The basic format for Whisper Connection Zoom meetings includes a brief Bible study, facilitated discussion, and a daily challenge, followed by a time of prayer. The posts here are not traditional "blog" posts but session notes.
“Pray, then, in this way: Our Father who is 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 lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” Matthew 6:9-13 nasb
Most of us memorized the Lord’s Prayer as children and it is deeply imbedded in our hearts. Because of our intimate familiarity with this prayer, it’s easy to overlook the beauty, breadth and depth of these few words. We’ll begin a closer look at how to pray according to the Lord’s prayer today and continue over the next few days.
How to pray according to the Lord's Prayer: The Importance of Prayer
First, let’s consider the importance of prayer to God. See John 14:16-17, Romans 8:26-27, Hebrews 7:25, Hebrews 8:1, Hebrews 4:16
Jesus moves from a discussion of unacceptable prayer to an example of acceptable prayer. These seven sentences can be divided into three major sections. Preface. Petitions. Conclusion. The set-up is a little like a letter to heaven, with an addressee (Our Father), body (the petitions), seal (the “Amen”) and date (“this day”).(1)
Question: How does Matthew 6:9 pave the way for the instruction in Matthew 6:33?
In the preface (Our Father who is in heaven) and the first three petitions, Jesus demonstrates the reality of an instruction to come a bit later in this chapter. “Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness…” (Matthew 6:33)
How to Pray According to the Lord's Prayer: Importance of Community
Question: Why might Jesus have used the plural “our” rather than first person singular “my” in the beginning of His prayer? (See 1 Corinthians 12:12-14)
He begins with the simple address “Our Father.” Rather than use the phrase “My Father,” Jesus uses the first person plural form and hints at the importance of community and unity. We are not in this walk of discipleship alone. Each one has an important part to play and none of us can make it in isolation from the rest of the body.
How to Pray According to the Lord's Prayer: Understanding the Father
Question: How do we receive this Father-daughter relationship? See Romans 8:14-17,
Ephesians 1:3-5, Galatians 4:3-5
The Greek word used here is patēr and indicates our heavenly Father as “creator, preserver, guardian, and protector.” (2) The word translated as “name” is onoma and can also be translated “to know” or “to understand.” The term “hallowed be Thy name” does not refer to the name Father alone but to all the names of God rolled into one. (3)
Let’s talk about God as Father for a moment. In the Old Testament, we see God describe Himself as Father but we do not see humans referring to Him in this way. Jesus introduces the beautiful intimacy of a loving Father who is both approachable and compassionate toward our needs.
Psalm 103:13, Malachi 3:17, Jeremiah 3:4, 19 all give us glimpses as God as Father. Luke 11:11-13 expands the idea of a loving father even further as does the story of the prodigal son. Waiting. Watching. Loving. Ever ready to receive the returning prodigal. The prodigal had to leave the pigpen but the Father cleaned him up. His loving Father accepted him and welcomed him home.
Challenge: Consider how have you experienced God as Father and write out a prayer of thanks for the ways He’s cared for you as a loving Daddy.
Photo by David Beale on Unsplash
And when you pray, you are not to be as the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners, in order to be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will repay you. And when you pray, do not use meaningless repetition, as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need, before you ask Him." Matthew 6: 5-8 nasb
Just as there is a difference between hypocritical and godly giving, there is also a difference between acceptable and unacceptable prayer. Jesus gives two examples of unacceptable prayer and both come with a false understanding of who God is.
The first is that of the hypocrite who loves to stand (rather than kneel) in the center of the synagogue or on street corners so they can be see. They make a show of godliness with fancy words but love the showiness of prayer rather than prayer itself. The regard of men is all the reward they will receive.
The second form of unacceptable prayer is that of the Gentile who repeats meaningless phrases and babbles. They expect God to respond because of the length of their prayers, but prolonged prayer does not increase piety nor does it increase reward.
Both expect God to hear their prayers and to gain from their efforts but they talk at God rather than with Him.
As with godly giving, it is not the place, position or words of the prayer that makes it ungodly. It is the motive and the heart of the one praying, both of which God knows. I love Jesus’ words in verse 8. “Your Father knows what you need before you ask.” It is not necessary to give God a news update. He is both omniscient and all-knowing. He sees and knows everything.
