Five aspects of prayer (Matthew 6:9-15)

Jesus provides his disciples with a prayer that has five concerns and these are the details that he wants them to mention in their personal prayers. The concerns are praise of God, progress of his kingdom, provision of daily needs, pardon for our sins and protection from the devil.

The first feature in prayer should be praise of God, and here Jesus mentions three areas of praise. One is God’s name – Father. How did he become our Father? He did so by adopting us into his family after we had trusted in Jesus. Another is his location – heaven. Heaven is the Father’s house, home. In the secret place with the Father we are reminded of his real abode. And there is his character – holiness. This implies that the petitioner has spent some time thinking about what God is like – he is perfect and a true disciple delights in that the Father will always be so. And the Father who sees in secret is pleased.

Second, in true prayer, there should be a longing for progress in the spread of the Father’s kingdom. Obviously, this only happens through the gospel being embraced. Therefore, a person who prays is passionate for conversions. He desires that sinners will become obedient saints. When he mentions this feature in prayer, he may wish to speak about items he has read which indicate that the gospel is being blessed. Or he may speak about places where the gospel is in decline. He will probably do both. In doing so, he pleads with God to work. And the Father who sees in secret is pleased.

Third, the disciple prays that God would meet his needs for the day. This petition suggests that the prayer should be made in the morning, although it is the case that we can pray more than once. One of the psalmists prayed seven times a day. Again, this petition implies some form of preparation regarding what is liable to happen that day, and then the items are mentioned to God.

Fourth, a true disciple asks for pardon and is marked by a forgiving spirit. Those two details go together because Jesus points out in verses 14 and 15 that the Father only forgives those who have forgiven those who have offended them. Of course, when someone offends us, our response should be to remind ourselves that we have offended God far more often. It is obvious that one cannot go into the secret place with an unforgiving attitude.

Fifth, a disciple when he prays remembers that he is in the middle of a spiritual battle. Every day, he is going to face some form of interaction from the enemy of his soul. Christ’s people face dangerous territory all the way. There is nothing that they face that cannot be turned into a temptation by the devil, and sometimes he will, but we don’t know when he will. So they ask God to protect them all the time.

The petitions in our prayers reveal our longings. Jesus mentions at least five longings that should mark our prayers – praise, progress, provision, pardon and protection. The Father’s answers are the rewards that he gives in his grace.

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