Matthew 6:5-15

This is a longer passage, but the verse and paragraph flow just simply did not want to tolerate breaking it up…

6.5 Καὶ ὅταν προσεύχεσθε, οὐκ ἔσεσθε ὡς οἱ ὑποκριταί· ὅτι φιλοῦσιν ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς καὶ ἐν ταῖς γωνίαις τῶν πλατειῶν ἑστῶτες προσεύχεσθαι, ὅπως φανῶσιν τοῖς ἀνθρώποις· ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀπέχουσιν τὸν μισθὸν αὐτῶν. 6.6 σὺ δὲ ὅταν προσεύχῃ, εἴσελθε εἰς τὸ ταμιεῖόν σου καὶ κλεῖσας τὴν θύραν σου πρόσευξαι τῷ πατρί σου τῷ ἐν τῷ κρυπτῷ· καὶ ὁ πατήρ σου ὁ βλέπων ἐν τῷ κρθπτῷ ἀποδώσει σοι.

6.7 Προσευχόμενοι δὲ μὴ βατταλογήσητε ὥσπερ οἱ ἐθνικοί· δοκοῦσιν γὰρ ὅτι ἐν τῇ πολυλογίᾳ αὐτῶν εἰσακουσθήσονται. 6.8 μὴ οὖν ὁμοιωθῆτε αὐτοῖς· οἶδεν γὰρ [ὁ θεὸς] ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὧν χρείαν ἔχετε πρὸ τοῦ ὑμᾶς αἰτῆσαι αὐτόν. 6.9 οὕτως οὖν προσεύχεσθε ὑμεῖς·

Πάτηρ ἡμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς·

Ἁγιασθήτω τὸ ὄνομα σου· 6.10 ἐλθάτω ἡ βασιλειά σου· γενηθήτω τὸ θέλημά σου, ὡς ἐν οὐρανῷ καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς·

6.11 Tὸν ἄρτον ἡμῶν τὸν ἐπιούσιον δὸς ἡμῖν σήμερον· 6.12 καὶ ἄφες ἡμῖν τὰ ὀφειλήματα ἡμῶν, ὡς καὶ ἡμεῖς ἀφήκαμεν τοῖς ὀφειλέταις ἡμῶν· 6.13 καὶ μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς εἰς πειρασμόν, ἀλλὰ ῥῦσαι ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ τοῦ πονηροῦ.

6.14 Ἐὰν γὰρ ἀφῆτε τοῖς ἀνθρώποις τὰ παραπτώματα αὐτῶν, ἀφήσει καὶ ὑμῖν ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ οὐράνιος· 6.15 ἐὰν δὲ μὴ ἀφῆτε τοῖς ἀνθρώποις, οὐδὲ ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ἀφήσει τὰ παραπτώματα ὑμῶν.

6.5 And when you are praying, do not be as the ‘pretenders’; because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and street corners, so that they are seen by men; truly I say to you, they have their reward. 6.6 But when you are praying, enter into your closet and having closed your door, pray to your Father in secret; and your Father seeing in secret will repay you.

6.7 But praying, do not babble and continue on needlessly as the Gentiles; for they think that in their multiplied words they will be heard. 6.8 Therefore do not be like them; for [God] your Father knows what things you have need of before you ask him. 6.9 Therefore pray like this:

Our Father in heaven:

Let your name be set apart; 6.10 Let your kingdom come; Let your will come about on earth as in heaven.

6.11 Give us the bread we need for today; 6.12 and forgive us our debts, as we too forgave our debtors; 6.13 and do not bring us into temptation, but rather rescue us from the evil one.

6.14 For if you forgive men their misdeeds, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; 6.15 but if you do not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive your mistakes.

In 6:5, we have a sequence of thought that nicely parallels verse 6:2. Though the topic is now prayer, rather than charitable giving, once again Jesus tells his audience to avoid the pattern of the pretenders. The intent to be seen or receive glory from men is repeated, and the phrase, ἀπέχουσιν τὸν μισθὸν αὐτῶν is used again to end his judgment of their behavior, “their reward has already been received in full.”

Two other things are interesting to me, here. The mention of streets here uses a different word than that found in 6:2. Also, the words for “to be seen” are different between 6:1 and 6:5.

For streets, 6:2 uses the word ῥύμαις, while 6:5 has πλατειῶν. Dative and genitive case provide for the usage within each phrase, rather than any difference in meaning. The word in 6:2 is more of an alley, a closed-in lane. But in 6:5 the word for street is a broad road. With 6:2, Jesus is talking about giving. I can imagine a greater likelihood of street-walkers, “bums” in the alleys. The hypocrites might walk there so as to be seen going where they know there is need. In 6:5, nothing is being given. But the wide open thoroughfare is a great place to loudly recite prayers if one wants to be heard by a crowd.

