The title phrase that I have chosen for this entry is a promise that the Savior repeats verbatim three times in this passage of scripture, emphasizing the spiritual importance of how some personal elements of discipleship ought to be kept to ourselves. For if we do these things to be seen of men, then in the praise of the world (which is actually no praise at all), we have our reward.
May this truth [service] guide our lives. May we look upward as we press forward in the service of our God and our fellowmen. And may we incline an ear toward Galilee, that we might hear perhaps an echo of the Savior’s teachings: ‘Do not your alms before men, to be seen of them’ (Matthew 6:1). ‘Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth’ (Matthew 6:3). And of our good deeds: ‘See thou tell no man’ (Matthew 8:4). Our hearts will then be lighter, our lives brighter, and our souls richer.Thomas S. Monson, Ensign, May 1983, 55–57
Loving service anonymously given may be unknown to man—but the gift and the giver are known to God.
Do Alms unto the Poor
Contrary to the account of the Sermon on the Mount found in the book of Matthew, this section starts with a commandment: “Verily, verily, I say that I would that ye should do alms unto the poor;” (vs. 1) This then becomes the premise for how to do alms, or give of our money and goods to the poor.
There is an obligation on our end to give, but I feel that the Savior is then teaching us to not dwell on it; don’t think about it. Don’t do it for the glory of the world; don’t even do it for your own glory. This is like taking pride in our own “righteousness”. The Savior says don’t even let your right hand and left hand know what each other is doing in giving to the poor.
When Thou Prayest
The Savior admonishes us to not be as the hypocrites, praying in public to be seen. What does it mean to be a hypocrite? Hypocrisy is a term that is found repeatedly throughout the scriptures (appearing perhaps the fewest times in the Book of Mormon).
I have spent the morning studying the origins of the word: hypocrisy. This, of course, should lead to personal reflection on the subject and on ways in which I tend to behave hypocritically. I’m not done with this topic.
The Manner of Prayer
Jesus first teaches to avoid vain or meaningless repetition, stating that the Father already knows what we need before we ask. How do the two correlate? What is the purpose of prayer? Why do I pray?
Everyday, at least twice a day, I am on my knees praying to the Father. I know it has started as an obligation. (It has been since as long as I can remember.) This sense of obligation or duty though has a tendency to obscure what this really is.
I’ve read Elder Brook P. Hales’ recent conference talk: Answers to Prayer. This was brought to my attention in a search for the phrase “your father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask him.” My life up to this point is actually a testament of the truths spoken his talk, especially this concluding thought:
I know that as an all-knowing, loving Father, He answers our prayers perfectly, according to His infinite wisdom, and in ways that will be to our ultimate benefit and blessing.
So if the Father knows what we need before we ask Him, how does that change the way that we approach prayer? It changes everything. Because the Father knows already what we need, prayer is a matter of our wills being aligned to his, and seeking for the cleansing, purifying power of the Atonement so that we can come to know what the Father already knows. The Father has the answers to our deepest heart-felt desires. It is worth every effort then to adjust ourselves to Him and His holy will, so that we can know the same.
After This Manner Therefore Pray Ye
I am reviewing this today and realize that I have not taught correct principles concerning prayer. When the Savior taught how to pray, he first emphasized that this isn’t a matter of rote repetition. Here is what the Savior chose to emphasize when teaching how to pray:
- Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
- Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
- 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, forever.
These are the principles. How do I teach this to my children? (I want to categorize these things, and place labels on them. But that dumbs down the doctrine, which strips it of its full power.)
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
This suggests reverence for Heavenly Father. It also has been explained to me that this is an acknowledgement of the Father’s supremacy. “Hallowed be thy name.” Hallowed means to be made holy or consecrated. In Spanish, the word for hallowed is “santificado” or sanctified. This suggests to me then both an immediate acknowledgement of his preeminent and holy state of being and also a looking forward to that time in which all will hold holy His sacred name. It is a reminder to me of the sacred realm into which I ascend when I call on Him, the Father of my immortal soul.
This introductory point of prayer cannot be over emphasized enough. To grasp and attempt to comprehend the nature of this Divine Being to whom we all must approach in prayer is worthy of great effort, of our very best efforts.
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Sincere Submission. I’ve already addressed this and study this point. But here is a quote from Henry B. Eyring that emphasize it:
The servant with a testimony that this is the true Church of Jesus Christ feels joy in its progress and a desire to give his or her all to build it up.“Watch Over and Strengthen”, Henry B. Eyring, April 2000
The Savior Himself exemplified the standard set by these next words of the prayer: “Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth” (Luke 11:2). That was His prayer in the extremity of offering the Atonement for all mankind and all the world (see Matt. 26:42). The faithful servant prays that even the apparently smallest task will be done as God would have it done. It makes all the difference to work and to pray for His success more than for our own.
