Even though my current physical condition may betray me, I played tons of ball growing up leading to a Division 1 college football scholarship. It is important for a competitive athlete and team to do the essential things required to prepare for game time. Often games are won because one team out prepares the other. The first thing good coaches do to prepare for the next game is to rerun last week’s game. The purpose is to not only discuss the good things that happened but more importantly, focus on the poor play so that corrections can be made. Good teams improve during the season by continually correcting poor play.
Jesus was getting ready for His initial, extensive teaching on how to pray in Matthew 6:9-13. Beforehand, He discussed in Matthew 6:5&6 the preparation needed for fruitful prayer. As a good coach, He first exemplifies what poor, ineffective prayer looks like so that it can be corrected. In Matthew 6:5 Jesus teaches, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.” The 1st century Christ-followers were taught that “showtime” prayer is absolutely worthless. Religious leaders at that time hypocritically “demonstrated” how “godly” (notice the small “g”) they were by their prayers. They would look for highly leveraged locations to eloquently pray. These men would stand upright with arms raised above their head expressively and proudly praying. The purpose was to be noticed. Jesus lets all of us know this is not what He wants.
To further prepare for a successful prayer time, Jesus tells Christ-followers what the environment should look like. Matthew 6:6 quotes Jesus, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Jesus pictures a secluded room with the door closed. He intensely desires a quiet private one-on-one intimate conversation with each of us. “Uh…what do I do about my mobile phone when it goes off?” Turn it off! Find a regular daily “go to” quiet place to have a personal discussion with Jesus. This is an essential step in preparation for effective prayer. By the way, in past years before I retired and my schedule was totally crazy, my car became the sanctuary where I met God daily. I would shut off the radio and my phone, stayed in one lane and spent time with Jesus. In fact, on the way to work, I often called my wife and we prayed together about our day especially for our marriage, family and others’ needs. It became a wonderful place leading to a sweet time with the Lord.
In verses 14&15, Jesus states one thing is often discovered that produces poor prayer attempts and must be corrected before prayer can be effective. He tells us that it is essential for us to bring a forgiving heart into the discussion. “14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” If we do not have a forgiving heart, we will not have a fruitful conversation.
To be a good prayer partner with Jesus, you have to prepare well to be effective. This means meeting Him in a quiet place and having a forgiving heart. A person who prepares well and makes corrections along the way will enjoy time with their Savior daily.