Matthew 6: 25-34
When we think of the greatest dangers to prayer, we may think of the Devil or the world, which is no friend to grace, but the greatest challenge is our own sin. What are some sins that keep us from praying? Certainly, laziness could be on the list. Taking our cue from the Sermon on the Mount, what two sins does Jesus focus on when it comes to spiritual exercises such as fasting, praying and giving? Hypocrisy and worry. How are those two alike? Both sins are very self-focused.
When Jesus deals with hypocrisy, what does he point out? That the hypocrite loves the eyes of men, he loves attention. The hypocrite wants applause. This is why Jesus focuses on closet prayer as opposed to public prayer. People can often pray publicly, but they don’t pray privately because they want the attention. In private prayer you don’t have the eyes of men, only the eyes of God.
The second sin Jesus focuses on is worry. The two sins are not exactly alike, but they do have this in common: they focus on self. Worry pulls our thoughts away from God. Worry is often an attempt to solve our own problems. We often worry over things we cannot control. “Martha, Martha you are worried about many things.” Instead of sitting at the feet of Jesus, she was in the kitchen chewed up with worry.
How do we fight these two sins? We could come up with many answers how to mortify our flesh, but we are going to use the Sermon on the Mount as our guide. What is the one word Jesus gives us to deal with the sin of hypocrisy and anxiety? The word Father; the Fatherhood of God. Regarding anxiety (v25-34), Jesus reminds us of the Father’s providential care and love. He makes a comparison arguing from the lesser to the greater. If God takes care of the lilies and the birds, then, surely, He will take care of you. Aren’t you more precious than the lilies of the field? You are a child of God. He’s arguing from the Fatherhood of God.
Then Jesus goes on in chapter 7: 7-11 describing how a father loves to give good gifts to his children. Here’s another comparison. “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” So, when dealing with anxiety and worry, the key is your relationship with God your Father.
When dealing with hypocrisy, Jesus again brings up the Father. Your Father sees in secret, He knows, and He will reward you. Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones underscores the importance of praying to our Father. He says, “Strange as it might seem to start praying begins by saying nothing. If you want any contact with God, if you want to feel His everlasting arms around you, put your hand upon your mouth for a moment. Be still and know that I am God. Be still and think of your Father. Remind yourself of who He is and what He has done for you.” The very word father points to intimacy; He is our Father.
Someone has said, “The elephant in the church today is that most Christians worry.” But no one wants to admit he worries. Most of us struggle with worry, in one form or another. It shows itself in our lives. Someone once said, “The hardest instruction in the world is: Do not worry.” So, how do we fight worry? Perhaps the best strategy is to contemplate the Fatherhood of God. When we are tempted to worry, we need to remind ourselves who God is. He is our Father, committed to our care.