ďNot Like The HypocritesĒ†† †††††††††††Matthew 6:5-6††††††††††††††††††††††††††† June 20, 2010

 

SI:Allison and the kids and I want to thank you for the great vacation you gave us.

You are a generous church and have always taken care of us financially.

We spent two weeks in South Florida enjoying the beach and other fun stuff.

†† One day we decided to show the kids a little bit of their family history.

My dad grew up in Ft. Lauderdale in a house his father built with his own hands.

†† And Allisonís dad, John DuBose, grew up in Miami.

†† So we decided to go by both houses and snap some pictures.

 

We had been to my grandparentsí home many times.They were still living there

†† when Allison and I got married.But had never been to house John grew up in.††

The neighborhood has changed just a little bit.Itís in what is now Little Havana.

†† When we found it, it looked like a drug house to me.One of the windows was

†† broken out, and the shrubs were overgrown, and there was an ominous looking

†† black Mercedes parked in the yard, right up by the front door.

So when I expressed some hesitation, the kids started sayingóDad, donít stop!

†† But Allison made me stop and she knocked on the door and told them who she

†† was and they told her to take all the pictures she wanted.

So we did that.Walked down memory lane.

†† Sunday we went to the church we were married inó

†† Seacrest Presbyterian in Delray Beach.

 

And we read a lot.Allison mostly read trashy novels,

†† but I read three books on the Lordís Prayer for my sermon series this summer.

One book is called ďThe Lord and His PrayerĒ by NT Wright.

†† And the opening words on the very first page got me

†† excited about studying the Lordís Prayer.

 

ďIf we are serious at all about our Christian commitment, we will want to learn and grow in prayer.When we kneel down, or settle into the quiet chair that serves as our personal place of prayer; when weíre walking along, or riding in the train to work; whenever we pray, this is what we are coming to do:to pursue the mystery, to listen and respond to the voice we thought we just heard, to follow the light which beckons round the next corner, to lay hold of the love of God which has somehow already laid hold of us . . . We want it because we know, in our heart of hearts, that we want the living God.We want to know him; we want to love him.We want to be able truly to call him Father.Ē

 

Thatís what I want.I know thatís what you want.For our study of the Lordís

†† Prayer to help us know God and love God more.Letís pray and ask for that.

INTRO:When little children learn to color, they have two challenges.

The first challenge is choosing the right colors.

†† It doesnít matter if the princessí face is blue or the fire truck is green.

But when they get a little older, and start to learn their colors, you help them.

†† You say:What color is an apple?Red.Now find the red crayon.

†† What color is the sun?Yellow.Good, now find the yellow.

And then, their second challenge is to color in the lines.Itís all over the place.

†† As they get older you say, Try to stay in the lines.

†† And when they are able to do that, then they are very proud of themselves,

†† and look at what they have done with a new satisfaction.

 

Thatís what most of us are like in the life of prayer.

†† Weíre like little children, trying to choose the right color and stay in the lines.

When you are born again you have a new instinct to prayóyou have to pray.

†† Itís as natural as breathing for a Christian.

†† But you also learn to pray.

 

The Lordís Prayer is mentioned twice in the New Testamentó

†† here in Matthew in the Sermon on the Mount and also in Luke 11.

In Luke, the setting is different.The disciples have been watching Jesus.

†† Theyíve heard him pray, seen him go away and prayósometimes all night.

†† They must have noticed the peace and confidence he had in prayer.

So they said:Lord, teach us to pray.Jesus said, When you pray, pray like this:

†† And he gave them the Lordís Prayer.

 

So itís clear, as it is in this Matthew passage, the Lordís Prayer is a model prayer.

†† Jesus is saying, Here are the colors, here are the lines for you to follow.

†† Do this, and it will give you a deeper satisfaction and experience in prayer.

But that doesnít mean that the Lordís Prayer is just for children in the faith,

†† or for Christians who have barely learned to pray.Itís also for the most mature.

 

Church father Tertullian called the Lordís Prayer ďa compendium of the Gospel.Ē††

†† All the Gospel summarized in the Lordís Prayer.

Thomas Watson, one of the great English Puritans called it ďa body of divinity.Ē

†† Divinity in those days meant all of Christian theology.

†† Saying much the same thing as Tertullianóall we need to know is here.

 

And Martin Lutherís relationship with the Lordís Prayer is most interesting.

†† He had an intense prayer life, known to pray for two or three hours a day.

Got to a point where he felt that he could not accomplish anything if he didnít

†† spend that much time with God.How did he do it?By using the Lordís Prayer

†† as his model.He did it his whole life.Later on in this series Iíll tell you some of

†† the things Luther taught about praying the Lordís prayer. Itís fascinating.

