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The Rev. David W. Hall (PhD, Whitefield Theological Seminary) is married to Ann, and they are parents of three grown children. He has served as the Senior Pastor of Midway Presbyterian Church (PCA) since 2003. After completion of his undergraduate studies, Pastor Hall studied at Swiss L’Abri and then enrolled at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, graduating in 1980. In addition to pastoring, David Hall is the author or editor of over 20 books and numerous essays.

Article by David Hall

The Doctrine of God Affects the Practice of Prayer

April 23, 2015 •

Matthew 6:6-8

Think you can live without doctrine? Try that with prayer. Far from being an obstacle to godly living, doctrine helps. Specifically, when we pray we should be clear to WHOM we’re praying. For example, if you think of God as a syrupy and sentimental you might pray that your feelings be changed or charged.

Or if you think of him as a Drill Instructor you would pray that he give you endurance or meet you for Boot Camp early in the morning.

Or if God were only the Great Watchmaker, who wound up the universe but never again intervened, wouldn’t you be discouraged from praying or reaching out?

Or if God is presumed to be Allah, would you not live and worship differently?

In this teaching by our Lord in Matthew 6, several attributes of God are depicted that are key.

The true believer must be motivated in prayer by the heavenly Father’s goodness and care.
We see this at the end of v. 6 and also in verse 8. “Your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. So do not be like them for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Here, Jesus ties our prayer directions to our Lord’s character and care for his children.

There are many scriptural incentives for prayer. However, the Lord Jesus reminds us of several of the motivations or reasons that God gives us to come to him in prayer. They revolve around the Fatherhood of God and his character.

The first of those reasons is because God the Father knows everything. Notice the phrase, ‘your Father sees in secret,’ and then in verse 8 again, the phrase, ‘for your Father knows what you need.’

The first reason that the Lord gives us to go to the Father in prayer, is that God knows everything his children need. One may pause and ponder, “if God already knows everything that I need, why should I go to him in prayer?” That is the way we normally ask that question. The biblical answer is that since God already knows all things—and perfectly so—thus, I am animated and motivated; God’s attributes affect my prayer attitudes.

God’s knowledge extends even to the small matters of life, and that truism moves me both downward to my knees and also upward, knowing the sovereignty and majesty of God’s character, which undergirds prayer. Knowing God as Father spurs our prayer life on; it gives us assurance and comfort. No better foundation for prayer could be laid.

The next thing that the Lord Jesus gives us here is God’s goodness. He reminds us that God ap-proves and rewards his children. Notice again the words of v 6. “Your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward.” The Father is the one who rewards. Some folks have made themselves allergic to any notion of reward (cf. Heb. 11:6 though which ties that to the definition of faith itself). While it is wise to avoid viewing salvation as a reward, prayer—noting that it is carried out by sinful people—may be more consistent if we see it tied to God working.

Jesus’ Father rewards. God’s fatherly goodness is a motivation for us to go to him. Understanding this aspect of God energizes our prayer life. We gain a sense that God cares for us, for our children, for his church, and for those in the world who are called by his name. Knowing God as Good and as the Divine Rewarder may help you recover a vital prayer life.

And finally we are motivated because of God’s providence. He abundantly provides for his children, Jesus teaches here. It is God who provides. And he provides better than we are able to provide and better than we are able to conceive providing. And as our Father!

These THREE:

  • God’s fatherly omniscience, his knowing everything;
  • God’s fatherly goodness, his goodness in provisions for his people;
  • God’s fatherly providence, his rich provision for his people . . , are BASES for prayer!

These are all reasons to go the Lord in prayer. The Lord Jesus knows that the fallen world in which we live in, often keeps us back from God in prayer. We doubt. We doubt the goodness of God. We doubt his concern with the ticky little matters that we bring to him, and yet the heavenly Father is saying, “Bring them to Me. Bring them to Me. I already know about them, and I already care about them, and I care about them more than you do. And I care for them more effectively than you do.”

Thankfully, the Lord does not answer our prayers strictly based on how well they are formed or prayed, but as his Spirit intercedes (Rom. 8:26-27) and improves our prayers.

Do we know the joy of praying to the heavenly Father in that fashion? Do we know his character because we are united to him? Do we long to take things to the Lord in prayer? Do we know he rewards and he provides? Jesus knew those things; and taught the Jesus Followers to pray in light of those. Yes, The Doctrine of God Affects the Practice of Prayer!

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