Prayer the Way Jesus Taught It
I believe that the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) is the constitution of the Kingdom of God. Jesus taught a way of life well beyond human nature: blessed are the poor, those who mourn, the meek, and those who hunger; turn the other cheek; go the second mile, and love your enemies. One has to have a supernatural touch to live such a life. Where can we get that touch? Jesus taught that to. He taught about prayer in the Secret Place.
True & Secret Prayer
But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. Mt 6:6 NKJV
I believe Secret Place prayer is the furnace that forges the steel structure of the supernatural life Jesus taught. It is the engine that powers the Life of Prayer the Apostles taught.
Jesus came to a society soaked in prayer, most of it false: market place praying, power-mongering prayer, trumpeted fasting and the theatrical giving of alms. His angry responses to these abuses ranged from anger to deep sadness.
With whip in hand Jesus cleansed His Father’s house of those who profited from prayer (Matt. 21:13). He rebuked leaders for their grandstanding in prayer (Matt 6:5) and warned against praying like heathens who sought to appease their gods with mindless repetition (Matt 6:7). He reprimanded those who “prayed” with pride in their hearts (Luke 18:10) and censured those who mastered the externals of prayer but failed to pray from their hearts (Mk 7:6-8).
Jesus also taught us the nature of True Prayer. The basis of prayer is faith in the Father. Abba Father hears and answers prayer (Lk 11:13; Matt 8:10). Because the Father is trustworthy we can keep on praying, not with meaningless repetition, but with purposeful tenacity, asking, seeking, knocking until the answer comes (Luke 11:9-10).
Prayer From The Heart
The content of prayer should spring from the Word of God in the heart (John 15:7-8) Our thorough knowledge of the Word of God forms our prayers and informs our faith.
Prayer is at the heart of the New Covenant. Jesus brought a new era of worship–worship in spirit and truth. This brings a new era of prayer. The writer to the Hebrews gives us the four promises of the New Covenant (Heb 8:7-12) and each one is a pillar of prayer.
The Holy Spirit will help us pray (John 16:15). With the New Covenant comes the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. He enables the prayers of the New Testament believer in a way the great prophets, Kind David, and the patriarchs never knew. We can experience a direct connection between our human spirit and the Spirit of God enabling us to pray the will of God when it is unknown to us, to praise and give thanks beyond the limits of our minds, and to intercede in spiritual power. New Covenant prayer avails much!
He gave us a prayer to pray (Mat 6:9-13; Luke 11). Some say this is not really a prayer but an outline for prayer. Of course, the Lord’s Prayer is a powerful outline for prayer, but it is itself a prayer! To sincerely pray this prayer often is not “vain repetition” but it is faithful obedience to the command of Jesus. The earliest of patristic writings (the Didache, AD 100?) instructs believers to pray the Lord’s Prayer three times a day. Praying set prayers was a common and meaningful practice to Jesus, his disciples, and the people who heard the Sermon on the Mount. We would do well to dig again this ancient well of spirituality.
We should pray in Jesus’ name (John 14:12-14), the name that makes demons tremble, that calms the storms of sea and circumstance, and that opens prison doors and the eyes of the blind.
Jesus rebuked false prayer and taught True Prayer. He also opened up the way for us to pray by going to the cross. We enter the Holy of Holies “by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, … let us draw near” (Heb 10:20-22NKJV). We can find the Secret Place because Jesus opened up the way for us. An ancient and beloved prayer of the church says it this way:
You, Christ, are the King of glory, the eternal Son of the Father.
When You became man to set us free You did not shun the Virgin’s womb.
You overcame the sting of death and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.
You are seated at God’s right hand in glory.
We believe that you will come and be our judge.
Come then, Lord, and help Your people, bought with the price of Your own blood,
and bring us with Your saints to glory everlasting.
(from You Are God, The Book of Common Prayer, 1979 edition, Italics mine)
Indeed, my fellow worshipers and worship leaders, “let us draw near.”
Dr. Steve Phifer received a Doctorate in Worship Studies from the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies. He has taught at Valley Forge University and Southeastern Assemblies of God University. For many years he was the Worship Pastor at Word of Life Church in Alexandria, VA.
More of Dr. Phifer’s materials can be found at stevephifer.com.