Daily D – Matthew 6:5
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.
MATTHEW 6:5 (CSB)
I hang around a lot of preachers and other Christian leaders. Most of our meetings include times of prayer. Prayer is good. God hears and answers our prayers. He answers them better than we pray them.
Occasionally, someone will pray a work of art. The words and phrases are like poetry to the ear. Such prayers make me want to copy the cadence and creativity of the superior pray-er.
Then there are those whose prayers sound like they are trying too hard. I hereby freely confess that I have been, and most likely will be again from time to time, a member of this cadre. This effort at praying to impress sounds a lot like what Jesus is talking about in this verse. The temptation to be seen as more spiritual, more in touch with God, is ever with us.
Many years ago, I learned how to pray in such a manner that I fairly well commanded God what to do and how to do it. After praying such a prayer in a group meeting at the college student ministry I was part of, one young woman sought me out to tell me how dynamic my prayer was. That felt good.
It later felt bad. Nothing I prayed for happened. I was impressive as a prayerful wordsmith. However, that young woman’s affirmation was all the reward I received. God was not impressed.
You would think I learned my lesson then and there and never had that problem again. You would be wrong. I am still tempted from time to time in my public prayers to sound like a sage, a wise man, a holy man, a man more in touch with God than you.
God hears and answers our prayers, particularly those prayers that are much more focused on who he is and what he wants than those focused on who we are and what we want. He especially enjoys hearing and answering those prayers where we want what he wants. Those prayers may not impress anyone. They may be simple and straightforward, kind of bland by comparison.
When I start buttering up my words to my bride, she knows to take a step back. She usually crosses her arms and fixes me with a stare. There is not much chance my request is going to get anywhere. My buttery and alternately bossy prayers receive the same reception. Our Father in heaven will not be manipulated by my prayerful conniving.
Simple prayers prayed simply in deep trust and loving adoration avail much.
I do not need to try to impress God with my prayers. I do not need to impress my peers with my prayers. I do not need to impress anyone ever with my prayers.
I will pray simply.
Our Father, please forgive me for trying to impress people with my powerful prayers. Please forgive me for bossing you around in my prayers. Please forgive me for enjoying the attention of others from my well-stated prayers. Teach me to pray where I do not get in the way. Amen.
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2 Chronicles 35:25 Jeremiah composed laments for Josiah, and to this day all the male and female singers commemorate Josiah in the laments. These became a tradition in Israel and are written in the Laments. (NIV)
2 Chronicles 33:15, 16 He got rid of the foreign gods and removed the image from the temple of the Lord, as well as all the altars he had built on the temple hill and in Jerusalem; and he threw them out of the city. Then he restored the altar of the Lord and sacrificed fellowship offerings and thank offerings on it, and told Judah to serve the Lord, the God of Israel.
Matthew 3:8 “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.”
2 Kings 20:2, 3 Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
Isaiah 65:24 “Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.”