Jesus’ counsel on prayer in Matthew 6:5-8 gives four distinguishing characteristics of how the righteous pray.
- The righteous pray in sincerity. “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” (v. 5). The righteous do not pray to be seen of men but to be heard by God.
- The righteous pray in solitude. “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” (v. 6). The righteous pray to gain God’s ear not human applause. Prayer is not a performance to be evaluated by others; it is an audience in heaven’s throne room to be gained.
- The righteous pray with simplicity. “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen For they think that they will be heard for their many words” (v. 7). The time spent in prayer by the righteous is not evaluated by length but quality. Like the contrast between God’s prophet Elijah (1 Kings 18:36-37) and the prophets of the false god Baal (1 Kings 18:26-29), Jesus’ 66-word model prayer in Matthew 6:9-13 is glaringly simple and short when compared to the absurdly repetitious prayers of the heathen. (This is not to say that His model prayer is some sort of spiritual rabbit’s foot which can be recited by rote and provide some sort of spiritual good luck, as some seek to do today. Rather, it is to emphasize that Jesus teaches simplicity, not meaningless longevity.)
- The righteous pray with security. “Therefore, do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him” (v. 8). The Father to whom you are praying so loves you that He spared not His own Son in providing all the blessings you need to be spiritually victorious. God does not stand between you and what is best for you; He is the source of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17). Therefore, your prayers to Him need to be offered in faith, nothing doubting (James 1:6). If imperfect human fathers know how to give good gifts to their children, how much more your perfect heavenly Father!