“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
Jesus continues His contrast of true and false righteousness, in particular, the false righteousness typified by the scribes and Pharisees. As 6:2-4 exposes their hypocritical giving and verses 16-18 their hypocritical fasting, verses 5-8 exposes their equally hypocritical praying.
Hypocritical Prayer is Rejected
Hypocritical prayer is man-centered. Man is the intended audience of the prayer. Man-centered prayer is characterized as:
- Boastful (V. 5): The Pharisees were wanting to be seen and heard by other people, especially their fellow Jews. They were motivated by their selfish pride.
- Babbling (V. 7): the Bible says they prayed using “meaningless repetition.” This refers to idle words or thoughtless chatter. In other words, they were just praying out of ritual.
- Brazen (V. 7): This means they were without shame. the Bible says, “They suppose they will be heard for their many words.” They thought they could arouse God to answer their prayers.
Sincere Prayer is Received
Sincere prayer is God-centered. God is the intended audience of the prayer. God-centered prayer is characterized as:
- Priority (V. 5): Jesus said, “and when you are praying…” This signifies expectation. Jesus expects prayer to be a priority in the life of the true believer. Sincere prayer is a daily priority.
- Personal (V. 6): Jesus is not condemning public prayers. His primary point is not location but attitude. This is where you forget yourself, shut out others and focus entirely on your Father in Heaven.
- Pointed (V. 7): Something that is pointed has a clear intention. Thus, sincere prayer is pointed at meeting and glorifying God. Examples of pointed prayers are adoration, confession, intercession, and petition.
- Precious (v. 6): When you pray to the Lord with a sincere heart it is precious to Him, and He will reward the sincere prayer openly.
Some may conclude by saying, “since God knows what we need before we ask, why pray at all?” Here are several reasons offered by John MacArthur in his book, “Why Prayer”:
- Prayer is commanded
- Prayer is expected
- It is a sin not to pray
- Prayer gives God glory
- Prayer aligns us with God’s purposes
- Prayer is a means to God’s ultimate end
- Prayer results in answers
Let us also remember that Jesus was praying during His two most intense times of spiritual opposition, the forty days in the wilderness and in the Garden of Gethsemane. The enemy did not want Jesus praying to the Father. In the same way, the enemy will do whatever he can to stop you from praying. He knows that when you are a person of prayer, you become and a major threat to him. Therefore, pray.