We have been studying the Lords Prayer. It is interesting that just before Jesus says, “This, then, is how you should pray”, He tells us not to be like the hypocrites by making prayer a show to be performed for people, drawing attention to ourselves. He also tells us to pray in secret. Well….as Paul Harvey would say…..here is the rest of the story….
Matthew 6:5-6 (TNIV, Jesus is speaking)
5 “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 others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 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.
Here is the essence of the difference between “religion” and “relationship with God, indeed, a relationship with Jesus”. “Religion” says, pray fervently and it becomes a ritual and a public spectacle. “Relationship” looks at what you do even when you are alone…..in a relationship….you speak with the Father, you speak with Jesus. This is called “prayer”.
Does this mean we shouldn’t pray in public? NO. In fact, Jesus Himself prayed in public (see Matthew 14:19-20 below). What it means is that prayer is a communication with God, with Jesus. Not simply a part of our ritual. How would you feel if your children heaped praises on you in public but at home pay you no attention? In which case do they have a true relationship with you?
Matthew 14:19-20 (TNIV)
19 And he [Jesus] directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks [prayed] and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people.
Finally, let’s look at and think the fuller context of the Lords Prayer (Vs 9-13 below) and pull it all together because it all points to a relationship with the Father….not just empty ritual.
Matthew 6:5-13 (TNIV, This is Jesus speaking)
5 “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 others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 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. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
9 This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’
May you seek a true relationship with God, indeed, with Jesus and not be content with religiosity. May what you do in private reflect the heart that people see of you in public. May your prayers be a continuous, day-to-day, minute-to-minute conversation with God, with Jesus, who loves you deeply and seeks a relationship with you that brings fulfillment and peace to your life!