This Bible Study is part of the "The Gospel of Matthew" series. See other Bible Studies which are part of this series
Notice that He did not say "if" you pray. He assumed that Christians would be praying. And we should be praying and we have to be praying—or we won't make it into God's Kingdom. You need to understand that, but many do not understand. You should be praying on both your knees, every day of your life. Learn to do that!
Greetings, friends around the world!
Once again this is Roderick C. Meredith speaking for the Living Church of God. I am continuing to expound the verses of Matthew, covering almost every verse, giving you directly what Christ taught. He was God in the flesh. He was the light that God sent into the world and we ought to do His will. We ought to follow what He said. Many say they "believe on the Christ." They say "How good it is to know the Lord"—but they don't do what He said! Jesus said in Luke 6:46 "But why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do the things which I say?" So let's listen to what Jesus actually said. This is His message.
Last time we had started into the sixth chapter, where Christ taught how you are to give your alms, or do your charitable deeds, without trying to broadcast them or trying to show off.
"And when you pray…"
Notice that He did not say "if" you pray. He assumed that Christians would be praying. And we should be praying and we have to be praying-or we won't make it into God's Kingdom. You need to understand that, but many do not understand. You should be praying on both your knees, every day of your life. Learn to do that!
"…when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets [they like to show off, Jesus said, praying big oratorical prayers in church and in public places—don't be like them!]… "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."
We know of some people in various religions who just keep repeating and repeating and repeating things over and over like some sort of a chant: "Blah, blah, blah, blah." If my little boy came to me and repeated: "Daddy I want a bicycle, Daddy I want a bicycle, Daddy I want a bicycle"—I would say: "Stop it, son! Talk to me like a human being, I am your father. Explain to me why you want a bicycle, how you will take care of the bicycle, why you could take care of it, how you can use it properly. Talk to me about it in a right way. Don't keep saying that same phrase over and over." God is our Father; He doesn't need us to keep blabbing the same words over and over. We are not to chant like that at all. We should not talk like that when we talk to God, yet millions of Christians do. We will soon be reading here the Lord's Prayer, and we know that millions of professing Christians even keep chanting the Lord's Prayer. They just repeat it and repeat it, and a lot of them don't even know what it is talking about. They literally don't! Let's learn what it is talking about.
"…do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words."
They think they will be heard for saying certain things over and over again. Maybe you have heard the story of the Tibetan prayer wheel. Some Americans went over to Tibet and they found these Tibetan monks with their prayer wheels. They have carved on the wheel a prayer to God and they turn the wheel. Every time the wheel turned, the prayer was supposed to go up to God. So a smart-aleck American hooks it up to an electric generator, so the thing is just turning and turning. Is God pleased with that? That's ridiculous! Do you get the picture? You don't need to chant certain words over and over—that's exactly contrary to what Christ taught.
"Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. In this manner, therefore, pray…"
He didn't say "take these words and repeat them over and over and over and over again." He said to pray "in this manner" Christ here gave the overall approach; the pattern of the way we should talk to God.
"Our Father in heaven…"
When you pray, you should start out by recognizing that God is not just your Father. He is the Father of human beings in a general, broad sense, by virtue of being our Creator. He is the Father of all true Christians because we have His Spirit. We're related to Him-He is our Father, and He is a Father. He is not just some omnipotent God, some powerful despot off in the sky. He is a father. A father loves his children and has concern for his children—as God does for us. He has made us in His image, that we could be like Him someday and bear His name. "OUR Father in heaven." We can't be smart-alecky with this God like we might be with our human father. This is the Father in heaven. His face SHINES like the sun. His voice is like the voice of thunder, like rolling thunder across the Texas plains. This is the voice of God, yet He is our Father.
Verse 9 goes on: "…hallowed be Your name."—You should honor God's name. In the Greek language, the word "name" indicated not just the word people called you; it meant everything about you. It meant everything about your person, your reputation, your character, and your goals. Of course, that is what often means even in the English language. A man who has two wild sons might say: "Sons, you quit running around and beating up on people and getting drunk. You are going to bring reproach and disgrace on our name!" In a small village, everyone would learn that the Smith boys are wild and mean. It would destroy the Smith family's income, it would destroy their reputation-everything about them! That is what the word "name" means.
"Hallowed be [honorable, worshipful] Your name. Your kingdom come."
Not "may You stay somewhere," but may Your Kingdom come. God's Kingdom, God's Government—and the word "kingdom" means government—is going to come back to this earth. Jesus will come back. Revelation 11:15 explains that Jesus, at the seventh trump, will come as King of kings and Lord of lords to rule over the nations of this earth. He is coming again to this earth, and He will rule the nations with a rod of iron. "Thy Kingdom come"—may God's literal Government be set up on this earth! How wonderful things will be when that is done and the earth will then be at peace! There will be prosperity and joy and real peace of mind that we cannot experience today.
"Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
"Your will be done," not human beings' wills. Human beings are all fouled-up and selfish. Christians want God's will to be done—and we should pray for that, "on earth as it is in heaven."
"Give us this day our daily bread."
We are to ask for our daily needs. We are not to say: "God, give me enough money and enough stuff for the next 50 years." He may not do that. We don't all need to be millionaires. But we should ask Him to give us, day by day, our daily bread.
"And forgive us our debts [forgive us our sins, our mistakes], as we forgive our debtors."
