Week 29 “The Lord’s ‘un-prayer'” Day 1
Ask God to reorient you to Himself. Confess any known sin. Thank Him for His forgiveness. Be still and reflect on Jesus and His sacrifice for you. Ask the Holy Spirit to open your heart and mind to God’s Word. Pray for others in your life that they, too, would know and love God today.
Matt. 6:5-8 “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. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”
To get clarity on important ideas and practices, it is helpful to both know what to think and do as well as what not to think and do. Jesus taught us how to pray in the model prayer, but in the verses prior to that he also taught us how not to pray. He first warns against praying like the “hypocrites.” Religious hypocrisy is a frequently misunderstood concept. When a Christian fails to live up to the faith they profess, they might be considered to be a hypocrite by some around them. Sin or failure is not hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is when a person is “playing at faith.” To say, “I never sin” and then to judge those who do is hypocrisy. It is hypocrisy because all people sin and it is playing games to believe or try to imply that you are sinless. The word “hypocrite” originally meant a stage player, an actor. This is not about “perfect praying”; it is about authentic versus “pretend praying.” What makes this person an “actor” is not their location, whether synagogues or street corners. It is not their posture, “standing.” There are many authentic prayers in the Scriptures that were prayed in a variety of locations from various physical postures. The problem here, that turns this prayer into hypocrisy, is the posture of the heart. You see, the real issue is apparent in the phrase, “they love…to be seen by men.” Stage actors love to be seen by others, and there is nothing wrong with that. They use their gifts and talents to entertain. Prayer is not entertainment; it is a conversational relationship with God. Prayer is directed at God, not to those who might be listening or praying with you. Again, this is not about perfection in prayer. Anytime you are praying in a public setting, whether with one another person or with many, it is impossible to forget others are there. It is not even wrong to pray to God in a way that speaks to those around you. Jesus did it. “Then Jesus looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me’ ” (John 11:41-42). Jesus spoke to his Father, but also to those around him. The difference is that Jesus did not pray in order to please people. You can pray a “pretend prayer” even if others are not around. If your heart is far from God, then it’s possible you are praying because you just want to hear yourself pray. Don’t “pretend pray,” but also don’t get “locked up” in looking for perfection in prayer. Just pray because you want to have relationship with God. He’s not looking to see if you get “it” right in prayer. He is looking to your heart; he wants you to want him. He certainly wants you.
(Personalize this prayer today; make it specific to the circumstances that face you.)
Ask God to lead you through His Spirit as you go through your day. Ask Him to bring to mind the truth of the gospel and its implications for what you will encounter today. Tell Him “Yes” to His will and ask Him for His power and protection to live this “yes.” Ask God to create and reveal opportunities to proclaim the good news today.