“Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: Otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: And thy Father, which seeth in secret, himself shall reward thee openly. And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: For they love to pray standing in the
synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret, he shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the Heathen do: For they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: For your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before you ask him. After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be
thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Wesley doesn’t often use illustrations, he just expounds the verses one by one. This is a refreshing form of sermon. So often today we have to listen to endless stories that a preacher might find funny or witty. Some of them like to give us knowledge that has less to do with the text than how intelligent they are. As a writer I like “the Word became flesh,” because that is kind of what in writing we hope for; that our characters take on flesh and blood. But when God became flesh it was so much more than a character in a book being imagined into life: it was and is real.
How disappointing therefore to get a translation of logos as not meaning word at all but something like “I declare.” But then the knowledgeable person after dashing my simple understanding built me back up, literally, because he said the root of logos was lego. Lego is my favourite game to play, I love to create abstract structures out of a pile of miscellaneous rainbow coloured bricks trying to create uniqueness whilst maintaining enough balance that they don’t tumble down. So although I can no longer go word-flesh, I can go lego-flesh-body built.
Wesley did explain each phrase in this passage and applied to to our lives in a very simple manner. The first two sections cover generosity and prayer and how we are told to wherever and whenever possible to do both in secret. Wesley points out that there are times when we think we must do it in public to show God’s glory but he warns (most verily) that we must in those cases look carefully at our motives, does anyone except God need to know?
I love his exposition of the Lord’s prayer, it could be lifted off the page and preached in this time:
It consists of three parts, — the preface, the petitions, and the doxology, or conclusion. The preface, “our Father which art in heaven,” lays a general foundation for prayer; comprising
what we must first know of God, before we can pray in confidence of being heard. It likewise points out to us all those tempers with which we are to approach to God, which are most essentially requisite, if we desire either our prayers or our lives should find acceptance with him.
He ends his discourse with a hymn which is sung to alfreton or a long meter tune. This is intended to be a paraphrase of The Lord’s Prayer. There is a beautiful hymn by Rev. Adolphus Clemens Good that is also a paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer:
Father of all, who dwell’st above,
Of boundless power, and boundless love;
From world to world, diffusing free,
the tide of life and jubilee.
Jubilee, to live debt free in every sense of the word, it is life and it is worth living with the Living God.