Prayer essential in our relationship with God. One of the pillars in the Jesus Manifesto (Matthew 5 – 7) is prayer. Prayer is not what we think. Jesus lays out what prayer is all about in the Kingdom of God where Jesus is in charge. Jesus draws a distinction between hypocrites who love to pray and those who pray because they love.
Prayer is between God and us. Jesus challenges us to pray in secret. This runs counter to Christianity and most religions.
That is the Way of Jesus. An ulterior motive destroys prayer as a conversation. It degrades the service of God and men into a mean kind of self-service. Religion and charity become an exhibitionist display. How can we pretend to be praising God, when in reality we are concerned that men will praise us?
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.” ~Jesus
Source: Matthew 6:5-6 (ESV)
Read more on Hypocrisy. – What it is, why it is evil and hated by Jesus. —> here.
Our reward is for doing what Jesus says about prayer. Praying in public gets us no reward and is counter to “Ask and you shall receive” that believes it is all about asking. Jesus challenges us. Asking is key but asking should be in private. Asking in public means we have already gotten our reward. How, then, should Christians pray? Go into your room and shut the door, Jesus said. We are to close the door against disturbance and distraction but also to shut out the prying eyes of men and to shut ourselves in with God. Only then can we obey the Lord’s next command: Pray to your Father who is in secret, or, as the Jerusalem Bible clarifies it, ‘who is in that secret place’. Our Father is there, waiting to welcome us.
Jesus is an advocate for short and sweet. Jesus challenges us to not use “empty phrases”. His template (the Lord’s Prayer) is 5 sentences long. It is very short. The listening part could take a long time. Our part should not.
Κύριε Ἰησοῦ Χριστέ, Υἱέ τοῦ Θεοῦ, ἐλέησόν με τὸν ἁμαρτωλόν