Today's Lectionary Text
When you pray, don’t be like those show-offs who love to stand up and pray in the meeting places and on the street corners. They do this just to look good. I can assure you that they already have their reward.
When you pray, go into a room alone and close the door. Pray to your Father in private. He knows what is done in private, and he will reward you.
I was reading Matthew's Gospel last week and was truly touched by the importance of prayer. Jesus taught deeply about "And when you pray ..." Prayer unlocks the heavenly doors and connects us to God. Matthew teaches us how to enter the heavenly throne especially as we begin the new year 2020, new month and new decade. Abundant prayers are desperately needed in our generation.
Jesus teaches us to be mindful of the way we pray to God. God is our Father whom we communicate with in prayer. Therefore, prayers are directed to him and not to men. There is a strong caution given in this scripture not to showcase our prayers. I wondered how the Jews of Jesus' day prayed. The scripture says some of these hypocrites stood in the synagogues and in street corners that they could be seen by men. One would call these "intentional prayers or showcasing prayers." These people prayed loud to be seen by men. There is a strong warning from Jesus concerning such kind of prayers. Show cased prayers are vain prayers and aimless in nature. Saints of God, vain glory is destructive and deceiving.
Jesus highlights the importance of a deep spiritual prayer which connects us to our heavenly Father. A deep spiritual prayer is distinct from vain glory prayer in that:
1. It comes from the heart of the believer and directed special to God. Its deeply rooted in one's divine relationship with God. This reminds me about the two men who went to pray at the altar. One was a Pharisee and the other one a tax collector. The Pharisee boasted about his tithing and how righteous he was. He even said he was not like the tax collector who did not tithe, prayed, and fasted. Jesus categorized the Pharisee prayer as "showcasing prayer.” But the tax collector just confessed his sins and was forgiven by God. (Luke 18:9-13)
We are never righteous before God. We just have to admit our sinful nature in prayer. Hence, we have to stop practicing vain glory prayers and seek God from the bottom of our hearts when we pray.
2. Enter into thy closet and pray. That is a secret place where we vent out all our problems, sins, desires, weakness, self-deceptions and secrets from our hearts. Who does not have secrets embedded within the heart? We all do, and the closet is a meeting point for humanity and God. Closet is a sacred place where we hide under God's mighty wings and communion with him. Remember, God keeps all your secrets and values confidential more than men. Therefore, enter your closet and talk to God. I like it when Jesus teaches us to shut the door. Shutting the door means leaving behind all distractions of the world around us. Deep connections happen in pray and it is important to shut the doors of distractions.
--Rev. Ever Mudamkanuki
United Church of Bennington and Soloman Yoked Parish
Prayer for Reflection
O God teach me to pray from the heart and not to show off when praying. Holy Spirit please intervene when I shut the door and enter the sacred place in prayer. Amen
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