Both the righteous and the unrighteous pray. The Pharisee and the tax-collector both went up to the temple to pray in Luke 18:10. Both Jesus and the hypocrites of His day prayed.
As Jesus plainly intimates in Matthew 6:5-8, not every prayer is attended to by God in the same way: “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore, do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.”
Note these three Do’s of prayer enunciated by Jesus in this portion of His sermon on righteousness:
- Do pray. Communing with God in prayer is not for the spiritually elite; it is for every child of God. Mark how vigorously Jesus expresses this essential truth in verse 6—“when (not “if”) you pray”; “you…you…your…you…your…your…your…you”; “pray to Your Father” is an imperative, not a suggestion. Righteous people learn to pray (Luke 11:1); they learn to pray by carefully listening to Jesus’ instruction and then doing it. Praying by proxy is impossible.
- Do pray to be heard by God. Prayer is not a public performance to be critiqued by others. It is a child communicating with His Father in heaven. Ultimately, every prayer has an audience of One. Pray so that your Audience hears and answers you.
- Do pray with confidence. You do not pray because God is ignorant, and you must inform Him. You do not pray because God is reluctant, and you must persuade Him. You pray because God “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20), and you believe it. Coming to God’s throne of grace with boldness is taught in Scripture (Hebrews 4:16); therefore, praying with confidence is expected.
The righteous “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).