I. "WHEN YOU PRAY."
A. The assumption is that we will pray.
1. Sometimes we forget to pray. James said, "You have not because you ask not."
2. Many times it is just as simple as that. We have not prayed about it.
B. "Be not as the hypocrites, who love to pray in the synagogues and on the street corners."
1. They wish to be known as men of prayer.
2. Jesus said of the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23
But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,
And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues,
And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi,
a. The scribes and the Pharisees were an interesting lot. The Talmud distinguished seven different kinds of Pharisee.
(i) There was the Shoulder Pharisee. He was meticulous in his observance of the Law; but he wore his good deeds upon his shoulder. He was out for a reputation for purity and goodness. True, he obeyed the Law, but he did so in order to be seen of men.
(ii) There was the Wait-a-little Pharisee. He was the Pharisee who could always produce an entirely valid excuse for putting off a good deed. He professed the creed of the strictest Pharisees but he could always find an excuse for allowing practice to lag behind. He spoke, but he did not do.
(iii) There was the Bruised or Bleeding Pharisee. The Talmud speaks of the plague of self-afflicting Pharisees. These Pharisees received their name for this reason. Women had a very low status in Palestine. No really strict orthodox teacher would be seen talking to a woman in public, even if that woman was his own wife or sister. These Pharisees went even further; they would not even allow themselves to look at a woman on the street. In order to avoid doing so they would shut their eyes, and so bump into walls and buildings and obstructions. They thus bruised and wounded themselves, and their wounds and bruises gained them a special reputation for exceeding piety.
(iv) There was the Pharisee who was variously described as the Pestle and Mortar Pharisee, or the Hump-backed Pharisee, or the Tumbling Pharisee. Such men walked in such ostentatious humility that they were bent like a pestle in a mortar or like a hunch-back. They were so humble that they would not even lift their feet from the ground and so tripped over every obstruction they met. Their humility was a self-advertising ostentation.
(v) There was the Ever-reckoning or Compounding Pharisee. This kind of Pharisee was for ever reckoning up his good deeds; he was for ever striking a balance sheet between himself and God, and he believed that every good deed he did put God a little further in his debt. To him religion was always to be reckoned in terms of a profit and loss account.
(vi) There was the Timid or Fearing Pharisee. He was always in dread of divine punishment. He was, therefore, always cleansing the outside of the cup and the platter, so that he might seem to be good. He saw religion in terms of judgment and life in terms of a terror-stricken evasion of this judgment.
(vii) Finally, there was the God-fearing Pharisee; he was the Pharisee who really and truly loved God and who found his delight in obedience to the Law of God, however difficult that it might be.
3. Their prayers were more for public consumption, than true appeals to God.
a. I have to be very careful on this point when I offer the closing prayer, that it does not become a post script to my message, so that I am actually using the prayer to reemphasize the main points of my message, hoping that the people really got them.
b. It is so easy to address the prayer to the people rather than to God, and to be more interested that the people heard the prayer than God.
c. Many prayers are intended to impress people more than to impress God.
4. Some have actually questioned the value of public prayer.
a. However Jesus spoke of agreeing in prayer.
b. The book of Acts tells us how that the disciples all agreed in one accord in prayer.
And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou [art] God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is:
Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.
And when he had considered [the thing], he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying.
C. Another negative in regards to prayer is in the length of the prayer.
1. "Use not vain repetitions." Using the vain repetitions so that the time spent in prayer may be long.
a. I think we see this exemplified in the hail Mary's and the our Fathers.
b. Prayer can become a matter of rote. Reciting over and over the same thing.
2. Prayer should be as an intelligent conversation with your closest friend.
a. You should just talk to God, then listen as God speaks to you.
b. You do not have to sustain your notes.
c. It is strange how that when some people pray, their voice changes, they lapse into King James language, and they often use repetitive phrases
d. My most meaningful times in prayer is when I sit on a chair and just talk to God as though He were sitting on the chair just across the room from me, or when I go for a walk just to talk with Him.
3. Jesus tells us that they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
a. James tells us that the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
b. Not that the long prayers avail much.
D. The proper place for prayer is the quiet isolated place.
1. Jesus said, "Go in the closet and shut the door." A place of quiet isolation.
2. Pray to your Father who sees and secret.
3. The result, your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.
E. Your Father knows what you have need of before you ever ask Him.
1. That tells me that prayer is not share time with God.
2. How many times in prayer we try to inform God of all that is going on in our lives.
3. Sometimes I find it rather difficult to pay attention when people are trying to relate their problems to me.
a. Often it goes something like this. I really don't know why I am here, but well I might as well start from the beginning. Back in 1946, no maybe 47, lets see, it was the year that I got back from a trip to Hawaii where I was visiting my uncle. No I think I saw my cousin that year, it must have been 1947, because that is the year my aunt died, now let me think, did she die in 1946 or 1947. My aunt was really a special person to me, we used to visit her quite often until she moved to Washington State, you know that was a horrible move for her, she really did not want to move, but she had lost her job, or was she laid-off?
b. I think that sometimes we feel it necessary to give God every little detail.
c. You know what? He knows all of the little details of your situation.
d. Your Father knows what you need of before you ever ask Him.
4. You might ask, "If He knows what I need before I ask, then why do I need to ask?"
a. There is an interesting passage of scripture in John JOH 15:16
Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and [that] your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
b. Notice not will, or shall give it you, but may give it you.
c. It is as though He knows your need, and desires to give to you to meet that need, but is waiting for you to ask, that He may give it to you.
d. The asking opens the door to allow God to do that which He is longing to do in your life.
e. God will not violate your free will. Prayer is giving to Him the permission to do the things He desires to do in me and for me.
f. While on the subject of prayer, it is important to remember that the true purpose of prayer is never to get our will done on earth, but His will.
5. Prayer gives us the opportunity to cooperate with God in accomplishing His will upon the earth. It is joining forces with God to advance His kingdom on the earth.