Skip to main content

Thoughts From Pastor Jeff

Dear Friends,

I don’t usually send out a “thought” from myself, but I decided to do so today. In between series where I preach through books of the Bible – chapter by chapter, and verse by verse – I have occasionally asked my congregation for topics they would like me to address or preach on. Interestingly no one has ever asked me to preach on, “Why do we bother praying if God knows everything we need before we ever ask?” Yet, in conversations I‘ve had with people over the past 35 years, I’ve been asked that question so many times I’ve lost count!

Yet, as I read over Matthew 6:8 this morning, I thought I would give it a shot. If you’ve asked that same question, I hope this helps. As a new believer (back in the early 1980’s) I asked it as well. This is what I’ve come to believe.

FIRST, it helps to remember that these words are spoken in the context of Jesus encouraging His disciples not to pray like the pagans, who, “think they will be heard for their many words.” “Pagans” were people lacking a true knowledge of what God is really like. People whose understanding of God was so small and limited that they believed he needed us to inform him of things he was somehow unaware of, or that He needed us (through our many words) to get his attention so he would come and listen to us.

This affirmation of God’s complete knowledge of everything, therefore, should assure us that in our prayers (unlike the pagan who doesn’t yet know that God knows all things) we are NEVER informing God of something He doesn’t already know. “Do not be like them,” says Jesus. They go on and on and on about what they need, or want, thinking the more times they say it, the more likely they will be to get what they want. Jesus, on the other hand, wants us to know it’s not necessary to do that, “for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” If anything, being assured that the Father is all-knowing helps keep our prayers more simple, straight forward, and to the point. We can keep our requests short and sweet and to the point and know we don’t have to go on and on and on.

It’s the difference between having a boss who knows us, is very attentive to all that is going on with us, and well-aware that we are struggling to get by on our present salary, versus a boss who is distant, distracted, has no clue, and doesn’t really want to know. In the first case we wouldn’t need to go into the office of that boss expressing our need for a raise ten different times, in twenty different ways, hoping through our many continued and varied repetitions of the same request we’d be more likely to get a raise – though that is what I might have to do with the other type of boss who is oblivious and desires to remain so.

SECONDLY, using many words in order to be heard implies that the one praying believes in a busy, distracted, or distant God whose attention we must try to secure through our “many words.” It’s the habit of a person who does not know, or is not aware, that the God of the Bible is actually focused on our needs, and aware of our desires, and attentive to the heart-cry of His people – and that he “hears” our prayers before we pray them! If we know God as he is, we know we don’t have to try and get the attention of a busy, distracted, distant God! For Jesus tells us he is aware of our need before we ever kneel to offer up our requests! In other words, he’s already there waiting for us to come to him and doesn’t need us to make a lot of noise or chatter to get his attention! For as scripture assures us, he is not only all-knowing, he is also everywhere present.

Psalm 139 assures us that God not only “perceives our thoughts from afar” and “knows (before a word is ever on our tongue) exactly what we are going to say (vv. 2 & 4); He is also with us and guides us wherever we go, day or night, while His, “right hand holds us fast” (vv. 9-12). Far from discouraging prayer, these words of Jesus in Matthew 6:8 tell us two of the things we need to know if prayer is to become a regular part of our lives! God knows, God cares, God is always there.

Then LAST, some still ask, why pray if God already knows what we need before we ask? And in a culture that views prayer as a means of acquisition, rather than a means of communion with God, this is inevitable. It’s hard to avoid in a church culture that often views prayer as a means to one end – receiving things from God. In such an environment, we will surely struggle with Jesus’ statement.

But if we view prayer as far more than that – if we see it as a form of intimate dialogue between a child and the Father who wants us to come to him… If we see it as a form of communication between us and the God who loves… If we see it as one of the ways we acknowledge our dependence upon God (and through which he is glorified)…. If we see it for what it is – a pride-crucifying expression of humble reliance on him which should evidence itself in the character of every believer… that changes everything!

Though he is now gone, I loved talking to my father even when I wanted nothing from him. In fact, our conversations were often the best when I wanted nothing but to converse with him. Likewise, though my wife knows I love her (after being together for 39 years!), she still wants me to come to her and tell her so. Even though she knows that’s how I feel before I ever say it, she still wants me to say it! She’s not satisfied with the old, “I told you I loved you when we got married and if anything changes I’ll let you know.” That type of attitude doesn’t make for a close, loving, growing, intimate relationship. Not saying it because I know she knows it, would do nothing to improve the relationship.

The same is true of the person who would stop praying because they know (from Jesus words) that God knows what they need before they ever ask. It would give one cause to ask: Do I see prayer (like pagans) as nothing more than a means of acquiring what I want or need, or do I see prayer as a means of growing deeper (in multiple ways) in my relationship with him and humble reliance upon him?

Just some food for thought, Pastor Jeff


Popular posts from this blog

Thoughts From A.B. Simpson

Dear Friends, This past week as I was preparing my sermon I was reminded of a book I read way back in 1982, called, "The Love Life of the Lord" by A. B. Simpson (1843-1919). Through that book Simpson (who started the "Christian and Missionary Alliance" denomination) helped me learn how to grow in my love for Jesus. Or as John Bunyan (of 'Pilgrim's Progress' fame) would put it, "improve my love to Jesus." Yet, as I went to find that book on my bookshelf, I discovered it was nowhere to be found (like about 100 other books I have loaned to people over the last 35 years and never gotten back). At any rate, I went online, ordered another copy, and with it I also bought a copy of Simpson's 365 Day Devotional entitled, "Days of Heaven on Earth." It's from that devotional that I share today's two short thoughts. The FIRST thought has to do with prayer, why we need prayer, how God blesses prayer

Thoughts From Thomas Wilcox

Dear Friends, Today I send you a “thought” from a booklet (or lengthy 16 page tract from the 1600's!) that literally changed my life. And should you grasp what he says in it, it would change yours also. I had never seen the booklet before, nor even heard of it, until I was taking one of my doctoral classes with the well-known Christian author Jerry Bridges. In our first 3-hour-long class session, he had us read it (in the class), underline all the parts that spoke to us, and then discuss its content with his help and guidance. The problem (at least for me) was that by the time I was done reading it, 80% of the booklet was underlined! It was that good, and that jam-packed with insights and challenges to truly believe the gospel without polluting or distorting it. It was written by Thomas Wilcox (1621-1687) and was originally called, “Honey Out of the Rock” (now re-published by Chapel Library under the title “Christ is All” with a preface by Horatius Bonar). It is (despite the anti

Thoughts From Martin Copenhaver

Dear Friends, This week’s “thought” expresses one of the repeated themes of the New Testament, even though the author uses an Old Testament verse as his starting point. Of course, since the entire Old Testament in some way points forward to Him, and the entire New Testament either points back to Him, or forward to His 2nd coming and eternal reign, it matters little! This selection captures a theme I have spoken on often – the importance of Jesus in our understanding of God. It is by Martin Copenhaver, and comes from his devotional book, “The Gospel in Miniature.” Enjoy. “For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night.” - from Exodus 40:34-38 “In this passage, the presence of God is described as a cloud. That image reminds me of a parishioner’s description of his concept of God as, “a sacred blur.” When we recognize God in Jesus, however, that sacred blur is brought into stark, startling foc