Desiring God: The Purpose of Prayer

Desiring God: The Purpose of Prayer 

Opening Illustration:
It was not long ago that I heard a pretty funny story about a man and his wife.  They were having some pretty large issues and the woman was ready for a divorce.  So, she took her husband to court and the judge began to ask some pretty probing questions.  

 "Do you have any grounds?" the judge asked. 

"Just two acres," she replied. 

"That's not it, lady. I mean, do you have a grudge?" 

"No, we park the car in the front of the house." 

Frustrated, the judge continued: "Does your husband beat you up?" 

She replied, "No, I get up before he does." 

"Then why do you want a divorce?" the judge queried. 

"Because," she confessed, "we just don't seem to be able to communicate."

Well friends, that’s a somewhat humorous story but there is a lot of truth in that statement isn’t there.  Communication is key.  Communication is important.  In order to have peaceful productive lives, we must communicate with each other.  These interactions need to be positive and constructive.  Without communication we cannot grow.  We cannot become better people.  

Communication is also key in our spiritual development.  In order for our walk with God to grow, we must communicate with Him.  In order for us to have a satisfying relationship with the Almighty, we must spend time with Him, talking to Him, literally putting the “commune” in communication.  

Brothers and sisters, we have a prayer problem.  The prayer problem is not shrinking either, instead its growing. According to Pew Research, 55% of Americans say that they pray everyday.  That may sound nice, but that means that 45% do not pray.  That’s nearly half of all American believers do not pray at all on a daily basis.  

21% of those polled say that they pray on a weekly or monthly basis and another 23% say that they rarely if ever pray.  

Again, these are professing Christians.  Christians who either do not know how to pray or they have given up on the endeavor all together.  

Let’s start with our opening point this morning.  Eastern Shore Baptist Church, you were created to communicate.  Deep within our spirits, we have an uncontrollable urge to communicate.  We long to connect, to speak, to interact with each other. Yet, there is also something within us that longs to connect to our Maker and Lord.  

You Were Created To Communicate!

Background and Context of Matthew 6

So, let’s talk briefly about the purpose of prayer.  Why should we do it?  Beyond the fact that we were created to pray, to communicate with God, what are the benefits of a daily growing and active prayer life?  

This morning we are listening to Jesus’ words on the topic of prayer.  We are reviewing the text from Matthew 6:1-8. Of course we know that Matthew 6 is a part of the greatest sermon ever told.  This is a section of the Sermon on The Mount.  Jesus delivered this famous sermon on the Northwestern Shore of the Sea of Galilee, between Capernaum and Gennesaret.  Jesus’ teaching on prayer is the centerpiece of the Lord’s prayer.  For the record, Jesus is speaking to religious people.  He is speaking to people that would be familiar with prayer.  In Jesus’ teaching about prayer, He points them to the motivation behind prayer and how prayer is to benefit the believer and how prayer blesses God.  

Let’s read from Matthew 6 this morning.  Specifically, let’s read from Matthew 6:5-8.

Matthew 6:5-8 ESV
“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

The Purpose of Prayer…According To Jesus!

I. Applause From Heaven…Not Humans vs. 5
Matthew 6:5 ESV
“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others.

The most common Greek word translated “prayer” in the New Testament is the word προσεύχομαι.  Its is transliterated as proseuchomai and is pronounced pros-yoo'-khom-ahee. This word and it’s various forms is used 127 times in the New Testament.  Proseuchomai is a compound word constructed from the Greek words “pros” and “euche”.  

The word pros is a preposition that means toward, and it can denote a sense of closeness. Nearly everywhere it is used in the New Testament, the word pros carries the meaning of close, up-front, intimate contact with someone else. 

The word euche (yo) is an old Greek word that describes a wish, desire, prayer, or vow. It was originally used to depict a person who made some kind of vow to God because of some need or desire in his or her life. This individual would vow to give something of great value to God in exchange for a favorable answer to prayer.

So what does this mean?  Why does Jesus and several other New Testament writers use this word?  First, it tells us that prayer should bring us face to face and into close intimate contact with God. Prayer is not just a function of the Christian life, it is more than a rite or duty.  It is the conduit whereby we may enjoy a close, intimate relationship with God.  

Prayer is also the mode where a person so desires to see God move in His life that he or she is willing to lay everything down at the feet of God to see Him act. Prayer is literally the alter where we sacrifice our desires to see God move in powerful ways.  It is our cry of utter and complete dependance on God, know that we alone cannot fix ourselves, or our circumstances.  We need God and the best way to show Him our needs is in prayer.  

You may notice that prayer is not to be used as a platform for others to witness our personal holiness or piety.  Prayer has nothing to do with gaining the respect of any person, rather is has to do with the humbleness of our hearts. Prayer was not given so that we can gain fame, respect, applause, adulation, from any human crowd.  

Prayer, from it’s earliest incarnation, is designed to bring us close to God.  It is designed to provide for us a mode to sacrifice ourselves.  It was given as a tool, a necessary device, to say thank you to the God who gave us life.  

A little girl decided that she would close her day with a prayer.  

"Bless my mommy and daddy...and dear God, take good care of Yourself.

If anything happens to You, we’re sunk."

She has a point.  Without God, we are all sunk.  Can you imagine not being able to communicate with God?  We would really be sunk without it.  

Colossians 4:2 ESV
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.

The Purpose of Prayer…According To Jesus!

I. Applause From Heaven (Not Humans) vs. 5
II. Awards From Heaven vs. 5-6
Matthew 6:5-6 ESV
Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

So, as I read this Scripture, I can only come to one conclusion, there is a reward for prayer.  Apparently, we receive a blessing from bending the knee.  Praying apparently pleases God.  Now, this may seem far fetched, but do we not receive daily rewards when we excel in communication?  

