The Rebuke of Hypocrisy
Text: Matthew 6 : 1 - 18
Jesus had to deal with the problem of hypocrisy. He had to address it and rebuke it. Hypocrisy and falsehood are often found in the same company.
“And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions
as the heathen do. For they think that they will
be heard for their many words”
When one has lost the essential idea of prayer, false notions and practices creep in and corrupt the concept of prayer further.
Prayer was never meant to be just a set of words to be repeated to God and offered as petition! Even a quick survey of the 150 psalms that make up the Psalter would reveal the fact that every psalm (read “prayer”) is different. If we were to survey the entire Bible, we would still come up with the same conclusion! Prayers and vain repetitions are antithetical to each other.
Where then did this idea of “vain repetition” come from? Jesus identified its source as from “the heathens”. That was a staggering assessment. But He was right even though it must have dealt a painful blow to those who kept repeating formula-prayers to God. Modern-day believers are not exempted from this danger! The danger of repeating the same words again and again as prayers to God is something that we must guard against most carefully.
PRAYING TO GOD AS FATHER
Jesus sought to help His disciples to cultivate their knowledge of God as Father. That knowledge would soon form the basis of a strong and meaningful relationship with Him. In that vital relationship prayer is offered in faith and trust.
“Therefore do not be like them. For your
Father knows the things you have need
of before you ask Him.”
How precious and comforting these words must have sounded in the ears of the disciples!
1. A special relationship with God as Father
We are surely reminded of what God once said to king David of old, concerning the relationship that He would establish with Solomon.
“I will be His Father, and he shall be my son.”
2 Samuel 7:14a
To have God as Father is a privilege that must always be treasured, and never taken for granted for one moment.
The prophet Isaiah took special delight in thinking of God as Father. Consider the following texts.
“Doubtless You are our Father,
Though Abraham was ignorant of us,
And Israel does not acknowledge us.”
“But now, O Lord, You are our Father;
We are the clay, and You our potter,
And all we are the work of Your hand.”
He was absolutely right to think of how God as Father would acknowledge each and every true child of His.
The nation may not acknowledge those who seem insignificant, but God loves each child of His dearly. He may indeed be compared to a skilful potter working hard at His creations.
2. A Father who knows all our needs
Again we turn to the Book of Isaiah for this delightful insight that collaborates what Jesus taught about God.
“It shall come to pass
That before they call, I will answer;
And while they are still speaking,
I will hear.”
THE PURPOSE OF ADDRESSING WRONG PRACTICES
Jesus had to deal with the wrong concepts and practices of prayer. Till false concepts are dealt with in complete honesty, the true idea of prayer can never be learned. The purpose of addressing these false practices was very clear. False concepts and practices must be abandoned. Only after they have been abandoned can true concepts be carefully considered.
A VITAL RELATIONSHIP THAT MUST BE CAREFULLY CULTIVATED
Prayer as a spiritual discipline must be studied with great interest. Many things hinge on a correct understanding of the doctrine of prayer. There is deep theology behind the practice of prayer.
Jesus taught His disciples as One given to prayer. His disciples knew and respected His daily habit of getting up a great while before dawn to seek God in prayer! Who else would be as well qualified as Jesus to teach about prayer?