Sermon Notes and Video: ” God’s Providence and Rewards Through Faithful Prayers”

Sermon Notes and Video

Sermon Title: ” God’s Providence and Rewards Through Faithful Prayers”

Date:Sunday, February 10, 2019

Speaker: Dr. Joseph

Matthew 6:5-15 (cp. Luke 11:2-4)

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Introduction

The Lord’s Prayer is the Greatest prayer in the Christian tradition. The early Christians called it “Abba Prayer.”  Christian Catholic call it “Our Father” and Protestant Christians call it “the Lord’s Prayer.” John Dominic Cross in his book, “The Greatest Prayer: Rediscovering the Revolutionary Message of the Lord’s Prayer,” published in 2010, argues that “The Lord’s Prayer is both a revolutionary manifesto and a hymn of hope. It is revolutionary because it presumes and proclaims the radical vision of justice that is the core of Israel’s biblical tradition. It is a hymn, because it presumes and produces poetic techniques that are the core of Israel’s biblical poetry” (p. 2). Crossan also notes, “The Lord’s Prayer is Christianity’s greatest prayer. It is also Christianity’s strangest prayer. It is prayed by all Christians, but it never mentions Christ. It is prayed in all churches, but it never mentions church. It is prayed on all Sundays, but it never mentions Sundays. It is called the “Lord’s Prayer, but it never mentions “Lord” (p. 1)

Prayer is one of the most important spiritual disciplines in the Christian life; yet it is probably one of the most neglected spiritual activities among contemporary Christians and the modern church in America. By contrast, Jesus states bluntly that “My house [the church] should be called a house of prayer,” wherein believers come to seek and pursue God through corporate prayer and intercession. The God of the Bible is a God who hears, responds, and acts upon the prayers of his people; thus, he invites his children to pursue him through the means of prayer, and he rewards them when they do. He also uses prayer as a medium to providentially accomplish his will or desires in the world, as well as the will and the desires of those who love and worship him.

Exposition: Matthew 6:5-15

Matthew Chapter 6 is divided in five thematic parts. The first theme focuses on the right attitude of giving/almsgiving (6:1-4); the second theme emphasizes the proper attitude in praying (6:5-15); the third on fasting (6:16-18); the fourth is on the right location to hide one’s treasures (6:19-24); and the final part is a cautionary word about being worried (6:25:34).

Nonetheless, the thesis statement of this passage is arguably Matthew 6:1, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” The thesis is developed in verses 2-34, followed by supporting evidence and details.  In the first four verses in the chapter, Jesus discusses the three major acts of Jewish piety and religious righteousness: almsgiving, prayer, and fasting.  All Jews were expected to give to the poor, to pray, and to fast; those who were devout did all three. In fact, the religious elements of almsgiving, prayer, and fasting are found almost in every religious tradition such as Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism.  Jesus himself expects his disciples to follow suit; essentially, the phrases “when you give to the needy” (6:2), “when you pray” (6:5), “when you fast” (6:16) all indicate an expectation from the disciples. Jesus expects his disciples to continue this practice; he did not say, “if you give,” “if you pray,” and “if you fast” which eliminates the option not to practice these acts of righteousness. The question Jesus raises in this passage is how should they do it, that is, what should be the proper attitude of Jesus’s followers toward giving, prayer, and fasting?

The underlying claim of this passage lies on true and false religious righteousness in relation to prayers offered to God. Jesus is teaching the disciples the proper attitude they should develop toward prayer and praying God and that his disciples should not showcase righteousness that focuses on self-exaltation, seeks to heighten one’s reputation, and promotes one’s social status or honor when they pray. The antagonist of this passage is the Pharisees and scribes, and the problem is their acts of public righteousness did not please God.

  • “Following the New Testament period, the rabbis created piety around three nodes: Torah study, prayer, and almsgiving, and almsgiving was seen as the substitute of sacrifice once the temple was destroyed. Almsgiving, at least in the minds of many, had become at the time of Jesus the singular act of piety” –Scot McKnight
  • “One of human religion’s greatest temptations is to act piously to elicit the praise of others. A secret atheist could practice religion in that form without the slightest element of faith (compare 23:5) …Jesus reminds us that true piety means impressing God alone—living our lives in the recognition that God knows every thought and deed, and it is approval alone that matters.” Craig Keener
  • “This trio of religious obligations expresses in some degree our duty to God, to others and to ourselves. For to give alms is to seek to serve our neighbor, especially the needy. To pray is to seek God’s face and to acknowledge our dependence on him. To fast (that is, to abstain from food for spiritual reasons) is intended at least partly as a way to deny and so to discipline oneself. Jesus does not raise the question whether his followers will engage in these things, but, assuming that they will, teaches them why and how to do so>”—John R. W. Stott
  1. v. 6:5

Warning: Do not imitate the hypocrites when you pray (6:5b)

Reasons: their goal is to be noted or to be seen by others. Rather, you should let your Father who is unseen sees you (6:6a). He sees what is done in secret (6:6)

Acceptable posture and attitude for prayer

  • Go into your own room/close your door/ and pray to your father
  • Prayer is about reward (6:6b)

How does God reward us?

