Jesus said, “... whenever you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray... so that people will see them.”
— Matthew 6:5 (USC)
The Language of God is not to be abused, but we have all fallen short of our Lord’s glory in prayer.
We all, I suspect, know how hard it is to pray – to be honest before the throne of grace – or even to know how to speak honestly.
Our Lord understands abundantly that we try. And this is not the issue. The issue is praying vulnerably, with sincerity, honouring the truth, speaking of our need; being authentic.
Especially is this important in the public sphere.
I can’t say I know many – if any – of these people, but I do recall some very eloquent praying people who would consume public prayer meetings with their verbose prayers. Not that being verbose is the sin. Not allowing others the voice they need to pray as they are led is the sin. Praying inappropriate prayers is the sin. And so is praying insincerely.
The chief priests, the Pharisees and scribes of the day were apparently very showy. Pious men in religious ardour. But they hadn’t connected with the heart of matters.
The heart of prayer is of communion with God.
If we pretend to be in spiritual union with the Spirit we do not only a foolish thing – for God is our direct witness – we also engage in a blasphemous act. We are behaving irreverently. We do for self-gain what can only mete out our demise.
If there is ever a time for earnestness it’s when we are praying.
We are communing with God – holy and just and righteous. We would be approaching in fear and trembling if not for the grace we enjoy for Jesus’ sake.
Sure, when we pray in public, we will face a variety of fears, of which some of these we will succumb. We will occasionally pray with the wrong motive. Sometimes we will be embarrassed about what we’ve prayed. But all this is forgivable.
What may come closer to being unforgivable – but I don’t think anything we do is unforgivable in God’s sight – is deliberating making a soapbox out of prayer.
If our intention is to be present in the Presence of God we are rightly oriented to pray.
QUESTIONS in REVIEW:
1. In what particular ways do you struggle to pray? This passage is possibly an encouragement to you if you struggle to pray publically (in other words, you don’t fall into this sin). How can you overcome the challenges presented to you?
2. How can you be more tolerant of those who you do see on prayer’s soapbox?
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.
Note: USC version is Under the Southern Cross, The New Testament in Australian English (2014). This translation was painstakingly developed by Dr. Richard Moore, a NT Greek scholar, over nearly thirty years.