by Ron Dunn

Ron Dunn
Matthew 6:5-13

Some time ago a missionary told me of a letter he received from a little girl whose Sunday School class was writing to foreign missionaries as a class project. Evidently their teacher had told them that real live missionaries were very busy and might be unable to answer their letters, for the one he received said simply:

Dear Rev. Smith:
We are praying for you. We are not expecting an answer.
Without realizing it that little girl summed up the prayer life of many Christians: we are praying; we are not expecting an answer. The truth is, most of us aren't surprised when our prayers aren't answered -- and we're often amazed when they are. But the opposite ought to be true. God intended that our prayers be answered. While the Bible admits the fact of unanswered prayer, it never assumes it. Answered prayer should be the rule, not the exception. The Bible knows nothing of prayer for "prayer's sake." When prayer goes unanswered something is wrong.

There is no substitute for effective praying. To fail here is to fail everywhere. Matthew Henry said, "When God intends to bless His people the first thing He does is set them a-praying." And John Wesley declared: "God does nothing but by prayer, and everything with it." This then is our greatest need. The vault of God's blessings will remain locked against us until we learn to use the key of prayer.

It is no small wonder, then, that the disciples said to Jesus, "Lord, teach us to pray." Mark it well: prayer does not come naturally or effortlessly. It must be learned. And it is good news to know that we have the greatest of all Teachers and His desire to teach surpasses by far our desire to learn.

In learning to pray, two problems must be mastered: how to pray and for what to pray. Every problem we encounter in prayer will revolve around these two questions. And both are answered by Jesus in the passage before us. The passage is, of course, part of the S ...

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