In the Sermon on the Mount, how does Jesus' teaching on prayer and fasting contrast with that of the Pharisees and Scribes?

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ms-mcgregor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In both cases, Jesus condemns the Pharisees and Scribse with misusing prayer and fasting as a way to gain public attention rather than as way to gain intimacy with God. He condemns the Pharisees for loving to pray "standing in the synagogues" ( Matthew 6:5-15) in order to be noticed by men. Instead, Jesus stresses that prayer is an experience of devotion to God and one should "enter into thy closet" to pray. He says that God who sees in the prayer in secret will reward it publicly. He also warns the Pharisees not to use "vain repetition" or incessant babbling but to make their prayers simple. Jesus also condemned the Pharisee's use of fasting as a public show of piety. Instead he says the true purpose of fasting is for deep contemplation, examination and spiritual communion. Instead, he tells the Pharisees to "anoint their head" (Matthew 6:17-18), a practice used before going to a feast, and not let anyone know they are fasting. The obvious contrasts in both teachings is that one should have the proper attitude toward spiritual practice.

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