Matthew 6 - Prayer and Righteousness

Matthew6_Prayer
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Matthew 6 - Tzedakah and Tefilla

Matthew 6 1-13

Introduction

The book of Matthew was written for a Jewish audience to demonstrate Jesus was the Messiah and I believe there is a lot of Jewish imagery in this book to enable them to understand the key issues i.e. sacrifices and the law (Torah)

There are two main themes to this reading and I firstly wanted to show the source and meaning of the Lords prayer ass well as secondly to show what works you do for the Lord are done in private and are only known to you and your maker.

 

Righteousness

The Hebrew word is ‘Tzedakah’ and is also known as Alms and is used a number of times used in NT i.e. it was used when Peter and Paul saw the man at the gate in

Acts 3:2 - 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 from those who entered the temple.

 

Later on, in the chapter, they showed the man the best charity wasn’t silver or gold but the truth of God’s word and Jesus sacrifice.

The word “Charity” is seen as the equivalent to all other religious precepts combined and is also known as;

  • Definition – Alms - “Alms or almsgiving involves giving to others as an act of virtue, either materially or in the sense of providing capabilities for free”

  • Definition – Beneficence - “the doing of good; active goodness or kindness; charity.”

The purpose is to give as Aben Ezra states “a Man that gives alms to the poor must not give it because of the glory of the collector” and if they don’t then they lose their reward from God.

The Aim was not to shame the recipient and if its origin is made known it’s not “alms” which is a concept from;

Deut 15:11 - For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land.

 

In this context, it talks about poverty and how the Israelites were to look upon slaves as a slave would sell himself and his services if he was in debt. The Israelites were to show the same pity and respect as they remember once they were slaves themselves to Pharaoh in Egypt. The concept was embodied in the temple where there was a chamber of vessels and a person would put into a pot secretly for the upkeep of poor children and most importantly it was to be done in secret.

 

Why should we be righteous?

Proverbs 12:28 - In the way of righteousness is life, and in its pathway, there is no death.

 

We as Christians are told to do this for 2 reasons;

Firstly, we are told to store our rewards in heaven;

Matthew 6: 19-21 - Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 

20. but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

21. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

 

Secondly, we as followers of Christ are to demonstrate our love by giving to others.

 

What does it cover?

In the OT it was specified in Deuteronomy 10 as food, clothing and shoes, visiting the sick, giving to orphans and visiting prisoners. I believe it should be all those things we do to show we are followers of Christ to be light and salt to the rest of the world in terms of money as well as non-financial such as time.

 

Who were the hypocrites Jesus was talking about?

Within the first part of this verse, Jesus told them how not to do something before showing the disciples the right way as he highlighted those men who seek public praise and I like the word “ostentatious”. As when they would pray, they would blow the shofar (the equivalent of putting it on Facebook)

Christs enemies were described as hypocrites like when the teachers tested Jesus about who to pay taxes to in;

Matthew 22:18 - But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, “Why do you test Me, you hypocrites?

 

Christs enemies were described as hypocrites because of their motives, they were those who followed the law outwardly but inwardly they were dead, and Jesus described them as tombs. If you go to a large cemetery such as Kensal Green, the tombs are grand in design but there is nothing inside but death and decay and there is no life

 

Prayer / (Tefillah)

Jesus now moves onto Prayer and Tefillah is the Hebrew word for prayer. In essence prayer is our communication with God, and it is a one on one with our Father, creator, master, intercessor, saviour. It can be said to be “The service of the heart” as when you get your car serviced and it is checked internally. You are checking your heart for problems and to see if it oiled spiritually and is a renewal or refreshment, re-appraisal of your relationship with God as well as acknowledging him.

 

Prayer Frequency

How often should I do this? Jesus was Jewish and would have followed the repetition of prayer in terms of frequency i.e. 3 times daily as stated in

Daniel 6:10 - Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days.

Hebrew words for times of the day are;

Shacharit – morning

Minhah – afternoon

Ma’ariv - Evening

We have no custom as gentiles, but I believe we should lose count of number of times we pray.

