Reflections on the Sermon on the Mount
The Sermon on the Mount as a whole is essentially about Christian moral and ethical behaviour. Set at the centre and heart of the Sermon is Jesus’ teaching on prayer – the one that we call the Lord’s Prayer. The position of the Lord’s Prayer in the architectural structure of the Sermon is striking. The number of lines and verses preceding and succeeding the Lord’s Prayer is almost identical.
Perhaps, this is itself a suggestion that prayer lies at the heart of righteousness; that godliness lies at the heart of holiness; that the right relationship with God lies at the heart of the right relationship with others. There are a number of preliminary teachings about prayer that Jesus gives in Matthew 6 before he gives his disciples the model prayer.
Read Also: Our Father in Heaven
Keep it a Secret
First, for Jesus, prayer must be SECRET. “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret,” Jesus says. When we pray, we must go into the secret counsel of God, both physically and spiritually. It is in the secret place of life where God can be found. We are thus taught by Jesus to seek the privacy of prayer more than the publicity of prayer.
Second, for Jesus, prayer must be SINCERE. When we pray, it is not people whom we’re trying to impress, it is God to whom we’re trying to express. When we pray, Jesus says, we must not be like the hypocrites who love to pray in public in order to be seen and admired by all. If we do that – we will get exactly what we’re looking for – the recognition of men. But no more – certainly not the recognition of God.
Read Also: “When You Pray…” (Luke 11:2)
Keep it simple
Third, for Jesus, prayer must also be SIMPLE. Jesus tells us that we must not use complex and impressive language in prayer. God understands our simple language. Jesus says, do not heap up empty phrases and use heavy language as the Gentiles do.
Avoid meaningless words
Fourth, for Jesus, prayer must also be SENSIBLE. The simplicity in prayer is marked by the sensibility of prayer. Do not use, Jesus says, empty meaningless words, phrases, and sentences. It’s good to listen to ourselves sometimes when we pray, and ask ourselves whether anyone – including God – would want to listen to such babbling gibberish.
Keep it Short
Fifth, prayer must – or can – be SHORT, especially in public. Jesus says that Gentiles think that God will hear them for their many words and that we should not be like them. Hypocrites also try to impress people with their long, impressive public prayers. Long prayers in public can be a reflection of the lack of prayer in private. God does not hear prayers because we pray long. Our life of prayer is not measured by the length of our prayer.
SECRET. SINCERE. SIMPLE. SENSIBLE. SHORT.
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