Week 29 “The Lord’s ‘un-prayer'” Day 2
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.”
Jesus said that when we pray we should go into our rooms and pray in secret so that only God will hear. This must be taken in context. Clearly public prayers are important and not under the Lord’s condemnation. The Psalms contain notable examples of public prayer. Jesus said that when two or three gather in his name, he is there with them. Surely this gathering would, at times, include praying together. There are many other examples of public prayer. In Acts chapter one, Luke wrote that the early church was constantly praying together. One implication of this warning from Jesus about how not to pray is that public prayer has a direct link to private prayer. If there is no unseen prayer, then the seen prayer is likely to be playing at prayer. On the other hand, if you pray with a person in public and you find yourself feeling like you are “listening in” to a conversation with a good friend or a beloved father, it is likely because that person has a meaningful private prayer life. Jesus is not teaching that we should never pray in public, but rather that our public prayer life will not outrun our private prayer life. The reason why we pray in public is the same as why we pray in private. We pray so we can take our requests, our hearts, and our desires to God as our Father. To pray in order to sound spiritual or to look impressive is ridiculous. Imagine trying to “show off” in prayer. Can you think of many things more absurd than that? Yet that is what Jesus is addressing here. He is telling us to beware of “pride prayers,” because when you pray for the applause of people, you better enjoy it because that is all you will get from it. Your reward for pride-filled praying is the illusion that others are impressed. The people who would possibly be impressed with this kind of thing are, at the same time, too busy trying to be impressive to actually be impressed with you. Can you see how this is all like actors on a stage? There is nothing of reality in it. The gospel of Luke gives the clearest example of both playing at prayer and really praying…both done in a public setting.
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men — robbers, evildoers, adulterers — or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)
Do not play at prayer. God is not impressed by you, but he does want to talk with you. That is an amazing thing to ponder and a terrible thing to play at.
(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.