“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. 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
My daughter Aniston is such a good baby and I don’t even know how to thank God enough for her each day. One of my favorite times of day is the morning when she wakes up. It usually will happen sometime between 7:00 and 7:30 am and I’ll be downstairs having coffee when I hear her start to stir. She never cries when she wakes up but rather just starts to talk.
To give you an accurate picture, in her crib is at least 3 dolls, 6 blankets, 6 stuff animals, and a couple of random toys. All of these have been hand selected by her over the course of consecutive nights because of her apparent inability to go to sleep without them. It looks like a Toys R Us threw up in her crib.
My wife and I guess this is who and what she is interacting with when she wakes up, but what is not in question is that she is talking up a storm. What we also have found is that she does not like us to rush in right away when she first wakes up. In fact she will not be a happy campier at all if you do. She needs this time to talk it out and get herself ready for the day. Eventually she will say “Mommy” or “Daddy” and then we can come get her.
So it begins. J
Why as we get older do we lose this? Why do we get so “smart” and “aware” that we lose the ability just to relax and talk?
Let’s take God out of the equation for a second here because we even have a tough time talking to each other without looking at our watches, having an agenda, or feeling guilty. In some ways conversation has turned into an art form that is only done by the professional or we just talk to hear our selves speak.
This is what Jesus was dealing with in Matthew when He saw what the Religious were doing to prayer. These men would stand in the most public of locations in the busiest sections of town to pray aloud for all to hear. Jesus didn’t beat around the bush when He calls them hypocrites.
- Is it bad to pray out loud? No.
- Is it bad for people to hear you while you pray? No.
- Is it bad to pray out loud for all to hear so everyone will look at you and think you are God’s gift to all that is holy? Bingo!
Jesus is saying “Don’t you see that when you are praying it’s ultimately between you and Me so why not go to a place where it is literally you and me?” To be clear, I don’t believe that a closet is the only place where Jesus wants us to pray. Scripture even encourages us to pray unceasingly, but it would be tough to fulfill anything else in the Scripture if the prayer had to occur in a broom closet. So of course we need to get out of the closet and into the World, but from time to time you need to just get alone and be with Christ.
I mean if I wanted to bring up some heavy stuff about me to my earthly dad I sure wouldn’t want it to be in the middle of the mall where everyone could hear me screaming about it to him. Now if I wanted to brag about how awesome I was to him I wouldn’t mind a microphone and maybe a studio audience, but again that’s not the point of prayer.
Just like telling everyone how much you do for the poor corrupts the act of service so does arrogantly praying out loud for notoriety corrupt prayer.
This Truth again comes back to the heart and the motivation for prayer. My motivation should not be rooted in being praised by someone for how eloquently I spoke, but rather motivated in wanting to talk to my Dad.
The truth is that the people around you care way less than you think they do and God cares way more than you can ever imagine. So maybe take some time tomorrow morning, grab your stuffed animals, and before you get up just talk to your Dad.