Wednesday 10 February 2016

Bible Book:

“But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (v. 6)

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 Wednesday 10 February 2016

Psalm: Psalm 51


(Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the 40 days ofLent. In church services, ash may be smudged on people's foreheadsas a sign of sorrow for misdeeds. It is also a reminder that wecome from dust and will return to dust. God's love and power holdus in being every moment of our living, and apart from that we aredust.)

This passage comes from the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus wasteaching those who wanted to follow him, that what really countedwas the attitude of their hearts and minds, rather than just theouter appearance of their actions.

He was teaching about almsgiving (giving to the poor), thespiritual discipline of prayer, of fasting and also being carefulwith what you treasure most in life.

Jesus taught that we should give in secret. If we tell everyonewhat we do, we are in danger of being attached to everyone's goodopinion of us. We act out a 'part'. Hypocrites act out a part. Truealms giving is an act of generosity - an over-spilling and sharingof God care of us. Trumpeting our good works can make us vain,putting ourselves in the centre, rather than to God.

Similarly we should pray in secret, rather than to attract theadmiration of others. In prayer, we must be naked, honest andtruthful before God, pouring out our hearts. God who sees thesincerity of our prayer will answer it.

Fasting is the discipline of going without food. Officially forJews the only fast was the Day of Atonement, when eating, drinking,bathing and anointing with oil were forbidden. But at the time ofJesus, it was also exercised by individuals at other times. Theycould draw attention to what they were doing by wearing sackcloth,and putting ashes on their faces. This defeated the inner purposeof fasting which was to recognise dependence on God.

Finally Jesus taught that we should take care about what wevalue most. Our possessions can come and go with the vagaries ofthe weather, economy and politics. But God's gifts of life, love,joy and relationships cannot be stockpiled in measurable humanterms on earth, but are kept safe for us as the gift of heavenlytreasure.

To Ponder

  • If no-one knows how much you give to charity, or pray, how doyou keep yourself accountable to playing your part in the big mapof God's world, rather than your small one?
  • What different types of fasting have you done or not done? Whydid you do or not do this, and what did you learn?
  • If you could be granted the deepest wish of your heart, whatwould you wish for (or not wish for) and why?

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