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. (Matthew 6:5-8)
This is Jesus' introduction to the passage we commonly call The Lord's Prayer. This week I have been praying and sharing some thoughts on this passage at Daily Prayer. Here are some of the thoughts that I shared:
When You Pray: I want to speak to the idea that believers pray.. it is in our spiritual DNA. Before I gave my heart to the Lord I never prayed.. never thought of it.. even though my first wife went blind in her early twenties. Today it seems that my life is a living prayer.. I seem to talk to Him about everything.. I have a heart to pray.
Hypocritical Prayer: What it is like to pray like a hypocrite? I think that praying in this way means to pray superficial prayers.. prayers that do not engage your innermost being.. prayers that simply regurgitate platitudes and cliches.. sadly.. I have prayed these kinds of prayers. I am reminded that Jesus (in Luke 18:9-14) warned of praying proud prayers saying that only people who pray humble prayers will be justified before God.
The Seduction of Public Prayers: Praying to be seen and heard by men.. I have witnessed.. and participated in.. this kind of religious seduction that engages the darkest part of us. The desire to be seen is an insidious one.. many are duped by the enemy thinking that they are being "spiritual" when they are just being Pharisaical. Jesus says don't do it. If you find yourself praying in public just pray from your heart.. and keep it real.. pray to that audience of One.
Secret Prayer: I once heard that the measure of a person is what they do when no one is looking. When everything else is stripped away we will pray in secret only if we really believe that God hears us. In a sense all other types of prayers can be rationalized away.. all other forms of prayer can be done for reasons outside of faith. Secret prayers bring a reality to bear where it is just us and God.. face to face.
Babbling Prayer: I sometimes wonder how much of my prayer life is just repetitious babbling.. praying with my head but never really engaging my heart.. never really going deep.. just uttering superficial genie-in-a-bottle type of requests. Reminds me that the root of babbling is Babel.. that place where our language was confused.. maybe that is why we babble when we pray.. we are simply confused.
Inviting Prayer: I am blown away by the way Jesus wraps this up.. He seems to be saying that the idea of prayer is not really the effective communication of our prayers but simply the exercise of our wills in prayer. He says that God already knows what you need indicating that God is waiting for us to simply pray.. to simply invite Him to help us. This is so different.. it has the potential to revolutionize the way we pray.
I invite you to join me once a day at Daily Prayer to consider prayer and to pray for the many needs on The Prayer List.. and to add a request there if you have one.