5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. – Matthew 6:5-8
Developing a healthy prayer life is important for a Christian, so we should consider what Jesus teaches us about prayer.
For one, what is the purpose?
We can see what prayer is not made for. It is not made for us to make a show of how dedicated we are as Christians. If we use prayer to be seen as religiously devoted, then that is what we will get. We will appear to be religiously devoted, but what good is that doing for us?
Rather, prayer is for us to honor God, thank Him, seek His guidance, and ask Him to provide for our needs and those of others.
Prayer focuses our minds and hearts on our Lord and opens us up to receiving according to His will for us so that we can be strengthened in this world against the evils and temptations that come against us.
Is there ever a time to pray to be seen by others? I think so. It depends on the purpose.
For example, some people like to lead prayers for those who are new in the faith and are not yet comfortable with prayer. Some might acknowledge the Lord openly in a prayerful way to bring comfort to another. Some might request prayer or show support by letting a brother or sister know that they are being prayed for. There is nothing wrong with that. These are good things for us to do.
What about vain repetitions?
Some people like to pray repetitive prayers, and I don’t want to condemn them for it. Some people find certain prayers comforting, like the rosary or the Lord’s Prayer (which will come up in the next article within this series). Jesus will see and judge as He sees fit for the individual. I think we should refrain from judging people in these matters. Instead, we should consider our own prayer life.
Do we pray, and if we do, why do we pray? Do we pray because it is expected of us? Do we pray empty prayers out of habit? Do we pray so that others might see us as good Christians?
Or do we pray because we want to turn our heart and mind towards God?
Here is another thing to consider.
We do not always know about the troubles that our brothers and sisters in Christ go through. We do not see their hidden prayers. We do not see their tears as they confess their sins to God and ask for help to overcome. We do not see someone struggle to use a gift given by God faithfully. We do not see someone pray for guidance before making choices in life or in service that we might agree or disagree with.
Many Christians also have trouble praising God or worshiping Him in public, not because they are ashamed, but perhaps because of scriptures like this one. I know of someone who was judged harshly because they did not sing loudly and praise Jesus boisterously during a church meeting. They were accused of not truly having the Spirit of God because they seemed unmoved.
We do not always know what someone is going through in the faith. Outward shows can be deceiving and a lack of outward shows could be a matter of personal preference. Jesus knows. He sees and He rewards according to His perfect will and timing.
This article is part of a series that considers the Parables of Jesus. Right now, we are looking at the statements Jesus made during His Sermon on the Mount, to which He referenced in His Parable of the Building on Rock and Sand. Visit the link for quick access to all articles written within this series. Subscribe for notifications of future posts.