October 2nd 2009

When You Pray

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men.  I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.  But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Matthew 6:5&6 (NIV) 

The scripture quoted is part of the “Sermon on the Mount”.  Jesus is teaching the people about prayer. 

Jesus is not addressing the topic of public prayer, but the motive, purpose and attitude of your prayer.  What is your motive in praying?  Is it to say what people expect to hear?  If you pray one thing and think or do another, you are like the Pharisees Jesus warned about in Matthew 23:1-4 (NKJV), that bind burdens on others that they are not prepared to bear.  He condemned their hypocrisy, not their strict teaching and earnest dedication.  

Jesus himself prayed in public–at his baptism (Luke 3:21), blessing the children (Matthew 19:13&14), and one of Jesus’ prayers even fill a whole chapter in John 17.  Jesus is not addressing the topic of public prayer, but the purpose of your prayer.  What is your purpose in praying? Is it to impress those who hear you and be thought of as important?  Matthew 23:14 tells of Scribes and Pharisees who made a pretence of long prayers, and calls them hypocrites. 

Prayer needs to be sincere and from the heart.  If your attitude and purpose in prayer is to be seen and heard by others and thought of as important, then Jesus says you have received your answer or ‘reward’.   If your purpose is to be heard of God, then your ‘reward’ is his answer to your prayer, whether it is yes, no, or wait.  Jesus is not condemning public prayer or saying that we are rewarded for praying.  Where you pray, the volume used, and the length of your prayer are not relevant to God’s response! 

We need to be careful in transitioning Jesus’ teaching into our culture – that we are aware of what problem he is addressing, so that we do not draw wrong conclusions that he did not intend. 

Prayer

Help us pray with sincerity Father in Heaven, not to impress others, but in true communion with you.

Amen 

Study by Nancy Silcox

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