We have to forgive others. We must forgive others in order for God to forgive us.
"And do not lead us into temptation [ask God not to bring us "into sore trial" as this may also be translated; we are to ask that He not put us to an unnecessary test or trial, as we are weak and need God's mercy], but deliver us from the evil one."
Sometimes God has allowed some of His servants to be tempted by the devil. And we find in the book of Job, especially in the first chapter or two, an example of that. God said: "You can go this far and no further. But God allowed Satan to strike at Job, causing him to have boils and blisters all over him. His children, and every possession, were taken from him. All kinds of things were taken from him to humble him.
We are to ask God to help us learn the lessons another way—if we can and if we are willing to! Please don't bring us into sore trial, "but deliver us from the evil one." Satan, the spirit personality who rebelled against God and took one-third of the angels with him in that rebellion, was very real to Jesus Christ. He, Satan the devil, is alive today. You have to understand that. Jesus talked about a very real Satan—and you need to be aware of that.
"But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom [yours is the coming government, yours is the POWER to take care of all of these things] and the power and the glory forever. Amen."
"Pray," Jesus said, not repeating this prayer like some mantra, but pray after this manner. This is the right approach to God.
"For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you."
You see, you have to forgive others. Learn to be merciful; learn to be forgiving.
"But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Moreover, when you fast…"
"Wow!" many may say here, "what is He talking about?" Most professing Christians have no idea about fasting. They are not taught how to pray. They are not taught how to study this book and drink in of it. They are not taught about fasting, but Jesus taught us about fasting, and all true ministers should teach their people about fasting. Fasting is abstaining from food and water! I am talking about a spiritual fast. One can talk about an orange juice fast or fruit juice fast or a water fast to help cleanse your body physically, but a complete spiritual fast is having nothing but air—no water, and certainly no food! Back in Deuteronomy 9:9 Moses, the great lawgiver in the Old Testament who was a type of Christ, said: "When I went up into the mountain to receive the tablets of stone [the Ten Commandments], the tablets of the covenant which the LORD made with you, then I stayed on the mountain FORTY DAYS AND FORTY NIGHTS. I neither ate bread nor drank water." For forty days and forty nights— no bread, no water. You may remember from when we went through Matthew 4 earlier, Jesus was fasting for forty days and forty nights—He took nothing.
Paul was struck down on the road to Damascus; God had to humble him and literally shake him to his toenails to get his attention before he would repent. And he became a wonderful, powerful servant of God. What did Paul do when he realized that this must be God speaking to him? It humbled him and he began to seek God. In Acts 9:9 we read: "And he was three days without sight"—God struck him blind—"and neither ate nor drank." The Apostle Paul fasted spiritually—three days and three nights. Fasting means no food, no water—to get you down humble, to where you can listen and realize how weak you are and how you need God. Even the cells of your body, if you fast long enough, will begin to cry out for help! And that is the way Jesus was when He fasted, I am sure.
"Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. [Don't go around just acting humble or looking at the ground or trying to show off to men.] For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward."
In other words, some say: "Oh, what a humble man, he is fasting today"—trying to show it off. This doesn't mean that when you pray you've got to go and hide. He does tell us to go into a private room, certainly, but it doesn't mean to be ashamed if your spouse walks in on you, he or she can just walk back out again. If it is an emergency, they can interrupt you—but basically, they should leave you alone if you are praying. You are not to be ashamed of prayer. I know how my wife often prayed when our children were little; she had to have them close by, so she held their hands and they had to sit there on the floor or play close by her while she was praying. That's o.k.; she was concentrating upon God, but not showing off to little children. You don't show off to little children; I think you all know that. So it is not that you are hiding or ashamed.
Jesus took three of His disciples with him on that last night, and they watched and prayed. He went ahead a little bit further and prayed some more, but they must have been able to see Him as He was praying. But He was up on the side of a hill and He was not near them, so they couldn't hear His words. He was not hiding, but He was not showing off. And you are not to show off when you're fasting. But, you fellows, you might tell your wife that you are going to fast so she doesn't prepare some great big meal and then have to hear you say: "I can't eat it." You can let her know, and one or two others if you have to.
"But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face [in other words, shave and clean up like normal—don't try to look some special way], 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."
That's the whole point, God will reward you if you seek God by getting down on both your knees. That is a good way to start your prayer, and the Bible shows that is the main position for personal prayer, on both knees. You bow one knee to a king, but you bow two knees to the King of the Universe, Almighty God. And perhaps you lift up your hands for part of your prayer. God is not "inside you"—this is kind of an oriental thing. No, He is not inside of you. He is the Creator, sitting above the Universe, sitting on His throne in heaven. So you may have your face upward and your arms outstretched as you pray to God, at least part of the time. You may get tired and move through other positions, but you can be that way often in your prayer. Talk to God with all of your being. Ask Him to clean you up, to scrub you out, to make you like He is-ask that His will may be done in the world and in your life. And fast occasionally, seeking God and asking God to humble you—to clean you up, to help you get over your sins. Sincerely try to get close to God by fasting. If you do these things, God will reward you and He will, in the end, reward you openly—Jesus said so! So, have faith in God and let the living Jesus Christ live His life in you—and in the way you carry out these things that Jesus taught us here, right in the Sermon on the Mount.
That's it for today. We will pick up next time where we left off.
This is Roderick C. Meredith speaking, once again, for the Living Church of God.