Just a Simple Prayer
“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)
The pious Pharisees loved to demonstrate their supposed righteousness. They enjoyed performing their act of public prayer–and an act it was. In their long flowing robes and with their long flowing religious jargon, their prayers were not directed towards God but towards the ears and eyes of their hearers. They were famous for their long repetitive phrases in liturgical. It perhaps drew the recognition, attention, and admiration from man, but not from God. Our heavenly Father always directs His gaze to the motive and the heart. Jesus tells us in our verses for today that the Pharisees received their reward in full. Make no mistake about it; God is never into the exaltation of self. I am reminded of the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector:
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collectorI fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)
We are not to trust in ourselves for our own righteousness, nor are we to show contempt for others. This Pharisee’s prayer consisted of telling God how good he was and what a low life the tax collector was. Jesus says the one justified was the one who was humbly repentant not sanctimoniously smug. Peter tells us:
-The Cloud of Unknowing
All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.
(1 Peter 5:5-6)
The Lord Jesus also tells us we are to handle prayer privately. Christians are to be a praying people and prayer is to be a conversation between man and his Maker. It is to be earnest not trifling, humble not demanding. Vain glory and vain repetition are not acceptable practices for a child of the King.
-Charles H. Spurgeon
What passes between God and the deep expression of our own souls must be out of sight and not on stage. Public places are not proper for earnest private prayer. Out Father in heaven is ready to hear and answer, ever graciously willing to help and aid us. He is especially near to those who lift up their soul and pour out their heart. Children do not make long speeches to their parents when they are in need. Our simple cry of “Help!” is not a bad prayer.
Take It to Heart
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.