"Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don't make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won't be applauding.
"When you do something for someone else, don't call attention to yourself. You've seen them in action, I'm sure - 'playactors' I call them - treating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds. They get applause, true, but that's all they get.
When you help someone out, don't think about how it looks.
Just do it - quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out.
"And when you come before God, don't turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat?
"Here's what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won't be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.
"The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They're full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God.
Don't fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need.
With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this: Our Father in heaven, Reveal who you are.
Set the world right; Do what's best - as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil. You're in charge! You can do anything you want! You're ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes.
"In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can't get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others.
If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God's part.
"When you practice some appetite-denying discipline to better concentrate on God, don't make a production out of it. It might turn you into a small-time celebrity but it won't make you a saint.
If you 'go into training' inwardly, act normal outwardly. Shampoo and comb your hair, brush your teeth, wash your face.
God doesn't require attention-getting devices. He won't overlook what you are doing; he'll reward you well. A Life of God-Worship
"Don't hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or - worse! - stolen by burglars.
Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it's safe from moth and rust and burglars.
It's obvious, isn't it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.
"Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light.
If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have!
"You can't worship two gods at once. Loving one god, you'll end up hating the other. Adoration of one feeds contempt for the other. You can't worship God and Money both.
"If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don't fuss about what's on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body.
Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.
"Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch?
All this time and money wasted on fashion - do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop,
but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.
"If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers - most of which are never even seen - don't you think he'll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you?
What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving.
People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works.
Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.
"Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)