The Temptations of Prayer (Matthew 6:5-15, Luke 11:1-13)


Big Idea: To live the Lord’s Prayer, refuse to go through the motions or ever give up.

Purpose: To overcome two of the greatest temptations in prayer.

The past five weeks. we’ve been going through the Lord’s Prayer.

It’s tempting to think that if we put into practice what we’ve been talking about over the past few weeks, then we’ll have arrived. In fact, if we put into practice what we’ve been talking about, we’ll walk straight into two temptations.

We tend to think of sin as we see it in rags and in the gutters of life. We look at a drunkard, poor fellow, and say, there is sin. But that is not the essence of sin. To have a real picture and a true understanding of sin, you must look at some great saint, some unusually devout and devoted man, look at him there on his knees in the very presence of God…Or, to put it in a different form, if you really want to understand something about the nature of Satan and his activities, the thing to do is not to go to the dregs or the gutters of life. If you really want to know something about Satan, go away to that wilderness were our Lord spent forty days and forty nights. That’s the true picture of Satan, where you see him tempting the very Son of God. (Martyn Lloyd-Jones)

The Gospels record two times that Jesus taught his disciples to pray the Lord’s Prayer. Both times, he not only taught the prayer, but he talked about temptations that will hit us when we pray.

This is important because it’s so important for us to pray. It’s just like Satan to spoil something perfectly good!

1. Going through the motions (Matthew 6:5-15)

There have been times when Charlene and I have had to pull things together when going out publicly. The danger is when this becomes the norm. Then you have a relationship for show only.

It’s like some older couples (couple in a restaurant eating together, but completely ignoring one another).

One of the greatest dangers we’ll face in our prayer lives is that we’ll have a prayer life that looks great, but has no substance to it. We’ll go through the motions but our prayer lives will resemble those living rooms where all the furniture is covered in plastic, and nobody is allowed to sit down.

Example: Matthew 6:1, 5-8. They prayed, but they only went through the motions. It was for show.

Verses 6 to 8 tell us how to keep our prayer lives from becoming fake – keep it…

Private – Not that public prayer isn’t allowed; Public prayer is the overflow of private prayer.

Short – Three-year-old Donna, who loved to pray before meals, would sometimes get carried away. Occasionally her pastor father would have to say, “Amen. That’s enough, Donna.”

One Sunday in church, as a lengthy benediction was being pronounced, Donna stood up and declared, “Amen. That’s enough, Daddy!”

“Never use a gallon of words to express a spoonful of thought.”

Simple – example: Lord, I know not what I ought to ask of thee; thou only knowest what I need. … I open my heart to thee. Behold my needs which I know not myself. Smite, or heal; depress me, or raise me up; I adore all thy purposes without knowing them; I am silent; I yield myself to thee; I would have no other desire than to accomplish thy Will. Teach me to pray. Pray thyself in me. Amen.

Meaningful – Fight the idea that if we say things a certain way, God will hear them (“they think they will be heard because of their many words”). It’s better to have a heart without words than words without heart.

Refuse to go through the motions. One of the greatest dangers of religion is that we’ll get religious with our prayers.

2. Giving up (Luke 11:1-13)

The facts: a Palestinian home; family asleep in one room, probably all on one mat. Impossible to get to the door without waking up the whole family. In this situation, nobody would be happy to respond, especially in the middle of the night.

Nevertheless, the man does respond. Why? Hinges on v. 8 – boldness (NIV); importunity (KJV); persistence (NASB), “shameless audacity” (TNIV).

One theory: persistence

A huge Chicago company is one of the world’s largest magazine fulfillment firms. That means they handle subscription mailings by computer. Among other things, they send out renewal and expiration notices.

One day the company’s computer malfunctioned. Soon after, a rancher in Powder Bluff, Colorado, got 9,734 separate mailings informing him that his subscription to National Geographic had expired.

This got the rancher’s attention. He dropped what he was doing and traveled 10 miles to the nearest post office, where he sent in money for a renewal—along with a note that said, “I give up! Send me your magazine!”

Point under this theory: if in human circumstances, one will respond to a request reluctantly if pressed hard enough. Therefore God will answer willingly, and more graciously.

An alternate theory: It’s a matter of honor (shamelessness)

Visitor would have been a guest, not only of the individual and his family, but the whole community. Avoidance of shame. Just as the man in bed would respond so as not to incur shame, God will always do what is honorable and consistent with his character. God will only respond to our petitions with kindness (11-13).

Never give up on prayer. It is not a waste of time; God is always inclined to hear and to answer.

As it is the business of tailors to make clothes and of cobblers to mend shoes, so it is the business of Christians to pray. (Martin Luther)

To clasp hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world. (Karl Barth)

When I thought about this, I realized that Jesus was dealing with the two greatest temptations in any relationship: to go through the motions and to give up.

Haddon Robinson writes:

When our children were small, we played a game. I’d take some coins in my fist. They’d sit on my lap and work to get my fingers open. According to the international rules of finger opening, once the finger was open, it couldn’t be closed again. They would work at it, until they got the pennies in my hand. They would jump down and run away, filled with glee and delight. Just kids. Just a game.
Sometimes when we come to God, we come for the pennies in his hand.
“Lord, I need a passing grade. Help me to study.”
“Lord, I need a job.”
“Lord, my mother is ill.”
We reach for the pennies. When God grants the request, we push the hand away.
More important than the pennies in God’s hand is the hand of God himself. That’s what prayer is about. When you go to God in prayer, the name that should come easily to your lips is Father.
Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash

I'm a grateful husband, father, oupa, and pastor of Grace Fellowship Church Don Mills. I love learning, writing, and encouraging. I'm on a lifelong quest to become a humble, gracious old man.
Toronto, Canada