Sermon Notes

Pray, not like the hypocrites

Context & Introduction

  • Christians are sinners, chosen by God before the foundation of the earth, to be ransomed from the penalty of sin, to be saved from the wrath of God’s judgment, by the power of God – the Gospel of His Son, Jesus Christ.They are born-again, through the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit who renews their minds and transforms their hearts from God-haters to lovers of the Almighty, and gifts them faith, to believe in God.In short, a Christian is not anyone who is born into a Christian family. He/She is not anyone who professes Jesus to be Lord. No courts of men, or stipulations of any government, no power in hell, or rulers on earth, can make a Christian or become one by self-will.
    A Christian is born of God, and only God makes a Christian.
  • And in our journey through Christ’s famous Sermon on the Mount, the one thing that has constantly been challenged, and most assuredly will continue to challenge us to the end of this great sermon, is our own individual convictions that we are Christians.The one thing that is unquestionably challenged by Jesus in this sermon is, the people’s own assurance of their salvation.In fact, the closing of this sermon in chapter 7, is that famous portion of Scripture where Jesus clearly establishes the fact that “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven.
    Matthew 7:22-2322 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’In v24, Jesus said that – Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.
  • Now, you may be a person who would never even dream of challenging someone else’s assurance in Christ, or on the other hand, you may be a person who doubts if any of the people in this meeting are saved. Either way, what Jesus does in this sermon is a strong wake-up call for you.You see, when Jesus brings such a challenge against a genuine Christian, it will not weaken his faith; it will establish him even more. For that is what a genuine challenge (not a persecutory challenge), that points on to the true standard of Scripture, does. It establishes the genuine, and stumbles the hypocrite.We need to seriously examine Scripture’s evidence of genuine faith. When the Bible says that a Christian is this, and a Christian does this, then we are forced to ask the serious question – is our assurance, a false assurance or a true one?
  • After talking about the truth (the reality) of the Christian life, and of how that life is evidenced in the inward change of the believer (not just his outer piety but his piety of the heart), in Matthew 5, Jesus now focusses, in chapter 6, on the way such a Christian would pursue his life in righteousness.Again, we’re learning much about the substance of our Christian existence. And if we merely sound like a Christian, but are inwardly counterfeit, false, in no way conformed to this standard, then we do not know Christ, and we do not have eternal life.
  • And as I mentioned, here in the beginning of chapter 6, we look at three outworking of the Christian life (in other words, our practice of righteousness), namely in giving, praying and fasting.
    We looked at giving last week, and today we look at prayer.


  • The devil hates the sermon that I’m about to preach to you. He hates all my sermons, but this one in particular, he hates above all. And I’m afraid he’s hard bent on distorting our minds today. He does not want us to understand Mathew 6:5-15. He has some of our minds under strain of sin and guilt, under bondage of ignorance and levity, probably even under the grave mistrust in false assurance of your salvation.
  • Therefore, my prayer is singular. My aim is clear. My path is unmistakable. My purpose on this Sunday morning has been set before me by God. Yes, the God of Moses, who sent the pestilence and plague, who parted the seas, who rained food, and taught His people His ways. That same God has tasked me this day by the authority of divine Scripture, to strike this sword of truth upon the chains over your souls.I have no strength or wisdom in my flesh, and so in faith and prayer and supplication, I will swing the sword of God’s word today, and believe; believe that the Spirt of God will set His children free.  
  • Prayer! The forgotten skill of Christendom! The lost definition in a hypocritical world! The one practice of the Christian that the devil, I believe, hates the most! 


  • What is prayer? We would say that prayer is talking to God.
    I guess we can all agree on that, especially considering the fact that prayer is always used in Scripture to make reference to our communication to God.
    Now, John Piper would say that we need to clarify that definition by changing it to “intentionally conveying a message to God”.

