Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Today we’ll be looking at another section from the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus teaches his disciples the right and wrong ways to pray. This applies broadly to all Christians, but perhaps even more so to the Pastors, who pray before the congregation.
Reading: Matthew 6:1-18
Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.
2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:
4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.
See what the Lord says about offerings and charity service.
We know that many work for non-profits and charities with the purpose of being seen. The scientist Neil DeGrasse Tyson is the director of Carl Sagan’s old non-profit, and he uses that position to grant himself authority and power. In the same way, the charitable giving of many politicians and celebrities exists to provide a news story, granting them praise and exaltation from the masses.
However, these people have already received all the benefits of their works.
The Lord prefers us to give for the purpose of giving, simply because we desire to give. These gifts are done in confidence, between men who know their own purposes.
This kind of gift enriches the soul, because it is an expression of love for one another. It also weakens our reliance on Mammon, the love of money. But, moreover, when others come to know your quiet generosity and giving nature, they give you greater respect and admiration. This is a large part of the open reward which the Father provides.
5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
We know that when Jesus repeats a point, it has great meaning.
Many make a great show of their piety (though it may not be Christian piety). One has merely to turn on the news or log into social media to see people loudly boasting their support for the social cause du jour. These people are quickly revealed for attention whores and charlatans, and their credence dwindles to nothing.
However, those who pray in secret are assured that the gifts of the Lord are truly from Him. Further, they apply piety inward, which enriches the soul and strengthens faith. These people exhibit goodness and piety which comes from within, and many flock to them.
Such is the outward reward for inward piety.
7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
The Catholic Priest has a unique gift for hour long prayers.
The Pentecostal babbles in tongues.
Both of these are hallmarks of the pagan (take it from one who knows). They fear that they are not heard by the spirits to whom they pray (many of whom are mere idols or malicious entities), so they perform long incantations in languages both real and imagined. We have no need of such practices, for ours is the God who Lives and Hears.
8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
We know that our God is Jehovah Jireh – the Lord who Provides. Nothing is beyond his notice, for he sustains our world with his power and grace. Thus, we need only make short prayers, which remind us of our God and our need for His Grace.
9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Let all prayers contain praise unto our God.
10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
We know that the Will of God is good, while the will of men is wickedness. Thus, we pray that His will triumph over ours.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
For we rely on Him in all things.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
We know that we do not measure up to the Lord’s standards. In the same way, we know that few men measure up to our standards. As we seek forgiveness from the Lord, we must provide forgiveness to others.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
We know that the Lord does not tempt us, but he may allow us to be tempted for a time. We pray that, whatever He allows, He preserves us and rescues us from the forces of darkness.
And, finally, we give Him praise again, and acknowledge His supremacy over all things.
14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
God is loving and compassionate, but also just. He expects us to be His emissaries – servants who live under the same standards of their Lord, so that others may see the Lord through them. Thus, we must strive to be more like Him daily.
16 Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;
18 That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.
Let every man fast, for this is a good practice for both body and spirit. However, like most diets, people who fast continually remind everyone around them of their fasting.
As fasting produces piety, humility, and greater awareness of the nature of God and man, it is a personal thing. Do not let others know, lest they distract you through positive or negative reinforcement.
Let us Pray
Mighty Lord, who has created the world and sustains it, grant us the wisdom to understand what You have written to us. Grant us, further, the will and spirit to live in Your Word, in accordance with Your Will.
Give us peace, Lord, and care for us as the Good Father cares for His children. We know that you are good, but we are weak and fall into doubt. Restore us gently, oh Lord, so that we need not suffer more than we can bear.
We ask these things in the name of the Lord who Saves, Jesus, who is the Christ, the Son of God who has come into the world.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.