Sunday, September 9, 2012

Question: Does Jesus say we are not supposed to pray in public in Matthew 6?

The Bible is God’s medium for communicating His thoughts, feelings, and instructions to us. Prayer is our way of communicating our thoughts, feelings, praise, worship, intercessions, and confessions to God. The above question is a good one, because in Matthew 6 Jesus instructed His audience to pray in their rooms, and close the door!

It is evident that prayer must first be a personal exercise; it must be a part of our personal lives before we can share it with others. But what does Scripture say about public prayer?

Prayer can be both personal as well as collective for the following reasons:

Jesus Himself prayed in public. Matthew 11:25 finds Jesus praying in front of a multitude of people. In another occasion, just before He was crucified, Jesus said a beautiful prayer out loud before His disciples (John 17).

In Acts 1:14, after Jesus ascended to heaven, 120 of his followers were gathered in an upper room praying together.

The Apostle Paul referred to public prayer in 1 Corinthians 16-17. He instructs us to pray in a language that people understand, or else have a translator to interpret. Otherwise "when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest? For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified."

Therefore, when I pray in public it is understood to be a collective prayer, rather than a mere public prayer, where I display my oratory abilities before others. Collective prayer is where one person prays, and others listen and give assent to what he is saying as if they were praying themselves. It is when the person praying uses pronouns such as  "we" and "us" rather than "I" and "me". The Bible gives room for collective prayer.

What then did Jesus mean in Matthew 6?

He said,
And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

What the scribes and pharisees were doing, first of all, was saying public prayers without including their audience. Their prayers were public but not collective. They were using prayer for personal gain, prestige, and self-exaltation. Secondly, as a result they were not sincere in their prayers, and their personal lives were not consistent with the spiritual impression they were trying to convey to the people. They were praying hypocritically, such as actors in a movie set. The scribes and pharisees were good actors, but poor examples.

Therefore, when Jesus said we are to pray in our rooms and close the door, he was possibly speaking to those who admired hypocritical praying, and those who engaged in hypocritical praying. He said that if we are looking for true rewards, we should pray in private, and God will reward us in public. And as we take the rest of the New Testament into consideration, when we do pray in public, we should pray in the language of the people, including our audience as part of the prayer; sincerely, honestly, and without pretense. Public prayer is collective prayer.

What's your opinion on prayer walking?

Prayer walking as a technique is not the same as praying while you are walking. The Bible instructs us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17); therefore we may pray while we are kneeling, sitting, standing, or walking. Scripture tells us that if we abide in Christ, God will answer our prayers--without any location restrictions or requirements. I believe it is necessary to know some details about the people we are praying for, and their situations. But to think that God is limited to our own understanding of a situation or place is not biblical. And thinking that our prayers are more effective depending on our location or position is equally unbiblical.

Someone had this to say about prayer walking:
Prayer walking is a relatively new phenomenon, the origin of which is not clear. There is no biblical model for prayer walking, although since walking was the major mode of transportation in Bible times, clearly people must have walked and prayed at the same time. However, there is no direct command that prayer walking is something we should be doing. To believe that prayers offered in any setting, or while in any position, are more effective than those offered at another time or in another manner is not scriptural. In addition, while we may feel we need to be close to a location or situation to pray more clearly, our heavenly Father, who is everywhere at all times, knows exactly what needs are present and will respond to them in His own perfect will and timing. The fact that He allows us to be part of His plans through our prayers is for our benefit, not His (

A passage that teaches that one must "pray nearer to pray clearer" is not forthcoming. But I believe Scripture is clear that we may pray at any place, at any time, and am fully convinced that "the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (James 5:16).

-E.S. Gutwein

If you have received this as an e-mail, please check out Redeeming Time for more reading!
And pass it on by inviting others to follow the blog by e-mail.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please, tell me what you think about this article. I appreciate your feedback!