Friday, August 19, 2022
Alex Mueller - Journey Church Student Ministry Volunteer
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.”
When we read these verses, the original audience is still sitting on a hillside listening to Jesus teach. Jesus is continuing to lay out concrete ways in which he is building his Kingdom and the ways in which his followers can participate in that Kingdom building too. Everything Jesus is communicating promotes an inside-out and upside-down way of looking at the world.
Jesus begins to dive into the topic of prayer. There were two public places of prayer Jesus references that the audience would be very familiar with. One was the synagogue, their place of worship. The other was street corners. If people wanted to be seen, heard, and applauded for their brilliant prayers, these public places would offer the opportunity. Yes, it would take planning to make sure the public would notice their seemingly religious activity. Jesus even affirms they would get their reward, which was the admiration, applause, and “good standing” among the people (but not with God).
Then Jesus talks about another location. A private room with a closed door. The word used for “room” here refers to the innermost part of the house where one would keep their most precious treasures. Jesus, being a master teacher, uses this specific word to drive home the point that your most precious reward will come when you pray from this innermost room, unseen from the public, yet present with God. In other words, your right standing with God is more important than your right standing in the eyes of man.
Jesus then goes on to talk about prayers with “empty phrases”, which is often translated as “babbling”. Again, he really knew his audience. Jesus knew the crowd would be familiar with the repetition in many prayers of the day, and the length of time at which the “hypocrites” would pray. Ecclesiastes 5:2 says, “God is in heaven, and you are on earth; therefore let your words be few.” God doesn’t ask us for fluffy, long, repetitive, warm feeling prayers. He asks for straight-forward, authentic heart prayers. After all, God already knows our hearts. It reminds me of this quote I’ve always loved: “If only I had more time, this letter would have been shorter.”
When I reflect on one way this applies to today, I can’t help but think of how we live in a culture that rewards us for publicly showing every aspect of our lives online. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Tik Tok have the potential of becoming versions of “street corners”. They provide the opportunity for us to showcase our faith, and if we aren’t careful, to publicly display it with the wrong motivation. But whether it’s online or in other public situations, we have to ask ourselves…are we seeking the optics and praise of people, or are we seeking an intimate encounter with Christ?
Our relationship with God is far more important than a few more online likes, follows, and comments…or any other form of praise from people. The truth is that if the heart and intention behind the public showcase of our faith is to glorify ourselves, our reward will be temporary. But if our intention is to glorify God, it will have an eternal impact.
“Lord, help my heart be in a posture that wants to glorify you only. I am grateful for the opportunity to have a relationship with you. I pray that my relationship with you will overflow and bring others into relationship with you. I love You, and I’m grateful for your never-ending pursuit of my heart, even though I do not deserve it. Amen.”
Daily Prayer Initiatives
- Jesus to change more lives as we double the square footage of our Castle Pines location.
- Momentum as we launch our Highlands Ranch location.
- Someone you can invite to Journey on Friend Day (Sunday, September 11)
- One bold prayer you sense God is personally inviting you to pray during the 21 Days.
Get to a place where you can focus and read the daily Scripture passage several times. From the passage of Scripture you read, highlight one or two verses that stick out. Write them down, and even consider rewriting the verse(s) in your own words.
Make some basic observations about the scripture you just read by asking these questions:
- Why was this written?
- To whom was it originally written?
- What is the author trying to communicate?
- What does the Scripture passage teach me about God and humanity?
After taking some time explaining the highlighted scriptures, begin to think about how they apply to your life. Ask yourself these questions and spend some time writing down your thoughts:
- What do these verses mean today?
- What does this verse(s) mean for my life?
- How does this verse challenge my thinking and actions?
- What changes do I need to make in my life as a result of this passage of Scripture?
Your response to the passage may take on many forms. You may write a call to action. You may describe how you will be different because of what God has said to you through the Bible verses. You may indicate what you are going to do because of what you learned. You may respond by writing out a prayer to God. For example, you may ask God to help you to be more loving, or to give you a desire to be more generous in your giving. Keep in mind that this is your response to what you have just read.