Thursday, November 19, 2009

When and where do we pray? (part 2)

Nelsman did a superb job in summing up the way we should view and interpret Jesus’ teachings on prayer in Matthew 6 (from the comments last week). Here is his comment in regards to praying in public and if it is ok or not:

Sounds like it on the surface, but Jesus prayed in the presence of the disciples in John 17, gave thanks for food for the 5 thousand in Mark 6:41, prayed for Lazarus in front of others in John 11:41. So this reads more like a warning to not turn a prayer into a performance "to be seen by men". Maybe Jesus is leading us into private prayer so we will not be tempted to go beyond a one on one relationship with the Father

It's some great thoughts on this matter. The key is the heart. What is the heart? It’s that area where choice and will come from. It is our motive for why we do what we do. If you read the first verse of Matthew 6 you can see that Jesus is talking about motive. Matthew 6:1 (NRSV) reads,

Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heave.

I think it’s ridiculous and wrong to interpret Jesus’ teachings on giving, prayer and fasting apart from this first verse. It clearly connects to everything that follows. Jesus clearly teaches that it is all about the heart. He is telling us it is all about our motive.

I’ve heard Christians tell me that it’s ok for Muslims to pray in public but Christians are to go to a private place and pray. I’ve even heard some people say it’s wrong to do public prayer in church. Those two comments are examples of how NOT to interpret Matthew 6. If your reason for wanting to pray in public is ok you can pray whenever and wherever you want. Jesus has given us freedom to do that! Nelsman gave some great examples of Him praying in public.

So, if you ever hear someone state Christians are not supposed to pray in public you have opportunity (maybe even responsibility?) to correct them and bring them back to the heart of the matter. Take them to Matthew 6:1 and make sure they catch and understand the phrase “in order to be seen by them”.

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