By Allen White
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 others. Truly I tell you, 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
There are prayers than inspire and prayers that tire. A man in my home church was known for long-winded prayers. He was of good character, and I’m sure he meant well, but his prayers over the offering could have easily replaced the sermon.
My sister and I often joked that if we ever invited their family over for dinner, we should get him started with the prayer as my mom started cooking the meal. If we were lucky, the amen would coincide with “Dinner’s ready.” But there really was no guarantee.
Jesus wasn’t as interested in the “what” as much as He was concerned about the “why.” The issue was not the length of anyone’s prayers. The issue wasn’t even praying in public. The issue was the heart of the person praying. Why did he need to pray for the attention? What about lengthy prayers caused her to feel better about herself?
Some people don’t like to pray publicly at all. They would never volunteer in their small group or at a family gathering. Does this verse let them off of the hook? Absolutely not.
The point that Jesus is making here is that our public spiritual life should be an extension of our private spiritual life. In fact, if there is an imbalance, then there should be more private prayer that no one knows about than public prayer.
Prayer and pride simply don’t mix. Think about it. Prayer is communication with the One who knows everything about you. Pride is building a false self that is better than who you actually are. Who are you fooling?
Pride takes two different directions in prayer. Some think they’re so eloquent, they just know that people will be so blessed and inspired by their prayer that even the angels have paused to listen in Others don’t know how to put the words together to create a prayer worth listening to. They would rather avoid the embarrassment and not pray in public. Shy or bold, both come from pride.
Prayer is simply talking to God. As long as you’re honest, you can’t mess it up. If you’re worried about saying the wrong thing to God, just look at the prayers of King David or Job. They prove that you can say anything to God and get away with it.
When a request is made for prayer, do you always volunteer? Do you never volunteer? Or, are you in the middle of the pack?
If you’re always jumping in, count to 10 and give someone else a chance. Focus on private prayer.
If you never volunteer, then start with private prayer. Talk to God out loud. The more you pray in private, the more meaningful your public prayers will become.