Humility and prayer are the channels through which His Grace flows towards the seeker and Grace directs him towards the fulfilment of His Will. It is in Grace that the individual will finds oneness with the Divine Will; and Grace is obtained through real humility and constant prayer.
Therefore, Lord Jesus warns us from making a show of our religious life. Incidentally, He reveals a very great secret. Sincerity is an all-important factor in not only spiritual life, but in the daily life of every human being. Insincerity is falsehood, to be shunned with greater vigilance than that with which one would discard a poisonous "fruit." The poison in the tempting form of a fruit is ruinous to the physical body; insincerity in the holy garb of a righteous life is ruinous to the very soul of man. An act of charity done publicly for the acclamation of society might earn a good reward here, in name and fame, in social status and material comforts. But it has very little spiritual value. For, God the Indweller looks to the innermost motives. He knows that the motive is not to earn His Grace or to do His Will, but to acquire the goods of this world. And, this is the very antithesis of the life divine.
He who would lead the divine life, therefore, would do charity, not because it would earn him name and fame, but because charity is the reflection of the God-in-man. None of His Supreme Blessingsthe sun, the rain, the wind and the life-sustaining earthbeats its drums and proclaims, "It is I who maintain your life and enable you to live and function here." God, hidden in all these great channels of His Grace and instruments of His Will, showers His Blessings on us. The seeker who seeks to do His Will, will likewise consider himself an instrument of His Will and a channel of His Grace and that, therefore, it is natural for him to be charitable and loving. Charity and universal love become part of his very nature, and not something extraordinary to be bragged about.
God, the Indweller, is well pleased with such a seeker and rewards him "openly". The seeker becomes a saint, a man-of-God, radiating divinity. People are charmed in his very presence and adore and worship him.
Similarly in the case of prayer and fasting. These are natural to a real seeker. Prayer is his spiritual food; and fasting is a natural corollary to it. He denies material food to his mind and senses so that he can, through prayer, feed them with spiritual manna. And this is the process of divinising oneself thoroughly. It is done, not to win the favour of any human being, but in order that one's own inner personality may be divinised. What, then, is the meaning of making a show of prayer and fasting?
If God's Will is done here and His Grace alone fills and surrounds us on all sides, what are we to pray for? Lord Jesus reminds you: "your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask Him." The prayer is, therefore for His Grace, for constantly remembering Him, for making you a channel to do His Will, and for forgiveness. There is a mysterious power in the universesatanthat tempts even the best of men, deludes even the wisest of them, and leads even the greatest of them astray. Prayer is offered to the Lord to guard you against this. Therefore, Lord Jesus has framed a beautiful prayer:
Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
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,
The power and the Glory,
For ever and ever, Amen.
The "daily bread" is not merely the physical bread or the food that we give the body to keep it alive. For, the Lord assures you that God knows your need and, even as He clothes the lilies in the field with rich and delightful colour and feeds the fowls of the air, He will feed you and clothe you without your praying for them. Meditate upon this and realise God's Supreme Grace that gave you and that sustains your life. You will clearly understand the meaning of His Immortal Utterance: "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal." By thus revolutionising the values alone can dispassion arise in the heart and the Kingdom of God realised in one's own heart. "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Develop discrimination. Care not for the riches of this world; they are perishable and they cannot give you lasting peace and happiness. Devote yourself to the acquisition of spiritual wealth by regular prayer, meditation and charity. This prayer to the Lord is, therefore, for spiritual bread, spiritual food,in other words, for devotion to Him and for right discrimination. "seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you," said He.