“Doing and Praying”
Matthew 6: 1-13
Living the life of a Christian, a person who has been called into the Kingdom of God, is not a “cake-walk”: This business of following Christ is serious and difficult, and I totally agree, and nobody does it perfectly, even though the last verse in chapter 5 of Matthew ends with “You shall be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Thankfully, our perfection and righteousness for sin, is imputed to us, not earned! It is given to us as a gift of God’s grace, but it effects a change in us that frees us from our old ways and empowers us to accomplish the deeds which God has prepared for us ahead of time.
It also does NOT mean that we stop learning or stop being instructed. Matthew 6 begins with this:
GIVING and “DOING”
1 "Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. 2 "So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 3 "But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
Jesus does NOT say that you shouldn’t do charitable, good or loving deeds, but He does give instructions as to WHEN you do these things. We ARE to help the poor; we ARE to support God’s Kingdom and those “less fortunate” with our tithes and offerings. That’s why Jesus says WHEN, and not IF. Again Jesus is speaking to practices that were all too common among Jewish society.
It was common Jewish practice to blow the trumpet in the street to announce public fasts, but that would be an announcement to the secular people too, which said: LOOK at WHAT WE’RE DOING! We’re going to fast. We’re going to be pious for every to see. Figuratively Jesus is saying, when you practice devotion and worship, you should not call attention to yourselves. What you are DOING or GIVING is not about YOU, but about giving tribute to the God who has SAVED you, and given EVERY good thing to you first. If you are calling attention to yourselves, you are hypocrites, actors playing a role on the world-stage who are calling for people to focus on THEM instead of on THE God, who should be center-stage.
Jesus really brings to mind the Beatitudes with this counsel on giving and practicing piety: Giving should be marked by self-sacrifice and self-forgetfulness, not self-congratulations. This type of giving agrees with the selfish attitudes and behaviors of the Spirit of God and that of the Savior, in direct opposition to that of the world.
If you are receiving the accolades of men for your good deeds, it could be that you are “performing” with the wrong heart because only deeds truly done for God’s glory will receive future heavenly rewards. If you are trying to or are receiving the payment and adoration of men, then maybe you are not LIVING FOR God’s Kingdom and FOR His glory.
Praising and Petitioning
Look at verses 5-8: "When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. 7 And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. 8 So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”
The word for “meaningless repetition” is “battalogeô” which means: babbling, useless speech, empty words; “logos”, “word” is part of the verb.)
When you offer PRAY, (the word is proseuchomai- when you speak out toward God). It is important to note that Jesus is not forbidding public prayer; He is saying that our prayers emphasize the inner heart’s condition and motivation: the motivation should not be ritualistic or self-performing. Chanting, repeating the same phrases over and over again are meaningless to God in prayer. (You know that I like contemporary worship music, but I DO NOT LIKE songs that continually use the same phrase over and over again as if God doesn’t or can’t hear us. TO me, that is babbling; if I get bored with meaningless repetitions, imagine how it effects an elaborate and extravagant God who has GIVEN EVERY GOOD THING!)
Secondly, prayers aren’t reminding God of us, but reminding us of HIM. God doesn’t really have to be reminded of our needs, our wants and our longings. He KNOWS everything, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t tell God; but when we pray, we should come to the humble realization that there isn’t one GOOD thing that we have, that didn’t first come from Him. There also isn’t one thing that God isn’t able to change, because we see that He changed our hearts, so He can change anything. There isn’t one thing in the universe that God cannot change. Our prayers to Him should remind us of God’s infinite and eternal grace to us in ALL things. Our prayers should remind us of His infinite character, His love, holiness, justice, righteousness, purity, power, and presence.
The Lord’s MODEL Prayer
Jesus gives us HIS model for prayer, and that’s what it is: Jesus didn’t say: “Let’s pray”, and then offer this prayer. He was teaching His disciples and us HOW to pray. IF it was actually intended for us to use as a prayer, a prayer that we should continually offer, it would become a meaningless repetition, which Jesus just mentioned in verse 7!
In verse 9, Jesus says: "Pray, then, in this way (the following manner): “Our Father who is in heaven.” We are only earthly creatures. God is in no way our equal. He is totally infinite and we are but finite creatures, clay in the hand of the Almighty potter. We are reminded from this personal opening, God is NOT everyone’s father, but God is the personal father of those who follow Jesus. If we are Jesus’ followers, we share His Heavenly Father as adopted children.
“Hallowed be Your name”: This is not only a mere recognition of God’s name being Holy. We know that we should not take His name in vain, and that we should worship Him alone, but this is a recognition of God’s Holiness, His uniqueness in all of the universe. It proclaims His Divine and Perfect character. We Recognize God’s name as HOLY because He is Holy: He is utterly perfect and consecrated, and HOLY in all His ways. He is the one to whom we pray because we realize that our lives are totally in His HOLY hands. We are His names’ sake.
The New Heidelberg Catechism puts it this way: “Help us to truly know you, to honor, glorify, and praise you for all your works and for all that shines forth from them: your almighty power, wisdom, kindness, justice, mercy, and truth. And it means, Help us to direct all our living— what we think, say, and do— so that your name will never be blasphemed because of us, but always honored and praised.”