Prayer is a two-way conversation with the Most High God in which we do more listening than talking.
In Luke 18: 9-14 Jesus paints a word picture of the difference between hypocritical prayer and godly prayer. First, he makes it clear He’s talking to those who trust in themselves and their own presumed righteousness and looked down on others.
Here’s the Leanna Paraphrase: “You’re not as godly as you think you are, so listen up. I’ll tell you how you look to God, and it’s not good.”
Two men went to the temple to pray, both with different motives. The first, a Pharisee, prayed to himself rather than God. His words were praise for himself for his above-and-beyond faithfulness. He was filled with pious words in a public place but his heart was filled with pride. Since not even one need is mentioned, it appears he considers himself self-sufficient and is self-reliant.
The second man was a publican (or tax-collector). They were considered traitors by the Jews as well as extortionists and thieves because of their habit of over-collecting tax. He saw himself as the chief sinner and asked God for mercy. His prayer was filled with humility and repentance. The publican was in the temple because it was the house of prayer, not in hopes of public recognition. His seven-word prayer was packed with power and highly regarded by Christ Himself.
“God be merciful to me, the sinner” was likely the most powerful prayer prayed that day.
Principles of prayer:
1. What is the difference between talking at God and talking with God?
2. What differences do you see between the Pharisee’s prayer and that of the publican?
3. Why was the publican justified but the Pharisee was not?
Find a quiet place today and spend time with God. Open your Bible and let God speak to you. Listen more than you talk.
Photo by Samuel Martins on Unsplash
"Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. When therefore you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you." Matthew 6:1-4 nasb
Matthew 6 moves from an explanation of the characteristics of the Kingdom of God and a warning against false doctrine (1) in Matthew 5 to a look at attitudes and spiritual disciplines in the Kingdom and a warning against false practices. This chapter begins with our attitudes toward three major disciplines: Giving. Prayer. Fasting. Today we'll study Matthew 6:1-4 and consider our attitudes toward giving.
Jesus draws a sharp contrast between the giving of the hypocrites and the righteous. The word translated as "hypocrite" literally means an actor merely playing a part. (2) Actors on a stage perform with the accolades of the audience in mind. Hypocrites give, Jesus said, with the praise of those who see them as their goal. They make a production of giving, going so far as to have trumpets sound to publicize and call attention to their magnanimous giving. God sees both their gift and their heart-motive. The applause of men is all the reward these givers will ever receive.
We know from the story of Samuel anointing the young King David (1 Samuel 6:1-15) how easy it is to be swayed by appearances. The prophet looked at Jesse's sons and saw strong, handsome lads. "Surely this is the one," he thought. God said no. "God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (3)
When the righteous give, they are to do it secretly so no one will know. In essence, they are to give with the right hand so unobtrusively that their left hand never notices. Their giving proceeds from a heart of generosity and love for God and their fellow man. God, who sees their heart and what is done in secret, will reward them accordingly.
Our motive in giving is vital. If our motive is wrong, it doesn't matter whether someone sees us or not. God will not reward a wrong motive. Godly giving is a reward in itself but it comes with a promise of further reward from God. Unfortunately, the reward can be lost if we give to be seen and praised by men.
Scripture addresses the subject of giving repeatedly, probably because we humans have such a hard time letting go of what we consider "our" possessions. James tells giving to the poor and those in need is the duty of disciples of Christ, (4) but it is a duty with considerable reward.
Rewards of Godly Giving:
1. Plenty (Proverbs 11, 24-25, Proverbs 19:17)
2. Security from want (Proverbs 28:27, Psalm 37:21-22
3. Help in times of distress (Psalm 41:1-2)
4. Honor and a good name (Psalm 112:9)
5. Eternal reward (Luke 14:14)
"If the work be not open, the reward shall be and that is better." Matthew Henry (5)
Questions for discussion:
1. What makes a doer-of-good-deeds a hypocrite?
2. Do I lose my reward if someone knows about my gift?
3. What is my motive for giving?
Challenge for the day:
Do one act of kindness or giving secretly today and celebrate the love of Jesus as you give.
