5 “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. 6 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. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

Matt 6:5-8 (NIV)

The pious Pharisees – those who loved demonstrating their supposed righteousness – enjoyed performing their act of public prayer before the eyes of men - and an act it was. In their long flowing robes with their long flowing religious jargon their prayers were not directed towards God rather towards the ears and eyes of their hearers. They were famous for their long repetitive phrases in liturgical voices in an effort to draw attention to their religiosity. It perhaps drew the recognition, attention and applause from man but not from God who directs His gaze to the motive and the heart. Jesus states in our verses for today they received their reward in full. Make no mistake about it; God is never into the exaltation of self. I am reminded in Luke of the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector:

9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men--robbers, evildoers, adulterers--or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’” 13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’” 14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14 (NIV)

“Groanings which cannot be uttered are often prayers which cannot be refused.” Charles H. Spurgeon

“Tears have a tongue and grammar and language that our Father knows.” Samuel Rutherford

We are not to trust in ourselves for our own righteousness nor are we to show contempt for others. This Pharisees’ prayer consisted of telling God how good he was and what a low life the tax collector was. Jesus states the one justified was the one who was humbly repentant not sanctimoniously smug. Peter tells us true humility is the proper attire for the child of God:

All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 1 Peter 5:5-6 (NIV)

“There is no true holiness without humility.” Thomas Fuller

“Humility is nothing else but a true knowledge and awareness of oneself as one really is.” The Cloud of Unknowing

Next the Lord Jesus tells us we are to handle prayer privately. Christians are to be a praying people. If prayer-less then grace-less. Prayer is to be a conversation between man and his Maker. It is to be earnest not trifling, humble and not demanding – vain glory and vain repetition are not acceptable practices for a child of the King. What passes between God and the deep expression of our own souls must be out of sight and not on stage. Public places are not proper for earnest private prayer. Out Father in heaven is ready to hear and answer - ever graciously willing to help and aid us. He is especially near to those who call upon Him who lift up their soul and pour out their heart. Children need not make long speeches to their parents when they are in need. Our simple cry for “Help” is not a bad prayer. God, who knows and sees all, often gives before we ask and even more than we ask:

24 Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. Isaiah 65:24 (NIV)

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Eph 3:20-21 (NIV)

Our most powerful intercessions are made with groans that words cannot express:

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will. Romans 8:26-27 (NIV)

What I Glean

  • As a child of the King I am to be humble.
  • God is never into the exaltation of self.
  • God, Who knows and sees all, is more willing to give that we are even willing to ask.