10 ”Your kingdom come.” God is Sovereign in Heaven, and we are asking His Kingdom Rule to come into our lives. His Kingdom is being ushered into this world by Jesus Christ, and it is ushered into human lives by His Spirit. We are asking God to empower our hearts so that WE MIGHT yield our lives to the Sovereign God of Heaven. (I am always perturbed when drivers do not understand the YIELD sign on the highways. God calls us to yield the right of way to HIM.) If I am going to reign with Him in His Eternal Kingdom, HE expects ME to yield to HIM NOW. I HAVE TO MOVE ASIDE. Those who are under God’s reign in this life, anticipate the end of this age and see the completion of His HEAVENLY KINGDOM. We long for it because we have had a taste of it now!
The New Heidelberg Catechism states: “Rule us by your Word and Spirit in such a way that more and more we submit to you. Preserve your church and make it grow. Destroy the devil’s work; destroy every force which revolts against you and every conspiracy against your holy Word. Do this until your kingdom fully comes, when you will be all in all.”
“Your WILL be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” This petition teaches us to deny ourselves and our sinful will, and follow God’s Holy will. There is a tremendous spiritual battle still raging, but those who have been called by God to belong to Him are desirous of God’s Spirit winning within and without.
The New Heidelberg Catechism states: ”Help us…to reject our own wills and to obey your will without any “back talk”. Your will alone is good. Help us… to carry out the work we are called to, as willingly and faithfully as the angels in heaven.”
11 “Give us this day our daily bread”: “Petitions God to take care of all our physical needs so that we come to know that HE is the only source of everything good, and that neither our work or worry will help us to achieve what we need. Even God’s gifts without His blessing, can not do us any good. We have to give up our trust in creatures and the creation and trust in God alone, even for our “bread”. WE should live in humble dependency on God, praying for our needs, not our greeds.
With this petition, you can’t help but think of Jesus, Himself, as the Living Bread. The Old Testament believers in the Wilderness were taught that only the “Bread of Heaven” gives us life when God supplied His bread, his manna, from heaven. Not only does He supply OUR physical needs, but OUR spiritual life as well.
12 “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” In our prayers and in our living, we should always be aware of the great mercy and grace that God has shown us.
The New Heidelberg Catechism says: “Because of Christ’s blood, do not hold against us, poor sinners that we are, any of the sins we do or the evil that constantly clings to us. Forgive us just as we are fully determined, as evidence of your grace in us, to forgive our neighbors.” We should pray and LIVE in a way that proclaims God’s forgiveness in Christ. We owe God a debt of sin that has been paid by Jesus; we could not pay that debt before, and we can’t pay it off in the future; and we don’t HAVE to pay it: it has been forgiven us, so we vow forgiveness to others. Forgiving others is really a demonstration to God AND OTHERS that we know the enormity of our sin-debt that has been paid.
13 “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (the evil one). The New Heidelberg Catechism says this: “By ourselves we are too weak “to hold our own” even for a moment. And our sworn enemies— the devil, the world, and our own flesh— never stop attacking us. And so, Lord, uphold us and make us strong with the strength of your Holy Spirit, so that we may not go down to defeat in this spiritual struggle, but may firmly resist our enemies until we finally win the complete victory.”
Remember that God tempts no one. (James 1:13-14) The idea in the original is that God doesn’t bring us not into temptation, but brings us into righteousness. God delivers people from the evil one, who seek Him from the evil one.
Finally, the phrase, “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Ame.,” This is excluded from many versions including the NIV, because this phrase is not in the most reliable Greek manuscript, but it DOES appear in many other reliable ones. It is thought to have been added according to early church liturgical practices.
Many times people say there is such a difference “between the God of the Old and New Testaments,” which is absolutely wrong! Listen to this from 1 Chronicles 29:11: “Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.”
Daniel 7:14: “He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”
Seven such phrases are used in the book of Revelation, the last being in 19:1: “After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: "Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, 2 for true and just are his judgments…5 Then a voice came from the throne, saying: "Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both small and great!"6 Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: "Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.”
The ending is MORE THAN FITTING, because it looks forward to the culmination and completion of God’s GREAT KINGDOM. It is THE ANSWER to all of the petitions of what we call, “The Lord’s Prayer”, the answer to the entire Bible: ALL GLORY BELONGS TO OUR God. Amen.
OUTLINE: “Righteous Deeds and Prayers”
Matthew 6: 1-13
I. When you OFFER offerings:
1. Don’t call attention to yourselves but tribute to the one who has given EVERYTHING to you.
2. Giving should be marked by self-sacrifice and self-forgetfulness,
3. Only deeds done for God’s glory will receive future heavenly rewards.
II. When you OFFER prayers:
1. Prayer is the inner heart’s motivation and condition, not ritualistic or self-performing.
2. Prayers aren’t reminding God of us but reminding us of HIM.
III. The Lord’s Prayer is a model.
1. Our Father in Heaven: God is the personal father of those who follow Jesus.
2. Hallowed be your Name: Recognize God’s name as HOLY because He is Holy.
3. Your Kingdom come: God is Sovereign in Heaven,
and we are asking His Kingdom rule to come into our lives.
4. Thy Will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven: Teaches us to our sinful will,
and follow God’s Holy Will.
6. Give us this day our daily bread: Only the “Bread of Heaven” gives us life.
7. Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors: We should pray and LIVE in a way that proclaims God’s forgiveness in Christ.
8. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil: Pray God’s mercy in Christ.
9. “For yours is the Kingdom, Power, and Glory” is the culmination and completion of God’s GREAT KINGDOM