Mat 6:1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven…
Mat 6:7-9 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. (8) Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (9) Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…
Mat 6:14-15 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, (15) but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Now just wait a minute! In chapter five Jesus said, Mat 5:16 “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Now he says, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people…” Ah, but there is a difference. The intention of chapter five is that people will see them and give glory and praise to God. He in chapter six the motivation is “in order to be seen by them…” Are you doing good to get praise from men or to give praise to God? Makes all the difference in the world. It is probably a good practice to do most things in secret so that we do not feed our sinful ego or give it a chance to express itself. Bu should we get any recognition we should be quick to give praise to God and direct others to do so as well.
Now Jesus in chapter six is not telling us we cannot have long prayers (but I have to admit I prefer short and straight to the point ones as well). We may have a lot going on or the world or the people around us. Just watching the 6 o’clock news gives us plenty to pray for. The point Jesus is making is that we should not think that a. our prayers can twist or manipulate God into answering our prayers because they are many or we have many people praying them and b. he lets us know the things we ought to pray for in the Lord’s Prayer. If you have a liturgical congregation you might note that the topics of the general prayer are all found in the Lord’s Prayer and almost in the same order. It’s a good idea to pray the Lord’s Prayer with faith and intention. Everything we want or need is included in it. And note, it is not a selfish prayer as it starts with Our not My. The second person plural is dominant. That’s not just by chance.
Finally the only petition Jesus comments on is the 5th petition for forgiveness. If we believe God forgives us freely for Christ’s sake we should forgive others for Christ’s sake as well. Really, it seems there are two things that get us in Dutch with God and they are interrelated. The first is being unforgiving. Several times in the Gospels Jesus tells us that those who refuse to forgive others their sins against them will not make it into heaven. The second is being unbelieving. If we have faith in Christ, we will forgive those who sin against us. It’s just what people who have the Holy Spirit do. If we do not have faith in Christ, we will not forgive those who sin against us.
Lord Jesus Christ, so dwell in us by faith so that we live and pray as you would have us do. Amen.