 

What should prayer consist of?

I want to show you what Prayer should consist of I will use the Lord’s prayer to show you how it is a template for good prayer. There are a number of parts which the Lords prayer can be dissected to culminate in a well-structured set of obedience to our Father God.

1. Adoration in spirit and truth

It is a Spiritual kneeling and bowing down in recognition of who our God is, and it is the Love we send to our God by lifting his name up;

Psalm 34:3 - Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together

 

2. Confession to our Lord God

It does not say anywhere in the bible we must confess our sins to any person such as a priest. It is an acknowledgement of our sin and we are not to hide it because for forgiveness to take place, the identification of it needs to happen like David and Bathsheba which is like a destructive disease which needs to be identified before it can be treated

Psalm 32:5 - I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord, “And You forgave the iniquity of my sin.

 

If we do the above, then we have the promise of purification to remove impurities via the blood of Jesus.

 

3. Thanksgiving

We should be appreciative of his almighty works and shout joyfully of all he has done, and we can thank the Lord in song like the Psalms and make your requests known to God;

Philippians 4:6 - Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;

 

4. Supplication

This is to pray on somebody else’s behalf and as Thomas Neufield quotes – “prayer is the exercise of solidarity with fellow strugglers”. We as saints need to pray for each other as sometimes in life we are so lost we cannot pray for ourselves.

 

5. Gods will and Intercession

Lord Jesus sits at the right hand of God and intercedes for us as in;

Romans 8:27 - Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

  

The Lord’s Prayer

This prayer is repeated in church’s Luke 11 and is like a model or template prayer and definition of model “an example to follow or imitate” and it is thought to been used as part of early Christian devotions.

It consists of a preface and six petitions or requests where the first three relate to the glory of God and the last three concern the bodily and spiritual necessities of man and a doxology in closing. What is interesting is the substance of it is found in the nineteen prayers of Jewish liturgy and there is a key definition which is used here which the Talmud states; when interpreting text that “no passage loses it P’Shat’” which is its meaning or let “scripture interpret scripture”.

 

Our Father who art in Heaven

This line opens many Hebrew prayers with a reference here to “Father “who purchased the Israelites out of slavery

Deut 32:6 - Do you thus deal with the Lord, O foolish and unwise people? Is He not your Father, who bought you? Has He not made you and established you

 

The word ‘bought’ also translates as ransomed, as the Jewish people were bought from the slavery of Pharaoh and Jesus purchased us through his blood as we were held hostage to sin.

Matthew 20:28 - Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister,and to give his life a ransom for many.

 

Hallowed be thy name

Like other prayers this which with worship like when Jesus blessed food “Barukh Atah Adonai” which means “Blessed are you Lord” and another translation is “Your name be acknowledged as holy”. This verse shows the sanctity and the Godliness of his name – in sense of Adoneinu the Hebrew word for God as a master.

Leviticus 20:3  - And I will set my face against that man, and will cut him off from among his people; because he hath given of his seed unto Molech, to defile my sanctuary, and to profane my holy name.

 

We must not be irreverent about Gods name and not profaning and If you read scripture in Hebrew, they don’t mention Gods name. There is glory in his name as in;

Psalm 105:3 - Glory ye in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord.

Thy Kingdom Come,  

This translates as “The Kingdom be blessed / favoured by God and it is the advancement of Elohim’s cause and establishment of the Messiah’s kingdom and the New Jerusalem

There is a Jewish prayer called the short prayer which says “Do thy will in heaven and give quietness of spirit of acquiescence of spirit in thy will to them that fear thee below”

What is interesting here is the Jewish Rabbi’s don’t believe a prayer is a prayer if there no mention of either God or his kingdom.

God or in Hebrew “Malchut Hashmayim” is the main theme of the entire scriptures and we are in his kingdom which is repeated later on in Lord’s prayer

which is written about in;

1 Chronicles 29:10-11 - Wherefore David blessed the Lord before all the congregation: and David said, blessed be thou, Lord God of Israel our father, for ever and ever.

