How Not to Pray

Teach Us To Pray Part 1

How Not To Pray – Matthew 6:5-8

Mosaic Rockford – Dave Spooner – Sept. 2nd, 2018



  • This morning we are starting our new series called “Teach Us To Pray.” The nine-week series, based on the Lord’s Prayer, will go line-by-line to understand the richness and the depth of how Jesus instructed us to pray.
  • This prayer is the best-known and most-memorized prayer of all time in every generation. Most, if not all, of us in this room could recite it by memory, but how many of us truly understand what it means?  And how many of us use it as a model for our own prayers?
  • The goal of this series is for you to know and understand the instructions of Jesus so that your prayers will be powerful and effective, your honor and connectivity with God will be greatly enhanced and you will find greater purpose and satisfaction in your life. You will be deeply impacted and changed. This series is that important.
  • Jesus taught the disciples and followers many things, and they asked Jesus many questions about what he taught. Only one time did they ask Him to teach them something, and it is recorded for us in Luke chapter 11:


Luke 11:1 ESV

Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”


  • They could have asked Him, “teach us to do miracles,” “teach us how to be prosperous,” “teach us how to have a good life,” “teach us to build the church” or “teach us how to have influence” – they did not ask him any of those questions but “teach us how to pray.” Why this question and not the others?  Because they understood the link between Jesus’ prayer life and His power, His teaching, His authority, His character, His insight, His wisdom, His choices, and His whole person.  They asked the right, most important question because it answers all the others.
  • Jesus answered their question and it is recorded in Luke chapter 11. He also gave a fuller teaching on prayer in the sermon on the mount recorded in Matthew chapter 6 (this is the primary text for this series).
  • Before Jesus taught us how to pray, He taught us how NOT to pray which summed up in our two points for today: Do not be like the hypocrites and do no heap up empty phrases. If we pray this way, our prayers do not honor God, and they will not be honored by God – they will not be powerful or effective.


Do not be like the hypocrites


Matt 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.  6 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, you must not be like the hypocrites” . . . What is a hypocrite? How can we avoid praying like one?  In the culture of the day, a hypocrite was an actor, one who engaged in drama, in the theater.  He or she was play-acting.  What they were doing and what they were portraying was not real and was not who they really were, but a role they took on for a performance.  (Chris Hemsworth as “Thor”) . . .
  • What makes you a “hypocrite” is when you are putting on an act to gain the approval and praise of others. A Christian hypocrite is when you are acting as a Christian should act in public portraying an image while the truth of the matter is you are not like that at all when no one is looking. For example: praying and preaching in public when you don’t pray and do your devotions in private. Do you mainly pray when you have an audience to gain recognition? Or do you mainly pray when you have an audience of one because of relationship?  Or acting like you know Christians should act only when other Christians are around.
  • Now if you only pray and demonstrate your Christianity when people are watching, then you will receive your reward from them – perhaps their admiration and respect- but that is all you will receive. (In time you will be shown for who you are). You will not be rewarded by God.  You will not be praised or respected by Him for this.
  • The point of prayer is not to been “seen by others” but to be “seen by God.” This is why the instruction is to “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.” God’s reward is far greater than any reward given by people.
  • Now does that mean that you don’t pray in public? The answer is no!  Of course, you can pray in public and rightly so – we have many recorded prayers in scripture that were given in public – even Jesus prayed in public.  But don’t let that be the only time you pray!  Let that prayer be an outflowing of your private relationship with God.  Not something that you put on for others to see but something that you are all the time. If the only time I pray is in public then I would be a hypocrite, but this is not the case. My public prayer is an outflow of my private prayer and the same should be of us as well.
  • Close the door and pray to your Father for the sole reason of your relationship with Him and for the sole purpose of Him hearing you and rewarding you. Don’t be a hypocrite in your life and in your prayers.


