Tonight we will be testing just verses 1-18 of Matthew 6. In this passage, Jesus urges His disciples and us not to pursue selfish interests when praising God, praying or fasting. The model prayer is also part of tonight’s study in verses 5-15. We will start with the model prayer.
This prayer is not a model to be copied and endlessly repeated (although I think one can repeat it and pray meaningfully, provided concentration on the meaning of the words), but to serve as a model of what sorts of things our prayers should contain. Verse 7 specifically says that repeating a prayer for its many words does not mean it will be heard. Jesus wants us to pray “in this manner.” So let us look at the things for which Jesus is praying. Read verses 9-13 and consider:
Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.
– address God with deference
Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.
– acknowledge His will and heavenly kingdom with the confidence that all is and will be as He desires. We want that His will be done and not our own. His kingdom means the church, the fulfillment of Christ’s sacrifice and ultimate return
Give us this day our daily bread.
– seek the necessities of life from Him, which He is so able to provide
And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.
– acknowledge our sins/God’s forgiveness and that we in turn will forgive others
And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.
– seek protection from God for corruption from Satan
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
– once more recognize His awesome power and creator of all we know, all our blessings
The Lord’s Prayer is a sacred thing, a guidepost for how we should address God. Although brief, it speaks to our spiritual needs, our physical needs and our relationships. It is simple, beautiful and carries deep meaning.
Looking at the structure of verses 1-18, Jesus has specified three activities as examples for our service to God. These three examples help us to create an effective model for successful spiritual living: a model that does not revolve around us as individuals, but revolves around God and others. We are most important when serving God as a tool to deliver blessings to those that need it. Here is Jesus’s advice in a nutshell:
1. Charitable Deeds
– do them in secret
– alone in private
– appear as if your are not fasting
The theme in these three items is apparent: Our faith is a private affair between us and the Lord. Of course we are intended to share our faith in God, but not with the purpose of building ourselves up in the minds of others. A relationship with God is between the person and God, after all. Our relationship with God does not exist to impress others, and the good things we do for others are for the people receiving the gift, not so that everyone standing on the sidelines of our life can be impressed. It can be easy to be caught up in wanting attention for the good things we do, but Jesus is reminding us why we are doing them: for God’s glory and not our own.
Looking deeper into this, the blame rests on me if I begin to feel as if no one appreciates my good deeds. If I seek attention, but also see and hear of so much of what others are doing, I wonder why no one is talking about what I am doing. Others get praised, publicly or privately and we can feel slighted when no one notices the thoughtful gifts we give others. When this happens, it reveals that our hearts are not in the right place.
Because good deeds are not for us, they are ultimately for God. He is the receiver and He is the reason. Yes, the poor, hungry and sick receive our food, prayers and assistance, but the ultimate reason we have acted is because of God’s admonition for us to do so. It is God living in us. Our good deeds abound to His glory and we are serving Him as earthly tools to bless the sick, afflicted and poor. The right perspective readies us to properly be blessings to others in prayer, deed and fasting without muddying the waters with ourselves. We will get our reward. God keeps all His promises and is a promise keeper and we will receive the rewards we are due:
“that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.” Matthew 6:4
A quick word on fasting: Yes, we can go without food in service to God. Denying food to the body will remind us of how much we rely on Him. This keeps God at the front of our minds and helps us remember how much He provides. Some have fasted from things other than food with the same result.
Sometimes it can seem that humanity as a whole is unapologetically concerned with themselves, their time, their money, their accolades, their world. But the world forgets that all is created by Him, shaped by Him, and every good thing we have comes from Him.
“For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.” Colossians 1:16
Jesus’s words are so valuable because they show us the best way to live. The guidance can be contrary to our nature, but once employed, a deep spiritual peace and fulfillment comes into our hearts. Reading God’s word and putting it into practice is the only way to get such calming peace in our lives. It is not easy, but it is worth it.