5 “When you pray, don’t be like hypocrites. They love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners so that people will see them. I assure you, that’s the only reward they’ll get. 6 But when you pray, go to your room, shut the door, and pray to your Father who is present in that secret place. Your Father who sees what you do in secret will reward you.
When I was a young Christian, sometime before I turned 30, I decided to do an exhaustive study on prayer. I got my NIV concordance and looked up every scripture on prayer, but not just prayer. I looked at words like pray, praying, prayed.
Not only did I read the scriptures, I also wrote them down on a legal pad, an 8.5 by 14 sheet of paper. And I filled up 11 or 12 sheets. I concluded: there is no secret formula to pray.
We can pray lying down or standing up.
We can pray out loud or in our hearts.
We can pray in public or private.
We can pray when we’re happy or sad or mad or troubled.
We can pray inside or out.
It doesn’t matter how we do it.
Or where we do it.
As Nike ads once said, “Just do it.”
Jesus did it. The Bible gives a dozen examples of Jesus praying.
While there are many good examples of Jesus and others praying in the Bible, I also realized that not all prayer is good. Which brings us to the verses today in Matthew’s gospel.
Jesus told us not to be hypocrites when we prayer. How do you know you are hypocritical? We shouldn’t pray where people can see us. We’re not talking about public prayer.
The hypocrites pray in what I call a “prayer voice.” My Bible calls it “showy prayer.” Their voice gets really low—or loud. They don’t speak in a normal tone. They’re trying to be “holy.” And letting others know how holy they are. Jesus said the only reward they’ll get for praying that type of prayer has already happened by those seeing them.
Instead, Jesus said they should ago to their room, shut the door and pray to their Father, who is with them in their secret place. That’s the type of prayer he rewards.
We’re not to pour out empty words. Short prayers work just as well, and maybe even better, than long ones. Consider Peter when Jesus was walking on water. Peter got out of their boat and went to Jesus. At first, everything was fine. But when he took his eyes off Jesus and realized what he was doing, he started to sink.
Then he prayed the second shortest prayer in the Bible, “Lord, save me.”
Jesus did. And he’ll answer our prayers today, no matter how short, or long, silent or verbal, in public or in a closet. Jesus hears and answers our prayers.
by Rick Reed
For Pondering & Prayer
We are told to pray. Jesus did. That should be more than enough reason to pray.
Prayer: Oh Lord, thank you so, so much for allowing us to pray to you. Not only allowing us but wanting us to pray to you. Lord, save us. Amen.