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Summary: My prayers are for God’s ears only.

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June 17, 2001

Secret Christianity - Part 2

INTRODUCTION

Some actors make a lot of money.

Julia Roberts

Tom Cruise

Bruce Willis and

John Travolta

Each of these currently make $20 million per movie.

And there you have Harrison Ford and Mel Gibson who each command $25 million per film.

A few years ago, a big deal was made when each of the cast members of the TV show Friends asked for $100,00 per episode.

Kelsey Grammar currently makes $500,000 per episode of Frasier.

And we seem to enjoy those who act. We reward them with our purchased tickets and patronage at the theatres and movie rental places.

Acting can be big business.

However when it comes to living out our faith in God, acting isn’t so highly regarded. In fact, Jesus says, those who play-act their Christianity have received their reward in full.

Nowhere is this as evident than in the issue of prayer. Through what we’ll learn today, we’ll see that Jesus wants you and me to say…

Big Idea: My prayers are for God’s ears only.

TRANSITION: Let’s take a look at how Jesus explains this for us in Matthew chapter 6. He has already given the reminder in verse 1, Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

In verse 5 he relates this to the practice of prayer.

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 men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. (Matthew 6:5)

Jesus wants us to know…

I. PRAYER IS NOT FOR PUBLIC PERFORMANCE (v. 5-6)

The truth is…

The prayers of the Pharisees were selfish

Just as the Pharisees turned giving to the poor into an occasion for showing off, they also used prayer as a way to impress others.

Jesus isn’t discouraging prayer any more than he was discouraging giving. But thanks to the professional show-offs, prayer had become formal and overdone. Using their hypocritical example, we see what not to do.

He says they loved to pray, that is, standing in the synagogues – that’s true.

Jewish synagogue services would be led by a male who stood. The temptation might be to outpray the last guy – by being more eloquent, appearing more passionate, or using more deep theological terms. Maybe they wanted to hear – Boy oh boy – that man can really pray!

And they loved to pray on the street corners – to be seen by men.

When the afternoon trumpet sounded for the daily temple sacrifice it was customary to stop where you were, face the temple and begin to pray.

Could be quite tempting – to pray a little louder, a little more fervently, appear a little more righteous than the guy down the block. They did it all for the attention and the approval.

It was all for show. They were actors playing a part. Remember that word “hypocrite” just means “actor.” Seeking the applause of people. Wanting to hear, “My how holy that man is! Listen to how he prays!” Problem was, they weren’t praying to God. They were praying to impress people.

Their audience was people, contrasted to what Jesus tells us here – a Christian disciple lives his life or her life before an audience of One and only One.

Chuck Swindoll says, “Putting prayer on display is one of the most obvious and obnoxious forms of hypocrisy.” (Simple Faith, p. 127)

We’d never do this would we? Well let’s think about this….

When asked to pray out loud – are we ever tempted to put on a good show?

When praying out loud, do we ever take into account who is listening, and change the way we say things?

In a worship service, when singing a prayer to God does the thought ever cross your mind of who might be watching if you chose to raise your hands, clap or kneel?

Maybe we shouldn’t be so hard on the Pharisees, because it seems like Jesus might be talking to us too.

Some might take Jesus instruction here to mean we should never pray out loud at a worship service, small group, prayer meeting or community event. Because those prayers wouldn’t be a secret. But Jesus’ instruction isn’t that rigid. He prayed out loud immediately after saying these words.

And in the book of Acts, the Apostles pray out loud several times. Public prayer definitely has its place.

Jesus just means, when you pray…

Don’t be an actor instead of being yourself

Don’t seek to be seen when you pray

Don’t limit your praying to public places

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