Lessons from the Mountainside 19

After talking about our need to do good in secret, Jesus was wise to say we need to pray. (Just kidding). No, he moves to prayer because he knows that it’s been another area where his people have been led astray by their religious leaders. Yes, this does happen, and it’s important to address it when it does.

Just as they had done with their good works, prayer had become an act of pride. Take to heart what Jesus tells us:

Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward. But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. When you pray, don’t babble like the Gentiles, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask him.

Matthew 6:5-8 CSB

In other religions throughout history, prayer is a work, a public act of supplication, a pleading with a god or entity who is not expected to reply directly to the person praying. By the time of Jesus’s walk on this earth, even Jews had taken on the ways of the world, making their prayers public acts instead of private conversations. No longer do you hear of Hannah’s prayer for a son, Daniel’s prayer in the privacy of his room, or the shepherd David’s supplications on a hillside.

God’s people had lost touch with the One they claimed to serve.

Jesus spoke out that day for all to hear: His Father, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, is waiting to hear from you, and he will hear from you when you humble yourselves in the secret place.

We must be careful that our prayers don’t sound like those of the world around us.

That’s what had happened with the religious leaders. They had become hypocrites because they babbled just like the Gentiles they hated. While people may have heard their prayers and admired them for their spirituality, that would be the only hearing they received. God will not hear such prayers.

We can only get real with God when we get alone with God.

That doesn’t mean we never pray in public. We do and we should, as the Body of Christ gathers in large groups or small. We need to encourage one another through our prayers for each other, but this is not where we bear all. Confess sins, yes, but not the depths—no, the depths are for God alone.

Jesus knows that pride has no inroads in the secret places of prayer. We must fight it in the public arena, but by keeping an active secret prayer life, we keep sin at bay. As we pour out our hearts to God in prayer, he hears, he responds, he rewards.

Do you struggle to pray? Go to your secret place and tell him about it. Then go again tomorrow, and the days afterward, until prayer becomes a joyful time between the Father and his child. Great will be your reward by his…

Grace and Peace

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