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Monday, October 1, 2012

Did Jesus Really Forbid Praying in Public?

A few moments ago a friendly critic left a comment on one of my YouTube videos which I felt was worthy of a proper response… well, at least as proper as I can muster.

The video was of me reciting Chapter Six of Matthew which just happens to be the second part of the Sermon on the Mount.

My atheist friend (I hope I can call him “friend”) has stated:

“The sermon states that prayer in public (including church) is hypocrisy. This sounds like a problem”

But does it really? I have to disagree.

The verses he is referring to go thus:

“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners TO BE SEEN BY MEN. I tell you the truth; they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father who is unseen, then your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:5-7)

I wrote in caps the bit that I think is crucial to my argument – TO BE SEEN BY MEN. Why were the hypocrites praying in public? Was it because they were extra godlier or holier than anyone else? No, according to Jesus it was TO BE SEEN BY MEN.

In fact Jesus points this out later in the Gospel of Matthew (Chapter 23:5) when he says of the Pharisees that, “Everything they do is done for men to see.” He tells his disciples not to be like them.

I think the point here is that it is the INTENTION or MOTIVATION behind the prayer that is important to God. If you seek reward from people and pray merely to look the part of being a Christian then indeed you are being a hypocrite.

That is why, I think, Jesus says to go into your room and close your door, because at the end of the day this will at least guarantee that you have proper motives for praying.

However this does not forbid you from praying in public as long as your intention is not self glorifying.

Finally, if this passage did really mean you were not to pray in public then can I please ask my atheist or skeptical commentators to consider that this does not make Jesus the bad guy – it’s just that his followers are fallen Human Beings, as the Bible teaches, and as fallen Human Beings we can’t get it right one hundred percent of the time.

For example why do we call Catholic Priests “Father” when Jesus clearly told his disciples not to call anyone on earth “Father” because we have one Father and he is in Heaven? (Matthew 23:9) This is a question I have often pondered when thinking about my fellow believers.

But again, this is what happens when a faith is made up of imperfect people. But thank God then that Salvation does not require us to be perfect, it only needed Christ to be. The best we can do is to aspire to be like Christ in the hope that in eternity he will make that aspiration into a reality.

As for my commentator, thank-you for your time and your thoughtful and insightful comment, I hope that you will perhaps consider reading the Bible in an effort to actually understand it rather than for ammunition against people like me; it’s just not a cool thing to do. I mean that with the utmost respect of course, as I am sure you were being honest and sincere.

For my part I am sorry that some of us Christians are hypocrites. Jesus himself taught in Matthew 13:24-30 that indeed there would be "weeds among the wheat". I hope you meet some "wheat" some time so you can taste the difference.

God Bless.




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