“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:5-8)
As I read and contemplate the passage for today, it initially produces more questions than answers. I do not want to be like the hypocrites, but the prayers said aloud in church every Sunday bring me connection and comfort. Is this okay? What reward are these “hypocrites” receiving? Is this sarcasm from Jesus? Why am I encouraged to go into a room and shut the door to pray in secret?
While these questions remain, there are also words of comfort. I am comforted to know that my prayer does not need to measure up to the words of biblical scholars. I am comforted to know that God already knows my needs before I begin. And I am comforted to know that I can come to my Father in Heaven in prayer at any time and from any place, even in secret behind closed doors.
Jesus continues in verse 9 by giving us the Lord’s Prayer, an awesome sample of what to include in prayer. What an amazing example of how to be succinct and to the point.
Prayer: Dear Father in Heaven, thank you for prayer! Thank you for always hearing us and knowing our needs before we even ask. It is comforting to know that no matter how long or short, how eloquent or simple, whether in a private moment or assembled with others, you hear us. May our conversations with you be life-giving for each of us. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.