(1) Henry, M. "Commentary on Matthew 6 by Matthew Henry." Blue Letter Bible. Last Modified 1 Mar, 1996. https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/mhc/Mat/Mat_006.cfm
(2) "G5273 - hypokritēs - Strong's Greek Lexicon (NASB)." Blue Letter Bible. Accessed 21 May, 2020. https://www.blueletterbible.org//lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G5273&t=NASB
(3) 1 Samuel 6:7 nasb
(4) James 1:27
(5) Henry, M. Op. cit.
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“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48 nasb
Today’s verse has been a hard one for me. “Be perfect…” Yeah, right. Like I can be perfect for even one minute. Unfortunately, it’s not happening. As I prepared for today’s session, I discovered a freeing bit of truth. My idea of perfect was skewed. I expected a kind of perfect justice, one in which I would never sin and would do everything exactly correctly according to the way God does it. My body would never fail. Evil thoughts would never enter my mind. Wrong actions would not proceed from my heart to my hands. It wasn’t my reality and it never will be.
I was wrong.
Question: Does God expect us to be sinless this side of heaven?
No. But He expects us to try.
The word translated as “perfect” is teleios (1) and comes from a root word meaning “to set out for a definite point or goal.” It indicates one who is complete in both virtue and integrity, mature. In a way, we strive for perfection by imitating the characteristics of God.
Every commentator I reviewed agreed on one thing. The example of perfection we should follow is that of God’s perfect love.
Jesus, in His Sermon on the Mount, built to this point by introducing the characteristics of the Kingdom of God. He presented it not from the perspective of the Jewish leaders of the time but from the perspective of God. It’s a “this is how it should look” explanation and a model to which believers should adhere.
Let’s take a few moments to review Jesus’ plan for His followers as outlined in Matthew 5.
Characteristics of the Kingdom of God:
Attributes of Kingdom Citizens:
They are blessed or happy, not because their circumstances are perfect but despite their circumstances. A “saved” person is:
Function of Kingdom Citizens:
Standards of Kingdom in comparison to Mosaic Law:
Sins of the heart (thoughts, desires) and sins of the hand (words, action) are both sin.
Anger = murder
lust = adultery
covetousness = stealing
oaths = blasphemy
Question: Is anger and the root of bitterness it creates optional for believers? Is hate? Lust?
No. Jesus does not offer us the option of keeping a few favorite sins. We cannot continue as baby believers, coddling sin and immaturity, if we want to be like Jesus. Hate, anger, lust, coveting, oaths and any other of our favorite sins are not options for citizens of the Kingdom of God. We must choose both freedom and holiness.
Perfection in the Kingdom:
The Kingdom standard is two-fold and includes love and forgiveness. They replace hatred and retaliation in our thoughts, words, and deeds.
God gives rain and sunshine to the just and the unjust. He allows gladness of heart for all. God’s perfect love extends to His enemies, so we don’t get a pass with our enemies, either. are to not only love our enemies but do good to them.
In Matthew 5, the idea of perfection does not mean sinlessness. Clearly, kingdom citizens hunger and thus for righteousness. (Matthew 5:6) There’s no need to hunger and thirst for what you already have but for what is lacking. Instead, perfection follows a description of God’s perfect love and it is for that level of perfection we must strive. Perfect love is the second slap, the extra mile. It is grace and mercy in action.
The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the church at Ephesus, (Ephesians 5:1,2) tells us we are to imitate the love of God so that our lifestyle is that of sacrificial love. He goes on to say we are not to behave as the world behaves but to learn what is pleasing to God (Ephesians 5:10) and do it.
There's a problem though. Even trying to act in a manner pleasing to God can be a challenge, can't it? Praise God, there's hope. He not only understands the difficulties of our frail flesh, He made provision by giving us the Holy Spirit to help us live with God's perfect love. We will only achieve perfection in Heaven but, with our Helper to convict and direct us, we can make a good start.
Spend time today asking God to shine His light on an area of unconfessed, un-repented, and un-relinquished sin in your life. Confess the sin and commit to allowing Him to root it out. Take every thought captive concerning the sin and take action to remove it from your life.
