Him with all our hearts. How hard are we really seeking? How hard are you seeking nearness to God compared with how hard you seek for a new job when you get laid off? Or the effort you put into looking for a house when you are moving, or even a car?
Deuteronomy 4:27 The Lord will scatter you among the people’s … 29 But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you look for him
Benediction: Ephesians 6:18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.