Posted: 05 Sep 2011 12:00 AM PDT
By Jon Walker
When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites! They love to stand up and pray in the houses of worship and on the street corners, so that everyone will see them. I assure you, they have already been paid in full. But when you pray, go to your room, close the door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen. And your Father, who sees what you do in private, will reward you. (Matthew 6:5-6 TEV)
“True prayer does not depend either on the individual or the whole body of the faithful, but solely upon the knowledge that our heavenly Father knows our needs. That makes God the sole object of our prayers, and frees us from a false confidence in our own prayerful efforts.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer
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Prayer is an intimate conversation with your Heavenly Father.
When you try to impress others with your ability to pray, you mock that intimacy. You appear to be focusing on the Father when you’re actually focusing on yourself — your needs, your wants, your ability to persuade and bully God, and your desire to impress others with your knowledge of how to get God to give you what you want when you want it.
It’s absolutely no different from standing up and saying, “Look at me so you can be impressed with how connected I am with God!”
Eugene Peterson paraphrases Jesus’ comments this way: “The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need” (Matthew 6:7-8 MSG).
If your motivation in prayer is to impress people, then Jesus says you will get what you want: praise from other people. In truth, that is exactly what you are asking for when you pray to impress: “Give me the praise of others.” Since your behavior exposes your beliefs, the presumption with prayers like this must be that praise from people can be used to pay bills or get you out of a jam when you’re flat on your back in the middle of some mess.
Jesus indicates God sees no need to reward you for these self-promoting prayers. They represent worldly thinking. Why would God reward you for that when he wants you to pray like someone who is part of the kingdom of heaven?