Do not heap up empty phrases


Matt 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.  8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 


  • These are people who are praying. These are “spiritual people” who believe in a supernatural God(s) that can communicate and will hear you.  These also can be who think they are Christian or that are Christians who think that if they use the right phrases, the right prayers or have the right objects then God will hear them.  God will hear you not because of your great prayers but because of the blood of His son! This is why we pray in the name of Jesus – we pray “in His name” God hears you.  Prayer is not a formula of repeated mindless prayers.  (Hail Mary full of grace) or by having certain items in your home you will be blessed.  You don’t need all these things to be heard by God – you come as a child to the father made right with God because of Christ.  You can access God through Christ.  You don’t need to buy things and say things a certain way.  You don’t have to go on and on and on to try to get God to hear you. He does hear you! You don’t need some magic prayer that is better that your prayer and you don’t need to pray some secret formula for God to hear you or that will obligate Him to act!
  • Not that it is bad for us to know and repeat the Lord’s prayer – it is good to memorize things, but it is given as a structure, a guide and as an outline as to how we are to pray. This is the best guide for us. Jesus did not say “pray this prayer” but said “pray in this manner.” We are lazy and pray the Lord’s prayer but don’t pray the Lord’s way.
  • It is like a student memorizing the syllabus for a class and repeating it back but not learning the items on the syllabus. I just can’t imagine Jesus sitting there praying the Lord’s prayer over and over or any apostle praying to Mary or any other saint (we don’t have any evidence of any person in the old or new testament praying to anyone other than God. The people who did this were pagans or idol worshipers. You can’t pray to the saints and you can’t pray to your relatives and have them hear you and answer you. We are always taught to pray to God in the name of Jesus. God can help you, they cannot).
  • You don’t need some magic “anointed” words or items. You need to be in Christ, you need to be honest, you need to acknowledge who God is, you need the Spirit and you need truth.
  • When we pray, it is not like we are informing God of anything that He does not know. He already knows everything, and He already knows what you need (and what you really need). He even knows what you are going to pray for.  So, this then begs the question, then why to we have to pray if God already knows what we need already?
  • We pray to develop our relationship with God. Prayer is the means in which we have communication with God and the means in which God moves and acts.  God does have a plan and He can move and act apart from us, however He says that you don’t have because you don’t ask.  Asking God is acknowledging Him, relating with Him, and seeing our place in the world and in comparison, with Him and aligning ourselves with His will and asking that He will move and act in these situations.  Prayer is the way that we are changed, prayer is the way that we are impowered, and prayer in the way in which God moves and makes things move.  Prayer is the place where we are shaped and where other things are shaped as well.  Prayer is the furnace that powers things and shapes them.
  • God did not give prayer to the people for His benefit but for our benefit.
  • As we get into the Lord’s prayer you will notice that the first part focus is on God, Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Your name by honored, your kingdom come, your will be done.It is about God and His glory and His kingdom and His will.  So often we skip this part and jump to the part with the focus in on us – give us this day, forgive us our sins, lead us not into temptation.  In prayer we are best served to put first things first. This is what Jesus was guiding us in.  God – His name, His kingdom, His will – and putting this first.  If this is the first focal point of your prayer, you will pray differently and relate correctly to God the Father.  It is the right way and best way to pray.



  • Understand how very important prayer was to Jesus – it was a means in which He communicated to His father and how He lived and taught. He taught us how to pray – and we are best served by learning from Him and following His teaching.
  • When you pray, don’t be a hypocrite. Don’t be play acting in front of people so that they will think you are spiritual, connected or holy. Pray not as a public event (even though it is good and okay to do so) but pray as a lifestyle and a continual and constant practice.
  • Don’t think that you have to pray certain prayers in certain ways with certain things with certain people in order for God to hear you. He already knows – and don’t try to manipulate Him.  Pray in the way the Jesus instructed us – pray in Spirit and in truth.
  • I want you to pray – really pray – I want you to think about these things and meditate upon this prayer. Study it and learn it. In your daily life, pray in the manner and frequency that you have not done so before.
  • Prayer