Lesson 2 – Speaking to God

Speaking to God

Lesson Aim:  To show that prayers are answered by God when we pray to Him as a Person and with the proper motive.

Scripture:  Matthew 6:5-15.


No one appreciates a hypocrite.  This word was used fifteen times by the Lord in Matthew’s gospel.  The Greek word “hupokrites” has been transliterated to our English word “hypocrite.”  The root meaning is “one who speaks.”  We are told the Greek and Roman “stage-actors” would wear a mask with some mechanical instrument in order to give more force to their voices for large audiences.   From this we get the idea of a person speaking with his or her real face covered.  The opposite term for the human characteristic of “hypocrite” is “integrity.”  Integrity means “what we say we will do tomorrow is what we do tomorrow.”  When people speak the truth, they tell the facts about what happened before they speak; when people speak with integrity they speak of what they plan to make happen in the future.  Everybody, including God, appreciates this characteristic in people.  Who would be so bold to speak to God with anything but a “single eye?”

The same things can be said about prayer as was said about almsgiving in respect to motive.  Please re-read the introduction and lesson one.  Very few people who pray would consciously pray only to impress.  However, this does not remove the strong possibility that many do pray because they feel they are expected to do so.  Here as in almsgiving, we have two big bewares.  Beware of praying to be seen of men.  Beware of praying with meaningless repetition.  We have already discussed the first of these wrong motives in lesson one on almsgiving.  The same application can be made here.  In either case, God must be our only audience if we will be rewarded by Him.

We want to keep in mind the two audiences Jesus had in His mind while He gave our text.  His original audience could relate to His speech about the hypocrites who babbled on in the synagogues “to be seen of men.”  Several years later, Matthew wrote down Jesus’ teaching in our text for the benefit of the church.  Evidently, Jesus expected hypocrisy would be a continuing character weakness in the church.  Some of the first Christians would talk to God and utter words “to be seen of men.”  Some would “babble on” about the same things week after week.    Of course, they would always end their prayer with “Lord forgive us for being hypocrites and babblers.”

The prayer Jesus offered in our text would have been received better by the church than by His original audience because they had a physical concept of how the kingdom of God would come to them.  They did not understand how “the kingdom of God is within you.”  Luke 17:21.  Many Christians today do not possess a much clearer concept of the kingdom than Jesus’ original audience.  Some “Christian religious” people think Jesus will establish God’s kingdom when He comes again.  Others appear to think there is one kingdom of God over which Solomon and David ruled and another kingdom of God Jesus rules over.  Others have the narrow view that the kingdom of God and the church of Christ are one and the same.  It may help us all to review our concept of God’s kingdom with Jesus as the present king before we attempt to pray the prayer He taught.


There are a few other theologies we may want to review as we take up our study of Jesus’ teaching about approaching God in prayer.  One is the fact that there are many forms of prayer.  The following is an excerpt from a lesson on “Worship” found in the “Kingdom of God” book written by me.

The English word “pray,” like worship, is translated from several different Greek words in the New Testament.  When we develop a composite definition of prayer from all sources, our definition is as follows:  We beseech God with our wishes, we ask Him to intercede in our tribulations and we pour out our life before Him.  Prayer is an instant avenue of worship which can be entered into at any time and at any place by Christians (I Thess. 5:17).  Even those Christians who have fallen away can instantly beseech God to forgive them of their sins if they are repentant (Acts 8:22).  Worship in prayer demands the recognition of a power greater than ourselves. 

One type of prayer Christians most often pray is to ask God for help.  This type of prayer should be divided into three parts: analyzation, asking and projection.  We must analyze our lives before God Almighty, then we ask Him to “fill in the gaps” for us where we perceive that we need help to achieve a projected goal.  This type of prayer calls upon us to consider our own strengths and weaknesses.  We must determine where we stand at the time of our prayer.  We also determine what we need from God to accomplish our projected goal.  Note that in an asking type prayer, a statement is always included about what we expect to do with what we ask God to do for us.  Our projected achievement is based on our analysis of our own ability – added to what we are asking from God. 

Please read John 17:l-26 and then separate the various phrases under the following three headings:  The part where Jesus analyzed His situation, the part where He asked God to intervene, and the part where He projected what He expected to happen as a result of the other two parts combined.  For instance, in verse one, Jesus analyzed His situation and concluded that “the hour has come.”  What He asked God to do was to “glorify Thy Son.”  His projection as a result of the hour at hand, and God glorifying Him during the “hour,” was “that the Son may glorify Thee (God).”  All of Jesus’ prayer in John chapter seventeen can be classified under these three headings. 

One value of this type of prayer worship to God is found in its power to cause us to evaluate ourselves.  Some people rarely evaluate themselves because they don’t like what they find.  Christians need to look at ourselves now before God looks at us on Judgment Day.  Sinners who do evaluate themselves may find deficiencies which they or their friends cannot overcome.  We who will make a projection before God of what we expect to happen if He does “fill in the gap” for us have a right to ask Him to intercede for us (I John 5:13-15).  Another value of this type of worship is that it builds faith in God who listens and causes things to happen.  We receive help and accomplish goals for God and ourselves.  We never lose heart if we pray without ceasing (Luke 18:1; I Thess. 5:17).