Warning about how not to pray: Negative aspects of Christian prayer

  1. Do not be like the hypocrites: do not pattern your prayer life after theirs (6:5a) because they love to be seen by others (6:5a)
  2. Do not use babbling language like the pagans who do not know the true and living God do. They think they will be heard because of their many words.
  3. Do not be like them (both the religious hypocrites [the Pharisees and the Scribes] and the non-religious people who do not know God) (6:8). Your Father knows what you need before you ask him (6:8).

Key words

The following are the key words in the Lord’s Prayer: Father, heaven, name, kingdom, will, earth, bread, debt, and temptation. The first five key words are linked to God and his work in providence, and the last four key words are associate with human beings and human interactions in the world and toward God.

The structure of the Lord’s Prayer

  • There are eight petitions or requests contained in the Lord’s Prayer:
  1. The first three petitions pertain to God’s cosmic sovereignty and lordship; hence, Jesus encourages his disciples to focus primarily on the nature of God’s rule and that they should
  • Pray for God’s name to be hallowed or “proved holy” in the world (6:9)
  • Pray for the outbreak of God’s kingdom in the world (6:10)
  • Pray for God’s desires and sovereign rule to be done without human restraint (6:10b)
  1. The next three petitions or requests regard human need; thus, Jesus encourages his disciples to
  • Pray to God to supply their daily necessities (6:11)
  • Pray for forgiveness of sins and cancellation of economic debts (6:12)
  • Pray that God will keep up from failing when we are tempted (6:13)

The practice and assurance of prayer in the Christian Life

  • Romans 8:26: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”
  • Romans 12:12 “12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”
  • 1 Thessalonians 3:10, “As we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith?”
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing”
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:25, “Brothers, pray for us.”

Crossan writes, “The mysterious secret of prayer is that—like all other human matters—it must mature over time and through practice. And, of course, immaturity is as possible in prayer as anywhere in our lives. But there is path forward, because this is how our prayer growth develops: request (complaint and petition), gratitude (thanksgiving and praise), and empowerment (participation and collaboration” (The Greatest Prayer, p. 27)

“Maturity in prayer—and in theology—means working more and more from prayers of request (complaint or petition), through prayers of gratitude (thanksgiving or praise), and on to prayers of empowerment (participation or collaboration)—with a God who is absolutely transcendent and immanent at the same time. That God is like the air all around us. God, like air, is everywhere, for everyone, always, and both totally free as well as absolutely necessary” (p. 28).

Verses 9-10

  • The English word “Hallow” is derivative from Greek “hagiastheto” meaning to honor, to sanctify, and to treat with the highest reverence or respect. According to Keener, Jesus echoes a common prayer which the Jewish people regularly recite in the synagogue; it is called the “Kaddish.” “ Kaddish (‘sanctification’) is the doxology in Aramaic in which the hope is expressed that God‘s great name will be sanctified in the whole world He has created and the Kingdom of Heaven be established on earth” (https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/the-kaddish-prayer/) . There are many versions to it; nonetheless, the earliest version goes in this manner:

Exalted and hallowed be his great name, in the world that he created according to his will; may he cause his kingdom to reign…”

***The prayer assumes that the coming of God’s kingdom in the world will transform it and renew his creation. Another version is as follows:

May His great Name grow exalted and sanctified (Cong: Amen.)

in the world that He created as He willed.

May He give reign to His kingship in your lifetimes and in your days,

and in the lifetimes of the entire Family of Israel,

swiftly and soon. Now say:

(Amen. May His great Name be blessed forever and ever.)

Blessed, praised, glorified, exalted, extolled,

mighty, upraised, and lauded be the Name of the Holy One

Blessed is He.

beyond any blessing and song,

praise and consolation that are uttered in the world. Now say:

Amen

and life upon us and upon all Israel. Now say:

Amen

He Who makes peace in His heights, may He make peace,

upon us and upon all Israel. Now say:

Amen

Source : http://www.jewfaq.org/kaddishref.htm

 

Glorified and sanctified be God’s great name throughout the world which He has created according to His will. May He establish His kingdom in your lifetime and during your days, and within the life of the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon; and say, Amen.