Continue to study “The Will of God”
And I do this for a wise purpose; for thus it whispereth me, according to the workings of the Spirit of the Lord which is in me. And now, I do not know all things; but the Lord knoweth all things which are to come; wherefore, he worketh in me to do according to his will.Words of Mormon 1:7-8 (emphasis added)
And my prayer to God is concerning my brethren, that they may once again come to the knowledge of God, yea, the redemption of Christ;
This particular set of verses connects the workings of the Spirit to knowledge of the will of God, and echoes back to the Savior’s instruction in John 3. There is a footnote that takes me over to Ecclesiastes 11: we don’t know the nature of the seed when we go to plant it. We plant in the morning and collect in the evening. There is much to be learned in this routine or process.
If the Spirit of the Lord be with you, and it will not act in defiance of the Father’s holy will, then are we privy to the will of the Father for us.
He that asketh in the Spirit asketh according to the will of God; wherefore it is done even as he asketh.Doctrine & Covenants 46:30
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
Joseph of Egypt looked at the grave injustice extended to him at the hand of his brothers and saw the greater good that God had accomplished through him. See Genesis 50:15-21. A secondary thought that occurs to me is that forgiveness is a required tool in the forward progression of God’s work. Forgiveness enables love.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
The first part of this phrase has been translated elsewhere to say “Suffer us not to be lead into temptation” or “Do not let us enter into temptation.”
The word “deliver” has its origins in the word “liberate,” and can mean “to set free” or “rescue.” This particular supplication then is critical in our efforts to follow God by avoiding the snares of the adversary. We are absolutely dependent upon God for protection from the adversary. His protection is in the commandments. And should we choose not to follow God’s commandments, then are we delivered or given into the hands of the evil one for him to do with us as he will.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.
There are no footnotes in the 3 Nephi account, but over in Matthew, there is an obscure reference to a verse in 1 Chronicles from when David was about to die. It’s almost as if the Savior is giving reference to this verse:
Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all.1 Chronicles 29:11
The reality is that the kingdoms and the governments of this world are temporary. The kingdom of God, which was and is and will be from all eternity to all eternity, is the objective and overall goal. The verse from 1 Chronicles has several other references. This one in the Doctrine and Covenants, resonates with me:
If thou wilt do good, yea, and hold out faithful to the end, thou shalt be saved in the kingdom of God, which is the greatest of all the gifts of God; for there is no gift greater than the gift of salvation.Doctrine and Covenants 6:13 (emphasis added)
If Ye Forgive Men
And then the Savior adds this postscript about forgiveness upon teaching the correct manner of prayer:
For, if ye forgive men their trespasses your heavenly Father will also forgive you;vs 14 &15
But if ye forgive not men their trespasses neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Forgiveness is such a central tenant of the gospel of Christ that this additional emphasis is well merited. Not only is God willing to forgive us, but in order for us to participate more fully in the communal experience of the Atonement and its resultant salvation, our participation in the acts of forgiveness are also requisite. Bitterness, rancor, vengeance, brooding, and anything else that accompanies us in our unwillingness to forgive must be put away in order for us to fully enjoy the blessings of the Gospel in everyday living.
When Ye Fast
God’s secret weapon to mortals; it is in fasting that we cut straight to the Source for divine assistance. Perhaps that is not as readily evident here, because the promise is the same for giving to the poor, and praying in general, but Isaiah reminds us of how potent fasting is slicing through layers of wickedness and heaping upon ourselves the riches of eternity. In fasting, we also combine the activities of giving to the poor and prayer. This triad of alms, prayers, and fasting, properly performed all lead to the same outcome: blessings from the Father.
There is more from Isaiah on this subject. In fact, a great many blessings are spelled out here. There is one that catches my attention this morning: ” thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations;” In my mind and to my reasoning, this is the blessing of family and posterity and being able to lay a foundation for them to build on in the future.
Thy Father Who Is in Secret
Why can’t we see God? Perhaps it is the great trial of our faith. But the Savior here is also reminding us of things that are not seen, of Him whom we cannot see. Isaiah and Brother Joseph add some very interesting insights on this point:
Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour.Isaiah 45:15
But behold, verily, verily, I say unto you that mine eyes are upon you. I am in your midst and ye cannot see me;Doctrine and Covenants 38:7
We sit in darkness, it is us that cannot see. God who dwells and is light, can see us. What are the proofs of this around us? There are many.
I am coming at this conclusion for this section of scriptures the day after having just completed a fast. So my knowledge is not exclusively based on what I am reading or reasoning out of the scriptures, but rather, I know from personal experience the veracity of this teachings. What the scriptures do for me here is give definition through the written word to the feelings that are in my heart this morning. They are expanding my understanding of experiences that I have personally had.
I’ve already kind of highlighted the point above, but the last time that the Savior teaches this promise about the Father rewarding us openly for things that we do in secret (see vs. 18). It is worded just slightly different, emphasizing that the Father is in secret. Fasting should be done in complete ignorance to everyone around us. It should be a secret issue of the heart between you or I and the Father.
Isaiah 58:8-12 articulates the blessings of a successful fasting effort, which is extremely important to understand. There is one blessing in particular that I had never before seen. Namely, that our posterity will be the ones to do the work of restoration and building a foundation for many generations to follow.
And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations;Isaiah 58:12
Truly, the Father who IS in secret, shall reward thee openly.