Giving, Praying and Self-denial (Matthew 6:1-18)

It is possible to give to God’s cause in a mechanical way. The picture is of a disciple who spends time with God and then comes across someone in need and gives him something. I suspect that Jesus is indicating that when a disciple gives in this manner his giving will reflect the God who he has been with. Therefore, he will give graciously.

When Jesus tells his fasting disciple that he should anoint his head and wash his face he does not mean that his disciple engages in a form of pretence. Instead he is instructing his disciple that his outward look should reveal his heart. People who see him should see his joy, but they should not discover that he is doing without legitimate things in order to enjoy the presence of God. 

Jesus mentions two wrong ways to pray. These are the prayers of the Pharisees and the prayers of the pagans. Usually, a person would say that there is nothing similar between those options, but Jesus points out that neither method is true prayer. So what is prayer?

Prayer is special, so special that the petitioner makes sure that there is a suitable private place in which it can take place. The choice of place is not made by God, but the disciple must find this place of privacy.

Prayer is expressed simply. Sometimes, people only pray when they are in a desperate situation. When that happens, they may use lots of words, but if you listen to them it is obvious that they don’t know anything about the God to whom they are praying. In contrast, the disciple of Jesus knows that prayer is not about giving God information and therefore prays straightforwardly.

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