Her prayers become the sweet fragrance of worship.
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 Lord’s people.
If you could paint a picture or take a photograph to capture what prayer means to you, what would it look like?
The first thing that comes to my mind is a young girl, head back, arms lifted high, standing in a field of grass. Storm clouds fill the sky around her, but a peaceful, gentle smile shines through her eyes as she gazes upward in loving trust.
I haven’t always thought of prayer in this way; there have been many seasons and postures of prayer in my own life. Communion with God has taken on new and deeper levels of meaning as I have matured in Christ – as I have become freer to walk with Him as He desires – and I look forward to it expanding yet more.
Many books have been written on prayer, exploring various types of intercession and meditation, purposes and positions of entreating our Father. As I was reading in Matthew 6 this morning, however, I was struck again by the depth, yet simplicity, of Jesus’ teaching on the topic.
First, “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them…” (Matthew 6:5)
Does this mean we should do away with all public prayers? Is it wrong to pray aloud in church or to protest events with prayer rallies? No. As was very common with Jesus, He was addressing the condition of the heart. He was specifically pointing out those who pray with the underlining goal of being seen.
Pride can be a subtle issue. It slips in when and where we least expect it. We may think, “We’re praying, after all. Isn’t that enough?” But our Creator is looking for humble and contrite hearts.
Humility reveals an accurate understanding of God’s authority and wisdom. Humility places its expectation on the One Who is above all things, not in our own limited resources. Humility does not take away from the inheritance we have in Christ, but rather intensifies it as it positions us to be used by God.
On the other hand, when we pray just to be seen by others, we shift the focus to ourselves. In this place, we have lost sight of the exceeding privilege we have of agreeing with God. Jesus warned that those who pray from a position of pride receive only the temporary reward of the attention of others. No other reward will be granted them from heaven.
He then encouraged His listeners to go into a private place, close the door, and pray to the Father Who is in secret. “Then your Father, Who sees everything, will reward you” (Matthew 6:6).
Our Father is not a hard-hearted master; He loves to reward His children. But He knows that pride brings death into our lives, and He will not reward us for something that dishonors Him and kills us.
Instead, He has a plan to bring Life. Sooner or later, as our communion with God goes deeper in the secret place, it will begin to flow out from under the door of our prayer closet and into the streets, even as the River of God flows out from under the temple door (Ezekiel 47:1-12). But by then it will no longer be about us, but simply a pouring out of God through us.
Second, “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again” (Matthew 6:7).
Sometimes I think we get the idea that we have the answer and just need to talk God into it. That we see something He doesn’t see, or have a compassion that He doesn’t feel. How very blind we are when in this place. God’s mercy and loving-kindness far exceeds our own.
His wisdom and power cannot be measured or overcome. He is far above and beyond all things in love, purpose, and fortitude. For us to think that our many words are what have caused God to pay attention is, again, a sign of pride and a shallow understanding of our Creator.
Verse 8 of Matthew 6 speaks volumes: “…your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask Him!” And later, in verse 30, “And if God cares so wonderfully for the wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, He will certainly care for you.”
So, why do we pray? Why do we ask? Relationship. Both to build it, and to increase it.
That is why I picture the young girl as I described earlier in this post. She is in relationship with the One she is focused on. There may be storm clouds around her, but she is in perfect peace as she trusts in and relies on and agrees with her Maker. Her prayers become the sweet fragrance of worship.
Her petitions, the echoes of His heart. Her thanksgiving rises even before circumstances change because she knows He is doing much more than she could ever see or imagine – and all of it perfectly.
When you pray, remember, you are communing with the One Who knows you and loves you more than you can imagine. He knows the intimate details of what happened yesterday and what will happen tomorrow. He loves to share His plans and to hear your voice agreeing with Him, to bring His Kingdom on earth. This One sees what is in secret, even the secret places of our heart. May He find in us a heart being conformed to His.
Find more of Amy’s encouragement in Changing Your Perspective
Amy Layne Litzelman is passionate about knowing God more intimately in each moment and helping others do the same. Amy released her first book, This Beloved Road: A Journey of Revelation and Worship, in 2011. She has also composed over seventy songs, recorded four CDs, and traveled to teach and lead worship across the United States and in the Philippines and China. She and her husband, Matt, live in Jackson Hole, WY and have two adult sons.
Click here to learn more about gifted faith writer Amy Layne Litzelman