Summary: The Disciples Prayer (PowerPoint slides to accompany this talk are available on request - email:

Reading: Matthew chapter 6 verses 1-15.


Sir William Osler who was the professor of medicine at Oxford University,

• Had a class full of students before him;

• And wanting to emphasize the importance of observing details,

• He reached down to his desk and picked up a bottle containing 'urine',

• Holding it high, he announced:

"This bottle contains a sample for analysis.

It's often possible by tasting it

to determine the disease from which the patient suffers".

• Suiting action to words,

• He dipped a finger into the fluid and then into his mouth, and continued-

"Now I am going to pass the bottle around.

Each of you do exactly as I did.

Perhaps we can learn the importance of this technique and diagnose the case".

• The bottle made its way from row to row

• Each student gingerly poked his finger in and sampled the contents with a frown.

Dr Osler then retrieved the bottle and startled his students with the words:

"Gentlemen, now will you understand what I mean when I speak about details.

Had you been observant you would have seen that I put my

index finger into the bottle but my middle finger into my mouth!"

• They saw and yet they missed the point exactly;

• When it comes to the Lord’s prayer:

• I can’t help thinking many people are like those students;

• They know the prayer but miss the point.

• They know the words, the formula;

• But miss out on the meaning and relevance of it for their lives.

(1). The Context of the prayer (vs 1-9):

• In these verses, Jesus first of all gives us a general principle:

• Verse 1:

“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven

The Message:

"Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don't make a performance out of it. It might be good theatre, but the God who made you won't be applauding.


• When it was launched in 1936.

• The Queen Mary was the largest ship ever to cross the oceans.

• Through four decades and a World War she served until she was retired,

• She was anchored as a floating hotel and museum in Long Beach, California.

• During the conversion, from passenger ship to hotel & restaurant;

• Her three massive smokestacks were taken off to be scraped down and repainted.

• But on the dock they crumbled.

• Nothing was left of the 3/4 inch steel plate from which the stacks had been formed.

• All that remained were more than thirty coasts of paint that had been applied over the years. The steel had rusted away.

• Over the years, and without anybody noticing;

• The smokestacks had become purely decretive and without substance!

In this section Jesus is warning his followers not to be the same:

• God wants us to be real, genuine, authentic, the real thing;

• Rather than outwardly impressive but inwardly hollow!

Having given us a general principle in verse 1:

• Jesus goes on to give three examples of how hypocrisy can reveal itself.

• Verses 2-4: He talks about good works.

• Verses 5-15: He talks about prayer.

• Verses 16-18: He talks about fasting.

The warning of Jesus is a simple one:

• These religious leaders were doing the right things;

• But they were doing them in the wrong way!

• Instead of looking for God and his approval on their religious activities;

• They were more concerned with the approval of other people.

Quote: C. S. Lewis explains the conflict in The Four Loves.

“Anyone who has ever taught or attempted to lead others knows the tendency in all of us toward exaggerating our depth of character while treating leniently our flaws. The Bible calls this tendency hypocrisy. We consciously or subconsciously put forward a better image of ourselves than really exists. The outward appearance of our character and the inner reality (that only God, we, and perhaps our family members know) do not match”.

• The warning of Jesus is a simple one:

• God wants us to be real, genuine, authentic, the real thing;

Quote: Old black preacher used to say:

“Be what you is,

‘Cause if you aint was you is,

You is what you aint!”

• Verse 4 makes it very clear;

• The only approval a true disciple should look for is God the Father’s!

Quote: Verse 4 (The Message):

“Just do it--quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out.”


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