Sermon on the Mount

Prayer

This devotional is written by Becky Charles an everyday, super friendly, coffee drinking human.

Matthew 6:5-15

Prayer
5 "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
9 "This, then, is how you should pray:
"'Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from the evil one.'
14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Reflection

What do you think God is like? Irrelevant and absent, as God was to the hypocrites who pretended to be praying when they were actually posing in front of others? Or is God indifferent or aggressive, as the gods were to pagans who had to work hard for them to take notice?

These ideas are obviously wrong-headed, but it is difficult to spot when we engage in a good act (such as prayer, worship, fasting etc.) for our own benefit or to twist God's arm. For example, I used to have quiet times where I went through the motions of bible reading etc. more so that I could feel good about it than to genuinely engage with God... and then wonder why they weren't spiritually fulfilling! These things are easy when you can see them, but make for a frustrating spiritual life if you can't. Attempting to work your way to God is a common pitfall for Christians which makes it difficult to grow in intimacy with God.

Jesus calls God 'Father', an image of someone who is both senior to us and with whom we have a reliable relationship. He shows us what this person is like in the parable of the Prodigal Son: yearning for their child, abandoning dignity to meet them, embracing, celebrating, and holding nothing of their past against them. This passionate and loving figure is easier to trust and defer to than the images of God that the hypocrites and pagans held.

Jesus says that we should interact straightforwardly with God, trusting him to have the qualities of a supernatural father and that as his earthly children he cares for our practical needs and puts our interests first. This helps when God asks counter-intuitive things, such as forgiving people who have hurt us.



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