The Sermon on the Mount: Day 16

How to Pray

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Today's Text: Matthew 6:5-8, 2 Kings 4:32-37, Isaiah 26:20, Matthew 26:36-46, Mark 1:35-38, Luke 18:9-14

Scripture Reading: Matthew 6:5-8, 2 Kings 4:32-37, Isaiah 26:20, Matthew 26:36-46, Mark 1:35-38, Luke 18:9-14

My copy of C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe smells like hot asphalt and recess kickball. With grass stains and dog-eared pages, the book was on my third grade required reading list, but my time spent feasting on the adventures of Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy was anything but forced. I spent every moment I could nose-deep in its chapters, only looking up from the playground outfield if my name was called out (at least twice), or if my face was hit with a ball (just once).

The most tattered and beloved pages of that book are in the beginning chapters—before the lion or the witch are even introduced. It’s the wardrobe that got me. Lucy, the youngest, is the first to wander into her uncle’s neglected spare room and open the wardrobe doors, finding the forest dreamland of Narnia just beyond them. One of my favorite lines is easy to miss, because it’s just before she steps foot into the newly discovered world:

“She did not shut [the wardrobe door] properly because she knew that it is very silly to shut oneself into a wardrobe, even if it is not a magic one.”

We are hesitant to close the door on the world we love, even when an even better one awaits us. Even the most adventurous child is hesitant to explore in secret. But in teaching us how to pray, Jesus says to “go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret” (Matthew 6:6). He instructs us to approach the Lord from a secret place, unlike the hypocrites who stand on the street corners yelling for their Father. Isaac left for a field, Christ retreated to a mountain, Peter went to a rooftop.

While this is a great warning against hypocrisy, these actions point us more toward the realm we enter into with prayer than the world we leave behind when we retreat—and it’s way better than Narnia. Prayer is the place where we do our most God-honoring work. Alone with Christ is where we remember that we can trust in Him alone.

It’s not that our Father doesn’t want others to know we’re talking to Him; it’s that He wants us to know who He is apart from others and the distractions of this world. We must intentionally and physically practice that truth that He is always near—we are never alone. If we don’t make a point to to “go away” from the world and pray, we will miss this. If Lucy had stood outside the wardrobe speculating about the possibility of Narnia, she and her siblings would have been left, as the book describes, “always in winter but never Christmas.”

The world is loud and familiar, but it does not see us and know us the way Jesus does. He is better, and He waits to meet with us in the secret places of our hearts that are not secret to Him.

Heavenly Father, we confess it is difficult to close the door to a noisy world. But You alone know and offer what we really need. Teach us how to pray when we don’t know where to start. Help us to form words that are vulnerable and true, for they bring You glory. Amen.

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  • Kristen Clegs

    For those of you who struggle to discipline yourself to pray, what do you do to help yourself? I love studying God’s Word and digging deep into passages, contexts, cultural clues, etc, but I have always struggled to just talk to my Father. Maybe it’s because verbal communication has never been my strength, but I want to improve in this weakness….

    • J

      Hey Kristen, I’m the same way. I especially get nervous about having to pray out loud in groups. For me, I just pray/talk to Him in the car. When I make it more like a conversation, I find I have more things to say. But I do need to work on listening to Him and being still before Him, too.

  • In the secret of His presence
    How my soul delights to hide!
    Oh, how precious are the lessons
    Which I learn at Jesus’ side!
    Earthly cares can never vex me,
    Neither trials lay me low;
    For when Satan comes to tempt me,
    To the secret place I go.
    2
    When my soul is faint and thirsty,
    ’Neath the shadow of His wing
    There is cool and pleasant shelter,
    And a fresh and crystal spring;
    And my Savior rests beside me,
    As we hold communion sweet;
    If I tried, I could not utter
    What He says when thus we meet.
    3
    Only this I know: I tell Him
    All my doubts and griefs and fears;
    Oh, how patiently He listens!
    And my drooping soul He cheers;
    Do you think He ne’er reproves me?
    What a false friend He would be,
    If He never, never told me
    Of the sins which He must see.
    4
    Would you like to know that sweetness
    Of the secret of the Lord?
    Go and hide beneath His shadow;
    This shall then be your reward;
    And whene’er you leave the silence
    Of that happy meeting-place,
    By the Spirit bear the image
    Of the Master in your face.

