Breaking Through Non-Prayerful Living (Part 3)

Monday, March 23, 2015

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. “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:5-8)


We read an interesting quote not too long ago that put this subject of public prayers on our minds. Oscar Wilde stated “My worth to God in public is what I am in private.” This rang so loud for us, because even when we’re not in the presence of others, God loves and favors us; He hears and answers our prayers, and we’re deemed beautiful, redeemed, and worthy in His sight.

If God feels this way about us in private, He feels the same way when we’re in public.

So why is it when we’re asked to pray in the midst of others that we feel it necessary to sound so astute and extraordinary? Why do we appear so upright as if our souls have never touched sin? Why do we use flowery words or repetitively antiquated phrases? Is it to impress those in front of us, or to impress God?

If we’re honest, many times in our alone time with God in prayer, we cry, we’re open, we stumble over our words, we sometimes can’t even think of the words. But in the midst of others, we change. Aren’t we going to the same throne in public as we do when we’re in our closets or sacred spaces?

This is not to say that we shouldn’t be bold (Hebrews 4:16) or passionate (James 5:16) when we pray, because we must. This is a lesson in humility.

Humility comes from the Latin word “humus,” meaning “earth” or “ground.” It comes from the Greek word, “tapeinophrosune,” meaning “low” “a deep sense of one’s moral littleness” or “no reliance on self, but complete dependence on God.” It means to come down or be under. Humility means coming off of our high pedestals and lowering ourselves before the Lord...even in prayer.

Remember when the tax collector and Pharisee went to the temple to pray (Luke 18:10-14)? The Pharisee boasted about not being like others, how often he fasted and how much money he tithed; but the tax collector beat his chest and begged God’s mercy. The tax collector was found more justified because he did not boast nor exalt himself in prayer.

When we humble ourselves in private prayer, God exalts us in the sight of others.

The Father doesn’t have to hear how much we give, or how well we do things, He already knows and sees (Psalm 33:13, Proverbs 15:3, Hebrews 4:13). Prayer is not the place to boast, but to beg mercy. It’s not the place to be a “super Christian” spouting super intelligence or perplexing spiritual jargon that the normal person couldn’t decipher.

Prayer is the place to be humble before Christ. In prayer, we repent of our sins. In prayer, we submit to God and express our desire for Him. In prayer, our focus is the fulfillment of God’s will not our own. In prayer, we seek His mercy, thank Him for His love, praise Him for the sacrifice of His Son, and worship who He is.

Sometimes the problem with public prayers is that we may be put on the spot and we attempt to overcompensate by appearing as if we have it all together. If we’re in the midst of people who care about us, then it shouldn’t matter how we sound or how we look. We don't have to put on a show for people or for the Lord.

Our worth to God in public is what we are in private, so let’s be honest in prayer. Let’s be humble in prayer. Let’s honor Him in prayer.

Questions for Reflection:

1) Do your prayers reveal that you desire God or desire praise?
2) What would it look like if you humbled yourself in prayer?
3) Are you more concerned with how people view you in public, versus how God sees you all the time?

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