1 “Be careful that you don’t practice your religion in front of people to draw their attention. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. 2 “Whenever you give to the poor, don’t blow your trumpet as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets so that they may get praise from people. I assure you, that’s the only reward they’ll get. 3 But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing 4 so that you may give to the poor in secret. Your Father who sees what you do in secret will reward you.”
Here Jesus begins to look at religious practice – the things that people of his day and time did to show their faith on a daily basis. The first such practice was to give alms. This was a daily occurrence in the first century. Jesus’ message is a simple one. Show your care and concern for the poor without tooting your own horn! Care for the poor has to do with internal motivation and is really for an audience of one – our gracious God.
How important is it to you to practice your religion so other people notice?
Hear my prayer, Holy One...Teach me the meaning of giving in secret to…
5 “When you pray, don’t be like hypocrites. They love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners so that people will see them. I assure you, that’s the only reward they’ll get. 6 But when you pray, go to your room, shut the door, and pray to your Father who is present in that secret place. Your Father who sees what you do in secret will reward you.”
7 “When you pray, don’t pour out a flood of empty words, as the Gentiles do. They think that by saying many words they’ll be heard. 8 Don’t be like them, because your Father knows what you need before you ask.”
Now Jesus moves to the religious practice of prayer. Jesus makes a case for authentic prayer that is more than words or formulas. Authentic prayer is intensely personal and intimate. Authentic prayer is communication with the Holy One spoken in the secret and deep places of our lives.
Does your prayer authentically speak to the secret depths of your life?
Hear my prayer, Holy One…may I go beyond the superficial about…
9 Pray like this: Our Father who is in heaven, uphold the holiness of your name. 10 Bring in your kingdom so that your will is done on earth as it’s done in heaven.”
Here Jesus gives us an authentic prayer to pray. Such prayer begins by acknowledging the Holy One – who is as intimate as a parent and as holy as heaven. The first petition to the Holy One asks something radical—that God’s will and God’s plans take precedence over our own desires.
How authentically do you pray for God to take over?
Hear my prayer Holy One... for your will to be done in…
11 Give us the bread we need for today. 12 Forgive us for the ways we have wronged you, just as we also forgive those who have wronged us. 13 And don’t lead us into temptation but rescue us from the evil one.”
Jesus’ prayer continues with three petitions for God’s people. Jesus suggests we ask for bread and remember our dependence on God - that we ask for forgiveness and remember what God has done for us in Jesus - that we ask for rescue and remember that God is our strength and salvation. In these simple words our most authentic needs are expressed.
How do you go to God with petitions for yourself and others?
Hear my prayer Holy One…give me…forgive me…rescue me…
14 “If you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you don’t forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your sins.”
This hard saying begs the question – does God measure out forgiveness according to our ability to forgive? Heaven help us if that’s the case! Jesus clearly reminds us that our forgiveness matters and that we are called to a new way of life based on the forgiveness we have received. Our lack of forgiveness harms our souls and our life with God.
Do you live as someone who has experienced radical forgiveness?
Hear my prayer Holy One...Help me to forgive…