16 “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Matthew 6:16–18, NKJV).
After elaborating on prayer’s motive, method, and manner in Matthew 6:5-15, Jesus returns to the motives of personal piety in today’s passage. Fasting often accompanied prayer. Like prayer, hypocrites used fasting as their chance to be praised by others for their voluntary deprivation and affliction of the soul. While not commanded under the new covenant, fasting was (is) a period of intense spiritual devotion. It was associated with recognizing one’s sin with godly sorrow and repentance (Nineveh, Jonah 3:5-10; Luke 11:32; Saul, Acts 9:9-11). The broader principle Jesus taught applies to every action of self-sacrifice. Instead of bragging and displaying religious practices to be praised by others, we aim to please the eyes of our heavenly Father. The reward of human praise momentarily feeds pride and fades quickly. But attentive, faithful service to the Lord will be evident and eternally rewarded. When we love the praise of men more than the praise of God, we confess ourselves, not Christ (John 12:42-43). So, go about your daily service to the Lord without regard for whether others see you. The Father sees you, and that is enough.
9 In this manner, therefore, 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 this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen” (Matthew 6:9–13, NKJV).
Jesus left us a model prayer that teaches disciples what to pray. Matthew 6:9-13 is a digest of the manner or form our prayers should take. (1) Prayer recognizes God’s paternity: “Our Father in heaven.” (2) Prayer revers God’s person: “Hallowed be Your name.” (3) Prayer respects God’s program (His rule and reign): “Your kingdom come.” (4) Prayer submits to God’s purposes: “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (5) Prayer gives thanks for God’s provisions: “Give us this day our daily bread.” (6) Prayer petition for God’s pardon: “And forgive our debts.” (7) Prayer’s proviso for forgiveness: “As we forgive our debtors” (Matt. 6:14-15). (8) Prayer seeks God’s protection: “And do not lead us into temptation.” (9) Prayer praises God’s preeminence: “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” May our hearts form these worthy expressions of faith and dependence on our heavenly Father when we pray.
7 “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:7–8, NKJV).
While continuing to address the correct motive of prayer (v. 7; Matt. 6:5-6), Jesus turns our attention to the method of prayer. How we pray (method) will align itself with why we pray (motive). The pagans repetitively ritualize prayer to their gods. Such prayers are nothing more than empty phrases of useless babblings. Like the false prophets who called on the name of Baal, vainly repeated prayers in the name of the Lord are void of meaning and efficacy (1 Kings 18:26). Ritualized prayers may have a form of godliness, but they deny it power (2 Tim. 3:5). Ironically, millions vainly repeat in ritualized worship the model prayer Jesus is about to teach (Matt. 6:9-13), the very thing Jesus warned against doing. Our Father knows our needs, anxieties, pains, struggles, joys, and so much more. He knows our requests before we bring them to Him in prayer. As a result, our Father receives and responses favorably when we come to His throne of grace with words of reverent humility, not rehearsed blather (v. 8; James 4:6; 1 Pet. 3:12). Don’t pray like the heathens. Pray like a citizen of the kingdom of heaven.
5 …and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. 8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:5–8, NKJV).
God is ready, willing, and able for us to cast our cares on Him. But how do we do that? When facing trials and trouble, we often hear it said, “Just give it to the Lord.” But, how? Today’s verse gives needed instruction on how to cast all our care upon Him to avoid being distracted and overwhelmed by life’s circumstances that test our faith. (1) It takes humility (1 Pet. 5:5-6). Pride prevents turning to God and obstructs grace from His throne of mercy (Luke 18:9-14). (2) It takes trust that God cares for you (1 Pet. 2:7). Faith in God’s mighty hand and attentive care compels us to prayerfully throw our anxious distractions at His feet (Matt. 6:24-25). (3) It takes self-control (1 Pet. 5:8). Anxious care is the devil’s tool to distract and devour us. Sober thinking is needed to make righteous choices when faced with difficult times of temptation (1 Thess. 5:6-10). (4) It takes vigilance (1 Pet. 5:8). Apathy prevents seeking God’s care and grace and prepares us to be an entrée for the devil’s dinner. Casting our care on God takes being watchful to do God’s will and avoid sin (Eph. 5:15-16). We cast our care on God by humbly trusting God (walking by faith), being diligent to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” and boldly approaching His throne of grace for “help in time of need” (2 Cor. 5:7; Matt. 6:33-34; Heb. 4:16).
