"And when you pray, you are not to be as the
hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the
synagogues and on the street corners, in order to be
seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their
reward in full. 6 "But you,
pray, go into your inner room, and when you have
shut your door, pray to your Father who is in
secret, and your Father who sees in secret will
repay you. Matthew 6:5-6 (NAS)
When the church first began in Acts chapter 2 (33
years after the birth of Christ), it was common for
Christians to pray together in their assemblies
behind closed doors. During the periods of
persecution, they oftentimes met in caves or
sepulchers to avoid imprisonment or torture for
their obedience to Christ. In most countries
today, there is a freedom for Christians to openly
worship and pray to God. However, Christians
should not let their freedom tempt them to pray in
public places for the purpose of being seen by men.
Those Who Pray In Public
Is it okay for followers of Jesus to pray in public
or in front of others?
Jesus and His disciples offered prayers of thanks
before eating, even in front of large groups (e.g.,
Mark 6:41-44, Luke 24:30). Usually Jesus went
off to pray by Himself in lonely or quiet places
(e.g., Mark 1:35, Matthew 26:36-40), but in other
times He prayed with His disciples present (e.g., in
the large upper room of a house at the Last Supper -
see John chapter 17, Luke 22:11-12).
When Jesus' church was established in Acts 2, they
met together on the first day of the week (Sunday)
to partake of the Lord's supper, pray together, etc.
(e.g., Acts 4:24-31, Acts 12:12, Acts 13:2-3).
We have to assume that their hearts were in the
right place...and their purpose was not to be
seen and glorified by men as they prayed.
If you observe someone praying in public, do you
know his or her heart or purpose? We can teach what Jesus spoke in
love and a spirit of gentleness (Galatians 6:1), but
we do not have the ability to know for sure what
people are thinking in their hearts; whether or not they are praying "to be seen
by others." God will know...and the person who
is praying will also know the true purpose.
Consider the example of the two men praying in the
temple in Luke chapter 18:
He (Jesus) also told this parable to certain ones
who trusted in themselves that they were righteous,
and viewed others with contempt: 10 "Two
men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee,
and the other a tax-gatherer. 11 "The
Pharisee stood and was praying thus to himself,
'God, I thank Thee that I am not like other people:
swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this
tax-gatherer. 12 'I fast twice a week; I
pay tithes of all that I get.' 13 "But
the tax-gatherer, standing some distance away, was
even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but
was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to
me, the sinner!' 14 "I tell you, this man
went down to his house justified rather than the
other; for everyone who exalts himself shall be
humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be
exalted." Luke 18:9-14 (NAS)
Jesus does not rebuke the tax-gatherer who prayed
in the temple; but instead the Pharisee who was
trying to exalt himself.
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