11. Thine, O Lord is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all.

 

Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven

This line conveys a longing to seek God’s will as in “Thy will. Gods will is Gods desires in his gracious design. We should do Gods will as in:

Mark 3:35 - For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother.

In order to illustrate this is in;

Matthew 26:42 - He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.

The cup reference refers to when Jesus wanted to know if the cup of wrath could be passed and it can be used to say tasting is used for a measure of experience. He asked his Father for his will to be done and Jesus was talking about the inverse of his Fathers love in Psalm 23. Jesus wanted to do his Fathers will at the impending anguish of physical torture and the separation from his Father. He knew this suffering would result in the purchase of man from his sin and that’s why he says, “Not what I want, but what you want”.

The last part of the verse refers to one day when Gods new kingdom will be unveiled, we aim to live as we would in heaven pleasing God.

It is similar to Kaddish (synagogue prayer spoken in Aramaic at a variety of ceremonies where there is a Minyan which is quorum of 10 Jewish men) and is heavily quoted the Lord’s prayer.

“"Magnified and sanctified be His Great Name in the world which He hath created according to His will. May He establish His Kingdom during your life and during your days, and during the life of the whole household of Israel, even speedily and in a near time! So, say ye 'Amen.'"”

As well as;

Ezekiel 38:23 Thus will I magnify myself and sanctify myself; and I will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the LORD.

 

Give us this day our daily bread

“Give us “is typically a Jewish plurality which focuses on the group rather than the individual. Like David’s petitions at the end of the Psalms where he would pray on behalf of Israel in Psalm 121.

“Daily bread “. Bread is something we eat daily and is a staple of our diet or “What is sufficient for his sustenance”. R Jose states “All the children of the faith seek every day to ask their food of the Lord and to pray a prayer for it”. Here its is referring to spiritual food as well as physical food which sustains us as God provided daily for the Israelites in the wilderness with Manna as well as Elisha and the ravens where God sustained him.

It is interesting to note that Jewish prayers are said before and after their food by Thanking God for providing and thanking him for sustaining them once they have eaten.

Daily bread in Aramaic means “bread for tomorrow” as well as Greek word “Epiousion” – which has a future aspect to it. It symbolises the term “Olam Ha-Ba” i.e.  which is Hebrew for that is the world to come, when Jesus sets his rule up in the new kingdom and the bread keeps us going until that day.

 

And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us

An essential theme here which is one of forgiveness and there are many words for trespasses, the main one is sin.

Another word is ‘debts’ (Hebrew is “Lachayeinu”) as sin is also referenced as a debt in

Deut 15:1-2 - At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release of debts.

2 And this is the form of the release: Every creditor who has lent anything to his neighbour shall release it; he shall not require it of his neighbour or his brother, because it is called the Lord’s release.

 

Here in this verse debts against servants were released based upon the word “Deror” or the Greek word “seisachethea” which means to shake off of burdens .Sins are considered debts against God and in this verse, debts are cancelled every 7 years (The word is “shemittah” – to drop or release) We are born in debt – debtor to sin and Jesus died on the cross to cancel our debt permanently.

Forgiveness is key as God will not forgive us and he will not hear our prayers if we do not forgive people and we have to forgive as our Father has forgiven us our sins in the form of his son Jesus Christ. A quote to illustrate this is – “Theme is forgetting our past sins and trespasses; he does not forget our sins but chooses not to make them an issue once we are in Yeshua”

Again, there is a heavily Jewish influenced theme here which was spoke as a prayer of Solomon in the Targum (The Aramaic commentary to the Bible.) - “and hear thou the petition of thy servant and of thy people Israel which they shall make before this place and do thou receive it from the place of thy Shekinah (The majestic presence or manifestation of God which has descended to "dwell" among men.) from Heaven and do thou accept the prayer and forgive their debts”.

There is a Jewish ceremony dedicated to forgiving our sins called the Tashlikh in;

Micah 7:19 - He will turn again; he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.

Where Jewish people line up and cast their sin into the sea as God buries our sin (iniquities) in the sea. Hence as tradition states we are never to go fishing where we cast our sins.

