A Rewarding Prayer Life
Read Matthew 6:5-8 (ESV)
“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when 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. And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases, as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”
When Jesus says the Father would reward those who pray in private, what do you think He means?
I share a lot about my life and my family on social media. I post pictures of my travels, photos of my wife and I on a date, or pictures of me with my boys at a sporting event. I enjoy sharing my life with other people. It isn’t as good as actual fellowship but it does provide a point of connection with family and friends I am not able to see every day and keeps them updated on the happenings in the Crawford household.
But what if I only talked to my wife when I knew I was going to post a selfie of us? What if I ignored my kids except for the times I was proud of something they did and I wanted to brag about them online? My family would rightly question my motives, wouldn’t they? They would have every right to claim that I was using them to make myself look good and that I didn’t really care enough about them to spend time with them unless it benefited my self-image.
The reality is, I build the strongest, most meaningful connections with my family in private moments. I don’t share personal details of the deep conversations that I have with my wife because those are sacred, intimate moments that are reserved only for us. I value the “man-to-man” conversations that I have with my sons and I don’t expose the personal things that they tell me in confidence with the public.
In today’s verses, Jesus called out the Pharisees and the scribes for their hypocritical prayer life. It isn’t so much that they prayed in public that Jesus condemned their actions, it was why they prayed in public. It was the motives of their heart. Doesn’t this sound familiar? It has been a theme that Jesus keeps bringing up. He cares about the intentions of our hearts. Our motives matter.
In this case, some of the religious leaders were praying in public in pretense. They were putting up a facade of being righteous and holy people who were close to God. They prayed to God to be noticed by men. And Jesus called them hypocrites for it.
Instead, Jesus said we should pray in the privacy of our own homes. Just like every other close personal relationship that we have, we need to invest time making meaningful connections. If we don’t pray at home when we are alone and only pray when others are watching, our motives are false but so is our faith! We might make it appear to others like we have a relationship with the Lord, but if we aren’t spending personal time communicating with Him, we don’t.
Jesus said that the people who have an active private prayer life are the ones He will reward. In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
Friends, the people we are closest to are the people we share private, intimate moments with. The ones who truly know us. We have meaningful conversations with them and we share our hearts with them in a way that we don’t with the general public. Jesus said that a rewarding prayer life was sincere, honest, and a time of personal connection with Him. We can’t just act like we know Jesus. We really need to know Jesus. Knowing Him personally means we will receive the future reward of life everlasting with Him and the immediate reward of walking through this life in fellowship with Him now. How rewarding is your prayer life? What do you think could help you improve your connection with Him?
Father, I confess that there are times that I have neglected my most important personal relationship—my relationship with You. Thank You for the privilege of truly knowing You. Help me fight all of the distractions that pull me away from meaningful connections with You. I want to know You more. Amen.
~ Pastor Nat Crawford
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