When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that 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.”
Jesus continues to contrast the righteousness that needs human affirmation with the righteousness he offers his followers. "Empty phrases” can also be translated “meaningless repetition,” a word that is used to describe someone who stutters. Jesus reminds us that we pray to a God who knows what we need before we ask.
- Are there desires of your heart that you are unable to speak to God?
- Are there requests that you make to God that perhaps have lost their meaning?
- What is a heart-felt prayer that you believe God already knows?
Gracious God – Thank you that you have searched us and know us already, and that we can be honest and open with you about our desires and needs. Keep us from making our prayers rote and without heart as we trust you to know and to hear us in love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
9 Pray then in this way:
“ 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 this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And do not bring us to the time of trial but rescue us from the evil one."
These words that Jesus gave us as an example is a prayer that unites us as his followers. These words are simple and give us a way to live in this world as those dependent on God. These are words we say and when we live into this prayer, we keep from letting them become meaningless repetition.
- Where do you see God’s will being done on earth? Where would you like to see God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven?
- Which of these requests are the most difficult for you to ask? Why?
- How can you live into this prayer this week?
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial but rescue us from the evil one. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; 15 but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Our own forgiveness is tied to our willingness to forgive others. In forgiveness, we release the debt that we believe others owe us and as we do, we understand the freedom of having our own debt released through God’s forgiveness.
- Is there an IOU that you are carrying in your pocket toward someone who has hurt you?
- What makes it difficult to let go of that weight?
- When have you experienced the forgiveness of God? How does that empower you to extend forgiveness quickly to others?
Gracious God, forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors. These are easy words to say but not always easy to make true in our lives. We lift up to you the hurt and the IOU’s that we have been carrying around and ask that you would give us the strength and grace to forgive and release the burden of debt. Thank you for your forgiveness in Christ. In His name, Amen.
16 And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6 continues to unfold his theme in vs. 1 that, as Eugene Peterson translated in the Message - “Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding.” There is something transformative when we live and work for an audience of One. This applies to all our spiritual practices.
- How does it feel to imagine fasting from something you love?
- What would make it difficult to practice fasting in secret?
- What do you need to fast from in order to draw closer to God?
Gracious Lord, you invite us to a relationship with you that sometimes includes practices in secret, away from the applause of the people around us. Help us to relinquish our desire for public acknowledgement that we might see and serve you first, and look to you, our gracious and merciful God, for our assurance and contentment. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
19 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Jesus invites us to amass the wealth of heaven that is free from the risk of being eaten away or stolen. The wealth of heaven is available to all, regardless of socio-economic status, and it is what matters. It is in the cultivation of our treasure, whether toward heaven or earth, that the object of our hearts’ devotion is revealed.
- What does it mean to you to store up treasure in heaven?
- Have you experienced the loss of treasure on earth? How has that impacted you and your sense of well-being?
- What are the concerns of your heart today and how does that reveal the source of your treasure?
Gracious God, there are so many messages we hear that tell us we can never have enough on earth. Help us to live, not in fear that might cause us to focus on our earthly treasure, but in anticipation of what you are going to do in and through us as we place our attention on the treasure of heaven. In Jesus’ name, Amen.