The words for “be seen” are θεαθῆναι and φανῶσιν. The former means to be viewed attentively, to be watched or seen. the latter means to shine, become evident, appear. The idea of the first is that the giving is done so that people might see it happen. The second is that the prayers are done openly so it might draw attention, much as the trumpet drew attention to the man about to give in verse 6:2.

In 6:6, the closet is a store room or inner chamber. And once again, the repetition is purposeful, using the same expression “seeing in secret” and “seeing in secret will repay you.” In literal context, there is nothing to repay from prayer, but it makes the parallelism clearer. On the other hand, the real commodity here is praise and righteousness, not money or material possession. And when we choose to pray in private, shunning men’s praise, God repays us in a rich relationship with Him, and a permanent reward in heaven.

In 6:7 I have translated the word as “babble” and “continue on needlessly.” At root it means to stammer or babble, to keep talking and repeating oneself. I’m reminded of a skit we once did at The Mount that comedically emphasized some Christians’ repeated use of God’s name in prayer. Imagine asking a friend for something in this manner, “O great Frank, mighty Frank, I need your help. O my greatest and most lasting friend Frank who I have known since a child, dearest Frank, I need some sugar. Please my Friend, hear my request and in your deep friendship hearken to me, Frank.” Yes, it sound silly and contrived. But many people seem to think that God is pleased by this kind of prayer.

In 6:11, the word forgive should be understood to mean “release” or “let go” or “remit”. It is “forgive” in the sense that we are asking to no longer be bound to our debt when we show compassion with those who “owe” us. The reason we tell God to release us is that we have already released others. So our expectation of God acting on our behalf is based on our actions, motivated out of true compassion.

From 6:9 to 6:12, the words of this prayer are all in the imperative mood, the mood of commands. We are telling God that we are willing participants in the performance of His will. We are to tell God that what he desires should be reality, that he can rightfully do for us what we ask because we have done what he asked. We tell God to give us what we need, since we recognize our greed and know that he has our best interest at heart. He knows what we need for the day. The whole tone of the prayer is submission to God’s will. It is simple, without vain repetition or name-dropping. It is personal, but not pretentious. It recognizes how holy God is, how utterly different from us, while simultaneously recognizing that God wants us to be children, family members, not strangers.

The “temptation” in verse 12 is that which test our character, entices us to sin or proves our faith. We are to ask God to rescue us from it, so that we do not fall under the sway of our adversary, Satan. God is not “tempting” us to sin, nor does he lead us that way if we do not ask, but rather we are telling him that we are submitting to Him, rather than our urges. God does present us with opportunities to seek Him, to depend on Him. There are manuscripts that continue, “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.” Nestle does not, so I have not. Checking out the NET bible, the footnote concerning this verse says:

Most mss (L W Θ 0233 Ë13 33 Ï sy sa Didache) read (though some with slight variation) ὅτι σοῦ ἐστιν ἡ βασιλεία καὶ ἡ δύναμις καὶ ἡ δόξα εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας, ἀμήν (“for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever, amen”) here. The reading without this sentence, though, is attested by generally better witnesses (א B D Z 0170 Ë1 pc lat mae Or). The phrase was probably composed for the liturgy of the early church and most likely was based on 1 Chr 29:11-13; a scribe probably added the phrase at this point in the text for use in public scripture reading (see TCGNT 13-14). Both external and internal evidence argue for the shorter reading.

In verse 14 and 15, Jesus expounds on the last lines of the prayer, saying that if we forgive men for their misdeeds, their “sins”, their lapses in judgment, that God will forgive us. The word is often translated “trespasses.” It is not the word that is commonly used for sin, “falling short”. And interestingly, the word here for “forgiveness” is the same used in the prayer speaking of “releasing” from debt. In this way, Jesus ties together the intended meaning. The debt between men is the unreleased bitterness and expectation that comes from us falling short. Not only do we not live up to God’s high ideal, but we rarely can live up to our friends’ and neighbors’ expectations. Maybe it is not sin, but even if it’s just misunderstanding, we are to release it, seek restitution of the relationship, and move on. We have no right to remain bitter, corrupted by our sense of mistreatment.

These statements are in the future more vivid conditional structure, declaring the certainty of God’s forgiveness if we forgive others. And by that token, the certainty of God’s lack of “forgiveness” when we refuse to release men from the judgment we hold over them.

Bringing it all back together, Jesus wants his disciples to understand that prayer is not a tool for self-aggrandizement. It is a tool for submitting to God’s will, getting our hearts in line with his activity. It is a check on our self-righteousness, for in prayer we can look at our hearts under God’s own direction, and see if we are forgiving, if we are greedy, if we are treating God with disdain or lack of respect. If we are, we need to allow God to set us right, and make whatever adjustments are required to heal our physical relationships. Then we can pray and know that we are the children of God. Then we can talk to God without shame, because our hearts have been restored by his Spirit at work within us.

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About George

I'm interested in theology, languages, translation and various sorts of fermentation.
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One Response to Matthew 6:5-15

  1. Tim Ramsey says:

    I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog.

    Tim Ramsey

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