“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. Pray then like this:
‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.'” Matthew 6:5-13
Jesus’s preface for the right kind of praying covers both Jewish and Gentile common practices that His people must not do. Each group had its own brand of pride in prayer: a penchant for impressing onlookers with their show of prayer, and a cocky repetition of flowery phrases intended to impress God with what was actually shallow prayer. Both were forbidden, both necessary to put away for genuine, humble communion with the Hallowed One to take place.
Once an attitude of ‘notice me’ is forsaken, a humble attitude of ‘notice and acknowledge Him’ can ensue. Don’t and don’t make way for do. Then the real praying begins. We don’t approach God to get His (and others’) attention, but to center our attention on Him, His place, His power. We don’t approach prayer to inform God (or those around us), but to exalt Him and declare our dependence on Him. An effective prayer life is topsy turvy from how the world thinks and the flesh naturally behaves. But then, it’s holy, other-worldly communication with One whom the heavens cannot contain. (1 Kings 8:27)
What about our prayer life needs revamping? What seeds of pride or puffery have taken root in our approach to the Almighty? What rote habits smack of self-promotion or superficiality over a hallowed hush of wonder and praise? If we come humbly, and are willing, the Lord can change what we seek. And seeking His highest and best ways will end up fulfilling every desire.
Beware expressing devotion with no love, and giving lip service to requests with no desperation. When we approach God Most High, reverently extolling Him, laying out our needs in the light of His bountiful grace, we can know He hears our requests and give good things in response. Our focus, our confidence, our hope, are in Him alone. (Matthew 7:7-8,11; 1 Corinthians 13:1)
Father, draw me to the secret place with You. Please purify the secret places within me, that I would hallow Your name, and seek Your name and will and sufficiency above any selfish passion. To You be the kingdom and power and glory forever, amen.