This blog post is part of a series of posts that will explore the Atonement by studying Christ’s life in the New Testament. If you want to find the assignments, you can download my eBooks for Matthew, Mark, and Luke. (John coming soon.)
The Atonement and Your Personal Relationship with Christ – Assignment for Matthew 6
“1. In Matthew 6, Christ is still teaching the Sermon on the Mount that began in chapter 5. Specifically, He is speaking to His apostles and servants in the church. His teachings—His ministry—are a part of His primary purpose and are the set up to His eventual Atonement. See if you can find how the Savior’s teachings in this chapter fit into the work of the Atonement, the Plan of Salvation, and your life, personally.
2. In this chapter, we have examples of how not to do and how to do certain things. What are these things? What does Christ teach about them? Can you think of times when Christ models the way to do what He is teaching? How does His example help you to better understand Christ and your relationship with Him? How does understanding the way He serves, fasts, and prays help you to gain insight on the act of the Atonement?
3. Think of the last major section of this chapter (“Take no thought for your own life…” in verse 25). How did Christ exemplify this? How does the Atonement help us “not to take thought of our own lives”? Is there anything we can do to work out our salvation on our own? What do we rely on in order to receive salvation? How can you apply His example in your own life?” – New Testament Study Companion: Matthew
So – in Matthew 6, Christ continues with the Sermon on the Mount. As I studied this chapter, I found that there are six main categories of advice that He gives (both a do and a do not). He teaches us how to give alms, pray, forgive, fast, manage our finances/materialism, remain loyal to God.
This blog post will focus on prayer.
- Enter into your closet, shut the door, and pray
- Address Heavenly Father, who is Holy
- Pray for His will to be done
- Pray for His kingdom to come to the earth (This includes pryaing for others – even our enemies!
- Ask for assistance in your needs
- Ask for forgiveness
- Ask for strength to do what we were sent here to do
- Don’t pray like a hypocrite
- Don’t pray in front of others, simply to be seen by them
- Don’t use vain repetitions. In other words, don’t mindlessly speak to God, by rote. Make it meaningful!
Prayer, Christ and the Atonement
Christ teaches us about prayer – not only in word here in Matthew 6, but also in deed. We can read of a few examples of His prayers in the New Testament and in the Book of Mormon.
Based on what Christ teaches in Matthew 6, we see that Christ understands the true purpose of prayer: communication with God. I want to break that down further – prayer is our chance to commune with God. When I think of it as communing, the concept of prayer becomes more personal, sacred, and intimate. That is exactly what prayer should be.
Christ actually exemplifies this when He performs the Atonement. In fact, prayer is one of the most important parts of the Atonement.
In Matthew, we read:
“Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.
Christ knew that He was going to perform the Atonement. Prayer was always a crucial part of it. Christ explained what He was doing in the garden as praying.
And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy.
Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.
As the Savior begins to take on the sins of the world, he feels sorrowful and heavy. He felt so stressed by the sins He was taking on, that he felt sorrowful unto death. He asked Peter, James, and John to accompany Him. He sought comfort and camaraderie.
And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.
When the Savior left the presence of the apostles, he fell on his face and prayed. He was overcome with the burden of the Atonement. We read some of what Christ prayed for – that the burden He was chosen to bear could pass from Him. He prayed to be relieved of His trial! Christ’s example shows that it is okay to pray for relief.
Of course, he included the essential caveat, “nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” Because Christ was one with God, because Christ knew the will of God, He knew that God wouldn’t let the cup pass from Him. Yet He still prayed.
I’m not completely sure of the lesson that is being taught here, but one thing that stands out to me is that the Savior knows that our Father in Heaven is loving and kind. He wants us to share our most intimate thoughts with Him. He can’t help us if we aren’t opening ourselves up to Him in the first place.
And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?
After agonizing in the garden of Gethsemane, the Savior finds that the apostles are asleep. He then warns them:
Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
I find this interesting. The advice that Christ gave to His disciples – to watch and pray – is the exact method that He is using to get through the hardest trial, temptation, and agony ever felt by man. Christ’s flesh was strengthened and He performed the excruciating work of the Atonement through prayer.
Christ spoke from experience. His spirit was willing, but His flesh was weak. He had prayed that the cup pass from Him because of the flesh. Yet, His Spirit triumphed, thanks to prayer, and he did as the Lord would have Him do.
We then read:
“He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.
And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy.
And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.
Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.
Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me.” – Matthew 26:36-46
We cannot underestimate the power of prayer. It is prayer that He turned to three times as He suffered the sins, pains, and sicknesses of the entire world. It is prayer that enabled Christ to perform the Atonement. Christ didn’t pray to get our approval. He didn’t pray to come off as righteous or pious. He prayed because it was a natural part of His relationship with His Father. His prayer was heartfelt, pure, and meaningful. Though He repeated the words of His prayer a few times, they were no where near “vain or repetitious.” He prayed for strength, and, above all, He prayed for God’s will to be done.
Christ, through the Atonement, exemplifies not only all that prayer should be, but the remarkable power of prayer.
What have you learned about prayer as you have studied Matthew 6? What does Christ’s example – especially when He performed the Atonement – teach you about the powerof a true prayer?