September 5, 2013

Scripture and Commentary, Friday after Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity

Morning - , Psalm 69:22-37, 2 Sam. 19:1-10, 2 Cor. 8:16
Evening – Psalm 51, Mt. 6:1-18

Commentary, Matthew 6:1-18

If Bishop Ryle was correct in his statement that the words of Christ, in Matthew 5, show that the law of God “was a far more spiritual and heart-searching rule than most of the Jews supposed,” then we may be sure our Lord intends to show the same about prayer in the verses in our reading tonight.

The chapter begins with our Lord’s words about alms, and may properly be applied to all Christian giving in support of the Church and its mission.  The point of alms is not to gain admiration for generosity.  The point of alms is first, to please God, and second to support the good work of the Church.  This may be evangelism, disaster relief, care for the truly poor, and supporting the clergy of the Church.  Rather than making a show of giving, let it be done quietly.  God knows what you give, and He will reward you openly.

So many good words have been written about the Lord’s Prayer I am tempted to give a list of recommended reading rather than add my own comment to them.  Augustine’s Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, and John Chrysostom’sHomily XIX in his commentary, The Gospel of Matthew, should be consulted regularly.  Athanasius’ remarks on Matthew 6:9 in his Defense of the Nicene Definition will be very helpful.  J. C. Ryle’s remarks in his commentary on Matthew are highly recommended.

Perhaps contemporary Christians need to be reminded of something other Christians have known for two-thousand years; the Lord’s Prayer is a liturgical prayer.  It was given to be memorized and prayed aloud and in unison in public worship.  This fact is evident in Luke11:1-4, where our Lord, responds to a request from the disciples, “Lord teach us to pray.”  It was common for a rabbi to teach his students or congregation to memorise prayers to be said in public worship.  The Jewish people even have a written collection of these prayers, which they pray together in public, family, and private prayer.  John the Baptizer taught his disciples to pray, probably a prayer looking for the immediate advent of the Messiah.  Since the Messiah, the greatest of all prophets and teachers, stood before them, Christ’s disciples wanted a prayer given by Him.  This prayer has been carefully preserved, and is still prayed daily in many nations and languages around the world.

Perhaps we also need to be reminded that, as the rabbis expected the prayers to be memorized and prayed, word-for-word, the Lord expected His Church to do the same with this prayer.  Those who dismiss the Lord’s Prayer as simply a pattern for prayer, or an example after which we are to model our own prayers, miss the point.  Jesus did not say, “make up your own prayers, but follow this outline.”  He did not say, “Use this prayer as a pattern for your own.”  He said, “After this manner therefore pray ye.”  He is saying, “pray in these words.”  As He said in Luke 11:2, “When ye pray, say….”

This does not negate extemporaneous prayer in public or private worship.  Such prayer is necessary at times.  It does mean we should prayer this prayer in public and in private worship.  Our Lord clearly means His Church to treasure and pray it together through the generations, until His kingdom come, and His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”