 

So for 2,000 years, Christians around the world, babes in Christ and fathers

†† in the faith have prayed this prayer.Itís been prayed in great cathedrals

†† and in little thatched roof churches on the mission fields.

Itís been prayed in hundreds of languages.

†† So as we study it, and pray it ourselves, we need to take off our shoes,

†† because we are standing on holy ground.

 

Right before the Lord Jesus gave his disciples this prayeróright beforeó

†† he gave them two negatives, two ďdo notís.Ē

Iím going to tell you how to pray, but first do not pray like the hypocrites,

†† and second, do not pray like the pagans.

 

When the Bible speaks of hypocrites, it always means people inside the church.

†† The Bible never calls people outside the church hypocrites.

†† Hypocrites are always professing believers in the true God.

When the Bible speaks of pagans, our your Bible might translate it Gentiles,

†† it means people outside the church.People who donít know the true God.

 

So Christ is saying:Before you pray, know that there are two bad influences,

†† two false ways of praying.One comes from inside the church and one comes

†† from outside the churchódonít pray like that.

And, of course, this is not about mechanics, itís about the heart.

†† The Lord is saying:Before you pray, give yourself a heart check.

†† Youíre going to be pulled in two bad directions in prayer.

†† Know it and resist it.

 

Hereís what weíre going to do.

Spend this Sunday looking at the Lordís first ďdo not.Ē

†† Do not pray like the hypocrites.ĒNext Sunday, ďDo not pray like the pagans.Ē

†† That will get our hearts ready for the opening words of the Lordís Prayer:

†† ďOur Father in heaven.ĒSo letís look at this under three questions:

1.What is hypocritical prayer?

2.Why are you inclined to pray that way?

3.Where do you get the power to pray rightly?

MP#1What is hypocritical prayer?

Jesus says:ďAnd when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray

†† standing in the synagogues on and the street corners to be seen by men.Ē

 

Thatís pretty clear, isnít it?Praying so other people will see you or hear you

†† and be impressed.So theyíll think you are a really spiritual person.

†† So theyíll say:Heís such a sincere, mature Christian.

She has such a close walk with Christ.Listen to her prayers!

 

The example Jesus gives is so over the top that itís almost funny.

†† He says hypocrites love to pray on street corners.

In the Old Testament church there was a practice of praying three times

†† a day, morning, noon, and night.It mirrored the practice of the priests in Temple.

So three times a day, at home, or at work, or in the local synagogue,

†† many Jews would face Jerusalem and pray.

Many who did this were completely sincere.Daniel did it.

†† Remember the story of Daniel in the lionsí den?The way Danielís enemies

†† caught him was because they knew that no matter what, three times a day,

†† he would open his windows toward Jerusalem and pray.

 

Even today there are places where Christians pray at set times according to custom.

†† And thereís nothing wrong with that.

In South Korea, Christians of all denominations pray at 4:00 or 5:00 in the

†† morning in prayer chapels set up in every neighborhood.

Fifteen years ago my mother was diagnosed with cancer and a Korean woman

†† in her church said, I want to pray with you that God will heal your cancer.

Mother said, Thatís wonderful.Letís get together for lunch this week.

†† Woman said, No.5:00 a.m., at the church.6:00?5:30, no later.

 

So there was this practice among the Jews, three times a day.

Jesus says:Hereís the hypocrite, heís on his way to the synagogue for noon prayer.

†† But he plans his route, he makes sure he gets ďheld upĒ, then what do you know?!

Itís noon and heís not at the synagogue.Where is he?

†† He just happens to be at the corner of 2nd Ave and 278, right in downtown.

And everybody passing by says:Wow. Thatís dedication!

†† Thereís a man who really knows God.Thereís a man not ashamed of his faith.

†† I sure couldnít do that.Iím not nearly that serious about being a Christian.

Or he gets to synagogue to pray and he plans what to say and where to stand

†† based on what will impress other people the most.

That sounds like such a far-fetched example that you canít even imagine

†† anybody doing it.But I have.Many times Iíve prayed and hoped that

†† the people listening to me will be impressed and think Iím a spiritual person.

Or Iíve said to someone:Iíll be praying for you, because part of me wants

†† them to know that Iím a praying person.

 

This is part of a bigger lesson Jesus is teaching in this chapter.

He says in verse 2 of this chapter:

†† ďWhen you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets,

†† as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets to be honored by men.Ē

You give financially, and what do you hope happens?

†† You hope that people will know what a generous person you are.

