“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. 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.”
We’ve all read these words. We create in our minds these images of crazy people praying loudly on the street corners. Guys in funky hats praying in a crowd and peeking a look to see who’s watching and saying “Ooh look at that man in a funky hat, he must be such a good man, he’s praying in public!”..
Nowadays we don’t have synagogues or really even street corners. We don’t have people who regularly go out in public and pray. That isn’t something that happens in modern America. So what the heck does this passage mean?
The overarching question is this: What do the hypocrites do? Who aren’t we to be like?
To answer this question we have to figure out where our synagogues and street corners are. I have a suggestion. Social media.
This is where everyone’s lives intersect. You can find literally anyone with only a few exceptions on the internet. My mom has a facebook…. Holy gee whiz. So basically if you were to show off to people you would post it on facebook or twitter or instagram or… your blog…
At this point I’m going to go a little off the beaten track and talk about Jesus. Jesus isn’t saying “Don’t pray in public”. Obviously it’s recorded in the bible that Jesus prays in front of people. He prayed while hanging on the cross. That wasn’t exactly a private moment. So either Jesus is a hypocrite or there’s more to this than merely praying in public.
It comes down to motive. The hypocrites pray in public to receive the praise and recognition of men while we are commanded to go into a figurative closet and pray to an audience of one.
I, for one, am guilty.
It’s so easy when you’re praying in front of people to get caught up in “I’m gonna say this and this and this because all those people will them ‘hmmmm’ and ‘yessss’ and ‘amen’.” And when people agree with your prayers it feels good because you feel like you’re such a big, good christian.
So parting questions that I want answers to in the comments:
1: What is the difference between hypocritical praying in public and biblical praying in public?
2: In what ways can we avoid being like the hypocrites?
3: How ought we respond to the hypocrites?