Jesus starts this discussion by telling us how we should not pray. We are not to pray just to be seen and heard by others. If that is our motivation then the only reward we will get is the praise of those who see and hear us. Whether our prayers are realistic or ritualistic is not determined by where we pray or the words that we say. It isn’t the length of the prayer but the strength of the faith behind the prayer. One of the most real and shortest prayers is the cry of Peter when he was sinking in the sea of Galilee. His cry was “Save me, Lord”. Jesus immediately reached out His hand and brought Peter to safety. After He tells us how not to pray, He tells us how we should pray. It is a short, powerful, beautiful prayer that covers everything from God’s holiness to our dependence on God for our daily bread. It covers forgiveness and God’s desire that His will would be done on earth even as it is in heaven. It shows us that we need the leadership of the Holy Spirit so that we will not be led into temptation but that we will be delivered from evil. We could pray this prayer continually and whether it becomes ritualistic instead of real would be determined by our attitude. God has given many examples of prayer in the Psalms where David cries out with all of his heart and might. He has also given us prayers of thanksgiving for His many blessings and benefits. When we reach the point that we have no words to express our desires, He has given us the Holy Spirit to pray through us, with us and for us.
It isn’t our words or our bodily position that determines whether our prayers are real or rituals, it is the attitude of the heart toward God and toward our fellow man that makes the difference. It is our faith that God can and will do these things for us and that we are willing to do these things for those around us.
“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” – Anonymous
If we are going to encourage one another, then we need to pray for each other and also we need to pray together. We need to meet with other Christians on a regular basis. Worshiping and praising God together is a great way to encourage each other. If we fail to communicate with other Christians on a regular basis, we tend to become discouraged in our walk with God. One of satan’s tactics is to separate us from each other. He uses the same tactics as animals that are predators. They separate one of the prey from the herd and it is much easier for them to kill the one they have separated. After all, satan is a “roaring lion” seeking those he can destroy. We must work together and be accountable to God and each other so that we don’t go on sinning. It is a good idea to have someone you respect and trust to be accountable to on a weekly basis. Just knowing that you are going to have to tell someone everything you did this week will help you to overcome temptations.
God is love and everything that we experience is designed to show us His love. In the rough patches, we don’t feel that that statement is true because we don’t and never will understand the greatness of His love. God wants us to strive to get to the point that we realize His only motivation is His love for us. He wants us to be like Christ whose only motivation for dying on the cross for our sins was love. Not every lesson we learn will be enjoyable. I am sure that being persecuted, beaten and hung on a cross was not an enjoyable experience for Jesus but it was necessary to show God’s marvelous love for us. Learning to love the “unlovable” and those that mistreat us is a necessary lesson, not only for our completeness but to show others the immeasurable love of God. Jesus showed His love for us by giving His life for all of us while we were still sinners. We must show that same kind of love to those around us each day. As Paul says in the passage above (and I paraphrase) God places the Holy Spirit in our hearts and our roots must grow down into God’s love which will enable us to show that love in every situation.