  • I needed to read this today. I decided to read the entire story about Elijah and the Shunammite woman’s son in 2 Kings 4. I was intrigued by how the boy’s mother didn’t tell anyone about his death. Instead, she went to Elisha in faith and Elisha prayed. I was reading a blog post about that story and it made a point about how we should “run to the throne, not the phone.” This is something God has continually been trying to teach me. Yesterday was a rough day. A loved one of mine was feeling extremely discouraged and I felt like I didn’t know how to respond. As I was about to go to sleep last night, I felt like calling or messaging someone else about the situation. But instead I felt God saying no – “this is between you and Me.” So I prayed…and although the situation isn’t fixed, I can already see some parts of those prayers being answered. Just as Elisha did, I will continue to shut my door and pray, interceding for this sweet loved one and the many people who need to be covered in prayer. So thankful for this timely reminder of the power that lies in praying to our heavenly Father.

    • Kristi

      Oops! Just realized I wrote Elijah instead of Elisha in my second sentence. I meant to type Elisha.

  • Just wanted to encourage you with a big answer to prayer. In one week my 2 sisters and I in 3 different situations were put in danger and great loss of property. One sister from Hurricaine Henry (water came up to her back door and stopped), One sister from Hurricane Irma (She’s in Naples 1/2 mile from airport with 142 MPH wind recorded) and me from a fire in Washington state (fire over ridge 15 miles away). None of had any damage to us or our property. My brother who has a mobile home in Estero, FL had very minimal damage to it. I’d say that was a miracle!!!

  • On the way to work this morning as I take on a new position I felt the anxiety rising I then turned the radio off and made the decision to just Be Still. Not knowing the words to say because very rarely do I pray for myself…I was just quiet! Wow did I need this today and all the responses…Emmaus retreat (DeColores) so refreshing to see and hear other testimonies and know I am not the only one struggling with these issues. The reassurance of Gods Presence is AMAZING!! God is Good All the Time!
    Blessings and Prayers

  • If we don’t make a point to to “go away” from the world and pray, we will miss this.

  • I learned this prayer after experiencing an Emmaus Walk retreat. The words really speak to me the way in which I want to interact with God.
    Come,Holy Sprit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created and you shall renew the face of the earth. Oh,God, who by the Light of the Holy Spirit did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit I may be truly wise and ever enjoy your consolations in Christ Jesus,my Lord.
    Amen

  • Tochi Heredia

    I am shocked to read this today, it’s as if you SRT gals knew exactly what’s going on in my heart. God’s pursuit of us is shockingly beautiful.

    I have mentioned here before that I’m planning to move from Argentina to the UK. I’ve been taking steps towards this goal for about two years now, but buying my ticket last week made it tangible. I’m leaving in 6 weeks and my anxiety is off the charts.
    I couldn’t stop crying and hyperventilating for the first couple of days, realizing what this means. It means I’m leaving everything I’m familiar with, every comfort behind to go where I believe He’s guiding me. I tried to list the things that I dreaded, and saw that they were all very human worries.
    “Alone with Christ is where we remember that we can trust in Him alone.” In 6 weeks I’m gonna be literally alone with Christ, just me and Him in a distant land.
    I was scared of letting go of my safety, but this morning He reminded me that He only is my refuge, my safe space, my companion everywhere I go. I guess being alone in another country isn’t so terrible if I’m alone with Him.

    • truthseeker

      I have written you and your situation on my prayer wall. I will keep you in prayer before the Lord. I pray that He will grant you peace and comfort in this time of a major life change. Blessings on you.

    • BarbaraH

      Tochi, I am praying that not only will our good God go before you to the UK, hold your hand as you step out into this new adventure, but also that He will provide you with a Christian family when you get there. Prayers of blessing from the UK.

      • Tochi Heredia

        Thank you, Barbara. I have a few aquantainces over there, and a church I’ll be attending.
        I really appreciate your prayers :)

    • aprilinsydney

      Hi Tochi! Well done for taking a big step. I’ve moved countries twice and it’s hard — but you’ll make it :) Can I ask where in England you’re going to be living? I’m from Nottingham (in the East Midlands).

    • Caitlin

      Tochi, I moved from the US to the UK 4 years ago and it felt overwhelming even though it had been my goal for so long. But from the process to now and the bits in between God has showed up in some beautiful and expectant things. Praying that God will be your peace in this move and you would know Him more in this. God is for you! Praying for you!

  • Sheila Winter

    I needed this today, and I just love the beauty of the simplicity with which it was shared. Thank you to the author and to my friend Marie who added me to this group. I look forward to reading more. God bless you

  • All I have to say is I love my quiet time with the Lord❤️ absolutely loved this devotional today

  • I struggle with self esteem at work. I’m a grade two teacher in my 19th year of teaching. Please pray for me. I’m so tired of feeling anxious. I have a hard time getting through the day without tears. Not sure what to do anymore. I’m on meds, I pray, I read, I’ve half heartedly done counselling. Help.

