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 others. Truly I tell you, 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.
Three times in Matthew 6 we find these words “when you pray”. Jesus has the expectation that each of us will pray. As believers and followers of his, we need to pray because prayer is actually the natural communication between humans and our creator. So, we should practice it wherever and whenever we can. We do not need to use holy words nor do we need to pray for a certain length of time. Remember, God hears all of our prayers no matter what words we use.
Prayer should not be about making a public show of how good we are or how holy we have been. Genuine spirituality is focused on God and not on us. So, here are some keys that we can learn from today’s text.
- Prayer is to be private and intimate. The reward for prayer is in the relationship that we build with God. It is good to pray with other people, but the prayer that changes us, is that which is done when we get alone with God and let him examine us. The psalmist wrote, search me and know me. This kind of prayer scares me because it exposes ‘the me that others don’t see’ to the God who sees and knows everything. When I pray this prayer, I am required to get honest about my sins and my failings so that I can obtain mercy from the God who loves me.
- Prayer is not just about saying the same thing over and over. It is about genuine communication with God. Prayer should be similar to talking with a friend or someone that you are in a close relationship with. If a friend or a parent wouldn’t want to hear you nag about something, why do we think that God would? Prayer is not a formula! Nor is it an abracadabra that makes God do what we ask. It is positioning of ourselves in a place that acknowledges that God is God and we are not. Prayer says to our self, we need God whether we want to admit it or not.
- It is good to bring our prayer needs to God, but let it be done from a place of relationship. And don’t forget, the God who loves you, knows what is going on in your life.