But when you pray, go to your room, close the door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen. And your Father, who sees what you do in private, will reward you. (Matt. 6:6)
When you go without food, wash your face and comb your hair, so that others cannot know that you are fasting—only your Father, who is unseen, will know. And your Father, who sees what you do in private, will reward you. (Matt. 6:17-18)
I never saw it before. The Father, who is unseen.
I started thinking about why it mattered to say that the Father was unseen in this teaching. Obviously, we know that we don’t see God all the time. Given. So why does it matter so much in this passage?
Jesus is teaching about things he wants us to do in secret: giving, praying, fasting. They are disciplines that Jesus wants us to keep under wraps-so that even our best friends don’t know what we are doing. Why does it matter so much?
As I reflected on this, I realized all the blessings that fill my life daily, carefully planned out by my unseen Father, that go unnoticed. How many times has the Father snuck into my life to throw me a little (or huge!) blessing, and I went on my way, completely oblivious? The right door opens up for a job opportunity, a word of encouragement from a friend just in time, a little extra cash in a really tight month that comes from an unexpected source, a trip to the doctor’s that “accidentally” finds something they weren’t even looking for that is in the early stages of developing instead of the last…..there are unseen blessings everywhere that reflect the unseen Father. Unnoticed. Undetected. Overlooked.
And so it seems that Jesus is telling us that we should try to do things the way the Father who is unseen does things. It might be an anonymous detail that touches the heart, or even something huge and costly that absolutely no one knows about.
It feels like He just wants us to walk a mile or two at His side. To understand for a moment what it means to do something that brings us nothing except His pleasure-to totally erase the flesh factor from an act of devotion. We religious types can get confused as to why we even started down this road. The flesh can learn to masquerade as ministry with a little practice. So in some of the most flesh-costly acts—prayer, fasting, and giving—He asks us to just out-and-out kill any possibility of getting a kick-back to our ego or reputation. Don’t even put it on the books. Slide the money into the basket in a blank envelope. Don’t explain to anyone why you have to get up at 5 or 6.
I personally have a long way to go on this one. I think I need Unseen 101, the remedial track, so don’t call me for advice on how to live this one out. And I know there are those of you who are out there who are really good at this, but you won’t say anything. You’ll just smile and move along.