    • Rebecca

      Oh, Renee. I pray that your anxiety would cease and your trust in Him to move in and through you would abound! 19 years in teaching is absolutely amazing and the years of experience and wisdom you have are treasures for any teacher to learn from! He must have been faithful throughout these years and so continue to lean into His presence and purpose for you. I am in my first year back to teaching (1st grade) after an 11 year break and I am completely overwhelmed! I admire your years of teaching and wished I had that to pull from. I know the job itself can be insanity at times, but remember that He is ALWAYS with you and can guide and encourage even the most troubled souls (like us teachers)! Jesus is our great teacher and so continue to be HIS student as you impact your students with HIS love. ❤

    • Katalina

      Praying for you Renee and just remember, God is with you and you were given that job for a reason. You are worthy and I pray that the Lord gives you peace and confidence because He will exalt you in your work place ❤️ just trust in Him.

    • Mamajonk

      Bless you Renee! Teaching is a difficult job no matter what age group. Remembering some of my kids teachers and what a difference they made in their lives. Praying you’ll know and feel how loved and adored you are by not only the children or parents,but more importantly our Lord. He sees you and hears you and holds you tight. Rest in Him.

    • Valerie

      I struggle with that too, It has helped me a lot to pray just before I enter my work-room-place; sometimes I go to the bathroom and pray again and tell the Lord what exactly I’m feeling, I’ve seen his peace and help, I will pray for you.

    • Holly

      Renee, I pray you gain the confidence you seek and the peace of the Father. I pray He guides you to the answers you seek. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

    • Marytony

      Praying for you Renee. Just want to let you know that you are loved, sooooo loved and accepted. I pray that you can lay your cares at the feet of Jesus and find rest in Him.

  • I would appreciate if anyone could please pray for me and my daughter Victoria. I have had to take a stand on something I know is right, and not allow her to do something, when everyone else around us is doing things the worldly way. She is upset and everything is a big mess right now. I know God is there, just can’t see it right now. Please pray for resolution, thank you!

    • Nathalie Yanna

      Heb.12:11. Copy & repeat as many times as you need.!! I will pray for you & your daughter.. I have 3.. I can relate..

    • Katalina

      Amen Michelle! He is with you and I’ll be praying!

  • Prayer has been a good place for me since I realized that it need not be focused by words. Most times, my prayer begins with stillness, eyes closed or open doesn’t matter. I tend to blank my mind to all but the thought of being still for God. Opening my heart and mind for what He places there. May seem weird, but it works. I have found my mind turned to everything from hungry refugees to world leaders to the family up the street to our president to my husband to … even me and my brokenness. Prayer is my quiet place and I am so thankful for it.

  • I want to thank everyone who took the time to pray for me and my friend yesterday. A few hours after I sent that prayer request, I felt my stress slowly start to melt. I stopped taking the situation personally. And this morning, I woke up with a heavy peace. A peace that feels like a heavy blanket. Normally, it would have taken a few days, months, or even a year to achieve peace. But prayer. It fast tracked healing. Please do not be afraid to ask for prayer. When someone takes a little time to go to the secret place in their heart to pray for you, God sees, and both of you receive healing. At least that’s what I believe. So thank you to everyone who prayed. It really helped. Please continue to pray for my friend and her children if you have a moment. And I’ll be praying for you as well. Hope we all feel God giving us a big hug today. Thanks again.

  • churchmouse

    I have no further comment for today. The Scriptures and devotion speak loud and clear. I’m shutting the door and I’m just going to pray. Ssshhhh

  • Praying for the discipline to set time aside just for prayer.

  • I will never forget driving to work one morning and thinking that I needed to get a book on how to pray. My daily prayers just didn’t seem good enough, holy enough, or like they were connecting me to God. I didn’t think I was doing it right. :) I stopped at Walmart on my way home from work that day to pick up a few items and got in line. The very nice gentleman in front of me asked if he could pay for my items. His preacher had been talking about passing blessings on, etc. and he just wanted to do so. I said sure, who am I to stand in the way of a blessing, but I felt extremely guilty bc I didn’t really need the help with the $17 total. I felt as though I were taking a real blessing away from someone else. So I thanked the man profusely and then skulked off to my car in the parking lot. I was almost to my car when I heard a voice so very clearly it could have been coming from someone standing next to me say, “SEE……. I hear you.” I barely made it to the car before the tears came. I wanted to find that man and tell him that it wasn’t the monetary blessing that maybe he was thinking of, it was from a completely different direction. It was God. Telling me I didn’t need to learn to pray, I just needed to do it. No flowery language, no long drawn out wordiness, just simple communication with my Father. I will never forget this as long as I live. Just pray. He’s there, He’s listening, and He knows.

