November 21, 2006

Prayers From the Heart

Matthew 6:5-15

"When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen." Matthew 6:6


Some years ago I called on a family with several young children. They lived in a small home. A child answered at the door, and I asked if I could speak to one of the parents. "No," the child said, "my dad is not home, and Mom is in her prayer room." Later I learned that this mother spent time every morning in prayer and was not to be disturbed. I also found out that since there wasn't much room in the house, the mother's "prayer room" was a space behind the piano. When mom was behind the piano, the children knew she was praying and shouldn't be interrupted.

In our reading for today, the Lord is not speaking against public prayer. As a preacher, I offer many public prayers. When I do that, I often need to remind myself that the audience is not the people who hear the prayer; the audience is God.

Often, though, the best setting for intimate prayer with God is when you are alone. When you are alone with God, there are fewer distractions. There is no one to impress, no one to hear whether you use the "right" words. The only one with you is God as you pour out your heart, saying that you love him, need him, and want to serve him. Jesus is saying that our prayers with God must come from the heart. For that is what God wants: our heart.

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of prayer. Teach us to pray faithfully, making space in our busy, noisy world to pour out our hearts and listen to you. In Jesus' name, Amen.

About the author — Jerry Hoytema

Pastor Jerry Hoytema is a retired minister living in Ontario. In his retirement he has served several churches as an interim pastor. He and his wife, Winnie, have four children and 13 grandchildren.

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