Prayer – Not for Show

“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 men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 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.”
Matthew 6:5-6 (NIV)

It has shocked some people when they have known me for a while and learn that I do not attend a church. I suppose the fact that I wear a cross necklace almost every day and love to talk about Jesus gives people the perception that I am a good little church lady. I once was a church-goer – mostly by force since my dad was a minister. That part of me vanished as soon as I was living on my own. As Jesus refers to the “hypocrites” in the verse above, I referred to church people. I believed the church was just a big show – a play that the minister, choir, and congregants were putting on each Sunday and expecting it would get them into Heaven. I didn’t want any part of that.

The difference between Jesus and me is that He wasn’t referring to EVERYONE who prayed in synagogues and on the street corners as hypocrites. He was only referring to those who were actually hypocrites (and when He said it, those who were hypocrites knew He was talking to them). For me, because I believed my father to be a hypocrite – and because he was the leader of the church – I just labeled everyone else in the church as a hypocrite.

While I still do not attend a church today, I no longer sit in that sort of judgment of anyone else who does. In fact, I have several good friends who are studying to become ordained ministers and serve in a church. I am excited for them and for the people they will serve because I know the goodness in their hearts. I do not believe any of them to be a hypocrite. This is not to say that there aren’t hypocrites in the church, because there are – just like there are hypocrites everywhere else in the world. I think being a hypocrite is part of being human. Face it, we have all been the hypocrite that Jesus refers to at one time or another in our lives. And, when we live in that darkness, the reward we receive is a worldly one that does not last.

So what is one to do when the realization that what he/she has been doing and saying in life has all been for show? When talking the talk doesn’t match walking the walk, how does one change? “…go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.” In other words, retreat from the world, go to a quiet place, and talk to God. Ask for help. Cry. Praise. Yell. Be still. Be silent. Listen. I truly believe that all God really wants from us is relationship. He wants to know us and He wants us to know Him. As I write these words, it seems so simplistic that I wonder how it could have taken me so long to get it.

A few months after I began my recovery from addiction, it was suggested to me to start each day in prayer. Since I had a really bad relationship with God at that time, I did not want to do this. I shared the truth about myself, which was that to pray would be hypocritical because I didn’t believe God would help me. Those who were suggesting prayer simply smiled and told me to try it anyway. They told me that God knew the lies from the truth and He would guide me toward the truth if I was willing to try. They told me that if traditional prayer made me feel uncomfortable, I could start by writing letters to God to tell Him how I really felt. They suggested that I just talk to Him informally. They assured me that there was no right or wrong way to pray. They assured me that God wanted to hear from me, no matter what I had to say.

Out of pure desperation to feel better, I decided to follow their suggestion. I love to write, so I started writing letters to God. Over time, I noticed myself talking to Him throughout the day. And, guess what – it worked! Not overnight. Not within a certain set time period. Definitely not on my timetable. But, eventually, my morning prayer became a genuine request from me to God, to carry out His will in my life each day. Eventually, my morning prayer became a time I looked forward to, rather than dreaded.

These days, before I leave my house each day, I spend significant quiet time with God. In fact, I have created a room in our home that I refer to as my “Quiet Room” where I go to pray, to study God’s word, and to meditate. This is my favorite place in our home and my favorite time of every day. I absolutely love feeling His presence in my heart and offering my life to Him. I love listening to the coos of the mourning doves outside my window and knowing He has them singing just for me. I love breathing in the truth of His word as I read the Bible and other written works by so many of His disciples. This is what is comfortable for me. This is when I feel God closest to me.  This is my reward.

There are many people who choose to praise God in a church setting, or sing to Him at choir concerts. There are people who feel closest to God when they are praying out loud with others in group settings. There are some who are called to lead worship services and carry out the sacraments of the church. And there are some people like me, who feel more comfortable talking to God in private. None of these people are hypocrites or not hypocrites because of how or when they pray. Those who are hypocrites are such because of what lies within their hearts. Rest assured, as those hypocrites who knew Jesus was speaking to them when he first uttered the words in the verse above, today’s hypocrites know He is talking to them, also.


  1. Love this so much. Having a personal relationship with God outside of organized religion is a beautiful thing. And the fact that we can do BOTH if we choose is even more amazing to me! LOVE THIS!!!


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