Originally published in Morning Manna
THURSDAY, MAY 11, 2000
Prayer: To Whom are you talking?
“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” Matt. 6:6 (NKJV)
The Pharisees gave a fine performance when they prayed. They really moved the people, tickled the angels’ feet, sprinkled the room with stardust. They waxed eloquent. They prayed loud and long. And everyone knew what wonderful pray-ers they were.
The Pharisees faced one problem: they missed the whole purpose of prayer. While the people listened to their words and were delighted, Jesus felt their heartbeat and was disgusted. He knew their motives…and they were anything but pure.
Jesus knew that these men were praying to impress the people. That was their goal. Therefore; the Lord insisted, they should expect no answer or reward from the Father, because that was never their desire in the first place. Whatever praise they might receive from people was the only reward they could expect.
There is nothing wrong with eloquence – so long as it is the product of sincerity. The Psalmist David certainly recorded many eloquent, beautiful prayers, but they were wrung out of a heart filled with love and admiration for the Father. They were sincere and earnest.
Prayer is not a performance. Sincerity. Urgency. Fervency. These are the qualities God wants in our prayers. He is not impressed with your grasp of the King’s English or your flair for spectacular speech-making. He is interested in you humbly pouring out your heart to Him. Whether you do that with the eloquence of David or with the simplicity of the Publican who just begged God, “Be merciful to me a sinner,” is immaterial.
God will hear your words, whether you have a way with words or not. He is more interested in your heart than your vocabulary. Develop a deeply personal prayer life. Then, you can be free to appeal to the heart of your loving Father rather than the court of public opinion.
If asked to pray publicly, pray sincerely. Talk to God and let others listen in, rather than vice versa. God is listening – to your words and your heart.
A Prayer for Today: “Father, thank you for hearing my prayer and knowing my heart. Thank You for the privilege of prayer and the promise of answered prayer. Amen.”