Have we ever considered applying this principle a little differently? Most of us naturally think of this passage to refer to our conversations with others at home, at work, at play, at the store, at church services, etc. But what about applying it to ourselves when we are on our knees before God? Have we ever considered that out of the abundance of our prayers - or the lack thereof - our heart speaks?
Further, do we deeply consider what we say to God? Do we take the time to organize and improve how we present our requests to Him? Do we think about the attitude in which we come before the great God of the universe?
Though we may not always count it a blessing, God knows our every thought, every desire, every emotion. It is impossible to hide anything from Him (Hebrews 4:13). The beauty in truly understanding this is that we may as well be totally honest with Him, telling Him everything, because He already knows the deepest intents of our hearts!
He sees the tender feelings we have toward the plights of others and our desire to help. He notes the patience, forbearance, and true outgoing concern we have for the brethren in the church. He knows the deep love we have for those who request our prayers for their healing. He observes our sighing and crying over the wretched world we live in (see Ezekiel 9:4).
Conversely, He also sees when we are being self-centered, pigheadedly pursuing our own desires, and justifying what we want as opposed to what is right and good in His sight. He notices when we ignore the needs of others. He surely must shake His head in shame when we excuse ourselves for not doing what we know to be righteous.
God is acutely aware of our attitudes when approaching His throne. He discerns whether we consider time spent in conversation with Him to be of great value, or whether we are just going through the motions. Because He knows what we are going through at all times, He knows when we are harboring grudges, doubts, malice, lust, impatience, covetousness, and any other carnal motivation against another. Certainly, He realizes that we will not be at our best every time we enter His presence, but He can tell when we are distracted or disinterested.
God is shaping us for future offices in His Kingdom, and He learns a great deal about us as we come before Him in prayer. He truly does listen to what we bring before Him, but He always considers our heart and our reasoning in His response to us.
This does not mean that we have to pray perfectly every time, having every word and rationale in its proper place, although doing so should be our goal. Romans 8:26-27 assures us:
Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we know not what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit . . . makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He [Jesus Christ; see verse 34] makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
Even though we might not put every word or thought in its proper place, still the ideas, plans, and attitudes in our prayers are amplified and aided by God's Spirit flowing between God and ourselves, and the Father responds according to His will for us. Paul continues, providing us greater confidence and boldness before God, "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose" (verse 28). What joy we should have in knowing that everything will work out splendidly in the end!
John O. Reid (1930-2016)
Out of the Abundance of Our Prayers
The well-known parables in Matthew 13 are given in response to the circumstances and events in Matthew 12. The initiating event was a confrontation that began with Jesus healing a demon-possessed blind-mute (verse 22). He established His authority as the One who had power and dominion. Everything that transpires from this point sets the stage for the subsequent parables, and this context is critical for grasping why Jesus spoke these parables. After the miraculous healing, many wondered if He might be the Son of David (verse 23), the One who would restore the Kingdom. However, the Pharisees, in their usual defiance, attributed the healing to the power of Satan (verse 24).
Jesus responds that, if exorcism manifested Satan's power, then the Pharisees must admit that their “sons” (disciples) were likewise in league with the Devil, for they were doing the same thing (verse 27). But if God's Spirit had performed the exorcism, then the Kingdom of God—the dominion of God—had come upon them (verse 28). He could rob the demon of its possession only if He bound it first, showing that He had authority over the spirit realm (verse 29). There is no neutrality; a person is aligned either with God's dominion or with Satan (verse 30).
He continues His unwelcome correction by contrasting Himself with them. After warning about blaspheming the Holy Spirit (verses 31-32), Jesus draws on the principle of examining fruit to determine whether a tree is good or bad (verse 33). He calls His opponents a “brood of vipers,” saying that their blasphemy proved the evil within (verses 34-37).
Since the people expected a conquering king to come and restore the Kingdom to its former glory, Jesus' assertion that the authority of heaven was working through Him challenged the current leadership. The scribes and Pharisees ask Him for a sign—some proof of His claim—prompting Christ's words about the sign of Jonah (verses 38-42). His answer focuses on the timing of His death and resurrection, which only the Most High could bring to pass. It also includes the example of a major Gentile city that repented at the preaching of Jonah, while the current “Kingdom of God” would not repent at the preaching of One greater. He also refers to the “queen of the South” (Sheba) who came to hear the wisdom of the man sitting on the Lord's throne, yet He was greater than Solomon—not only in wisdom, but also because Solomon's throne belonged to Him!
Jesus follows this with another lesson, warning that unless something positive replaces the evil that is cast out, the former evil—and worse—will return (verses 43-45). He foretells that this would happen “with this wicked generation” (verse 45). All the repentance, baptisms, healings, and exorcisms that had been taking place would do no good if the people did not make their lives inhospitable to the evil influences.
