But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,  that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Matthew 6:17-18 ESV
Following up on the previous verse where Jesus pointed out the fault of the hypocrites in fasting, he now moves into a prescriptive remedy for proper fasting. This prescription is rather simple and points us to one key factor: our heart motivation. There are many different ways we can fast and humble ourselves before the Lord, but the essential element of them all is that we have our hearts set on pleasing the Lord alone. Whereas the hypocrites disfigured their faces to accentuate their outward appearance and enhance the visual cues of their fasting upon their bodies, we are to be fresh and clean in our appearance. Meaning, we should just go about our day as we normally would without calling attention to our fast. This is the secret Jesus is advocating. A secret and private audience with the only One that matters, Jesus. If our motivation is set upon the Lord alone and we are seeking only to please him, then we will find our reward. A spiritual reward with eternal significance and meaning.
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“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.
Matthew 6:16 ESV
As with the other parts of the sermon, Jesus begins his instruction on fasting with a warning not to imitate the hypocrites who, well-meaning as they may be, corrupt their spiritual obedience by pursuing worldly praise. In this passage, Jesus points out their corruptness by emphasizing the hypocrite’s intentional disfiguring of their faces and he leaves no doubt as to their secondary or maybe even primary motivation – to be seen by others. The hypocrites fast with a gloomy face. Jesus is calling us to live a life in the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. This covers all areas of our lives, including our fasting. When we fast, not if, we are to have joy! We fast for a variety of reasons and oftentimes to repent or grieve over a particular sin in our life. We want to make this a time of gloom as we lament the control we have ceded to the power of sin. Fasting is all of that to be sure, but it is also a time of great joy and wonder as we celebrate the power of Jesus to cancel sin. There is forgiveness and healing to be found in Jesus and fasting works to realign our hearts to this spiritual truth. So there is always great joy in our fasting along with a time to lament and grieve our failing within the framework of the victory of Jesus upon the cross.
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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. (ESV)
Having reached the conclusion of this portion focused on prayer, Jesus reemphasizes the need for us to prioritize forgiveness in our life. It is quite normal to read this and think that Jesus is here telling us that our salvation needs to be secured every day, but this is not the case. As his death and resurrection have already secured our eternal salvation once and for all, this call for forgiveness is about our relationships. Having been saved through the blood of Christ, we are now justified and clothed in the righteousness of Christ. The Father has brought us into a personal relationship with him and adopted us as sons and daughters. Jesus is reminding us of this great truth of forgiveness. The rich and abundant love of God was given to us through his forgiveness and having been given this forgiveness we are to go and do likewise. We are to be forgiving people that bring restoration and healing to every relationship.
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And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (ESV)
The last petition that Jesus teaches us in this example prayer is that we should remember that we are in a spiritual battle that involves more than just mere flesh and blood. We are in spiritual conflict with the true enemy of God, satan. If he is God’s enemy, then he is surely our enemy as we stand in affirmation of the holiness and righteousness of Jesus. This last petition focuses our attention once again on the power and authority of God alone. Our enemy may seem powerful and fully bent on destroying us but he is nonetheless still answerable to the Lord of Heaven and can only go so far as he is allowed. Our prayer then is that our Father will keep us from being led down paths of testing and trials that would lead us to sin and we would be delivered from the schemes of the evil one. That we would have the understanding and faith to lean on Jesus during these times of trials and see our dependence upon him grow and deepen as we learn to trust him and reject disobedience and sin.
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and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
Matthew 6:12 ESV
Verse 12 is a continuation of the sentence and thought of verse 11. Jesus tells us that we are to daily ask for our daily bread as a continual reminder of our dependence upon our faithful and generous Father. Jesus continues this lesson of our daily prayer by including our need for daily forgiveness before the Lord and toward others. Although we have been forgiven completely and brought into the family of God through his mercy and grace, we nonetheless are still in need of daily forgiveness before the Lord. Our debts, our sins don’t just go away once we are given a new heart. As Jesus will later tell his disciples, our body has been washed but our feet continue to get dirty and need cleansing. This is a daily call to come before the Lord in the righteousness of Christ, seeking his provision and his forgiveness on a daily continual basis.
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Give us this day our daily bread.