  • this week has been about prayer for me. The sermon this week was about prayer this devo(which is the first one i have read in awhile) I just randomly received a book about prayer. I think God is trying to tell me something… I’ve never been “good” at prayer but reading today being reminded that you don’t need big words or to say a lot I just need to be alone and tell our Heavenly Father exactly precisely what we need is that is encouraging to me. I pray that I will be better at praying to God with my vulnerability not with fancy or an immense amount of words.

  • Karen From Virginia

    It’s 3:00 am. The last 6 days I’ve been awake at this time. It’s very tiring and trying to figure out what to do to break the cycle. Reading about prayer, I’m drawn. Praying being with Jesus, interceding is my favorite part of my life. Filled with His Spirit to pray and to receive. The best. Need you Jesus. Need you deeply and richly. ❤️

    • Emily

      I feel that whenever God wakes me up in the middle of the night, it’s always for intercession. I lay there and ask Him to bring to mind who needs prayer and someone always comes to mind. It’s not usually people that I see regularly either! It can be an old college roommate or a neighbor or friend I haven’t seen in years, but after the names stop coming, and I’m done praying, I’m usually able to go back to sleep. So, next time you lay awake at 3am, ask God who He woke you to pray for.☺️

      • Caitie

        I love this idea! Thanks for sharing!

      • Karen From Virginia

        Yes! It’s the way I’ve seen it. Especially it’s been every morning at 2am. I pray but I am weary for the day.

      • Brenda

        Thanks for sharing.

      • Lana

        This is so good! Thank you, Emily! I too woke up at 3am this morning and I just prayed to go back to sleep lol!!! Your comment feels like divine instruction! Will do that next time.

      • Trisha Adams

        So cool! I do this all the time too! I sometimes follow up with people the next day just to ask how they are doing and check in, and several times it has been confirmed that they were awake in that time and struggling, or wanted to ask for prayer, or felt peace when they hadn’t before, etc. The Spirit is so cool that way. I’m excited to know someone else does this too! You likely have the gift of intercession – have you ever asked God about that?

    • churchmouse

      4am is God’s typical call for me to pray. I don’t know why that time – trust me, it wouldn’t be my first choice! But I have found it to be the dearest hour, the most intimate and the most difficult as well. I have come to appreciate this time together.

  • On Sunday we sang “read your bible, pray every day” in church and I realised that I hadn’t been following this plan after day 1 and hadn’t been spending proper time in prayer either. This whole week is stressful and busy, just like today. So much work to do already (and it’s 7.44) but I took a moment for SRT and I do not regret.

    • Kari

      I’ve been battling with this too! I heard on Christian radio this week “if you’re too busy for God, YOU’RE TOO BUSY!”…. I can’t get this off my mind. And I realized it’s the truth. Like the devotional said, you need to shut the door, turn off the distractions of the world, and spend time with God. I’m completely guilting of multi tasking and “getting my prayers in” while I’m driving or something else. Just because I don’t have time to sit down like that. Praying for us both that we’ll be able to find the time and discipline to sit down from our crazy busy lives and spend time with God. I know it will do us much good in the end!

  • Sometimes prayers feel so powerful and sometimes it feels futile. While I know it is not futile it can still feel that way. When my son was killed in a crash my prayers were very intense and I felt the supernatural love of God with me. In my daily walk my prayers are not that intense and I don’t feel his presence as often. Jesus was suffering greatly because he knew what was ahead. He prayed 3 times very intensely. I can’t imagine facing that kind of death but I realize that even Jesus needed God’s presence and he saught through prayer.

    • Other Karen

      So sorry for your loss! I find I have the same issue. I feel God’s presence in times of crisis, but long to feel His nearness in the daily grind. Sometimes it is so hard just to focus on my prayers (even in a quiet room early in the morning). Turning off the distractions rolling around in the back of my mind is such a challenge! In the past I have used a prayer journal and that has helped me focus my prayers and track answers to prayer. I tried to focus on one or two people or issues to pray for daily and it did help with intensity of those specific prayers.

    • Karen From Virginia

      I’ve learned to be “raw and real” with God. Jesus has always been faithful and loving in those places. He can only heal what we wrestle with Him. Jesus will lead through this very difficult season. With arms open wide.

    • Lana

      Kathy, I am so sorry to hear about your son. I know what you mean. I feel God most strongly in my daily walk prayers when I ask Him to change my heart about something. There’s always things throughout the day I could look at from His perspective. Like when the mailman refused to pick up my mail the other day because I run an online store and had a very busy weekend. At first I got so angry. He IS the mailman. There were 17 small packages. And then I asked God to change my heart, and in my fervent asking, the mailman suddenly changed his mind. So anyway, that’s how I feel God intensely in the daily walk. I hope this help. Just said a prayer for you and your family. Love you lots!

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