 

Then he says in verse 16:

†† ďWhen you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do,

††† for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting.Ē

Thatís funny.Youíre fasting so you try to really look like youíre suffering so that

†† somebody will ask, Whatís wrong?Nothing.Iím just fasting.

 

We could add any of the acts of our faithóespecially going to church.

†† Iíve always been amused when I say to people, I missed you Sunday.

And they get flustered and start to make excusesójustifying their absence to me.

†† Who cares what I think.You donít go to church for me anyway.

Thatís Jesusí point.Who do you pray for?Whoís really your audience?

†† Is it the Lord or are you doing it for other people?If itís for other people,

†† then Jesus says youíve missed the point and youíre praying hypocritically.

 

So what about public prayer?Doesnít Jesus say earlier in the Sermon on Mount,

†† Let your light shine before men?Donít hide the practice of your faith?

Hereís the distinction.When you are fearful, and want to hide your prayeró

†† then you need to let your light shine.

When you want to impress people, you need to pray in secret.

 

Youíre in a restaurant, maybe with your family.Maybe a business lunch.

†† You think, I donít want to pray.Embarrassing.Awkward for these other men.

†† Donít you dare hide the practice of your faith.Let your light shine.

But if you say:Iím going to let them know that Iím a good Christian.

†† Then who are you really praying for? Jesus says, itís better to say a sincere

†† silent prayer in your heart to your Father in heaven.

Now letís go a little deeper and ask the second question:

MP#2Why are we inclined to pray that way?

And itís bigger than just prayer.

†† Why are we inclined to do all the acts of religion that way?

†† Whether itís giving or going to church or living a moral life?

Why are we so driven to do all that we do

†† so that we get the approval of the people who matter to us?

Hereís the reason:

†† Itís because we fail to really understand how we relate to God in Christ.

 

Whatís the relationship you have to God through Christ?Jesus says:

†† ďWhen you pray, go into your room, shut the door and pray to your . . . Father.

†† Then your . . . . Father who sees will reward you.

When you read all of chapter six, Jesus pushes this home over and over.

†† Your Father, your Father, your Father.Twelve times he says it.

And when he gets to the Lordís Prayer itself, he says,

†† This is the way you are to address God:ďOur Father in heaven . . .Ē

 

And so what is the cause of hypocrisy?Why are we as believers inclined to

†† pray and give and even live moral lives to impress other people?

Itís because weíve failed to understand that through Christ,

†† God is our Father, and we are his beloved sons and daughters.

The root cause of hypocrisy in prayer and everything else

is insecurity in your relationship with God.

 

If you donít really know that God is your Father in heaven,

†† if your faith is not strong enough to grasp that intellectually and experientially,

†† then you will seek your security, affirmation and acceptance from other people.

Youíll look for the eyes of other people to assure yourself you are right with God.

 

Someone must notice my morality and my sacrifices.

†† Someone must notice and my hard work and my religious disciplines.

Because when they see how good I am, or how hard Iím trying,

†† when they affirm me, then I will know that Iím ok.

 

When you first read this passage about hypocrites praying on street corners,

†† so they can be seen, and blowing trumpets when they give money to the poor,

†† that sounds so over the top that you sayóthatís not me.Thatís other people.

But the Sermon on the Mount is a sermon to believers.

Jesus is teaching his disciples.Heís talking to men who know God,

†† and who know they owe God certain obligations,

†† and desire to be in a relationship with him.Heís talking to us.

Heís saying that itís easy for people with real faith to have a radical

†† insecurity in your relationship with God.And when you donít have a deep and

†† real sense of the fatherhood of God, you try to get approval through religion.

 

Several years ago, when preaching through Galatians, I told a story that

†† Larry Taunton had told me about a woman he met who was brought up in a

†† church that taught her godly women wear dresses and worldly women wear pants.

She said, for years, when I put on a dress it made me feel accepted by God.

†† But hereís the thing, she wasnít wearing the dress for God.

†† She was wearing it for the people in her strict church.To get their approval.

†† She was wearing it so other people would see her and affirm her righteousness.

 

Iím sure she would have said that God was her Father, and even prayed

†† to him in that way.But experientially, she was missing it.

†† And as the years went by, she knew that she was missing something.

She knew that the nods she got for her modest dress and her morality and her

†† praying and all her religious exercises were not the same as the smile of God.

 

Ask yourself these questions:

†† Why are you moral and religious?

†† Why do you stay sober?

†† Why do you stay faithful to your marriage?

†† Why do you raise children right?

†† Why do you go to church?

†† Why do you give?Why do you pray?

Is it to get a nod of approval from the people who matter?

†† Is it so that you can hold your head up and say, Iím OK?

 

If so, youíre missing something.