In verses 46-50, Jesus teaches that flesh-and-blood family is of less importance than the spiritual Family, which He defines as those who do the Father's will (or those “who hear the word of God and do it”; Luke 8:21). The matters of parentage and family relations came up frequently during Christ's ministry (for example, John 8:39-59) because the Jews felt secure in their position before God because of their physical descent from Abraham. Though not obvious, His clarification of “family” in spiritual terms appears throughout the parables of Matthew 13, as Jesus contrasts Abraham's physical descendants with his spiritual ones.
David C. Grabbe
God's Kingdom in the Parables (Part One)
Apply this to our speech with God. What are our prayers to Him like? What comes pouring out of us is our heart—either that or God's Word is not true. What we are is revealed to God by what we say to Him in our prayer. We cannot hide it; we cannot be two-faced with Him.
Prayer is speaking to God what comes out of our heart. Even as this proverb Jesus gives is directed toward men, it is also true concerning our speech toward God. What we are comes out.
God wants His will done in every aspect of our life, and He wants our prayers to be according to His will. When we ask things according to His will, our requests stand the best chance of being answered positively. Why? Because, in effect, they are His thoughts coming back to Him. His thoughts having become lodged in our heart, we are now sending a part of Him back to Him.
We need to be careful not to think of this as a magic formula of some kind, as if we say certain words and out comes the desired thing. This is prayer—speaking God's words back to Him. These prayers have the best chance of being answered positively because it pleases God to see His children develop in His image. He then responds out of His love, even as we would to a child who pleases us.
John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is Prayer?
We can determine which side somebody is on by the fruits of his life. If a person is on Christ's side, then he will produce Christ-like fruit. But if he is on Satan's side, he will produce Satan's fruit. It is fairly easy to tell.
The Pharisees hear all this—and they ask for a sign. Jesus must have wanted to throw up His hands and go home! He has just told them, "Judge by fruits, not by a sign." What is a sign going to prove? He responds, "You've totally missed My point! You have ignored the example of My life and the truth of My words. Look at My fruits. Since you didn't see them, it shows Me that you've chosen the wrong side."
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Parables of Matthew 13 (Part 2): Leaven
This is a strong statement from our Savior! The fundamental question is: "How Christ-like is our speech?" This is just one area out of the whole of our behavior. We will be judged for every word, even the idle ones that we may just toss off in a time of weakness or when joking around with friends. That is a pretty strict judgment.
Jesus speaks here in black-and-white terms. The tree (meaning the person) is either good—producing good fruit—or he is bad and produces bad fruit. Which are we—the good or the bad tree?
In verse 34, He says, "Out of the abundance of the heart we speak"—and we could add, "and act." Jesus says in Matthew 15:17-18 that it is not what goes into a man that defiles him, but what comes out of him. What comes out of a person will be either good things like service, love, kindness, and other fruits of the spirit, or bad things, the works of the flesh, which He names there.
So, what will it be with us? What is the abundance of our heart?
The picture here is that the heart is a kind of vessel—a bowl—and things are poured into the heart. At a certain point, the vessel will overflow, and an abundance will come out of it. What comes out of our heart—this bowl or vessel—will expose the characteristics of the heart.
When we pour information into our minds, we process it. For a while, it stays in the bowl, as it were, and becomes mixed with what has been put there before. Our minds work on it for a while, and over time, it begins to gel into certain ideas. Once our minds are full, ideas break out in words, plans, and behaviors. Evil thoughts within, evil speech and/or works without. Or, we can put it the other way around—godly, kind, Christ-like thoughts within, godly, kind, Christ-like speech and/or works without.
What breaks out of our hearts? We have to answer that ourselves. Do we have profane minds that spew out profane speech? Or, is it "on [our] tongue is the law of kindness" (Proverbs 31:26) because behind our tongues are pure and kind hearts?
This is vitally important because "by those words" we will either be justified or condemned. Our thoughts are just precursors to our speech and action.
So, where do we stand in relation to this line that Jesus Christ our Savior, our High Priest and Judge, has drawn? Are we a good tree or a bad one?
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Is God in All Our Thoughts?
The tongue utters only what is already in the heart (Matthew 12:34). Acts of sin besides what the tongue commits proceed from the same evil heart (Matthew 15:17-20). Matthew 7:16-18 confirms the impossibility of changing an evil heart, as it can never produce good fruit. God must completely replace it with a wholly different nature for it to produce good fruit! Before being changed, it can produce only evil fruit.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Seven): The Sin and Trespass Offerings