Jesus’ Life and Ministry
Prayer, and Trust in God
AS JESUS proceeds with his sermon, he condemns the hypocrisy of people who make a show of their supposed godliness. “When you go making gifts,” he says, “do not blow a trumpet ahead of you, just as the hypocrites do.”
“Also,” Jesus continues, “when you pray, you must not be as the hypocrites; because they like to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the broad ways to be visible to men.” Rather, he instructs: “When you pray, go into your private room and, after shutting your door, pray to your Father who is in secret.” Jesus himself said public prayers, so he is not condemning these. What he is denouncing are prayers that are said to impress listeners and draw their admiring compliments.
Jesus further counsels: “When praying, do not say the same things over and over again, just as the people of the nations do.” Jesus does not mean that repetition in itself is wrong. Once, he himself repeatedly used “the same word” when praying. But what he disapproves of is the saying of memorized phrases “over and over again,” such as those do who finger beads as they repeat their prayers by rote.
To help his listeners pray, Jesus provides a model prayer that includes seven petitions. The first three rightly give recognition to God’s sovereignty and his purposes. They are requests for God’s name to be sanctified, his Kingdom to come, and his will to be done. The remaining four are personal requests, namely, for daily food, forgiveness of sins, not to be tempted beyond one’s endurance, and to be delivered from the wicked one.
Going on, Jesus addresses the snare of putting undue emphasis on material possessions. He urges: “Stop storing up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break in and steal.” Not only are such treasures perishable but they build up no merit with God.
Hence, Jesus says: “Rather, store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” This is done by putting God’s service first in your life. Nobody can take away the merit thus accumulated with God or its grand reward. Then Jesus adds: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Further addressing the snare of materialism, Jesus gives the illustration: “The lamp of the body is the eye. If, then, your eye is simple, your whole body will be bright; but if your eye is wicked, your whole body will be dark.” The eye that functions properly is to the body like a lighted lamp in a dark place. But to see correctly, the eye must be simple, that is, it must focus on one thing. An out-of-focus eye leads to a mistaken estimate of things, to putting material pursuits ahead of service to God, with the result that the “whole body” becomes dark.
Jesus climaxes this matter with the powerful illustration: “No one can slave for two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stick to the one and despise the other. You cannot slave for God and for Riches.”
After giving this counsel, Jesus assures his listeners that they need not be anxious about their material needs if they put God’s service first. “Observe intently the birds of heaven,” he says, “because they do not sow seed or reap or gather into storehouses; still your heavenly Father feeds them.” Then he asks: “Are you not worth more than they are?”
Next, Jesus points to the lilies of the field and notes that “not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these. If, now,” he continues, “God thus clothes the vegetation of the field, . . . will he not much rather clothe you, you with little faith?”
So Jesus concludes: “Never be anxious and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or, ‘What are we to drink?’ or, ‘What are we to put on?’ . . . For your heavenly Father knows you need all these things. Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:1-34; 26:36-45.
◆ What instructions on prayer did Jesus provide?
◆ Why are heavenly treasures superior, and how are they obtained?
◆ What illustrations were given to help one avoid materialism?
◆ Why did Jesus say that there is no need to be anxious?