Our family has recently started working through the Sermon on the Mount during family worship. As we have moved through each section, I’ve experienced a renewed sense of astonishment at the countercultural nature of what Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount. In the Beatitudes, Jesus teaches that the way of the Kingdom of God is radically different from the way of the world. The poor in spirit, rather than the proud in spirit; the meek, rather than the selfish; the merciful, rather than the brazenly defiant, are the blessed men and women of the earth. Jesus teaches us what has been called the ethics of “the upside down kingdom.” According to one writer, “the values of the world are power, comfort, success and recognition. Jesus is replacing these with the values of the Kingdom of God: weakness, sacrifice, grief, and exclusion.”
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches about the way in which a member of the Kingdom of God is to live. Jesus is not suggesting that there are things we must do in order to enter the Kingdom. Rather, He is explaining to His disciples how believers are to live since they have already been redeemed and brought into the Kingdom of God. In the Sermon on the Mount, there is an obvious emphasis on heart religion over against external hypocritical religiosity. Jesus teaches us to give in secret, pray in secret, and fast in secret, since our Father in heaven sees in the secret and will reward openly. We must resist the urge to practice our religious disciplines before men in order to be seen by them. We will either live for the glory and praise of God or we will live for the praise of men.
In Matthew 6, Jesus introduces the role of prayer in the Kingdom of God. After warning about the danger of trying to manipulate God with many words, Jesus gave His disciples the model prayer–the Lords Prayer. Jesus gives us a model for prayer that teaches us about all we ever need. Starting with the first three petitions about God’s name, Kingdom and will, Jesus is teaching us to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” In the last three petitions, Jesus is teaching us what we need in our daily lives and interactions with those around us. We need daily provision, to live in forgiving relationships with God and men, and protection from physical and spiritual evil. This all-encompassing prayer teaches us the categorical needs of life. Noticeably absent from this prayer is any petition for power, wealth, success, and comfort. Our prayers will be pleasing to God and beneficial to ourselves and others when they are shaped by this realization.
The Puritan Thomas Watson summed up the value of learning to pray according this the pattern of the Lord’s Prayer, when he wrote,
“Let us have a great esteem of the Lord’s prayer; let it be the model and pattern of all our prayers. There is a double benefit arising from framing our petitions suitably to this prayer. Hereby error in prayer is prevented. It is easy to write correctly, after this copy. We cannot easily err, when we have our pattern before us. Hereby mercies requested are obtained; for the apostle assures us that God will hear us when we pray “according to his will.” 1 John 5:14. And sure we pray according to his will—when we pray according to the pattern he has set us…’This, then, is how you should pray.'”1
1. Thomas Watson, “The Lord’s Prayer,” www.monergism.com