Today's Word of Encouragement
July 1, 2020
Wednesday, July 01, 2020
And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward (Matthew 6:5).
Hypocrites demonstrate the same spirit in prayer as in other aspects of worship, such as their offering - it was a public demonstration intended to gain the attention and applause of the people.
The reference to synagogues can mean the ‘local assembly’ (i.e. church), as opposed to the temple, or it can mean a place where many people were accustomed to gather to conduct business, discuss the issues of the day, or to engage in social conversation. It was a place where the rabbis could be seen by the locals.
The intent of Jesus in raising the subject of prayer was certainly not to condemn the practice in the synagogue or in other public places. He Himself engaged in prayer in public (John 6:11; Luke 23:34). Jesus warned the people of pompous and pretentious ‘prayer’, ‘prayer’ that was not intended for God to hear, but orchestrated and engaged in for the crowds. It is also obvious that those who offered such ‘prayers’ seldom, if ever, practiced it in the privacy of their homes, or even in their own hearts.
The rabbis made it a made it a habit of ‘praying’ in certain places and at certain times during the day, usually when and where there were large crowds gathered. At those times, and in those places, they stopped what they were doing and conducted their hypocritical worship. They also loved to be asked to ‘pray’ publicly at special events (i.e. banquets, civic events, etc.), which offers they rarely refused. Such conduct is common among many religions today.
To call such activity sinful would be appropriate because the motive behind it was ego-centric; it was grandiose, theatrical, and exhibitionistic. An example Jesus use to illustrate such ‘prayer’ is found in Luke 18:10-12. It is clear that Jesus condemned such ‘praying’ by stating, they have their reward; their objective - the admiration and applause of the people for being ‘very religious indeed’, had been attained.
Prayer is one of the most intimate interactions with God that a person can engage in. In prayer the heart, mind, and soul is exposed to the righteous examination of holy God. In prayer it is not just our words that are heard by the Lord, but our motives and intent are clearly understood, and our thoughts are on full display as well - nothing is hidden from Him. Rather than be like the Pharisee who outlined his religiosity in ‘prayer’, we should be like the poor publican who, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!'
“Father, my heart’s desire is to always be genuine and sincere before You in all that I do, even in my prayer life. Convict me of any shallowness or superficiality in my quiet time with You. May my conversations with You be heart-felt, confessional, and filled with praise and thankfulness to You for Your great love, grace, and mercy toward me. Amen.”