Two Types of Prayers: Matthew 6:5-13

Focus Passage: Matthew 6:5-13 (NCV)

“When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites. They love to stand in the synagogues and on the street corners and pray so people will see them. I tell you the truth, they already have their full reward. When you pray, you should go into your room and close the door and pray to your Father who cannot be seen. Your Father can see what is done in secret, and he will reward you.

“And when you pray, don’t be like those people who don’t know God. They continue saying things that mean nothing, thinking that God will hear them because of their many words. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask him. So when you pray, you should pray like this:

‘Our Father in heaven,
may your name always be kept holy.
10 May your kingdom come
and what you want be done,
    here on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us the food we need for each day.
12 Forgive us for our sins,
    just as we have forgiven those who sinned against us.
13 And do not cause us to be tempted,
but save us from the Evil One.’ [The kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours forever. Amen.]

Read Matthew 6:5-13 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

In all the things Jesus talked about, none was probably more close to His heart than when He talked about prayer. While He left heaven and became human to be closer to us, prayer served as His main connection back to the Father in heaven.

This means that when Jesus turns the focus of His teaching onto the subject of prayer, He wants us to pay extra close attention to a few things. When Jesus was walking the earth in the first century, there were two types of people who prayed, and Jesus makes a clear distinction about what type we should be: “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites. They love to stand in the synagogues and on the street corners and pray so people will see them. I tell you the truth, they already have their full reward. When you pray, you should go into your room and close the door and pray to your Father who cannot be seen. Your Father can see what is done in secret, and he will reward you.” (v. 5-6)

In Jesus’ teaching, the hypocrites are those who pray for the attention of people rather than the praise of God. Jesus all but says that God ignores these prayers. Jesus tells us that whatever praise they receive from those who witness their prayer will be their only reward.

However, Jesus contrasts these hypocrites with what we might simply call the “secret-prayers” – those people who keep their prayers to God between them and God. While I doubt these people would never pray in public, they would only do so if asked or if the situation called them to do so. The number of public prayers would be minimal when compared to the number of private prayers in the lives of these individuals.

It is this second type of person who God wants us to be. This type of person intentionally places focus on their personal relationship with God when no one is watching and builds the foundation of their life on that relationship with God. What we do when no one is watching determines what we will ultimately be when the spotlight shines on us.

God tells us that those who do things for human approval only receive human approval as their reward. Instead, God rewards what we do for Him in secret. When we focus on Him over what others think, we will be rewarded by the only One who can give us the “reward” of a lifetime – i.e. the reward of eternal life!

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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