Matthew 6:11 ESV
Having properly oriented my heart to see and acknowledge the authority of my heavenly Father and seeking to align my desires to see His kingdom come and His will be done, Jesus now brings me to the point of the prayer where I begin to share my personal needs and requests before the Lord. The first of these requests is a recognition of my daily need for sustenance and provision. Jesus emphasizes in these seven words the necessary humbleness that should permeate my life in light of this all-powerful and caring Father that loves me and cares for me. Jesus is encouraging me to acknowledge my continual need for a provider. I am in need of my daily bread. Each and every day I am to pray, “give me this day… my daily bread.” And in humility, I am to come back to him over and over again with this same prayer. A daily request for the great provider to provide.
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Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. (ESV)
In In this passage, Jesus is continuing to set before us his model prayer so that we may not be like the hypocrites he previously mentioned. Jesus began his prayer with a call for us to recognize and acknowledge that God is our Father and that he is ruling and reigning in heaven. Our pray thus begins with the declaration that God’s name should be hallowed. Next, Jesus gives us two points of focus in hallowing God’s name: his kingdom to come and his will to be done. Just as it does in heaven. We are not asking and pleading for God to do something that is impossible or something that is contrary to nature. No, we are simply stating the fact that as the name of God is hallowed in this world, then his kingdom will come and his will shall be done, both in heaven and on earth. passage, Jesus is continuing to set before us his model prayer so that we may not be like the hypocrites he previously mentioned. Jesus began his prayer with a call for us to recognize and acknowledge that God is our Father and that he is ruling and reigning in heaven. Our pray thus begins with the declaration that God’s name should be hallowed. Next, Jesus gives us two points of focus in hallowing God’s name: his kingdom to come and his will to be done. Just as it does in heaven. We are not asking and pleading for God to do something that is impossible or something that is contrary to nature. No, we are simply stating the fact that as the name of God is hallowed in this world, then his kingdom will come and his will shall be done, both in heaven and on earth.
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Journal Entry // June 14, 2023
Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” (ESV)
To further expand on his teaching about non-hypocritical prayer, Jesus gives us an example prayer and tells us to pray “like this.” It’s not so much that we have to use these exact words and phrases that are important, but the intention and the meaning behind each phrase are of vital importance. To be sure, we could easily turn this model prayer into a hypocritical prayer as we move away from engaging our heart with these phrases and begin to heap them up in meaningless repetition or rote recital to once again try and find the magic formula to convince God to bend to our will. Once again, Jesus is providing us with a means and an example to be intimate with our heavenly Father who cares for us. This example prayer begins with a two-part phrase. We begin our prayer with a reminder of that intimate relationship we have with our heavenly Father and ask that the majesty, glory, and reverence of the Lord be hallowed. That all reverence and majesty would be given to our Father alone.
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Journal Entry // June 13, 2023
Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (ESV)
In contrast to the heaping up of empty, mindless prayers that are designed to force God to hear and acquiesce to the request of the person, Jesus gives a simple truth that should not only inform our prayer lives but should encourage us as we approach the throne of God with confidence and humility. Our prayers should be filled with the knowledge and trust that we are speaking to our heavenly Father who loves us and cares for us more deeply and richly than we deserve or can comprehend. This alone should be enough for us to come humbly before our Father in prayer but Jesus goes further and tells us that our Father hears us and already knows what we need before we even ask. I would suggest he knows what we need before we even know what we need. So Jesus is calling us to come before our loving Father with confidence. Trusting and believing that our Father not only hears our prayers but has already prepared an answer designed specifically for each one of us in our unique circumstances.
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Journal Entry // June 7, 2023
“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. (ESV)
Mindless prayer is the subject of the passage this morning. When Jesus contrasts the prayers of idolaters, he brings a warning to his followers to not heap up empty phrases. This is an interesting phrase that Jesus uses to describe these prayers as it focuses on the mindlessness that often captures the heart of man in relation to their object of worship. The idolaters believe that the only thing that matters in their prayers is the quantity and correctness of their words. Meaning that they believe they will be heard through the preferred phrases and rote memorization of acceptable mantras. They will repeat these acceptable phrases and mantras over and over again without any form of connection or engagement with what they are actually saying. Their prayers are a mindless and mechanical repetition of empty phrases void of any personal reflection and engagement.
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