I waited patiently for the Lord; And He inclined to me, and heard my cry (Psalm 40:1, NKJV).
We must learn to wait patiently on the Lord. That is made difficult in our world of instant gratification. The internet brings “next-day delivery” via Amazon. Cell phones are now walking computers giving immediate contact to the world. Texting is “instant,” and any disruptive delay of service causes anxiety. By contrast, the agricultural life commends patience to us. “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand” (James 5:7-8). God does not work on our schedule of expectations. Prayer is not a demand list we take to God. No, we humbly petition Him with trust that He hears us (Ps. 40:4-5). And He does hear His people. “Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me; O Lord, make haste to help me!” is the patient prayer of the righteous (Ps. 40:13). Those who patiently wait on the Lord praise Him for His deliverance and are obedient, delighting in His will (Ps. 40:2-3, 6-8). Patient trust in God’s salvation compels us to “proclaim the good news of righteousness” rather than hide God’s faithfulness and truth (Ps. 40:9-10). At all times, patiently waiting on the Lord means we seek Him and love His salvation above anything this world offers (Ps. 40:16; Matt. 6:33). Be patient, endure, imitate David’s faith, and say along with him, “But I am poor and needy; Yet the Lord thinks upon me. You are my help and my deliverer; Do not delay, O my God” (Ps. 40:17).
“Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name’” (Matthew 6:9, NASB95).
Meditate with me today about “our Father who is in heaven.” Unfortunately, many do not think of God at all. Others consider him to be a grandfatherly figure who nods approvingly toward whatever we do. Some do not believe in a personal God at all, but being pantheists believe “that reality is identical with divinity, or that all-things compose an all-encompassing, immanent god (Wikipedia). The words of Jesus are clear, concise, and consistent with the nature of God revealed in the inspired writings of the Bible. Jesus identified God as (1) Our Father. As our Creator, God is the Father of us all (Acts 17:28; 1 Cor. 8:6). He also created our spirits and is the “Father of spirits,” in whose image we are made (Heb. 12:9). Christians are children of God by faith and have an intimate fellowship with our Father (Gal. 4:5-7). (2) Personal. Our Father is not “like gold or silver or stone” shaped by artistic expression (Acts 17:29). He knows us and calls us through the gospel to come to Him (Acts 17:27; 2:21, 39). (3) In heaven. God is Spirit and not defined by or confined to material things (John 4:24). Physical constraints do not limit God (Acts 7:48-50; 2 Pet. 3:8). (4) Holy. Hallowed means “to sanctify” or set apart as holy in our minds and lives. We fail to revere His name when defining God by our will, ways, and expectations (Rom. 1:20-23). Jesus held His heavenly Father in the highest regard, and so must we (John 10:29; 14:28). (5) The One to whom we pray. We pray to God our Father, assured that He hears and answers us according to His will, which is always best for us (Matt. 7:11; 26:39-44; 1 John 5:14-15). Think on these things.
4 I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. 5 They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces were not ashamed. 6 This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. 7 The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them (Psalm 34:4–7, NKJV).
Fear is an emotion that resides in many hearts and affects many lives. Jesus Christ calls on us, His disciples, to live by faith and rise above fear. Whether it be fear of physical danger, illness, death, or fearing others and compromising our faith, Jesus admonishes us not to fear. He said, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm” (Matt. 8:26). And, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (Matt. 10:28). The Lord delivered David from all his fears (v. 4). David feared displeasing the Lord God more than the imminent trouble he faced (v. 7). God encircled David (and all who fear Him) with protective care and deliverance. Should we not remember that deliverance from earthly dangers ultimately comes when death delivers us into the care and keeping of God (Phil. 1:19-23). Let us determine to seek the Lord like David. He will hear our prayers, calm our souls, and deliver us from all our fears (Phil. 4:6-7).
