Sunday, April 1, 2018

Matthew - Almsgiving and Prayer

In today's study from Matthew 6:1-8, our Lord speaks on the issues of almsgiving and prayer.

Almsgiving and Prayers
vv.1-8 Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.  (2)  Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.  (3)  But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:  (4)  That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.  (5)  And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.  (6)  But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.  (7)  But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.  (8)  Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.

In this chapter, Jesus begins to instruct the disciples on the right motive and method for giving alms and praying. Alms are voluntary gifts to aid the poor and needy. We see examples of this in Acts 3:2-3 And a certain man lame from his mother's womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple;  3  Who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple asked an alms. Also in Acts 10:2 A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.

Wrong Motives
The wrong motive for almsgiving and praying is to be seen of men. Hypocrites would go so far as to sound a trumpet, stand in the synagogue or stand on the corner of a street to pray or to give something to the poor so that men would notice them (v.2, 5). That was their motive and their reward was solely the recognition they received from the men who saw them (v.1, 2, 5). They lost their reward from God when they done this (v.1).

Right Motives
The right motive for almsgiving and prayer is for the Father and Him alone. The right method, therefore, for almsgiving is in secret (v.4). The giver wasn’t even supposed to account for his gifts; so that the left hand wouldn’t know what the right hand was doing (v.3). The right method for prayer was also in secret (v.6), without vain repetitions (v.7), and with forgiveness for those who had trespassed against him (v.12). That way, the Father would reward him openly and forgive him as well (v.6, 14, 15).

The Lord’s Prayer
vv.9-14 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.  (10)  Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in 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 lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.  (14)  For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:

Now the Lord instructs the disciples on how to pray with what has been improperly titled “The Lord’s Prayer.” It is actually the “Disciples Prayer” for the Lord said, “After this manner therefore pray ye,” (v.9).   The “ye” would be them and not him.

Contextual Interpretation
Now we have to remember that Jesus Christ was sent to the people of Israel. It was not until well after His ascension that Christ sent Paul to the Gentiles, who were not under the Law of Moses. This prayer was for the Jews who were under the Law of Moses to pray. Therefore, it is not necessarily ours to pray. For example, when the prayer says, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven ....", it is alright for us today to pray for that, but understand that it has a different meaning for us than it did for the Jews who were under the Law of Moses. We can pray for His kingdom to come, but we know that for us, that means we will be raptured, and that God's will regarding the tribulation and the setting up of the kingdom will be fulfilled afterwards. In other words, we have a slightly different perspective of the kingdom from that of the Jews in Christ's day. The same could be said of the other statements in the prayer as well.

Topical Message “Prayer”
Now, I would like to start a topical message on the issue of prayer today for the church.

Mary, Queen of Scotland once said of John Knox, the found of the Presbyterian Church, “I fear John Knox's prayers more than an army of ten thousand men.” Thomas Lye once said, “I had rather stand against the cannons of the wicked than against the prayers of the righteous.” Let’s take a closer look at the “Lord’s Prayer”.

I. Definition of Prayer
Prayer may best be defined as “having fellowship with God.” It is more than simply talking to God, but rather talking with God. It implies a two-way give and take.

II. Elements of Prayer
Looking at the model prayer that was given here by Jesus, we find that prayer includes ten elements.

1. A Personal Relationship with God: “Our Father”

The word “Our” signifies the believer’s brotherly relationship between himself and all other Christians. While the Bible nowhere presents the universal fatherhood of God, it does declare the universal brotherhood of believers because the word “Father” signifies the relationship between God and the believer. He is not everybody’s Father.

John 8:44 “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.”

You are either a child of God or a child of the devil.

2. Faith: “in heaven”

Jesus said in Joh 14:1-3 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.  2  In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  3  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. That takes faith to believe in that promise. And Paul declares in Hebrews that without this element in our prayers, they are useless. The writer of Hebrews says in Hebrews 11:6 “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”

What is faith? Websters defines it as “a confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing.  It is a belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.” The Bibles defines it in Hebrews 11:1 as the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 

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