A short reading and prayers for today
But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
Matthew 6:6 NLT
Jesus was reacting against the people who made a great show of their praying. They prayed in the synagogues and at street corners because they were looking for an audience. Jesus obviously wasn’t saying that it was wrong to pray in synagogues and at street corners but that it was wrong to turn prayer into a religious act which is totally focused on people, and not on God. So Jesus drew attention to the importance of private prayer which reveals where the heart is. Without that personal relationship with God, prayer has no meaning. It’s just an act.
Jesus’ continual concern was with what we would call religion. He could see that many of the most religious people in his society lived their lives furthest away from God. The word religion means to “bind back”. It ties people down to a particular set of beliefs and practices, but it is easy for religion to become merely a performance. Jesus’ desire was to renew people’s hearts so that through their relationship with God, they would want to honour and serve him. At the end of the day anyone can pray a long prayer, give money or fast but what matters is where their heart is.
In recent years, there have been many Christian leaders who have put on an impressive performance, but who have later been discovered to be abusing children or adults or embezzling funds.
We should always be desperately disappointed when these things happen. However, we should never be surprised, because we should be aware of the power and destructiveness of the sin which lurks in all our lives. Such sad moments should drive us back to Jesus’ teaching here in the Sermon on the Mount reminding us that we all need to go to the quiet room and spend time with our heavenly Father in private. Without those times alone with God we all run the risk of going off track.
Where do you find it best to have quiet time with God?
Lord God, help me to live so close to you that my words and actions flow out of my relationship with you. Amen