    • The two reasons he gives for this is very helpful.
      1) In Romans 8:26, we read – 2Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
      Since “talking” involves words, but here we see prayer prevail in the absence of words. So, prayer is intentionally conveying a message to God.2) John Piper refuses to define prayer as communication with God because that suggests that prayer involves God talking to us which is not true. Nowhere in Scripture is God’s speaking to us every considered as prayer. Prayer is entirely our communication to God.
    • So, prayer is intentionally conveying a message to God.
      Now, the question of “what message?” Or “what kind of message?”, will lead us into a discussion on the different kinds of prayer. And we will do this in the weeks to come, for I am resolved to preach on prayer with a thorough stroke of the brush, in order that we understand the weight and power of this divine privilege and ordained obedience.
  • Now, what I want to do today is to attempt to unveil your minds to this miraculous concept of prayer. And I want to do so from this text in Matthew 6. I want to introduce you to prayer, and its rightful place in the Christian’s life, and I want to show you how the fleshly mind can never get this right.
  • Therefore, let us pick up from verse 5 of Matthew 6 – “And when you pray,
    • To paraphrase, And when you intentionally convey a message to God,
    • Knowledge defines our worship and prayer
      • Travel to any part of the world, to the remotest places on the face the earth, even to places where tribes live in primitive cultures, you will find worshipers. Wherever you go, however you look, you will find that no human being exists, who does not worship.This is because we are designed by God as creatures of worship.
        Isaiah 43:21The people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise.
        Psalm 95:6Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
        Revelation 15:4 – Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.”
        Philippians 2:9-11 (memorise)Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
      • Now, why I begin with worship, is because prayer is always defined by worship. We always worship God as we understand and believe Him to be. Our knowledge of God always anchors our worship. And therefore, how we intentionally convey a message to this God (our prayer), depends on what we believe about this God.If God were to be someone who said, “I hate prayers”, then we’d be insulting him by praying. In the same way, if God were opposed to us interceding for others, then we’d not pray for others. So, do you see that our definition, and out pattern of prayer are inevitably a result of our understanding of who God is. Is He a God who is far away up in the heavens that we must shout as loud as we can in order for Him to hear us, or is He a God near us that we need only whisper and He hears us?Everything that you know about prayer can be traced back to what you believe about God.
    • Knowledge of the Living God reveals the miracle of prayer
      • And therein, we find the glory of this task we call prayer. If you put yourself in the context of passages like Ezekiel 1, or Isaiah 6, or Exodus 19&20, or Revelation 19, you will be shocked by such an invitation as prayer.
        Revelation 20:1111 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them.[example of having an audience with a famous person]When we consider the glory of the Living God, we are undone, and against such divine display, the question is, how does one so tiny and inconsequential as ourselves, dare to speak anything to God.
        Psalm 8:3-4 –
        When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?
      • Beloved, the Lord, your God listens to your prayers.
        1 John 5:14 –
        14 And this is hthe confidence that we have toward him, that iif we ask anything according to his will he hears us.
        Ephesians 6:1818 praying yat all times zin the Spirit, awith all prayer and supplication. To that end, bkeep alert with all perseverance, making csupplication for all the saints,
        Matthew 26:4141 qWatch and upray that you vmay not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
    • The standards of prayer
      • And yet the glory of this phrase by Jesus is that He does not say if, but when we pray. 
      • If our prayer is defined by our knowledge of God, and if the true knowledge of God reveals the wonder of us ever being given such a privilege as prayer, then we also must not be surprised that God has certain standards for our prayer.Now, this might come as an offense to some of you because you believe that prayer has no constraints – It’s a free speech unto God. We don’t need to be worried about what we say or how we say it. God understands.
        If that is you, I understand your sentiment, but do you see that what you just said is your standard for prayer.
        Remember, the pattern of our prayer is always shaped by what we believe about God. So, the less we know about God, the less we pray as we ought. The more we know about Him, the more we pray as we ought.
      • And so, the first standard of Christian prayer is when, and not if. Prayer is an essential practice of righteousness in the Christian life. Those who are of God, will pray.
  • “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.
    • We see the same worldly pattern of prayer here. Prayers with standards that do not glorify God or please Him. Hypocritical prayer.
    • Stop acting (the greek meaning of the word hypocrite) like you’re praying! Stop wearing the mask of piety, and be truly pious! 
    • Some of us love being given the opportunity to pray, not because we love talking to God, but because we love to make people hear our prayer.
      [the prayer competition]
    • They receive the earthly and futile reward of people’s praise, but are not rewarded by their Father in heaven. 
  • But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
    • The true sign of a hypocritical prayer-life is that you are praying in public (corporately, whether in family prayer or personal prayer), but have no personal prayer.
    • Do you see how Jesus encourages personal prayer over corporate prayer? Now, we will see in detail in the coming weeks of the power and need for corporate prayer. However, the priority is clear here beloved. Your corporate prayer is always an outflow of your personal prayer, not the other way around.
    • In secret, hidden, away from all eyes in this world, just you and your Master. What the Master sees, He will reward.
  • “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
    • The irreverent babble of the ungodly is not prayer.
      The Gentiles believed that their gods would hear them more if they repeated their names out loud. So much of contemporary Christian music is such a mindless mantric repetition of phrases to allure the human conscience into a mystical experience, and God is simply not pleased by such worship or prayer.
    • Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. So don’t play around with your words, or try to convince God into falling in line with your thinking. Come before the Lord honestly, and speak believing that He hears every word.


  • Therefore, prayer is intentionally conveying a message to God. It is a divine privilege, and a miraculous task gifted to mankind. In the coming weeks, we will dive deeper into the standards of prayer, the different types of prayer, and specifically talk about how we must pray.
  • But for now, let me leave you with this thought. Do you know how we, inconsequential and puny human beings, can dare approach the throne of God? Because of the cross of Jesus Christ.We pray boldly, only in Christ. For covered in His righteousness, the Father sees us not for condemnation but pleasure. We walk into our prayer rooms on the shoulders of Christ. His cross was the cost of our freedom to prayer.I often quote a pastor who said that Christ was more willing to go to the cross than Christians are willing to go to church. But I tell you today that the condition is much worse. Christ was more willing to go to the cross than Christians are willing to go on their knees and pray.
  • Are you a Christian? Do you pray? These are vital questions in the life of a believer in Christ.
Michael Teddy Fernandez

Author Michael Teddy Fernandez

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