Jesus’ attitude to religious observances (Matthew 6: 1–18)

At the time of Jesus, Jewish religious duties included prayer, fasting and almsgiving (charity).

Prayer

Jesus teaches us the right way to pray. He tells us not to pray publicly like the hypocrites do, but instead to go inside and close the door.

He also tells us not to use meaningless words, as God knows what we need before we even ask it of Him.

Jesus taught the Our Father or the Lord’s Prayer as an example of how we should pray. This prayer is still used today by all Christian denominations. We can learn a lot about the Kingdom of God and our Christian faith through an exploration of the Our Father.

The Our Father begins with the words “Our Father”. This shows us that we are children of God and we should approach prayer as though we are speaking to a loving parent.

In this prayer we ask God to bring His Kingdom on Earth. This is done through Him sending His son, Jesus Christ.

We ask for God’s help when we say “Give us this day our daily bread” – we are actually asking for physical and spiritual nourishment to help us on our journey.

We confess our sins and ask for help to forgive others who have sinned against us.

We acknowledge the power and greatness of God through this prayer.

Fasting

Jesus taught that when you fast you should put oil on your head and wash your face so that others do not know that you are fasting. In this way, God will see what you are doing and will reward you.

Jesus criticises the hypocrites who, when they are fasting, make it known to others with their solemn faces. The only reward they will get is the praise of others.

Charity / almsgiving

Jesus teaches that when we give to charity we should do it in secret, “so that your left hand does not know what your right hand is doing”.

He says that by giving in secret God will see what we have done and we will be rewarded by Him.

Jesus is teaching against the giving of charity for the sole purpose of public praise and reward. Those who give in the synagogue and in the streets publicly have received their reward – but all that will be is the praise of others.