May His great name be blessed forever and to all eternity.

Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, extolled and honored, adored and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, beyond all the blessings and hymns, praises and consolations that are ever spoken in the world; and say, Amen.

May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for usand for all Israel; and say, Amen.

He who creates peace in His celestial heights, may He create peace for us and for all Israel; and say, Amen.
Read more at https://www.beliefnet.com/wellness/health/health-support/grief-and-loss/2000/10/mourners-kaddish-english-translation.aspx#uUmRSjH2mjZcSF7Z.99

“The theme of Kaddish is, rather, the Greatness of G-d, Who conducts the entire universe, and especially his most favored creature, each individual human being, with careful supervision. In this prayer, we also pray for peace–from apparently the only One Who can guarantee it–peace between nations, peace between individuals, and peace of mind.”
Read more at https://www.beliefnet.com/wellness/health/health-support/grief-and-loss/2000/10/mourners-kaddish-english-translation.aspx#uUmRSjH2mjZcSF7Z.99

 

**** “Neither the Kaddish nor Jesus’ sample prayer is a prayer for the complacent person satisfied with the treasures of this age. This is a prayer for the desperate, who recognize that this world is not as it should be and that only God can set things straight—for the broken to whom Jesus promises the blessings of he Kingdom (5:3-12)” (Keener, Gospel of Matthew, p. 141).

The Biblical Promise that God’s name will be eventually hallowed (or proved holy) in the future in the world:

  • Ezekiel 36:23, “And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.”
  • Ezekiel 38:23, “So I will show my greatness and my holiness and make myself known in the eyes of many nations. Then they will know that I am the Lord.”
  • Ezekiel 39:27, “When I have brought them back from the peoples and gathered them from their enemies’ lands, and through them have vindicated my holiness in the sight of many nations.”

Key characteristics of this prayer

  1. The prayer portrays God as a Father (V.9). “First, Jesus predicates it on the basis of an intimate relationship with God. This is a relationship that denotes both respectful dependence and affectionate intimacy. We must understand what God’s “fatherhood” would have meant to most of Jesus’ hearers. In first-century Jewish Palestine children were powerless social dependents, and fathers were viewed as strong providers and examples on whom their children would depend. Jesus summons us to pray not like the pagans (v.7), but a with a dependence on God as our Father (vv. 8-9) who watches over us (Deut. 8:3-5 in Mt 4:4)” (Keener, Gospel of Mathew, p. 141).
  2. Second, “the prayer seeks first God’s glory, not our own.” Third, “believers long for the coming of God’s kingdom and the doing of his will (Mt. 6:9-10). Third,

Proper Attitude toward God when Praying: What you should already know about God

**that will lead to an effective prayer life

  • Recognize that God is omniscient and that he has special knowledge about your personal needs (6:8). Recognize that God has exhaustive omniscience and that includes the details of every person’s intentions and future actions (6:7). Know that God has personal knowledge about the believer’s life and his necessities (6:8, 25-27). Prayer is thus about seeking God’s comfort in the midst of a life full of uncertainties, tragedies, disappointments, deceptions, and human trauma.
  • Prayer is about letting God see your heart and motivations (6:5). It is about giving God access to your heart to examine and assess your entire being (6:5). This is also expressed in the idea that God sees in secret (6:6)
  • “God sees in the deep secret of the human heart (6:4, 6)
  • God rewards through prayer. Foremost, God is that Reward you are seeking for. God should be your treasure and your reward (6:33). When you pray, your first request should be God Himself, the intimate communion with Him.
  • Recognize that God is transcendent (v. 9)
  • Know that God is also near us, that is, he is immanent (“Our father” v. 9)
  • Know that the sum of human life and all earthly activity is about the achievement of God’s will—that is in all matters of life (6:10). God’s will know knows no boundary or restriction. His sovereignty encompasses the visible and invisible world, the sphere of heaven and the sphere of the earth (6:10b)

 Verse 11, “Our daily Bread”

  •  This verse assumes that the God who is in heaven cares about those who live on earth. He is utterly concerned about our needs. It is an amazing thing to know that the transcendent, majestic, omniscient, and an all-powerful God can make Himself readily available to us and to attend the needs of those who hope and trust him (See Ps. 8)
  • Bread as a general term could refer to the basic necessities human beings need to live and flourish in this world. God’s ultimate desire for of people is to develop, grow, and flourish—without any distinction. If God could provide food and sustenance for the people of Israelites in the wilderness for forty years, he will provide for your need today (Deut. 8:2-3). He will sustain you today.

