Reading For Tuesday Matthew 6:5-7:29
Jesus teaching on prayer is one of the best-known passages in the Bible because of the model prayer he gives his followers. He cautions his hearers concerning the danger of religious formalism. If prayer is only public performance, empty phrases, or asking for something that we are not willing to grant to others, it will not be effective. On the other hand, the prayer that is genuinely offered to God in the secret place of our lives and that becomes a discipline of grace will lead to the reward from our Father. The model prayer is to a father, the language of sonship and the kingdom. This model prayer is for things that will glorify God and produce obedience to him in our lives and the lives of others. We can ask for our needs to be met, plead for forgiveness, and acknowledge that all our possessions are his. We may ask for his protection and help.
Jesus then addresses fasting, the abstaining from food for a particular period. Jesus makes the assumption that his disciples will fast, but it must not be external religion or accompanied by the motive of being seen and praised. In the Old Testament, God required charity, prayer and fasting, but he always insisted that these should be offerings of the heart. The Lord is bringing his disciples back to the true meaning of the Old Testament, as opposed to the empty external rituals imposed by the religious teachers and leaders of his day.
Jesus draws a contrast between earthly possessions and heavenly ones. All that we have here is liable to decay and may even be stolen from us. But if our hearts and our treasures are in heaven, we will have something robust and eternal. Materialism will lead to a divided heart. It is impossible for both God and money. Jesus is a faithful king that will care for his own in such a way that they do not have to be anxious or worry. Our Father cares for us and since he gives such attention to his creation, will he not look after us much more? We must seek the kingdom and his righteousness.
Those that belong to Jesus' kingdom are called to be holy. They should be slow to judge others and pay attention to their own holiness. They must remain dependent on God as they ask, seek, and knock. The golden rule must be paired with the narrow way. Holiness will be demonstrated through the fruit of righteousness. One may give the appearance of piety, godliness and spirituality, yet not belong to the kingdom God. Those that belong to the kingdom must build on the right foundation so that when the test comes, the strength of our foundation is proven by our standing. The distinction here is not between those who hear Jesus and those who do not, but between those who hear and obey and those who hear but do not obey.
Things To Consider:
- What does your prayer life look like?
- What are your internal motivations for practicing the disciplines of grace and for service?
- Do you have regular patterns of discipline in the areas of prayer and fasting? Why or why not?
- Does knowing that God is a Father make it difficult or easy for you to approach him?
- Why do we worry?
- How should we look at anxiety?
- Do you think people make the connection between the golden rule and the narrow way?
- Is it terrifying to think that some may do many religious things and not know Jesus? Why?
- How do we build on the right foundation?