One definition of the word save is “to rescue . . . from danger.”
The salvation of prayer is the process by which prayer is rescued from the danger of seduction.
We decipher from Jesus’ teaching in the context of the Lord’s Prayer three manifestations of the seduction of prayer. As we will see, Jesus not only warns us of pitfalls to avoid. He also provides us with principles to embrace. This same body of teaching contains three lessons that will assure the salvation of prayer.
If we are to properly practice prayer, we must understand:
1. The object of prayer
2. The focus of prayer
3. The effect of prayer
The Object of Prayer
First of all, if our prayers are to be salvaged from seduction, we must understand the object of prayer. The object of prayer refers to the one to whom prayer is addressed. To whom do we pray? Jesus said, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father who is unseen” (Matthew 6:6).
God alone is the object of our prayers.
Everybody knows that prayer is talking to God, but people often have difficulty applying this simple insight to their prayer lives. Rather than prayer being communion with God, prayer is often offered without a proper sense of the presence of God. The result is that prayer becomes either a form of public address or of private monologue.
Prayer as public address is portrayed as the prayer offered by hypocrites who “love to pray standing in the synagogues” (Matthew 6:5). During the local synagogue services, one person would be asked to stand before the congregation and to lead in prayer. The one asked to pray might be moved by the respect given him and by the formality of the occasion to present his prayer as though it were just as much a public address as the teaching of the rabbi to follow. To this situation, Jesus offered a corrective: Pray to God only – not to the people.
We’re all familiar with the parable of the Pharisee and the publican. The Pharisee prayed self-righteously, bragging on his piety and devotion. The publican prayed in humility and repentance, appealing to God’s mercy.
The Bible tells us something interesting about the Pharisee’s prayer. We read that he prayed “about himself” (Luke 18:11). The NIV footnote indicates that this could be made to read that he prayed “to” himself. The Jerusalem Bible actually renders the passage as saying that he “prayed this prayer to himself.”
This Pharisee was not conscious of the presence of a gracious God hearing and receiving his prayer. He was conscious only of himself and his self-righteousness. Therefore, he did not really pray to God. He prayed to himself. His prayer was private monologue.
When we get up from the place of prayer, do we know that God has heard us? Do we know that He has received our prayer? Do we expect to receive His answer to our prayer? If we cannot say “yes” to these questions, then we have prayed without an awareness of the presence of God. Therefore, we have not truly prayed to God. We must learn to wait upon God in prayer until we know His presence.
Then we must pray in childlike faith to the God who is present. Only so can we pray with the right object of prayer.
– After this manner, pray