In the Sermon on the Mount the giving of the Lord's Prayer is preceded by two severe criticisms of some contemporary practices (Matthew 6:5-8). One criticism ... is of those who indulge in long-winded phrases in their prayers. The other criticism is of those who pray ostentatiously in public, to be observed, and admired, and Jesus in contrast urges that prayer should be in the privacy of a person's own house. Later in the Sermon there is teaching about perseverance and confidence in prayer, 'ask and ye shall receive, seek and ye shall find', teaching which Luke has in another context (Matthew 7:7-12; Luke 11:9-13).

Elsewhere in the synoptic Gospels the most prominent theme of teaching about prayer is the need for perseverance, faith, and unrelenting expectation. One incidence of this teaching comes in Mark. It is after the incident of the cursing of the fig tree, when the disciples are astonished at what has happened and Jesus says to them

22 So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. 23 For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. 24 Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. 25 “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. 26 But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”

Here too the call for faith and perseverance in prayer is linked with the insistence upon a forgiving spirit. ... in the synoptic tradition there are these powerful injunctions to make requests in prayer, and as powerful promises that prayer will be answered. But in the context of the Kingdom and the Will of the Father is present. So the tension between what the Christian disciple may desire and what lies within God's purpose is a tension ever continuing, and we may find an answer in the teaching of the fourth Gospel about praying "in the name of Jesus."

Be Still and Know

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