Praying in Public is for Hypocrites!
Posted By Lewis Heart on October 10, 2019
This is the third of three videos about teachings of Jesus which are optional. We are lucky that people will not go to hell for breaking this command, because very few people are even aware that Jesus taught what I am going to read. You will find this teaching of Jesus in the middle of three chapters, which are commonly referred to as the Sermon on the Mount. This sermon appears in Matthew’s Gospel, chapters five to seven. People everywhere have heard about this famous Sermon. But few have ever read it, and even fewer have ever tried to do what Jesus told his followers to do in that sermon. Jesus says in Matthew 6:5 to 6, “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites. “They love to pray in religious meetings everywhere, so that people can see them. “They have their reward. But you, when you pray… “Do it privately and secretly. Pray to your Father, who cannot be seen. “Your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you openly.” Let me explain something about these teachingsl. I say that they are optional, because they talk about receiving or not receiving a reward, if we obey or disobey them. But the reward being spoken about may be heaven itself…eternal life. To be safe, take them seriously. Jesus calls the people who pray out loud in public ‘hypocrites’. How many hypocrites do you think will get into heaven? Obedience to this teaching MAY be optional. But don’t be too quick to believe me. It may be safer to say there are some exceptions to this rule. I will explain that later. Remember, Jesus says that if we stand up in religious meetings and pray out loud, so others can hear us, we are doing what hypocrites do. Shocking, isn’t it? According to Jesus, what do we see in churches everywhere? Hypocrites, hypocrites, hypocrites. Have they never read the Sermon on the Mount? Why do so-called Christians do that? We take the same things Jesus says NOT to do, and we do them. We even teach that disobeying Jesus like this makes us good Christians! This is shocking disrespect for Jesus and what he taught! He says, “When you pray, do it in secret.” But when we are NOT praying out loud for others to hear us, we are talking about how much we pray secretly. It is not hard to stop praying publicly, like Jesus told us to do. We could stop just to be safe. Even if he did not mean it, he would understand if we were trying our best to obey him. But the churches will not do it, will they? And why? Because they have no interest in obeying Jesus. None at all. At each step, they do whatever they like, always opposing Jesus. Church-going has nothing to do with obeying Jesus. Prayer–real prayer–is vital to our relationship with God. If we have so little interest in obeying Jesus that we would consciously and unnecessarily disobey him in how we pray, then we probably do not have a relationship with him at all. We do not care. Praying out loud in public is a public announcement that you do not care at all about Jesus. Without a true, secret, humble relationship with God, I cannot imagine God rewarding us when Judgment Day comes. That COULD include not giving us salvation. Jesus told about two men praying in the temple. One man bowed his head over in a corner. He said, “God, please be merciful to me, a sinner.” Jesus said that God heard that man’s prayer. But he said a Pharisee, “Prayed with himself.” Do you see that? He wasn’t praying to God at all. He was praying to himself! He said what could be considered humble words, until you see that the ‘god’ he was talking to was himself. “Lord, I thank you”. See, it sounds humble, until you see that he is thanking himself. “Lord, I thank you that I am not like others.” If people pray like this in public, what do they pray like in private? Surely, they do not pray at all when the audience is gone. You may think it was an exception when Jesus prayed in Gethsemane. John recorded what Jesus said in that prayer, word for word. How could he have done it, if Jesus prayed secretly? Matthew’s Gospel tells what happened. It says, “Jesus came to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, “‘Sit here, while I go away and pray.'” Jesus moved away from them. Often Jesus got up early, or stayed back on his own, to pray. He always prayed privately, “away from them”. But Matthew says that he took Peter, James and John with him. He was, in some way, asking them to join with him. He did teach something about two or three people agreeing together when they pray. So this could be one exception in Jesus’ teaching on prayer. If prayers are 100% private, how do we agree together when praying? Jesus was asking Peter, James, and John to agree with him in prayer. This was the worst moment of his life. He craved their support. But does it mean Jesus prayed out loud, while they sat and listened? Read on. They are already away from the others, but now Matthew says, “He went a little farther and prayed.” “Then he came (back to Peter, James and John) and found them asleep.” He wanted them to pray for the same thing, and at the same time, but still he walked away from these three disciples. He wanted them to pray silently and secretly themselves. Were they listening while Jesus prayed? No. They were not even praying. They fell asleep…three times. So, how did Matthew know what Jesus said? Matthew was not even one of the three. Neither was Mark,. But Mark also records some of what Jesus prayed. John was there, and he wrote in detail what Jesus prayed. But John was asleep! Did Jesus stand up and pray out loud in front of John? Or did John supernaturally guess what Jesus prayed? John was very close to Jesus and knew what he was going through at that time. We may never know, but there does seem to be enough evidence, with Jesus agonizing so deeply, that his prayer was very personal and very secret. That is how it should be. What would you think of a married couple who made a show of their love life? Should they show off what happens in the privacy of their bedroom? No. That would be a perversion of true love. Yet we do that when we make a show of our love life with God. Our most genuine and fervent prayer to our Heavenly Father should be… Private. Intimate. Secret. God does not want us making a show of it like so many do. There is another exception in Scripture. It is when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. He prayed a public prayer which started with these words “Father, I thank you that you heard me.” He had already prayed privately. He already knew the answer. So, why is he going through the motions now? Listen. “I know that you always hear me. “But because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe you have sent me.” See, Jesus had said that they were going to see the glory of God. Now, he is making it clear that this is a miracle from God… a special sign that he is from God. A definite exception. If you raise someone from the dead, you may be allowed to say a prayer out loud, just before you do. Sound fair enough? Seriously, there may be two other places where there is some doubt that the disciples took Jesus as seriously as he sounded in the Sermon on the Mount.. But what happens with this rule is what happens with each of the teachings of Jesus. Jesus makes a rule, then the experts look for someone breaking the rule. From that, they say to throw out the rule. “We can disobey,” they say. Why? Because somebody else did. We are not talking about spontaneously crying out to God in desperate prayer. We are not talking about two or three people agreeing to pray for a special need. We are not talking about thanking God together for food. We are talking about exactly what Jesus said not to do. Standing up in church, and praying out loud for everyone to hear. These prayers are eloquent, emotional performances. A big part of the whole show that we call ‘Church’. When will exceptions stop being excuses to throw out the rule? I will not say more than that. But Christians everywhere do need to give more serious thought to this. You don’t need to convince me that God likes your prayer performances. The question is whether you can convince Jesus. Are these public prayers really being done in obedience to him? Think about it.