How Do Hypocrites Pray?

Christians should never pray in public, said the devil.

In the middle of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6:5-13, Jesus talks about prayer. The Do’s and the Don’ts. The why’s and the wherefores. It’s a good passage to keep handy because we often make prayer so complicated, we give up on it altogether.

Seen and Not Heard

For starters, do not pray like the hypocrites who love to be seen. These people make a show of their prayers and draw more attention to themselves than to God. This is the error of the hypocrites. Jesus’ warning to them is severe, “They have received their reward.”

It’s like that scene in Star Wars when Han Solo says, “I’m not in this for you, Princess. I expect to be well paid. I’m in it for the money.” Her reply, “You needn’t worry about your reward. If money is all that you love then that’s what you’ll receive.” It’s the same with praying in public. If you’re praying to be seen then being seen will be the only result of your prayer. Fortunately, Solo had a change of heart, otherwise, no sequel.

Just like the acts of righteousness (Matthew 6:1-4), what you do in secret God still sees and He will reward you. If your prayer is for you alone, or you are praying alone, do so in secret so that your sinful nature doesn’t get in the way. I don’t mean go into hiding, just don’t draw attention to yourself. God still sees you even if no one else does.

Avoid the Filler

Gentiles, the pagans of Jesus’ day, apparently loved to throw an abundance of words on the pile of their prayers. As if word count is what keeps God’s attention. Instead, Jesus says, keep it simple. You don’t need repetition, or to fill empty spaces with meaningless chatter. This adds nothing to the prayer.


Because God already knows what you need.

Wait a minute. Don’t add a lot of words because God already knows what you need before you even ask? Why pray at all then?

Pray This Way

Jesus says God already knows what you need before you even ask so pray this way.

Our Father in heaven

Let’s be clear on Who we are praying to and give Him the recognition He deserves. We are praying to God, our Father in heaven.

Hallowed be your name

God’s very name is holy. The lesson to be learned in this simple phrase; don’t throw “God” around like a common vulgarity.

Your kingdom come

God has promised to bring his Kingdom to us.

Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven

Regardless of our prayer God’s will, will be done. We pray it will be done so we will be on the right side of God’s will. Just as important, we are looking forward to His will being done, not ours.

Give us this day our daily bread

We look to God for our daily needs. God knows every sparrow, every hair of your head (Matthew 10:29-30). He knows what you need. Do not be greedy and do not be anxious. Instead, do what God has called you to do and look to Him for your needs.

and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors

God forgives us without condition, but if we hold back forgiveness to others, we are not understanding how much God has forgiven us. We are not living by His example and we should repent. By not forgiving others as God has forgiven you, you are asking God to forgive you in the same manner you forgive others. You don’t want it that way.

and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil

Just as before we are praying for what God has already promised. He will not lead us into temptation, so we pray He does not lead us into temptation. It also reminds us He is certainly the One who delivers us.

A Short Add-On

Ironically, we’ve already added words to the prayer Jesus taught, but they’re good words.

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

In your own personal prayers, talk to God and say what you need to say, ask what you need to ask, beg, complain, praise, scream, or just be silent in His presence. But in all this remember, it’s not your words getting God’s attention because you already have it.

And if you’re out in public and something, or someone, draws you to pray, don’t be afraid to do so. Just make sure God gets the glory and not you.





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