Sermon on the Mount: Pray in Secret
“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.”
Matthew 6:5-6 NASB1995
Jesus admonishes us that we are first to give in secret and then pray in secret. Corporate prayer has always been difficult for me. Rather than listen to what the person who is praying aloud is saying, I find myself thinking of what I’m going to say when it is my turn to pray. I think we often do these corporate or repetitive prayers (like in set liturgies) as a way to impress others, and not go to God.
For our intercessory prayer sessions, I have a favorite chair that I sit in and Steve does his prayer in a separate room upstairs at our house; we do not pray together, but we pray at the same time. The cats usually go with Steve and listen to his prayers (sometimes staying the entire hour). I like praying through ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication) with specific things identified, reading supporting Bible verses out loud and having what I call a crucial dialog with my Savior, by pausing and listening to what He might be saying (and, yes, I get answers or suggestions quite often). What has also been interesting is when we have an intercessory prayer session when we are not at home. I have found those to be more difficult, too, because we are quite often in the same room or even facing each other and are both trying to pray silently, which tends to increase the risk of the mind wandering. A consistent approach and location work the best!
It turns out David Guzik from his Enduring Word commentaries agrees with me:
c. That they may be seen by men: These hypocrites prayed not to be heard by God, but to be seen by men. This is a common fault in public prayer today, when people pray to impress or teach others instead of genuinely pouring out their hearts before God.
i. Such prayers are an insult to God. When we mouth words towards God while really trying to impress others, we then use God merely as a tool to impress others.
d. They have their reward: Again, those praying to be seen of men have their reward, and they should enjoy it in full – because that is all they will receive. There is no reward in heaven for such prayers.
e. But you, when you pray, go into your room: Rather, we should meet with God in our room (or “closet”). The idea is of a private place where we can impress no one except God.
i. The specific ancient Greek word “room” was used for a storeroom where treasures were kept. This reminds us that there are treasures waiting for us in our prayer closet.
ii. Jesus certainly did not prohibit public prayer, but our prayers should always be directed to God and not towards man.
My special chair at home for prayer is my treasure!
My next Sermon on the Mount devotional explores Matthew 6:8-9, which admonishes against repetition in prayer and serves as the introduction to the Lord’s Prayer.
Commentary from David Guzik on Enduring Word is used by written permission.