Blogging the Bible 246 – Matthew 6 – The only audience that matters

This middle chapter of the Sermon on the Mount brings together a range of topics under one theme.
Whether it’s about prayer, fasting or almsgiving, the point is the same – the only people who need to know about it are you and God. If any part of your religion is for show, to impress people, then you may or may not achieve that, but you won’t impress God. What matters is to give yourself and your spiritual activities entirely and unreservedly to him. It’s not, I’m sure, important that you’re able to keep all this a secret (remember Daniel praying in his room but with the window open) but it does matter that you’d live and pray just the same whether or not anyone was watching.
Jesus spells out what the same principle means in two other situations. If you’re focused entirely on God, you can’t focus at the same time on money. Material things can be a powerful spiritual draw, and once we focus on them, we blur our vision of God. There’s only room for one Lord in one life. That passionate and exclusive focus works both ways. If we’re focused on God, we can’t let ourselves be distracted by our society’s preoccupation with always having more money, status and stuff. But at the same time, we’ll find in a real, trusting focus on God the answer to worry about our real or imagined lack of money, status and stuff.
And at the heart of this, Jesus gives us the words and pattern of prayer to place our trust in God – the Lord’s Prayer. In these words is a brief and simple, complete and sufficient prayer of trust and commitment.
I’ve written elsewhere about isn’t this later as a pattern for our prayers. But just to use these words regularly, carefully, and to mean them is the heart of prayer itself – because it’s the expression in words of the attitude of heart which underlies the whole Sermon on the Mount.
When we truly pray these words, we put ourselves in God’s hands and rest there. Then everything else falls into the right proportion.

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