Praying without showing off - Hope 103.2

Praying without showing off

By David ReayTuesday 31 May 2016LifeWords DevotionalsFaithReading Time: 0 minutes


Read Matthew 6:5-8

5-8 “And then, when you pray, don’t be like the play-actors. They love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at street-corners so that people may see them at it. Believe me, they have had all the reward they are going to get. But when you pray, go into your own room, shut your door and pray to your Father privately. Your Father who sees all private things will reward you. And when you pray don’t rattle off long prayers like the pagans who think they will be heard because they use so many words. Don’t be like them. After all, God, who is your Father, knows your needs before you ask him. (JBP)

It is disturbingly easy to be a spiritual show-off. Jesus picks on one temptation: public prayer. Religious types in his day wanted to ensure others knew just how pious they were by praying loudly and at length in public places. Jesus tells them they do get what they want: public acclaim and admiration.

But God doesn’t join in the applause. He can see through their praying, recognising it as speech designed to impress a human audience rather than heartfelt communication with God. Instead of showing off like that, Jesus urges them to pray in private and thus discover the real nature of prayer and derive more satisfaction from it.

This is not to say we ought never pray in public: some of us do it as part of our job! It is a matter of motive. Are my public prayers designed to appeal to human listeners or to God? Certainly my public prayers need to be clear, but ultimately they are not speeches disguised as prayer. They are conversations with God into which I bring others who are present.

And Jesus warns us against confusing length of prayer with genuineness of prayer. Lots of words do not equal lots of faith or lots of fervency. Our superb oratory may get attention from others but God remains unimpressed. Prayer is not our informing God of our situation; it is inviting him into our situation. The shape of our words matters far less than the state of our hearts.

David Reay