1. "G5046 - teleios - Strong's Greek Lexicon (NASB)." Blue Letter Bible. Accessed 19 May, 2020. https://www.blueletterbible.org//lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G5046&t=NASB
2. "G5056 - telos - Strong's Greek Lexicon (NASB)." Blue Letter Bible. Accessed 19 May, 2020. https://www.blueletterbible.org//lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G5056&t=NASB
“You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR, and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His son to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the Gentles do the same?” Matthew 5:43-47 NASB
Let's begin with some basic Greek word studies:
QUESTION: What does God say about adding to the law? (Deuteronomy 4:2, Deuteronomy 12:32)
QUESTION: Why did Jesus propose such a radical, not-our-default way of dealing with our enemies? (See Exodus 23:4,5 and Deuteronomy 23:7 to see how God responds to His enemies.)
Once again, Jesus shows us obedience to the law is not our goal but the spirit of the law, the going beyond to be more like Christ, should be. The purpose of the law is not to give us rules to live by, although it did accomplish that task. The purpose of the law is to help us understand who God is, to become more like our Father and to please the One who is perfection personified.
“If a man could live the way Jesus has told us to in this chapter, he would truly be perfect.
· He would never hate, slander or speak evil of another person.
· He would never lust in his heart or mind, and not covet anything.
· He would never make a false oath, and always be completely truthful.
· He would let God defend his personal rights, and not take it upon himself to defend those rights.
· He would always love his neighbors, and even his enemies.”Matthew Henry summed the entire passage up in one short phrase, a quote from Plutarch: “do good to our friends, and make friends of our enemies.” (6)
Jesus gives two reasons for which we should love and bless so extravagantly. First, because our aim should be to emulate Jesus and be like God the Father. Second, our actions should be radically and recognizably different from the rest of the world.
When we love and bless even those who wrong us, we create the condition in which the rest of the world can say, “If that’s how she treats me, is that how Jesus would respond to me?” If we are the only sermon some people ever hear it needs to be a good one.
QUESTION: Can we be children of God if we don’t love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us? (John 3:16, John 14:16, Acts 4:12)
QUESTION: According to Scripture, we come to the Father only through Jesus. What does 1 John 2:9-11 say about how believers should respond to our enemies?
Think of someone who might be your enemy and choose to pray for him/her daily for at least one week. Make a list of three positive characteristics in them and thank God for them. Consider how your life has been positively impacted because of them, despite any negative actions they may have taken.
1. "G25 - agapaō - Strong's Greek Lexicon (NASB)." Blue Letter Bible. Accessed 18 May, 2020. https://www.blueletterbible.org//lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G25&t=NASB
2. "G3404 - miseō - Strong's Greek Lexicon (NASB)." Blue Letter Bible. Accessed 18 May, 2020. https://www.blueletterbible.org//lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G3404&t=NASB
3. "G4336 - proseuchomai - Strong's Greek Lexicon (NASB)." Blue Letter Bible. Accessed 18 May, 2020. https://www.blueletterbible.org//lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G4336&t=NASB
4. "G1377 - diōkō - Strong's Greek Lexicon (NASB)." Blue Letter Bible. Accessed 18 May, 2020. https://www.blueletterbible.org//lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G1377&t=NASB
5. "G1096 - ginomai - Strong's Greek Lexicon (NASB)." Blue Letter Bible. Accessed 18 May, 2020. https://www.blueletterbible.org//lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G1096&t=NASB
6. Guzik, D. "Study Guide for Matthew 5 by David Guzik." Blue Letter Bible. Last Modified 21 Feb, 2017. https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide2017-Mat/Mat-5.cfm
7. Henry, M. "Commentary on Matthew 5 by Matthew Henry." Blue Letter Bible. Last Modified 1 Mar, 1996. https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/mhc/Mat/Mat_005.cfm
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Leanna Lindsey Hollis MD, Director of Intercessory Prayer and Outreach for Global Outreach International, is a prolific writer on topics of discipleship, faith, prayer, and the disciple life. Visit her website at leannahollis.com . She is a founding member and blogs about prayer at praywithconfidence.com
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