March 30, 2012: Thirty-Third Day of Lent

March 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

“And when you pray, you are not to be as the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners, in order to be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.” ~ Matthew 6.5 ~

Christ moves from the subject of almsgiving to the subject of prayer. However, even though the topic changes, Christ’s point remains the same.

Just like almsgiving, prayer occupied a central role in Jewish faith and culture. Devout Jews would observe several appointed prayer times each day. As this verse implies, prayer could take place in the synagogue or in public; either setting would have been acceptable.

We must pay attention to Christ’s message here. He assumes that his audience will faithfully continue to pray, for he says, “…When you pray…” On top of that, he does not condemn either synagogues or street corners as appropriate places to pray. But as before, he challenges the heart attitude of the one praying.

There is much good in a life filled with prayer, and Christ desires his disciples to enjoy and realize that in their lives. However, some might take a good practice and use it  for their own selfish motives and glory. Christ uses the word “hypocrite” again here; he calls these people actors and frauds, people who play a part. If they pray only so that others will see them doing so, then they will receive what they truly want – people will see them. However, a heart devoted to God’s glory alone in prayer will accomplish the desires of God, not of selfish people.

We can ask ourselves questions similar to those from yesterday. Whenever we pray with others, are we more concerned with how we look or sound than with our prayer? Do we find that we labor over the wording and intonation of spoken prayers, hoping to achieve some theatrical effect? Or perhaps we’ve gone to the other extreme – for one reason or another (perhaps because we’ve been frustrated by all those showboats!) we have let the habit of prayer slip out of our lives.

Christ speaks to all of us. Work to cultivate prayer in your life, but don’t let concerns or desires regarding what others think of you creep in. If you want public notoriety for how you pray, you’ll get it – but that reward falls far short of the reward your Heavenly Father would rather give you.

Lord Christ, please change my life. Help me to make space for prayer, but also help me to make proper space in my heart for it as well. Let me join with your people to appropriately intercede for the world. Let me experience your presence in times of solitude. But in those moments, keep my selfish wants from getting in the way. Amen.

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