This part of the Sermon on the Mount can be tricky for people. People do love to give but they want everyone to know about their giving – the ostentatious €50 note on a collection plate, the biggest box at a birthday party. It is part of the rush of giving – the kudos you receive.
Well Jesus didn’t see it like that. He calls us to give, and give generously but to do so quietly, without fuss and fanfare. Back in his day the rich folk would have someone blow a trumpet, according to John Wesley, in order to announce their giving to the poor.
Nowadays we have celebrities being photographed giving to the needy, the photogenic needy. You don’t see them kicking a football on the field in Knocknaheeny but you will see them gently rolling a ball to an angelic child in Cope. The giving of alms on Maundy Thursday buys into this “being seen.” Every year a bin liner of stuff goes from Kerry to Cork, it is full of knitted garments for people without homes, there are various people who put stuff in the bag and it arrives at the Simon Community. They always ask where it came from and I merely say Kerry. I don’t go into any more detail. When one of the people who had contributed heard, they were not pleased, they wanted it to be known where it came from specifically. But that is not Jesus’ way.
Kindness is catching, there is wave of passing it on going through our nation. People want codecils on their giving though. I give you this if you give me that. Personally I love to give, none of it tax deductible, just plain old giving. And I do like to do it secret. And I do like to give to my utmost and I do like to do random acts of kindness. There are people who do all this but give only to people they know, or people they think aren’t looking for an angle or whatever reason, they add codecils. It is not about being Lord and Lady Bountiful, it is giving something from God via us to another human.
The same principle Jesus applies to praying. Pray in a press, don’t be like the Pharisee with the loud prayers. God is interested in relationship, with communication not with how doctrinally sound or theologically correct our prayers are. He doesn’t need our prayers to be full of passages from the bible. He wants us to be honest and sincere, he wants our very hearts.
Prayer is one of those things that as a new Christian you think everyone has been to prayer school, they have words you’ve never heard of before, they talk of sanctification and justification or intercession and extempore. Words that trip off their tongues and tie yours in knots. As a Christian you have yourself as a living proof of his transforming power. So a prayer might begin Dear Lord…and go on to say … thank You ..and end..Amen. When we say thank you to God it encompasses everything we are thankful for in our hearts, it is a prayer of thanksgiving in five words. Like wise – I’m sorry is a prayer of confession. Yes God wants to hear more but he can hear our hearts so if we are saying sorry from the heart he knows. And in time we get our voices so we can pray to God.
I met a woman a few days ago from my neck of the woods and we talked in our dialect for a while and then we prayed and her voice changed into a different pitch but also a different voice. I am left wondering should I change my voice when speaking to God, if I change my voice am I changing something of my story too, do I change my voice when I pray to God. Just questions, no answers yet.
Wesley then comes to the Lord’s Prayer and expounds each phrase in great detail and I have nothing to add, he put it so well. In response to his writing, I see how perfect that prayer is, it covers everything we need in a prayer, we should say it more often, we should mean it more often, we should live it – always!