You donít really know, or havenít really experienced the Fatherhood of God.

†† And until you do, all your acts of religion will become increasingly unsatisfying.How did Jesus put it?He said that people who pray for the approval of other

people, have already received their reward.

The nod you get from other people, your fleeting self-assurance.Thatís it.

†† How disappointing.How quickly thatís gone.What disappointing prayer.

 

But Jesus wants you to have much more when you pray.

†† That brings us to the third question:

MP#3 Where do you get the power to pray rightly?

By knowing your heavenly Fatherís love and affirmation.

When you know he loves you and is for you,

†† when youíve enjoyed his acceptance and affection,

†† then prayer becomes what it ought to beótime with him.

 

Every boy and every man longs for the approval of his father.

†† He longs to hear good job, I love you.

I remember when Will was a little boy that he would sometimes make a muscle.

†† Dad, feel my muscle.And whatís a father supposed to do when

†† his son says that?You squeeze it and say, Wow.Youíre strong.

And he stands up a little bit taller and you see confidence in his eyes.

†† And when he gets older, you start to tell him about inner strength,

†† and what it means to be brave and kind and to defend the helpless.

When you see your son show that kind of strength, you praise him.

 

And I remember when Adrienne and Eliza were little, it seems like it was

†† a constant parade of dress up.They had a bin full of fancy clothes, and they

†† would come out swathed in scarves and gloves and high heelsó

†† and whatís a dad supposed to do?

Oh, my, you girls look lovely.And how lovely they feel.

†† And when they get older, you get to teach them that itís good be pretty

†† on the outside, but itís more important to be pretty on the inside.

And when you see those demonstrations of inner beauty, you praise them.

 

Many of you got that from your fathers growing up.

†† You got that love and affirmation. Some of you didnít.

†† And to this day you carry that wound and bear that scar.

Part of being in a church family is that we get to re-parent each other.

†† We almost become surrogate fathers and mothers as we affirm one another,

†† and express our love and confidence in each other and push each other

†† to live the Christian life.

 

But more importantly, as a Christian, you have a heavenly Father.

†† He knows everything about you.Of course he sees your sins and failures.

†† But he also sees the strength and beauty you have through union with Christ.

And he loves you in Christ.He claims you as his own.

So you donít have to pray to get people to see how good you areó

†† God already sees you, and he knows how good you are notó

†† but he loves you anyway, in Christ.

If you ever doubt that, when you doubt itólook at the cross.

†† Thereís the proof of the love of God the Father.

 

And when you muster up your best effort and pray to him,

†† really try to spend time with him in prayer, he squeezes your muscle

†† and says, Good job.I feel that and it feels strong to me.

 

Thatís what gives us the power to pray.

†† Thatís the reward Jesus speaks of when he says:

†† ďGo into your room, shut the door and pray to your Father who is unseen.

†† Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.Ē

The reward is not answers to your prayers themselves.

†† Lord, please work out this problem in my job, help me with this or that

†† concern I have for money or health or my children.

 

Of course God hears all those requests and answers them as he sees best.

†† Sometimes yes, sometimes no, sometimes wait.

But the real reward, the thing that motivates us and empowers us to pray rightly,

†† is fellowship with God himself, the Fatherís love and affirmation.

 

Look again at what Jesus says:Itís so incredible that itís easy to miss.

†† ďGo into your room, go into your place of prayerómaybe itís your bedroom,

†† maybe itís the couch or your porch swing, but go to that place and shut the door.

And when you shut the door, who is there?Your Father who is unseen.

 

Jesus says, When you pray rightly, you are walking into the throne room of God.If ††

†† If you had eyes that could pull back the curtain that separates this world from the

†† invisible world, the world of angels, you would see that what looks like a

†† bedroom, or a closet is really the throne room of heaven.

And what does God see?He sees you.He sees your heart.

†† He sees all of your cares and sorrows.He sees the things in you that

†† are so deep you canít even articulate them.

And he comes to meet you and help you.

†† What a reward is ours when we turn to him for help.And how empty it seems

†† to pray to impress other people, when we have the privilege of entering the throne

†† room of our Father.

Isaac Newton said,

†† ďI can take my telescope and look millions and millions of miles into space; but I can lay my

†† telescope aside, go into my room and shut the door, get down on my knees in earnest prayer,

†† and I see more of heaven and get closer to God than I can when assisted by all the telescopes

†† and material agencies on earth.Ē

 

Do not pray like the hypocrites do.Do not pray for the eyes of men.

†† Donít look for the reward of their affirmationóor you will get it.

And youíll miss the really great reward of entering the presence of your

†† heavenly Father, and knowing he is there, and that he loves you.