Praying in Secret Facts for 9-13 Year Olds

Categories: Power of Prayer, Sermon on the Mount

  • Chapter 6 deals with the problems of “pretend” righteousness. Righteousness is doing the right and moral thing, acting in a way that follows God’s law. But there are attitudes about righteousness that can be very dangerous for one’s spiritual health.
  • Jesus gives three examples that have to do with “prayer, charity, and fasting.”
  • These are the three major tenets of Judaism. Jesus first discusses prayer, which involves our relation to God.
  • Jesus says, “But 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.”
  • The word for hypocrite is a transliteration of the Greek. That means the Greek letters are simply replaced by English ones.
  • In Greek, hypocrite is the ordinary word for an actor in the theater. The actor plays the part assigned to him and wins applause for his performance.
  • It is the hope for applause that is stigmatized here.
  • In the first century when Jesus lived, the Rabbinic rule would not allow people to pray loudly in public, where lots of people were.
  • So they prayed silently in public, three times a day.
  • Now if a Jew wanted to show off or build up a reputation for piety (that’s being devoted to worshipping God or religious), he could just plan to be in a public place when it was time to pray.
  • He would choose the place where he would be seen, like the marketplace.
  • According to Jesus, “they have received their reward in full.” All they get is others noticing them praying.
  • True prayer isn’t used to get attention or to impress others; it’s to be with God.
  • If we are totally honest, prayer is vertical—straight up to God.
  • Jesus says, “When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.”
  • People are told to go into their room, into their closet.
  • Many people think this refers to spiritualizing our thoughts, making them more pure with God.
  • Shutting the door stands for shutting out material or worldly noise and opening our thought to the all-ness of God.
  • It is allowing God to transform (change) our thoughts spirit-ward.
  • But closet also had another meaning in those times. In Greek, it means the supply room.
  • It is the only room that has a lock on it.
  • The rest of the house is pretty much open, but the place where people have their tools and their food can be secured (locked up safe).
  • The supply room is probably the least sacred room in the house. (Sacred means something is set apart as holy, for the worship of a deity.)
  • Think about this versus the innermost part of the Temple, called the Holy of Holies.
  • The Holy of Holies is such a holy and sacred place that the High priest can enter it only one day every year.
  • Jesus is picking the most unsacred, common room of the house, and he’s saying, “Go in there and pray.” Be that secret.
  • Prayer is not just for the big temple ceremony; true prayer is quiet conversation with God, and God alone.
  • This can happen anywhere, and all the time.
  • Again, “Then your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”
  • Jesus continues, “When you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.”
  • The pagans (who do not believe in God) believe the gods want you to work hard for their attention.
  • The pagans say the way to prove how sincere (honest, genuine) you are to the gods is by chattering, babbling, all the time. That’s a lot of busy work.
  • But in other places in the Bible, we are told to pray “without ceasing” (all the time). We also know that Jesus sometimes spent the whole night in prayer.
  • So, what does Jesus mean for us to do?
  • He is saying, first of all, that we don’t have to pray long prayers. Prayer is not a burden.
  • And when we realize that we don’t have to, we’ll probably want to.
  • If we feel that we have to pray a certain length of time or put the right words in the right order, praying becomes quite mechanical (going through the motions without meaning).
  • On the other hand, if we’ve really got something to say, we can take as long as we want to say it.
  • God listens—no matter how long or short. We just need to be honest. Our prayers need to be from the heart.
  • Jesus says, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”
  • The purpose of prayer is not to give God information or explain what’s going on. God already knows.
  • Prayer is more of a conversation. And we must be willing to listen.
  • In our prayers, we can affirm that God already knows all, and it’s all “good.” And this can be the very basis for our prayer.
  • It’s our thinking that needs to change. And we’ll hear what we need to do when we listen.
  • And it’s easiest to talk with those people who know us best. God knows us best.
  • So … we go into our closet, an every-day supply room, where we can be quiet and have a prayer conversation with God where we listen to the One who knows us best.