Praying Through the Bible #120
TEXT: Matthew 6:1-8
So far in this series, we have looked at four principles that Jesus taught regarding prayer:
1. Prayer should be a regular, everyday activity.
2. Prayer ought not to be done for the purpose of being seen by others.
3. Those who pray in a hypocritical manner — that is to be seen by men — will get their reward: they will be heard by men, and receive their praise from men, but they will not have their prayers answered by God.
4. Prayer ought to be carried out faithfully in private before God alone.
Today, we are going to look at the “why” behind that last principle. Why ought we to be committed to praying in secret with the intent of being seen and heard by God alone? Jesus Christ tells us why in the latter part of verse 6: “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.”
Now, it seems quite obvious to say that God sees what we are doing in secret. Of course He does. The point for us is: do we really believe that God sees us in secret, and that He is listening to our prayers offered in secret? Secret prayer is a matter of faith. If we are to be consistent and faithful in prayer, we must really believe that God sees us and hears us while we pray.
Another thing we must remember is that we are praying to God who is invisible. Jesus points this out by saying that the Father not only sees us in secret, but that He is “in secret” as well. The Pulpit Commentary states, “The thought here may be partly that to be unseen of men is a help to communion with Him who is also unseen by them, but especially that the manner of our actions ought to resemble that of our Father’s, who is himself unseen and works unseen.”
Many of us become concerned with who sees us carrying out our Christian service — be it praying, preaching, or ministering in some other way. But, we forget that God Himself does not always allow us to see Him or to know what He is doing. If you have been saved long enough, you have probably had an experience when you were worried or concerned about something, and after a while everything was resolved, and you realized that God had been working behind the scenes and working out your situation even when you could not see or sense that He was doing so. In a way, He was doing as Jesus describes in this verse — He is our Father in secret acting in secret on your behalf.
So, when you go into your secret place to pray — when you go into your closet, or your private place — don’t allow yourself to become discouraged by what may seem like the absence of God. Have faith that He is there with you in your private place of prayer.
Now, look at the reward of secret prayer. Christ says that our Father who sees us in secret will reward us openly. Many people strive for recognition, applause, and rewards from others, and they completely miss out on the rewards that come from God. You see people reward us for what they can see us do. But, God rewards us for what people cannot see us do. God rewards us for having the right heart and spirit toward Him and others. God rewards us for being faithful in private, secret prayer to Him.
Not only does God reward us, but He rewards us openly. He rewards us in such a way that others will see and will not be able to deny His blessings in our lives.
Mike Yaconelli shared this story in his book, Dangerous Wonder: The Adventure of Childlike Faith: He said, ‘Those of us who had anything to do with the Billy Graham Crusades know how well organized everything was. In fact, if you were involved in any way, shape, or form, you know that practically every detail is planned. You might even be tempted to think that the well organized effort is what brings people to Christ. But, while that is necessary, it is not the secret of Billy Graham’s incredible success. This story took place during the last Billy Graham crusade in Sacramento, California. The night before the crusade was to begin the crusade choir rehearsal went late. One of the musicians in the choir was a pastor by the name of Ray Johnston. He was driving through downtown when he noticed a homeless man slumped over on the steps of the state capital building. It was cold outside, almost midnight and, at that time of night, definitely not the safest place to be. He decided he couldn’t ignore the plight of this poor homeless man. He was nervous as he approached him, not really sure what he was going to do. The homeless man was crouching almost cocoon like on the steps and the choir member reached out and gently touched his shoulder and asked, “Sir, can I help you? Are you okay?” The man looked up and in that instant, the choir member realized who it was — it was Billy Graham himself praying for the city of Sacramento. It’s was not just the incredible preparation and work that brought thousands of people to Christ each time Billy Graham held a crusade, it’s the fact that Billy Graham depended on the Lord’s power through prayer.’
Billy Graham engaged in secret, private prayer, and God rewarded him by blessing his ministry in public. Everybody saw the blessing, everybody saw the reward, but not everybody saw the prayer.
Just like with anything else in life, what you do in private behind closed doors will eventually show its effects in public. Let’s not be as the hypocrites are and pray to be seen by men and then receive empty rewards from men. Let’s be faithful in private prayer to God so that God will bless us and use us for his glory!