Summary: Prayer, the act of communicating with God. It's so precious of a commodity but it's likely we don't engage in it as often as we should. There's a right way to pray and there's a wrong way to pray. Let's see how Jesus explains the difference.
THIS, THEN, IS HOW YOU SHOULD PRAY
Prayer, the act of communicating with God. It's so precious of a commodity but it's likely we don't engage in it as often as we should. But there's a right way to pray and there's a wrong way to pray. In our passage today, we'll see how Jesus explains the difference.
1) This, then, is how you should not pray.
Matt. 6:5-8, "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. 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."
In the previous passage, Jesus addresses how we should do our acts of generosity. He explained we shouldn't do them to be seen; to be recognized. However, we found that Jesus wasn't condemning public generosity altogether. He said in chapter five that we need to let our light shine before men. One way we do that is by doing acts of kindness and generosity.
The difference is we don't do it for self-seeking purposes, we do it for God and the person we're helping. Hypocritical giving is about getting noticed or rewarded. We see the same principle here. As Jesus highlights hypocritical givers, here he highlights hypocritical prayers. And for the same reason-doing it to be seen and praised for it.
And since Jesus used the word 'hypocrite' to describe the religious leaders in other passages it's most likely he's referring to them. In Jesus calling them hypocrites he's saying their motives were not pure; their hearts weren't in it. If no one could see them they would not be praying with such passion.
"They love to pray in the synagogues and street corners". Although it doesn't say so here, it's highly likely that their private prayers were nothing like their public ones. It might be questionable whether they prayed in private at all. But, when they were being watched, they were ready to perform. In fact, the Greek word Jesus uses here has the connotation of an actor-someone who portrays themselves as someone else.
But more than that-hypocrite means someone who is arrogant and hard of heart; utterly devoid of sincerity and genuineness. Therefore, these religious leaders portray themselves as someone who is sincere and genuine in their prayers but in reality are the opposite.
And that's what Jesus is addressing-the fact that their prayers are performances rather than sincere expressions before God. The religious leaders probably rehearsed their prayers before going out. These public prayers were no doubt articulate and well versed. They were dramatic and theatrical.
And as we see in vs. 7, they were also long winded. It's debatable whether they really gave any thought to the things they were actually praying for. Their focus was on their performance; how well they spoke and acted for the crowd. They weren't focused on God as their audience.
And they looked to impress the people with their babbling. The commoners would be impressed with their religiosity and scriptural quotes. The crowd would not be able to discern that their passion was manufactured. All the religious leaders cared about was that the people were impressed. Perhaps some even applauded after they were finished.
"They have received their reward in full." The reward they received was the people's accolades. The reward they would not receive was God's favor and blessing. I don't know what they prayed for but it was unlikely that it would've been granted.
John 9:31, "We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will."
When those who don't honor God pray for things, it's highly unlikely they will get favorable responses from God. God may have mercy and grant their prayers, but as a general rule, God does not favorably answer the prayer of those who don't follow him.
A big reason for that is because normally the prayer of the sinner is a selfish one. More often than not, the prayer of a sinner happens when they're in trouble or desperate. They want to stuff God in their back pocket and pull him out when they need something.
That's the attitude of the sinner's style of prayer. So it makes sense why God would not listen to sinners because if he did then they would be made to think that they were in God's favor and continue to think that their flimsy relationship with God was okay.