“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward You.”
Prayer is intimacy with God. More often than not, we view prayer as attempts to change God, rather than prayer being about God changing us. In the Sermon on the Mount, right before Jesus teaches the disciples the Lord’s Prayer (Հայր մեր), he rebukes two types of selfish prayers. One is the prayer of the self-righteous Pharisee and the other of the self-absorbed pagan.
Jesus gave an example of a Pharisee, a religious leader who anticipated the time for daily prayer to show off his holiness. He sounded the bells and blew the trumpets to get people’s attention so that they can listen in on how articulate and great he is. Prayer is not a staged production with the goal of bringing attention to oneself.
The other type of prayer that needs to be avoided is the prayer of the babbling pagan. Pagan prayer is like being a spoiled child. It views God as some sort of cosmic genie. Sadly, this is a common understanding of prayer, which keeps prayer superficial and often leads to disappointment when wishes do not get granted.
Nobody likes listening to someone who is self-righteous and nobody likes listening to someone who only talks about themselves. Why should we talk to God in such an insulting manner?
Prayer is not about God worshiping us rather it is about us serving God. Prayer isn’t meant to impress others but helps us serve others. Prayer is ultimately communion with God that makes us more like Jesus Christ.
We need to pray when nobody’s looking and simply talk to our Heavenly Father, with the pure motive of wanting God’s will to be done and for His kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven.