“When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. “But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. “So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” (Matthew 6:5-8)

Last week we defined Piety as the way we personally practiced our faith in God through Jesus Christ. We learned that it is God’s will that we care for the less fortunate. Our giving is part of His plan to provide for those who are in need. Giving is a part of the three ways that we practice our faith and this week we are looking at the second, prayer. Giving, prayer, and fasting are similar in our practice in the motivation that we have to give, pray, and fast. Is our motivation to be seen and rewarded by the recognition of men or to honor God and receive His reward?

Praying that one might be recognized by men is a twist of the truth of prayer. Prayer is a conversation with God, a privet, personal, and intimate conversation between man and his Creator. It is the way in which we make our confessions to God. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) Prayer is a time that we praise and thank God for His abundance of that He has poured out upon us. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6) God knows our needs but like a loving Father He desires us to make known unto Him our needs and the needs of others. “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.” (1 Timothy 2:1-3) And Prayer is a time to intercede on behalf of the sick whether it be physical, mental, or spiritual. “Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.” (James 5:14-15) We as children of God are commanded to pray. God is our friend and He desires to hear from us. “Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

To approach God we must come in truth. We cannot lie before God as He is all knowing. It would make no sense for us to lie before God and it is that same as when one lies to us, it closes the conversation. “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24) Therefore, we cannot come to Him with wicked intentions in our heart. It is important then for us to learn as best we can the heart of God as David did. “If I regard wickedness in my heart, The Lord will not heart.” (Psalm 66:18)

We cannot approach God unless we have a faith in His Son Jesus. Jesus is the only way than man can come into the presence of God for He is our High Priest. “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16) It is through Jesus that we are empowered to live the righteous life and do the good works of the Kingdom and apart from Him we can do nothing. “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” (John 14:12-14)

As before said it is important to know the heart of God that we should know His will for us. We are called to keep His commandments and to let Him live through us. We should approach Him in confidence to seek His help and guidance in accomplishing His will in our lives. “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” (1 John 5:14)

No matter if life is going great for us or has turned to the worse prayer to our Heavenly Father is our refuge. We must never forget that our adversary prowls around to seek, kill, and destroy and he will breach our wall at its weakest point. I read in Billy Graham’s book “Just As I Am” that before he would take the stage to deliver his message he would spend hours in prayer that God would prepare him for the battle of winning souls for Jesus. John Bunyan said this of prayer, “Prayer is a shield to the soul, a sacrifice to God, and a scourge for Satan.” In this world under the rule of the Prince of the Air we need a continuous flow of God’s mercy. Arthur Hopkins wrote this. “Our prayer and God’s mercy are like two buckets in a well; while one ascends, the other descends.”

When we pray we are entering into the courts of the almighty God the Creator of the heavens and the earth. We are seeking His grace to pour out upon our lives. Therefore we should praise Him and be thankful for all that He has done for us. It is only proper that we enter into His courts with praise. “Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name.” (Psalm 100:4)

The problem that Jesus had with the ones He called hypocrites is that their prayer life was not to talk to God but was just for show before men. They lifted themselves by seeking the praise of men in reference to how well they prayed. It is the same mentality that I had when I was in grade school. I hung with the biggest and most popular that others would think that I was somebody because I was a part of the “in crowd.” With these hypocrites the main purpose of their prayers was not to communicate with God but to impresses those who were around them. It was all for being admired by men. They had put God into a box that they could gauge His reaction by the standard of the people around them. They thought if people were impressed with their prayers then certainly God would be also.

By our creation we are desiring to be heard and accepted by others. It is woven into our character to be a part of the society that we are living in. This in itself is not a bad thing as this is the nature that we were created to be. God Himself created community, He created family, society, and nations. He expects us to relate to each other. The sin is found in the motivation for our action. Our prayer life is not between people but to be between us and God. Our motivation is to be heard by God and then to listen to His answer in our spirit, not that of public opinion.

It is not our longing for fellowship and recognition that Jesus is condemning but the hypocrisy that wrong motivations can cause. A hypocrite is someone who is divided between their outside actions and their inner convictions. They claim to be one way but in truth they are completely of a different way inside. They were claiming to be praying to God but in truth they were playing to the crowd for their own glory. If they were trying to teach, then they should not have been praying that people could hear them but imploring the people to pray for themselves. They just wanted to appear pious and therefore gain the respect of the people.

If this was the reward that they desired, then Jesus tells His disciple that this is the reward that they have received. Their desire was for the awe of men and so they had received it in full. If their prayers was a show for the crowd, then they received what they could from the crowd. God does not receive prayers that are not directed to Him, as we are to pray in the spirit of truth.

The purpose of Jesus is to teach the people to pray. He spoke of the hypocrites in a condemning way to let the people know that they are not being heard because they seemed more pious than they.

To motivate His disciples to pray Jesus tells them that they are to pray to the Father in a secret place away from the rest of the world. If we dedicate our self to a special place to pray to the Father, Jesus tells us that the Father dedicates Himself to our special place to listen and talk with us. God is paying attention to us. We do not need to be out in the public places and shouting from the roof tops. God is already paying attention to us in public and privet and can hear our thoughts and feel our aches.

God is our heavenly Father and He knows us better than we. He understands us as He created us before the foundations of creation. “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love.” (Ephesians 1:4) God is ready to satisfy those longings we have for intimate love as we pour out our hearts unto Him.

We live in a world today that is starved for attention from others. We all go off to make our mark upon society. We have a sense of pressure to be validated by the approval of others. We all want to be important and not be insignificant in the world we live it. I see people do all kinds of crazy things to get the attention of outers, just to make an impression even if it is a bad one, we want to be heard even when wisdom cries for silence. This attention is already available to us in a special and loving way that none can provide to us. Not every relationship can be intimate. Not every relationship can be in absolute truth. Not every relationship is always available anywhere. We don’t have to do anything religious or impressive to experience that kind of relationship. All we have to do is go to our secret place and God the Father will meet us there. He is there to watch and listen to His children and to pour His loving Spirit upon us a give us divine attention. “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” (1 John 5:14).

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, May 25, 2016

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