A second spiritual discipline that characterizes authentic faith is praying. Much like giving, prayer is not a matter of “if,” but a matter of “when.” Disciples of Jesus are known as people who pray. Prayer is private communion with God. God speaks to us through His Word, and we speak to Him through prayer. In the same way that He warns against an showy display of giving for the sake of man’s applause, Jesus also warns against praying to appear righteous before others. In order to safeguard ourselves against hypocrisy, Jesus gives us some instructions for our prayer lives as His disciples.
Jesus is not condemning public prayer in these verses, but prayer to appear righteous and spiritual in the eyes of others. Again, He is dealing with the hidden motives of the heart. The hypocrites loved the spotlight—street corners and synagogues. They gave to be seen and prayed to be heard. Public prayer was a priority in the life of the early church, and it should be a priority in our church as well. However, the heart must be sincere in order for prayer with others to be effective. When believers are engaged in prayer, it is the ultimate activity in which their souls can be engaged. It is the essence of fellowship with God. And yet it remains possible for us to be in the posture of prayer, saying all the right words, and all the while our prayers never rise beyond self.
Notice that Jesus says we are to enter into our ‘closet’ to pray. Before it is ever public, prayer is private. Public prayer will only be as powerful and effective as private prayer. Our prayer meetings as believers ought to flow out of personal prayer in our prayer closet.
Prayer in secret allows for no showing off. There is no one there to impress in the prayer closet. It is just you and God. The true litmus test of your spiritual life is what happens in the private places that only you and He know about. Have you met with Him in secret yet?
For more, read Matthew 6:5-8