Simply put, prayer is not a show.
When Jesus approached the subject of prayer and deeds of Christian kindness, He took these things off center stage. He lived in a religious culture that was corrupted by religious showbiz:
- marketplace praying,
- the theatrical giving of alms,
- trumpet-announced offerings, and
- vain repetitions as if God were hard of hearing.
None of these public displays of what is really a private set of deeds was the least bit impressive to Heaven. The only reward to be gained was the here-and-now, then-and-there recognition of the public.
Prayer and giving are private matters.
The important thing is not the one “praying” or “giving alms” or “fasting;” it is the prayer to God, the giving to His Kingdom, and the discipline of the body for spiritual concerns. No fanfares are needed. The public streets are not the proper place. The synagogue is not a stage. The Secret Place, away from prying eyes and listening ears, is the place to pray. Giving is to be a solemn secret that even each of our two hands remain unaware of what the other is giving. A multiplicity of words shouted on a street corner does not bring Heaven’s reward, only the hollow acclaim of ignorant men.
The Lord’s Prayer
Jesus not only sent us to the closet of prayer, He gave us a prayer to pray. Tradition calls this “The Lord’s Prayer” and rightly so for He gave it to us. Others insist it should be called “The Believer’s Prayer” and this, too, is proper for He gave it to us. Some of us pray it as a recitation and others take it as an outline for extended prayer. Both approaches are correct. Early Christian documents outside of the Bible indicate that first Century Christ-followers were encouraged to pray this prayer three times each day. The prayer includes forgiving those who sin against us. To refuse to do this one thing, disables everything else we do before God.
“Your Father Knows”
Prayer is based on the Character of God. Pagans prayed the same phrase, called a mantra, many times as fast as they could to try and impress their hostile little gods and keep them at a safe distance. Christian prayer is the exact opposite. We do not need “vain repetition” because our prayer does not serve to keep a god away, but to draw near to the One True God. When Jesus told us the Father already knows what we need, He was telling us who God is and how much He loves us! The intrinsic goodness of God, His holiness, is the basis of our praying. We don’t need public announcements or the acclaim of the masses, or endless repetition. God is good and His mercy endures to the moment of our prayer.
Joy marks the one who prays.
Fasting is a most serious form of prayer. Going without food can weaken the body while building the spirit within. We must keep our fasting between God and ourselves. Present to the world a clean, joyful face, hiding the voluntary sacrifice for a spiritual cause. God sees. Our spirit rules the body and our reward is on its way.
Simply put, prayer is not a show.
“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly. “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. “Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.
Lord Jesus, the greatest need in my life each day is a time of prayer with You. Help me be faithful to the Secret Place. Those I love are dependent upon my prayers. How can I say I love them and then not pray for them? Lord, increase my passion to pray. I want to pray the prayer You gave us. I want to privately but intentionally confess Your character and say with the hosts of Heaven, “Holy, holy, holy.” I want to intercede for those who are in need. Lord, help me find that sweet time for prayer. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Sweet Hour of Prayer
Words: W.W. Walford; Music: William B. Bradbury
1. Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer! that calls me from a world of care,
and bids me at my Father’s throne make all my wants and wishes known.
In seasons of distress and grief, my soul has often found relief,
and oft escaped the tempter’s snare by thy return, sweet hour of prayer!
2. Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer! the joys I feel, the bliss I share
of those whose anxious spirits burn with strong desires for thy return!
With such I hasten to the place where God my Savior shows his face,
and gladly take my station there, and wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer!
3. Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer! thy wings shall my petition bear
to him whose truth and faithfulness engage the waiting soul to bless.
And since he bids me seek his face, believe his word, and trust his grace,
I’ll cast on him my every care, and wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer!
© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved
TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.