AND WHEN YOU PRAY, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your Name. Your Kingdom come, Your Will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” – Matthew 6:5-15 ESV
In verses 7-8, it seems to me that JESUS is rather condemning of us Gentiles here for being wordy and full of ourselves, but I don’t believe He’d want me to focus on that. In fact, as a young person growing up in church, there were a couple of people that, when called on to pray, caused me to cringe inside. Why? Because they were exactly as JESUS describes: using many words and heaping their prayers with empty phrases. Looking back, I feel sure that these people meant well in their prayers, and I’m certain they were sincere in their pleas before GOD. This is not a condemnation of their prayers. I am also certain that they would not have been called on for the benediction or any other time, had they not been in love with our LORD.
When we do pray in public, it seems imperative to be cognizant of the Words of JESUS. I believe it is important to have someone to lead in us prayer during worship services for a couple of reasons. First is our Focus: we are so easily distracted from the reason we gather together that is good to have someone remind us where our minds should be. Second is having no words: there have been many times when I wasn’t able to form my own prayer, and the guidance provided by the pastor or other leader was just what I needed. There are also times when the opportunity to pray for someone (in public) comes up, and I believe that when that happens, we are to seize the moment. Praying quietly and privately with or for someone in public is a mighty witness. Simply bowing our heads and whispering a prayer goes a very long way towards defeating the enemy. He hates – with a passion – those moments when we call on JESUS and utter His Name out loud, even in the quietest voice.
Conclusion: pray often. In public, pray quietly and to the point. In private, pray softly, pray loudly, pray constantly. It’s a conversation with the CREATOR. I know, it’s mind-boggling that the LORD of the Universe wants to talk with me! And when you cannot say a word, just say JESUS. He knows.
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