© Rosemary Bardsley 2022

The media is constantly reminding us that all is not right with the world. We are constantly hearing and seeing on our various screens evidence of devastation, disillusionment, darkness, dread and despair. Whether these are 'natural disastors' or suffering that results from human hatred and violence, we are confronted with situations that drive us, if we are unbelievers, to challenge the very idea that there is a God, and that he is a God of love. Or, that drive us to our knees in prayer if we are believers who know that God is love, and who know that this God of love commands that we love one another.

In Matthew 6 Jesus instructs us both how not to pray and how to pray.


A. HOW NOT TO PRAY [Matthew 6:5-8]

Not play-acting – not acting a part [not like the hypocrites]

Not to be seen by others – not for show

Not to gain the ‘reward’ of being considered good etc or meriting the approval of others, like the Pharisee in the temple – reading out his religious résumé [Luke 18:9 - 14]

Not babbling repetitively on and on [compare Elijah and the priests of Baal]

Not thinking that our many words will make God hear us

Not thinking God does not know … …


Satan’s accusation: Job’s love for God is just ‘cupboard love’ – just an outward show to maintain outward blessings – without integrity – just take away the blessings and bring on devastation, darkness and despair and Job’s love for God will disappear quicker than a morning mist. But Job persevered in both faith and prayer, as we will see below.


B. HOW TO PRAY [Matthew 6:9-13]



Even in the darkness … even in the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23).

Knowing God is ‘our Father’ – the One who loves us …

‘How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that is did not know him. Dear friends, now are we the children of God …’ [1 John 3:1,2]

Job - ‘Oh for the days when I was in my prime, then God’s intimate friendship blessed my house, when the Almighty was still with me … [29:4,5]

‘We love, because he first loved us’ [1 John 4:19]

Love perseveres in prayer because it knows that God’s love is unlimited.

Knowing that God is ‘in heaven’

‘Our God is in heaven, he does whatever pleases him’ [Psalm 115:3]


‘His wisdom is profound, his power is vast,
Who has resisted him and come out unscathed?
He moves mountains without their knowing it and overturns them in his anger.
He shakes the earth from its place and makes its pillars tremble.
He speaks to the sun and it does not shine; he seals off the light of the stars..
He alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea.
He is the Maker of the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the constellations of the south.
He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.
When he passes me, I cannot see him; when he goes by, I cannot perceive him.
If he snatches away, who can stop him?
Who can say to him, ‘What are you doing?’ [Job 9:4-12]

And yet it is precisely because God is this all-powerful sovereign God that Job still cries out to him. It is this sovereignty of God that is the only rational basis for prayer, the only valid reason to keep on praying.

Love perseveres in prayer because it knows that only the Sovereign God has the power and the authority to do anything in response.


Desiring God’s honour – ‘hallowed by thy name’

‘The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised’ [Job 1:21]

Oh, that I might have my request,
that God would grant what I hope for,
that God would be willing to crush me,
to let loose his hand an cut me off!
Then I would still have this consolation – my joy in unrelenting pain –
that I had not denied the words of the Holy One. [Job 6:8-10]


Desiring God’s kingdom … [your kingdom come]

‘I know that my Redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been destroyed
yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes
– I, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!’ [Job 19:25-27]

‘… Jesus … who, for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame’ [Hebrews 12:2]


Desiring God’s will … [your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’

‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, bat as you will. … If it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.’ [Matthew 26:39,42].

‘I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. … the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves … groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. … the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express … the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.’ [Romans 8:18-27]

‘ If I have …. I would have been unfaithful to God on high’ [Job 31:24-28]



Desiring the physical well-being of others‘: Give us today our daily bread’


‘I rescued the poor who cried for help,
and the fatherless who had none to assist him.

… I was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame.
I was a father to the needy; I took up the case of the stranger.
I broke the fangs of the wicked and snatched the victims from their teeth.’

‘Did not he who made me in the womb make them?
Did not the same one form us both within our mothers?’ [31:15]

Secure in the knowledge of God’s love and mercy: ‘Forgive us our sins’

‘Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord;
O Lord, hear my voice, be attentive to my cry for mercy.
If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins,
O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.
My soul waits for the Lord,
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.’ [Psalm 130:1-6]

‘Would he oppose me with his great power?
No, he would not press charges against me.’ [Job 23:6]

‘You will call and I will answer you;
you will long for the creature your hands have made.
Surely then you will count my steps
but not keep track of my sin.
My offences will be sealed up in a bag;
you will cover over my sin.’ [Job 14:15-17]

‘Even now my witness is in heaven;
my advocate is on high.
My intercessor is my friend
as my eyes pour out tears to God;
on behalf of a man he pleads with God
as a man pleads for his friend.’ [Job 16:19-21]

‘Give me, O God, the pledge you demand.
Who else will put up security for me?’ [Job 17:3]


Desiring the spiritual well-being of others: ‘as we forgive those who sin against us’

‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ [Luke 23:34]

‘Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.’ [Ephesians 4:32]

‘Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ’ [Galatians 6:1-2]

‘So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly.’ [Job 42:8]

Love perseveres in loving others with the same love that God has for us.


Desiring deliverance from pressure [lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one’]

Jesus delivered people:

He calmed the raging storm and saved the disciples
He healed the sick
He fed the hungry
He delivered the oppressed
He raised the dead

He did not see interference and intervention in evil as an action opposed to the will of God.

Rather, he did all he could to undo the suffering and the pressures that are in this world because of Genesis 3.

Love does not give in or give up in the fight against evil, in resisting the pressures of the evil one. Rather it cries out to God, fully expecting that it is his will for us to endure and to survive.

Love sees that not only is God in sovereign control, but that he is so much in sovereign control, that even those things which are opposed to him he uses in his grand and glorious purpose.

‘He knows the way that I take and when he has tested me I will come forth as gold.’ [Job 23:10]

Jesus and pressures:

‘In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God … should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering …’ [Hebrews 2:10]

‘Although he was a Son, he learned obedience from what he suffered …’
[Hebrews 5:8]

‘Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, … Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart …the Lord disciplines those he loves …’ [Hebrews 12:2-5]

‘Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees …’ [Hebrews 12:12]

Love perseveres under pressure from the evil one, knowing that God is using even these pressures for our good.

Thus Job concluded:

‘I know you can do all things;
no plan of yours can be thwarted. …
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know. …
My ears had heard of you,
but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.’ [Job 42:2-6]

Joseph affirmed to his brothers who had wronged him:

‘You intended it for evil, but God intended it for good …’ [Genesis 50:20]

Love perseveres because the God it loves is the mighty deliverer:

Psalm 18:1-2

My strength
My rock
My fortress
My deliverer
My shield
The horn of my salvation
My stronghold

Worthy of praise – worthy of love – worthy of persevering in prayer and in faith no matter what.