And 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 others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
I used to be a part of a farce. When I was new to the world of social media, I would post messages to people; making personal compliments, or recounting some shared memory or inside joke. There was a problem with this, though. I made those posts on a public forum, so any passerby could read them. That in itself wasn’t bad; what was bad was that I knew I was doing it, and that I was doing it in part because it drew more attention to my supposed wit and virtues. I could have sent more private messages, but I sometimes allowed my desire for publicity to override intimacy in my friendships. When I read Jesus’ critique of “religious” prayer in Matthew 6:5-6, I realize how easily I do the same thing with God.
Humility in a relationship is naturally disinclined to draw attention. It finds its delight in intimacy, in honest recognition of the aches and delights found in every relationship this side of heaven. Profoundly, humility also fosters thankfulness; because humility is the opposite of entitlement, it causes us to see things and relationships as gifts rather than earnings.
That’s why Jesus urged us to pray in humility, to avoid the entrapments of pride that had beset the hypocritical religious leaders of the day. Prayer without humility is ritualistic superstition; it’s merit-based religion, believing that God will hear because you’ve done enough good.
Pride is a cloud that obscures the gifts of God and leads us to forget the “little” things he is constantly giving us. With pride, we make God our debtor. In humility, he is our great Benefactor, and nothing is too small to be a gift from him.
on the theme of “Prayerful Reflection”
– “We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts.”