Matt. 6:1-13,16-18 Sept 16 2012
The foundation of prayer is personal relationship with God as our Father. This model prayer teaches us how to relate to Him. Recognition of Him as “in heaven” and “hallowed” (set apart and holy) puts us in the proper frame of mind as we come to Him. It reminds us that we are to be holy because of who He is. “Your kingdom come” is more than an eschatological hope. It is an expression of our willingness to submit to His will, now, that He might rule in our lives. The request for “daily bread” expresses both dependence on Him and confidence in Him. We trust God so much that we ask only for “daily” bread—not great wealth. “Forgive us” expresses our awareness that we fall short in all things and must rely on a constant flow of God’s grace—and the last phrase expresses willingness to relate to others as God relates to us. The final request not to be led into testing is another recognition of intrinsic helplessness. But this is balanced by the joyful recognition that our Father is able to deliver us when testing does come, for He is greater than the evil one (Satan).
This Lord’s Prayer is not so much a formula to be repeated as it is a revelation of the attitude with which we approach God as Father: an attitude of awe, submission, dependence, and complete confidence in His “Father-love.”
The very pious Jew in Jesus’ time refrained from eating or drinking during daylight hours two days a week, even though this is nowhere commanded in the O.T. Jesus does not condemn the practice, but does condemn those who paraded their supposed piety by putting ashes on their face and looking mournful.
1. Against hypocrisy in almsgiving. (Matt.6:1-4)
Matt.6:1 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.
Our Lord next warned against hypocrisy and outward show in religious duties. What we do, must be done from an inward principle, that we may be approved of God, not that we may be praised of men. In these verses we are cautioned against hypocrisy in giving alms. Take heed of it. It is a subtle sin; and vain-glory creeps into what we do, before we are aware. But the duty is not the less necessary and excellent for being abused by hypocrites to serve their pride. The doom Christ passes, at first may seem a promise, but it is their reward; not the reward God promises to those who do good, but the reward hypocrites promise themselves, and a poor reward it is; they did it to be seen of men, and they are seen of men. When we take least notice of our good deeds ourselves, God takes most notice of them. He will reward thee; not as a master who gives his servant what he earns, and no more, but as a Father who gives abundantly to his son that serves him.
2. Against hypocrisy in prayer. (Matt. 6:5-8)
Matt. 6:5 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. 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. 8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
It is taken for granted that all who are disciples of Christ pray. You may as soon find a living man that does not breathe, as a living Christian that does not pray. If prayerless, then graceless. The Scribes and Pharisees were guilty of two great faults in prayer, vain-glory and vain repetitions. “Verily they have their reward;” if in so great a matter as is between us and God, when we are at prayer, we can look to so poor a thing as the praise of men, it is just that it should be all our reward. Yet there is not a secret, sudden breathing after God, but he observes it. It is called a reward, but it is of grace, not of debt; what merit can there be in begging? If he does not give his people what they ask, it is because he knows they do not need it, and that it is not for their good. So far is God from being wrought upon by the length or words of our prayers, that the most powerful intercessions are those which are made with groanings that cannot be uttered. Let us well study what is shown of the frame of mind in which our prayers should be offered, and learn daily from Christ how to pray.
3. How to pray. (Matt. 6:9-15)
Matt.6:9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 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. 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.
Christ saw it needful to show his disciples what must commonly be the matter and method of their prayer. Not that we are tied up to the use of this only, or of this always; yet, without doubt, it is very good to use it. It has much in a little; and it is used acceptably no further than it is used with understanding, and without being needlessly repeated. The petitions are six; the first three relate more expressly to God and his honour, the last three to our own concerns, both temporal and spiritual. This prayer teaches us to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and that all other things shall be added. After the things of God’s glory, kingdom, and will, we pray for the needful supports and comforts of this present life. Every word here has a lesson in it. We ask for bread; that teaches us sobriety and temperance: and we ask only for bread; not for what we do not need. We ask for our bread; that teaches us honesty and industry: we do not ask for the bread of others, nor the bread of deceit, Proverbs 20:17 ; nor the bread of idleness, Proverbs 31:27 , but the bread honestly gotten. We ask for our daily bread; which teaches us constantly to depend upon Divine Providence. We beg of God to give it us; not sell it us, nor lend it us, but give it. The greatest of men must be beholden to the mercy of God for their daily bread. We pray, Give it to us. This teaches us a compassion for the poor. Also that we ought to pray with our families. We pray that God would give it us this day; which teaches us to renew the desires of our souls toward God, as the wants of our bodies are renewed. As the day comes we must pray to our heavenly Father, and reckon we could as well go a day without food, as without prayer. We are taught to hate and dread sin while we hope for mercy, to distrust ourselves, to rely on the providence and grace of God to keep us from it, to be prepared to resist the tempter, and not to become tempters of others. Here is a promise, If you forgive, your heavenly Father will also forgive. We must forgive, as we hope to be forgiven. Those who desire to find mercy with God, must show mercy to their brethren. Christ came into the world as the great Peace-maker, not only to reconcile us to God, but one to another.
4.Respecting fasting. (Matt.6 :16-18)
Matt.6:16Moreover 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.
Religious fasting is a duty required of the disciples of Christ, but it is not so much a duty itself, as a means to dispose us for other duties. Fasting is the humbling of the soul, Psalms 35:13 ; that is the inside of the duty; let that, therefore, be thy principal care, and as to the outside of it, covet not to let it be seen. God sees in secret, and will reward openly.
Relationship with God is a personal, not a public kind of thing. Thus our acts of righteousness , our gifts of loving concern , and our prayers of devotion are to be done “in secret” to please Him rather than to win a reputation for piety with our fellowmen. The disciple’s prayers are also personal, approaching God as “our Father” and expressing our delight in His will and our dependence on Him . The “in secret” relationship we have with God will transform our attitude toward others . We will put aside all hypocrisy, and our expressions of commitment will be directed to God rather than to others . An “in secret” relationship with God will free us to value heavenly rather than earthly treasures, thus transforming our values . Knowing God in the intimate, private, and personal relationship a child has with a father will free us from anxiety, for we will realize that our Father will meet our needs as we concentrate on doing those things that please Him .