 

And lead us not into temptation,

Another translation states this line as “do not allow us into the power of temptation” and we know God doesn’t tempt us as stated in the book of James. This line is a cry for deliverance from sin when disciples were asleep

Matthew 26:41 - Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

 

A prayer used in Jewish liturgy states, “may the merciful one save us from the tempter” and we know that sin is our surrender to our old sinful nature.
But deliver us from evil

This is the request for endurance through any period of testing and deliverance from spiritual fatigue, when under the schemes of the adversary who is satan.

What we are asking is for God to keep us strong with his spiritual armour and we are instructed to put on the whole armour of God, as in Ephesians.

 

For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever and ever… Amen

To paraphrase this is “For the kingdom is thine, thou shalt reign in glory forever and ever, blessed be the name of the glory of his kingdom forever and ever”

The final word is “Omein” which means so be it and in Matthew 5:18 it is a verbal affirmation of our trust in an omnipotent God that all things will come to pass.

 

Summary Point 1  - Alms

First of all do whatever you do in secret, done put all your works on Facebook, God sees it and that’s all we should be worried about and we should ask ourself – what does God think of us ? We as tzadikkim are only truly righteous because we are justified through Christs blood not through our works. It is important we allow God to audit (check) your heart

Psalm 139:23 - Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties

 

Summary Point 2 - How charity can be misused

We all know the story of Judas and how he abused the concept of alms to enrich himself.

 

Summary Point 3 – Prayer How not to pray / the law

It is interesting to note that Jesus did not forbid public prayer, but condemned those who sought attention by praying as in;

Matthew 23:5- All their works they do to be noticed by men. They make their tefillin wide and their tzitziyot long.

4. They love the place of honour at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues,

5. greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called rabbi by men.

 

Jesus was talking about praying in a hypocritical fashion, when done in front of people so they can be seen, and Jesus told them to do in secret.  I do not believe thinking the more words you say the more God will hear or favour you as your Father knows what you need before you ask for it. It shouldn’t be mechanical; repetitiveness is good as many of the Psalms are repetitive but think about what you are saying.  

If you read Deuteronomy 6:6-9 there is the mention of Tefillin where Jewish worshippers bind boxes on your hand, arm and head and has four verses written onto 1 sheet , (God has one as well !!!!!) These verses are:

  • Exodus 13:1-10

  • Exodus 12:11-16

  • Deuteronomy 6:4-9

  • Deuteronomy 11:13-21

When Jewish people pray, they also have the following;

  • Tallit’s (big and small)

  • Tzitzit’s - strings and knots to remind them of the 613 mitzvahs they have and their religious obligations.

Jesus warned of pride in the dress and he was talking about circumcision of your heart and not the flesh. I believe as Christians we have an open channel, talk to him all day long and we don’t need a timetable or lawful garments to talk to him as he is our maker.

 

Summary Point 4 – Unanswered prayer

Remember in the Lord’s prayer “Thy will be done”, this is asking for Gods will to be done in your life is conceding that he knows best and everything else isn’t important. And anything else is like Kohelet says in Ecclesiastes – “Chasing the wind” or pointless.

 

Summary Point 5 – Examine your prayer

When you next pray, examine what you are asking for. There are usually the same key outcomes of prayer;

  1. Yes, and its good as in the Psalms, David saw God inclining his ear to him as approval.

  2. Yes, and its bad as in 1 Samuel 8:11-22 in the prayer for Saul where the Israelites refused to listen to Samuel

  3. No as in 1 Kings 19: 4-5 – Elijah prayed for death, God said no as he still had plans for him.

  4. Later as in John 11 where Lazarus was raised, and Jesus stayed 2 days in wilderness and didn’t rush.

 

Summary point 6 - When I can’t pray

There are times when you can’t pray, when events overshadow your vision, and you don’t think God is listening to you. The answer is to tell him you can’t pray and tell him that through his son the Lord Jesus. You will realise then you are praying, and the Holy spirit will help us.

Romans 8:26 - Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

Amen