In another type of prayer we tell God about the things that happen in our lives with Him in it.  Please read Acts 4:24-31.  These Christians were praying by telling God a story about what was happening to them in Jerusalem at that time, but they told their story with God in it.  Every parent loves to hear their children tell a story about themselves with the parent included.  God loves to hear His children tell Him the story of our daily lives, but He likes to be a part of the story.  This means we are attuned to God and also our reality while on earth.  Our real world includes the kingdom of God now in time, as well as what is going on here.  This removes the space between our religion and our lives.  The result is a healthy integration of our self and a close fellowship with Deity.  All of our prayers must be straight forward and meaningful.  Jesus said, “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition, as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.”  (Matt. 6:7).  End of excerpt.

Another theology we will want to thoroughly appreciate and have faith in when we approach God in prayer is the Priesthood of Jesus Christ as it functions today on the Melchizedek order.  The following is an excerpt from a lesson entitled “Getting Closer to God” in a book called “Hebrews.” This I also wrote.  All scriptures are found in Hebrews.

As Christians we must feel comfortable in the presence of God in order to enjoy and benefit from our fellowship with Him.  To help us come to God in a bold and comfortable manner the Hebrew author presented Jesus’ priesthood.  Please note the elements of a priesthood: 

(1).  High priest.  (2).  Covenant.  (3).  Sin offering.

Element one.  Jesus was called to be high priest on the Melchizedek order by God, Himself (5:5, 6).  In Hebrews two, verses fourteen through eighteen, we understand Jesus learned to be our faithful and merciful high priest while He was incarnate.  He serves the spiritual descendants of Abraham, the church (2:16; Gal 3:26-29).  The author presented His priesthood as a continuing grace of God to have children in His eternal kingdom (2:10, 11; 11:16; 12:5-10). 

Element two.  God ordered a new covenant through Jesus’ priesthood.  All covenants incorporate laws (conditions) to accomplish the aim of the one who offers the covenant (8:7-13).  Please note that along with the writing of the laws of life on Christians’ hearts and minds, He offers the forgiveness of our sins.  The laws of eternal life cannot be impressed on a “dirty page.”   

Element three.  God’s forgiveness of sins requires a sin offering.  Jesus became the sacrifice for sin before He returned to heaven to take His place at the right hand of God to “make operative” His priesthood.  In his opening statement the author stated, “After he (Jesus) provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.”  (1:3). 

End of Excerpt.

Consequently, before we start talking to God we will want to make sure we recognize the function of the Priesthood of Jesus Christ.  No one can approach God without it (I Cor. 8:6; I Tim. 2:5, 6; Heb. 4:14-16).  Jesus is first of all the High Priest.  He functions as the High Priest.  John said, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin.  But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ.”  I John 2:1.  Therefore, when we are approaching God to seek forgiveness of a specific sin, we need to be aware of the presence of Jesus who has been here on earth in order to qualify to be our advocate (Heb. 2:16-18).

Often our sin involved our relationship with another person.  We should not think of asking God to consider our case before we decide to forgive the other party (Matt. 6:14, 15).  Some people think this is something to “laugh off.”  Jesus is very serious.  In case, we might feel we do not have the right words to state our case in an understandable manner to God, Christians do not need to worry.  The Holy Spirit is also involved in our communication with God (Rom. 8:26, 27).

We can appreciate Jesus’ warning about being two-faced when we talk to God.  Just think, we are standing there in the presence of our Creator from whom our spirits came.  Jesus is there at our sides as our advocate and at the same time He is searching our hearts.  The Holy Spirit is willing and ready to “jump in” if needed.  It is no time for us to start rationalizing and pointing fingers.  We need to approach God with a “single eye” when we have a problem with sin and get it out in front of us and the Godhead.  They all want to help us.

Secondly, let us not confuse Jesus as our High Priest with “Jesus our sacrifice” to God for the sins of the world.  Just as it was in the Levitical priesthood, the high priest and the sacrifice were two different things.  Jesus’ blood as our “sacrifice of atonement” is working for us even as we pray according to the doctrine of justification by faith (Rom. 3:21-26).  We would not be “at peace” in God’s presence without justification (Rom. 5:1).  At the same time when we have a person problem with sin and if we confess this sin, that is, name it, God’s new covenant states that “He will remember it no more.”  Heb. 8:12.  The reward is a clean conscience (Heb. 10:1-3).

As we saw in the “excerpt” and like Paul told Timothy there are different kinds of prayers (I Tim. 2:1).  Jesus’ example of prayer in our text included some different aspects of the varieties of prayers.  He started out by praising the holiness of God.  We don’t necessarily need to ask God for something in every prayer but when we do we will want to follow the approach Jesus used while on earth.

