“Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. … When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get.” Matthew 6: 1, 5
“Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others,” Jesus said in Matthew 6:1. In other words, check your motivation for why you are doing the good / kind/ generous things you do. The same goes for prayer. Throughout His ministry, Jesus spoke a lot about prayer and in Matthew chapter 6, He provided two examples of what prayer should NOT be about:
- Praying for the Wrong Reasons: Many religious leaders in Jesus’ day performed their prayers as actors on a stage – to be seen and applauded for their piety. It’s as if they were saying, Look at how spiritual I am! Look at how educated and righteous I am!
Jesus said there is a big difference between being a Godly person through actions done for God’s glory versus actions done seeking the approval of others. So what’s your motive? If you’re striving to “look” like the ideal Christian just for the sake of other’s approval, you need a motivation check.
- Praying Empty Prayers: Jesus was referring to the Gentiles, who didn’t know the one true God, when He spoke about praying empty prayers. Even Christians can fall into this trap. Instead of repeating words and phrases that sound “spiritual” in hopes of gaining God’s attention – pray honest and sincere prayers. It’s the content and the heart that God cares about.
So what’s your motivation when you pray? Do you pray simply to appear “spiritual” in group settings? Do you have words or phrases you repeat when your heart’s just not in it?
We’ve all gone through the motions: blessing a meal, a prayer before bed – it’s easy for our prayer-life to become routine. But Jesus says that prayer is about our hearts connecting with God’s. Maybe it’s time you started praying that God would help your heart better align with His, because that is what prayer is all about.