“This prayer fits the audience of the rest of the sermon. A prayer expressing dependence on god for daily bread and asking only for bread was the prayer of a person willing to live simply, satisfied with the basics (Prov. 30:8-9; compare 1 Tim 6:8). Jesus too showed that he dependence on his father, the God of the exodus, to supply his bread (Mt. 4:3-4, 11)” (Keener, Gospel of Matthew, p. 144).

“Christians therefore should pray daily for the next day’s provision of life’s essentials as they recognize that all sustenance for one’s life comes from God and that he makes no long-term future guarantees. The average affluent Westerner more than likely plans and plays for “annual bread” except perhaps in times of extreme crisis. It is also worth noting that the prayer makes requests for our needs and not our greed (cf. Jas 4:3)” (Blomberg, Gospel of Matthew, p. 120)

  •  God is the loving and committed heavenly father whom his earthly children can depend on to meet their needs (verse 11). Verse 11 reinforces God’s universal kindness and generosity, as seen in 5:45-47. Therefore, we should give him thanks and praise for his kindness toward us: Ps. 107; 19; 119; 103; 14; 117.

An Ancient (Tribal) African Prayer; Invocation for national Prosperity and Protection

“God, owner of all things,

I pray thee, give me what I need

Because I am suffering,

And also, my children [are suffering] and all the things that are in this country of mine.

I beg thee for life, the good one with things [rich life];

Healthy people with no disease,

May they bear healthy children;

And also, to women who suffer because they are barren,

Open fully the way by which they may see children.

Give goats, cattle, food, honey;

And also, the troubles of other lands that I do not know, Remove.”

(From “The Prayers of African Religion” edited by John S. Mbiti, p. 60)

 Verses 12, 14, 15:  Needs for Forgiveness, Repentance, and Reconciliation

  •  This same God who is concerned about our physical necessities is equally concerned that we maintain a pure heart and grow in Christian piety. Daily confession of one’s (personal) sins is the medium through which God will sanctify us and establish us in holiness, in both thoughts and actions. Yet spiritual intimacy with God through personal and genuine repentance of our sins also entails the purity of heart in relation to our neighbor.

A Slave Woman’s Prayer (1816) (Stephen Hays)

“O Lord bless my master. When he calls upon thee to damn his soul, do not hear him, do not hear him, but hear me—save him—make him know he is wicked, and he will pray to thee. I am afraid, O Lord, I have wished him bad wishes in my heart—keep me from wishing him bad—through though he whips me and beats me sore, tell me of my sins, and make me pray more to thee—make me more glad for what thou hast done for me, a poor [N]egro” (from “Conversations with God: Two Centuries of Prayer by African Americans” edited by James Melvin Washington, p. 19)

Verse 13

  •  In the Jewish context, this passage conveys the idea that God will not “not le us fail when we are tested” but we will be tested. The request is for us to stay faithful to God by resisting the test, as Jesus did when he was tempted by the devil.
  • Since God’s ultimate goal for us is to imitate the character of Jesus and to reproduce the life of Christ in us, he will assure that we will not fail in sins when he allows us to be tempted. However, we must convene with God through prayer so he can restore us, cleanse us, and empower us to walk daily in victory over sins and the deadly tactics and attacks of the devil (13).

Conclusion:

A Pastoral Prayer (1956) by Martin Luther King, Jr.

“O God, our Heavenly Father, we thank thee for this golden privilege to worship thee, the only true God of the universe. We come to then today, grateful that thou hast kept us through the long night of the past and ushered us into the challenge of the present and the bright hope of the future. We are mindful, O God, that man cannot save himself, for man is not the measure of things and humanity is not God. Bound by our chains of sins and finiteness, we know we need a Savior. We thank thee, O God, for the spiritual nature of man. We are in nature but we live above nature. Help us never to let anybody or any condition pull us above nature. Help us never to let anybody or any condition pull us so low as to cause us to hate. Give us strength to love our enemies and to do good to those who despitefully use us and persecute us. We thank thee for thy Church, founded upon thy Word, that challenges us to do more than sing and pray, but go out and work as though the very answer to our prayers depended on us and not upon thee. Then, finally, help us to realize that man was created to shine like stars and live on through all eternity. Keep us, we pray, in perfect peace, help us to walk together, pray together, sing together, and live together until that day when all God’s children, Black, White, Red, and Yellow will rejoice in one common band of humanity in the kingdom of our Lord and of our God, we pray. Amen.”

(from “Conversations with God: Two Centuries of Prayer by African Americans” edited by James Melvin Washington, p. 190)

Amen!

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