So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.—Matt. 6:8
We do not have to badger or cajole God to ensure that He will hear and answer our prayers or to convince Him that our requests are sincere. Prayer is more for our benefit than God’s, as Luther said, “By our praying … we are instructing ourselves more than we are him.” Our prayers, no matter how eloquent or earnest, can never really inform or persuade God. Our responsibility and privilege is simply to approach Him with sincerity, purpose, and true devotion.
We can share with God all manner of needs, burdens, and heartfelt concerns, even though He already knows everything that’s on our hearts and minds. God delights to hear us and commune with us more than we ever delight to commune with Him. He loved us first and with a greater intensity than we could ever love Him. Our sincere prayer requests allow God the opportunity to more fully reveal all His wonderful attributes to us (cf. John 14:13).
The great evangelist D. L. Moody once felt so filled up and overwhelmed with God’s blessings that he reportedly prayed, “God, stop.” Potentially, every faithful believer today could have Moody’s response to God’s goodness. The Lord answers us in better ways than we want or expect—but He always answers.
|The fact that God “knows what you need before you ask Him” can easily be construed into a rationalization for praying less. What is it about this astounding reality, however, that should actually inspire us to pray more? How does it reorient us to the true meaning of relationship with God?|
True Content: Sincere Requests
Therefore do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need, before you ask Him. (6:8)
God does not have to be badgered and cajoled. Our Father knows what [we] need, before [we] ask Him. Martin Luther said, “By our praying … we are instructing ourselves more than we are him.” The purpose of prayer is not to inform or persuade God, but to come before Him sincerely, purposely, consciously, and devotedly (John Stott, Christian Counter-Culture: The Message of the Sermon on the Mount [Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1978], p. 145).
Prayer is sharing the needs, burdens, and hunger of our hearts before our heavenly Father, who already knows what [we] need but who wants us to ask Him. He wants to hear us, He wants to commune with us, more than we could ever want to commune with Him-because His love for us is so much greater than our love for Him. Prayer is our giving God the opportunity to manifest His power, majesty, love, and providence (cf. John 14:13).
To pray rightly is to pray with a devout heart and with pure motives. It is to pray with single attention to God rather than to other men. And it is to pray with sincere confidence that our heavenly Father both hears and answers every request made to Him in faith. He always repays our sincere devotion with gracious response. If our request is sincere but not according to His will, He will answer in a way better than we want or expect. But He will always answer.
It is reported that D. L. Moody once felt so surfeited with God’s blessings that he prayed, “God, stop.” That is what God will do with every faithful believer who comes to Him as an expectant child to his father-smother him in more blessings than can be counted or named.
- Do not be like them therefore, for your Father knows what you need before you (even) ask him. What Jesus means is, “You must not approach your Father with the idea that he is uninformed, totally unaware of your needs, so that you have to explain to him in every detail just what your (or: your) situation happens to be. On the contrary, before you even begin to pray, your Father already knows your need.”
Some might object, “Then, why pray at all?” The objector, however, misses the point. Jesus was not condemning the outpouring of the heart to God, not even when of necessity such an outpouring contains a brief statement of certain facts already known to the Lord (see, for example, many of the Psalms). In fact, it is just because an earthly father or mother understands a child so thoroughly and knows its needs better than any stranger does, that the child will go with his needs to him and/or to her, which is exactly what loving parents want him to do. So, far more so, it is also with the heavenly Father (Ps. 81:10; Matt. 7:7, 8; John 15:7; Heb. 4:14–16; James 4:2). What Christ condemns is the spirit of fear and distrust, which causes pagans, who recognize no heavenly Father, to babble on and on, in the belief that otherwise their gods will not be thoroughly informed nor sufficiently placated to grant the requests.
6:8 Since our Father knows the things we have need of, even before we ask Him, then it is reasonable to ask, “Why pray at all?” The reason is that, in prayer, we acknowledge our need and dependence on Him. It is the basis of our communicating with God. Also God does things in answer to prayer that He would not have done otherwise (Jas. 4:2d).
 MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 143). Chicago: Moody Publishers.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (pp. 369–370). Chicago: Moody Press.
 Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew (Vol. 9, p. 324). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1224). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.