The blessing of the Lord makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it” (Proverbs 10:22, NKJV).
Christians possess riches unknown to the world. Our heavenly treasures abound, and we praise God for the spiritual bounty He gives us in Christ (Eph. 1:3). We do not measure our wealth in dollars, land holdings, stocks, bonds, commodities, or other material possessions. All these riches are fleeting and attended by sorrow (Eccl. 5:10-17). Spiritual blessings are beyond the reach of moth and rust and thieves (Matt. 6:19-20). Here are just some of them: (1) Redemption from sin by God’s grace (Eph. 1:4-14). We are chosen, adopted, accepted, forgiven, saved, given an inheritance, and sealed. (2) Full assurance of understanding in Christ (Col. 2:2-3). His disciples abide in His word, know the truth, and are freed from sin (John 8:31-32). (3) Prayer (Phil. 4:6). Our Father hears the prayers of His children, so we continue earnestly in prayer (Col. 4:2; 1 Thess. 5:17). (4) The church (Eph. 1:22-23). We are members of Christ’s body and, therefore, “members of one another” (Acts 2:47; Rom. 12:4-5). What a rich blessing to be brothers and sisters together in Christ (Matt. 12:46-50). (5) An eternal inheritance (Eph. 1:18). Peter assures us it is incorruptible, undefiled, and reserved in heaven for us (1 Pet. 1:4). (6) A living hope (Eph. 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:3). Our hope secures our souls because Christ arose from the dead (1 Cor. 15:19-20; Acts 24:15). (7) Joy (Phil. 4:4). We rejoice in the Lord always, in good and troubled times (James 1:2-4). God does not add sorrow to those He enriches (Prov. 10:22). The world tries to do so, but we are of good cheer because Christ has overcome the world (John 16:33).
Whatever the Lord pleases He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deep places” (Psalm 135:6, NKJV).
“God is in control.” We hear that a lot, but what does that mean? The Scriptures help us understand God’s control over the world. (1) God’s sovereign will prevails on earth (Psa. 135:6; Dan. 4:34-35). “He rules and works according to His eternal purpose even through events that seem to contradict or oppose His rule” (Holman, 1523). (2) God did not create the world and then walk away from it. The false theology that only nature’s laws operate in this world is called Deism. It rejects God’s interaction with His creation whether by revelation, by miracles, or by answering prayers (Eph. 3:3-5; Heb. 2:4; Matt. 7:7-11; Acts 14:17). (3) God does not control every event in your life. Free will means we can choose between good and evil, and our choices have consequences (Deut. 30:19; Gal. 6:7-8). Conversely, fatalism is the “doctrine that events are fixed in advance so that human beings are powerless to change them” (Merriam-Webster). Calvinism’s doctrine of predestination is false since God gave us free will (Josh. 24:15). (4) God’s plan for us is that we fear Him and keep His commandments (Eccl. 12:13). His will and purposes prevail in heaven and earth, and human redemption in Christ is the centerpiece (Rom. 8:28-30). Through the gospel, God is calling us to believe and obey Him to be saved and walk with Him in life and eternity (Mark 16:15-16; 1 John 1:5-10; Matt. 7:21-23).
2 Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; 3 meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, 4 that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. 5 Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. 6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. (Colossians 4:2–6, NKJV)
Paul urged Christians to rely on the power of prayer and divine providence to spread the gospel. Thankful hearts are alert to blessings from God’s hand (v. 2). Trusting in God’s foresight and provisions, we pray for open doors (access, opportunity) for God’s word to reach hearts and lives. We pray for those who walk through those doors and teach others (3). Paul relied on brethren praying for him. Although in prison, he yearned for their prayers so that he (and they) would use wisdom in speaking the gospel to the lost. While God opens doors for the gospel, we must be wise, prudent, and gracious in choosing our words. Time is precious, so use it properly. Doors of spiritual opportunity are too often closed by impulsive words and unwise actions. So, let us work on aligning our motive (“to answer each one”) with well-placed, gracious words of truth. When we do, we trust God will work through us for His glory (Phil. 2:12-13).