21. Sermon on the Mount 6

“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. 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. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:  That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. 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. 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. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 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. For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:1-15).

In the previous chapter the Lord described what inward religion, that is, genuine Christianity consists of. He explained it in terms of living in faith and holiness. Now He goes on to show how we might have all our actions and words made holy and good. 

Acts of mercy
Everything we do and say, for the benefit of others, should come from the purest of intentions, rather than to bring glory and praise to ourselves. Others will obviously see some of our good deeds, but we desire that all the honour and praise go to God. The Lord will not reward us for what we do or say to receive the adulation of men. 

The Lord Jesus warns us against blowing our own trumpet, so whatever good we do must be as secretly and as quietly as possible. God sees everything we do, and He will indeed openly bless us when we shine our light before men for His glory (Matthew 5:16). This reward might not always come to us on earth, but it is certain that we will be blessed in the general assembly of His people and His angels.

Acts of piety
Who do we desire to hear us when we pray, God or man? Hypocrites pray to be heard by otherS so that they might be thought of as pious persons. Prayer on the other hand is the lifting up of the heart to God, and it is to Him we expose our true nature and intentions. Hypocritical and insincere praying will never be acknowledged by the Lord. Though there are many times when public prayer is appropriate, it is far better to pray in private, but always our words must come from a pure heart.

Let us avoid repetition and insincerity in prayer. Empty words have no value with God. There are those who think that their lengthy prayers move the hand of God on their behalf, but this is not the case. Repeating phrases over and over is the practice of heathenism rather than genuine Christianity. Those who pray in such a fashion do so without any emotion whatsoever. God knows all that we need even before we ask, so there is no reason for superstition, repetition or endless words in prayer. Instead, let us pray from a clear heart that is dependent upon Him who can supply all our needs through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).

The model prayer
The Lord Jesus reveals how we can pray so as to avoid the excesses of the hypocrite and heathen. This model prayer lists all the things we can reasonably pray for or want. This prayer promotes the glory of God, and it contains all our obligations to Him and others. It is the expression of a pure and holy heart. There are three parts to this prayer.

1. The preface

a) Our Father. Only the true child of God can base his prayer upon this model. Only someone who has been born again through the blood of Christ can call God his Father. He is our Creator, Sustainer and Provider as well as being our Heavenly Father (Galatians 4:6). Daily He watches over us for good. Let us acknowledge Him as Lord over all.

b) His name is holy. God is perfect in every way, in His love, nature, and attributes. We must pray that our holy God’s name might be glorified throughout this world (Habakkuk 2:14). 

2. The petitions

a) Thy Kingdom come. Do we really want His Kingdom to rule in our lives, in the lives of those around us, and in actuality upon the earth? Do we truly desire to see the Lord Jesus Christ come back to set up His millennial reign?

b) Thy will be done. Are we willing to obey the will of Him we pray to? If we are, then it means that we commit ourselves to be actively conformed to His will, and that we will obey God perfectly (Romans 12:1-2). There can never be compromise when it comes to obeying God’s will.

c) Our daily bread. There is nothing wrong with asking God for the legitimate things that are necessary for daily living. We do not deserve the least of His precious gifts, yet He is willing to bless us with them.

d) Forgive. All sin and hindrances should be cleansed from our lives if we are to serve God from a pure heart, therefore it is right that we should confess them. In light of this, do we really want God to deal with us in the same way as we do with others? We must release even the most hardened offender from his or her debt to us.

e) Lead us not into temptation. God will never tempt us with sin, instead, we fail Him when we are drawn away by our own desires and lusts. God gives us His Holy Spirit so that we might have victory over sin, all evil, and the evil one (James 1:13; 4:7).

3. The doxology

This model prayer closes with thanksgiving and praise. It rejoices in the fact that God is the Sovereign Lord over all His creation. He alone is God, and He rules from eternity to eternity.

We are to be pure in heart in everything we do or say. This purity is the outward evidence of inward holiness. We must have the purest of intentions towards both God and man if we are truly to be regarded as the children of God. All our deeds, words and prayers should flow from our love for Christ and a desire to see Him glorified.

24 December 1750