 In an asking prayer, first, we need to clearly explain to God how we see the situation.  Surely God knows what we need before we ask.  This is not the question, the question is do we know what we think we need?  Have we thought it out?  Have we thought about what we will do with what God gives when He answers our prayer?  He wants to hear us “spell it out.”  Do we know if what we are asking for is according to His will?  The Holy Spirit knows.  This kind of prayer may require some deep meditation.  It may even involve “fasting.” We will take fasting up in our next study.

The Apostle John answered a question that many people may wonder about.  Is God really listening?  It is obvious that some people don’t have much awareness that God is really listening because of the way they pray.  John said it like this:

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.  This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  And if we know He hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of Him.  I John 5:13-15 

Yes, there are some conditions for the great privilege of “talking to God.”  The first is that we need to be a Christian – washed and continually justified by our faith in the blood of Jesus.  Secondly, we need to make use of Jesus as our High Priest as one who understands life in the human body.  We need to appreciate the clear communication made available to us by the Holy Spirit in our prayers.  Thirdly, we need to be upfront with God – no babbling in ritualistic noises and no duplicity.


We would recognize a definite problem with a child who related to his parents in meaningless phrases.   If this child only spoke by making use of a half-dozen different phrases to his parents and he kept saying them over and over, what would his problem be?  Without any professional help, most of us would say that he definitely did not relate to them in a parent-child relationship.  In fact, we might conclude that he did not recognize them as persons at all.

When was the last time we counted the number of different phrases we use in our prayers to our Heavenly Father?  Are we using the statements we picked up from others in public prayers?  Is it possible that we learned a few choice phrases perhaps as long as ten years ago and we are still repeating them?  Are we guilty of the same things the Gentiles were when they “babbled” to their idol gods?

What was really wrong with those Gentiles and their worship?  First of all, they had a wrong god.  They had a false god.  Secondly, their god was not a person to them like a father is to a child.   There was no communication between them and their false gods.  When we use vain (empty) repetition in our prayers, it proves that our God is not personal to us.  We really do not look upon Him as our own Heavenly Father.  The problem is weak faith and ignorance of God’s program for us.

Read the prayer Jesus gave to His disciples, Matthew 6:9-13.  Read it over several times and then take each statement one at a time.  Can we look to God as a reality in heaven?  When we look up, what do we see:  the sun, clouds, rain, or do we see the God who made this universe as our Father?  Is His name Holy to us and do we feel at ease in His Holy presence because of His blessings in Christ Jesus?

Jesus continues in His prayer:  “Thy kingdom come Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”   When we make these statements to God and mean what we say we can see that it takes real dedication and faith in God’s will.  Are we ready to let God completely rule in every part of our lives just as He rules in every part of heaven?  It should not be thought that Jesus is condemning the re-stating of certain statements.  It would not matter how many times we ask God to rule in our lives, if we talk to Him as a natural son does to his father.

“Give us this day our daily bread.”  Do we trust God enough to just ask for one day’s bread at a time?  He said, “He would take care of us.”

“And forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.”  This statement was made in verse twelve.  We should also read verses fourteen and fifteen.  We are quick to use Jesus as our sin offering.  Indeed, sometimes that is all we want from Him.  We must also use Him as our instructor.  Here He tells us that before we ask God to forgive us of our sins, we should think about our own attitudes toward others.  We are not ready to come to God for forgiveness of sins until we have forgiven others of their sins and weaknesses.

“And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”  Dear Father please do not let us get caught up in the affairs of this world to the point that we come under the power of the devil.

“For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever.  Amen.”  We can see the power in praying to God like this from the heart.

God knows we need all of these things; however, we need to communicate with our Heavenly Father just as intimately as with our earthly father.  What is the reward God gives to us when we properly pray this way?   One reward is that there is great strength and peace for the mind when we are able to get “in tune” with the Almighty Power who made this universe; especially, when we think of this great power as our Father.

Prayer is more than talk.   Prayer is self-analysis.  When we pray like Jesus taught us to pray, we will be mentally alert in relation to our God, our fellow man, and ourselves.  God will help us in our self-analysis.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What is the motivation for being hypocritical?
  2. What are the two “bewares” Jesus warns us about when are praying?
  3. Name the two audiences Jesus had in mind when He taught about prayer.
  4. List the different types of prayers.
  5. What is the problem Jesus is dealing with when He said not to use meaningless repetition?
  6. What must we come to realize about God before we can pray to Him with meaning?
  7. If God already knows our needs why should we pray to Him?
  8. What are some of the rewards we receive from God when we pray in the proper manner?
  9. What are the three processes evident in Jesus’ prayer of asking?
  10. Give your view of Jesus’ role as High Priest during a Christian’s prayer about a specific sin.
  11. In what sense should we view Jesus as High Priest as different from Jesus as our sin offering?
  12. Give your view of the kingdom of God.

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