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Habits that link us to God

March 15, 2023

Daily Scripture

Matthew 6:1-18

1 “Be careful that you don’t practice your religion in front of people to draw their attention. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
2 “Whenever you give to the poor, don’t blow your trumpet as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets so that they may get praise from people. I assure you, that’s the only reward they’ll get. 3 But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing 4 so that you may give to the poor in secret. Your Father who sees what you do in secret will reward you.
5 “When you pray, don’t be like hypocrites. They love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners so that people will see them. I assure you, that’s the only reward they’ll get. 6 But when you pray, go to your room, shut the door, and pray to your Father who is present in that secret place. Your Father who sees what you do in secret will reward you.
7 “When you pray, don’t pour out a flood of empty words, as the Gentiles do. They think that by saying many words they’ll be heard. 8 Don’t be like them, because your Father knows what you need before you ask. 9 Pray like this:
Our Father who is in heaven,
uphold the holiness of your name.
10 Bring in your kingdom
so that your will is done on earth as it’s done in heaven.
11 Give us the bread we need for today.
12 Forgive us for the ways we have wronged you,
just as we also forgive those who have wronged us.
13 And don’t lead us into temptation,
but rescue us from the evil one.
14 “If you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you don’t forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your sins.
16 “And when you fast, don’t put on a sad face like the hypocrites. They distort their faces so people will know they are fasting. I assure you that they have their reward. 17 When you fast, brush your hair and wash your face. 18 Then you won’t look like you are fasting to people, but only to your Father who is present in that secret place. Your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Did You Know?

​The most familiar Lord’s Prayer says, at the end of verse 13 “for yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory, Amen.” Few recent English versions include that, because the phrase is not in any of the oldest existing manuscripts of Matthew. The 1611 King James Version couldn’t consider those older manuscripts–they hadn’t been found yet. The reverent benediction doesn’t seem to have been part of the original gospel text. “These words were probably added to Matthew’s text when Jesus’ prayer became more and more a part of the church’s worship.” *

Daily Reflection & Prayer

Imagine hiring a bugler to sound a pompous fanfare just before you put your big gift (“for the poor”) into a Temple offering box. Jesus’ clear warning: you can do a good thing for wrong reasons. God can tell the difference, whether people can or not. Matthew set Jesus’ model prayer in the Sermon on the Mount; Luke wrote about the prayer in a different setting (cf. Luke 11:1-4). Jesus must have often taught this prayer. He taught his disciples (all of us) how to speak with God simply yet profoundly.

  • As Jesus taught about various spiritual practices, he never used the word “if.” In today’s passage, he said “whenever you give to the poor,” “when you pray,” even “when you fast.” As scholar N. T. Wright put it, Jesus “assumes that people will continue to do all of these. What matters is learning to do them simply to and for God himself.” ** What are the regular practices (“holy habits”) that most open your heart and draw you closer to God?
  • “Fasting” most often means giving up food for 12 or 24 hours, using mealtimes for prayer and Scripture study. (Note: for medical reasons, some people—notably pregnant women—should not fast from food without a doctor’s guidance. Christians may also “fast” from their smart phone or other cherished activities rather than food.) How can this, like giving money or devoting time to worship, reinforce your commitment to make God your highest priority?

Lord Jesus, it can sound so obvious: “Prayer is talking to God.” Keep me growing so that I value my connection with you more highly than any other aspect of my life. Amen.

GPS Insights

Dr. Amy Oden

Dr. Amy Oden

Dr. Amy Oden is Professor of Early Church History and Spirituality, teaching at several seminaries. Teaching is her calling, and she looks forward to every day with students. Her latest book (Right Here, Right Now: The Practice of Christian Mindfulness, Abingdon Press, 2017) traces ancient mindfulness practice for Christians today.

“Give us the bread we need for today.” (Matthew 6:11)

Our daily bread. I’ve been thinking a lot about this whole idea of daily provision, that God gives us what we need for this moment, not a shopping cart full of stuff for the next week.

I’m picturing my hands, empty palms up, open to receive God’s daily bread. This is a powerful image of vulnerability and need.

Yet, in truth my hands are rarely empty. More often my fingers are closed around false securities, my hands too full to receive God’s daily bread.

My hands grip those tasty crumbs of approval I got yesterday.
My hands cling to the bread of resentment as I nibble on it to feed my frustration.
My arms are filled with the illusions of self-sufficiency to ensure I don’t need to open my hands for help or provision.
My hands clutch my own sense of being right, the sweet bread of self-righteousness.
Or, very often my hands are filled to the brim with a sense of responsibility, racing from this commitment to the next, barely able to catch my breath, much less pause and let God provide what I need. I’m busy!

My hands are so full of things I cling to that I cannot receive God’s daily bread. I must empty my hands, release the false bread that I feed on, become empty again and turn to the One who knows what I need.

Then Jesus, the living bread, the bread that lasts, can fill me up.

Give me this day the grace to let go of all my hands carry, so that I may receive your daily bread. Amen.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* Eugene Eung-Chun Park and Joel B. Green, study note on Matthew 5:13 in The CEB Study Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2013, p. 16 NT. For a fuller study, see Hamilton, Adam, The Lord’s Prayer (chapter 6). Abingdon Press.
** Wright, N.T., Matthew for Everyone, Part 1: Chapters 1-15 (The New Testament for Everyone) (p. 55). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.