We do.  

Practically speaking, I feel rewarded when I communicate with with my wife.  When I fail to communicate with her, our relationship suffers.  Think about it guys and girls, we have a lot of people who are married in this crowd today.  Are your marriages, your relationships, not more positive and fulfilling when you are communicating with each other on a daily basis?  Of course they are.  

When communication breaks down at home or at work, we suffer.  When we communicate well at home or at work, we have peace, joy, and fulfillment. 

The author of Hebrews gets it.  He understood that there is a reward for prayer.  Earnest prayer.  God seeking prayer.  

Hebrew 11:6 ESV
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

You might be asking, so what is the reward?  Well there are a lot. Scripture gives us promise after promise for those of us who daily, humbly and honestly seek after God.  

The Rewards of Consistent Prayer

A. Help
Hebrews 4:16 ESV
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Let’s be honest, we all need help.  There is not one person in this room who is not in need of help.  We have people here today that are really struggling in life and help, real help is found in God.  The only way to access that help is in prayer and when we pray, we receive help in various modes.  Do you need help this morning?  If you do, it’s time to pray?

Have you ever heard the saying, “there are not atheists in foxholes”.  I have.  My Dad has said it to me before and it displays a powerful truth.  When your world is crumbling around you and the bullets are flying, trust me, atheism does not exist.  

B. Healing 
James 5:13 ESV
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. 

Some of us are carrying burdens that lead to great suffering.  These burdens are physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.  Healing comes in prayer.  Now I will not make the promise to you that if we pray that we will all be physically healed. It can happen but praying for physical healing does not always lead to physical life.  Healing, true healing comes in the spiritual form.  Even in death, our spirits can experience healing.  Prayer, real true honest prayer always brings healing to the soul.  Are you hurting today, Scripture tells us to pray?  

C. Health 
Psalm 119:28 ESV
My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word!

Let’s be honest, life is hard.  Really hard.  We all need strength.  When we daily pray, it’s like spiritual protein building the muscle of our souls.  When we pray, God sends His Spirit of Strength our way so that we can make it through the day.  

Practical Application:
Paul, author of a third of the New Testament was granted a thorn in the flesh by God, delivered by Satan. Scripture tells us that Paul prayed 3 times for this thorn to be taken from Him.  However, to keep Him humble God allowed Paul to suffer.  So, Paul’s prayer changed.  If God would not take the thorn from Him, Paul requested that God deliver to him strength in the form of grace.  God answered that request by doing just that. God gave grace to Paul.  

II Corinthians 12:9 ESV
Each time he said, "My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness." So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.

The Purpose of Prayer…According To Jesus!

I. Applause From Heaven (Not Humans) vs. 5
II. Awards From Heaven vs. 5-6
III. Answers From Heaven vs. 7-8
Matthew 6:7-8 ESV
“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

Jesus pulls no punches here.  When we pray, God hears.  When we pray, God helps.  When we pray, God knows.  

Jesus tells those listening to get to the point.  Don’t play games.  God is not impressed by our many words or the depth of our vocabulary.  Essentially Jesus is tell us not to waste our time trying to impress God with our intelligence.  Get to the point.  Get to the heart.  Take off the mask and get intimate with God. Stop pretending that the depth of God’s insight is somehow obstructed by the games we play.  

I love this verse because Jesus is essentially telling us that God is waiting to help us.  He is wanting to help us.  

Friends when you come to God, be real with Him.  Open your heart, your mind and your soul.  

How Does God Answer Our Prayers?

A. No
B. Slow
C. Grow 
D. Go

So, if God knows what we need, why does He wait for us to ask for it?  Why doesn’t He just give it to us?

Great question.  

Here is the short “Stuart” answer…appreciation.  You cannot fully appreciate something if you don’t think you need it or know that you even want it.  

Here is a story from my past.  A true story.

My parents bought me a car when I was 16.  I loved that car.  I washed it every week and did my best to take care of it.  Unfortunately, I wrecked it.  It was totaled.  My Dad let me go car-less for a long time.  Deservedly so.  As time went on, I began to think about the sorts of cars that I wanted.  I dreamed of shiny new sports cars and gleaming trucks.  Months went by.  I must have earned my parents trust.  One evening, my family went out to dinner.  My Dad walked up to a car and asked me what I thought about it.  It told him that I was not a big fan of the make, the year, the color, the interior, the engine, the sound system and the list goes on and on.  I basically told him that I hated it.  

Then, in that moment my Dad tossed me the keys and told me it was mine.  

In that moment, I knew that I was a total jerk.  

Bottom line, I needed wheels.  I did not appreciate it and therefore the value of the gift was lost.  

Friends, God is the same.  He knows what we need but we need to get to a place where we know what we need.  Thankfully, the Lord often gives us our wants and our needs.  However, there are times when God awaits our ability to appreciate what He gives to us.  

Friend, maybe you’ve been praying for a long time for something and you feel that God is not answering your request.  Could it be that God is withholding action because you do not fully appreciate the sacrifice of the blessing or gift?  


Stop and think about that this morning.  God will answer.  Scripture promises that when we pray, God answers.  

I John 5:14 ESV
And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.

Closing Remark
Friends, let me tell you that God desires to connect with you.  He connects through the conduit of prayer.  He hears our prayers and is ready to deliver to you hope, healing and strength for your day.  I want you to know that above all, the greatest gift we have in prayer is that we get God.  All of Him.  He is enough.  However, isn’t it great that we have a Father that blesses us with more than just His presence.  His presence is enough but loves us enough to see us through our dark days and bless us in the good days.  Perhaps today, you might discover the delight of prayer.  Remember, don’t delay…pray!

Don’t Delay…Pray!


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