East Side Church
(Baptist - Disciples of Christ)
201 Spruce Ave.
Sharon, PA 16146
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February 1, 2015
Matthew 6:5-8

Intro : I'm encouraging our church to focus on prayer over this next year. For that reason, I wanted to preach a few sermons addressing different aspects of prayer. Today, we're going to discuss how hypocrisy prevents true prayer, and how to cure it!

Context: Sermon on Mount; Jesus is teaching what His followers look and live like. In Matthew 6:1-18, Jesus teaches how His followers should carry out their formal, public acts of worship; vs. 1 provides the overarching theme! (Read Matthew 6:1.) Jesus' point? It's not enough to just do the right things. You have to do the right things for the right reasons. Your motives matter! This is especially true in regards to how we pray!

The Danger of Praying in Public! (Read Matthew 6:5.) Jesus warns us that sinful motives can corrupt our prayer! Jesus is not teaching that praying in public in itself is sinful. We're hosting a community prayer event Tuesday night; we'll be praying in public. The worship leaders, the elders and I pray in public every week. I would argue that one of our church's great weaknesses is we aren't committed enough to public, group prayer. Jesus is not teaching that praying in public is sinful in and of itself. Rather, we must evaluate our motives for praying in public! Don't pray for the recognition, approval of other people. Subtle temptation! "Synagogues/ street corners." (So others may see us and think, "How spiritual!") According to Jesus, people who pray for the approval of other humans are hypocrites! They pretend to be talking to God, but they're hoping that humans are listening! Are you praying or play-acting? Who is your audience?

The Danger of Praying in Private! (Read Matthew 6:6-7.) We nod, "What a bunch of hypocrites!" But Jesus gets even more meddlesome. Assuming you've followed His instructions in verses 5-6, now in verses 7, Jesus warns us against the danger of praying in private! "Babbling!" 1) Repetitive? Trying to impress God with sheer number of times, or trying to earn God's favor. 2) Magical/Incantation? Imagine God will listen if we pray with a particular style of speech, or use same phrases. These reflect a sinful attitude toward prayer; you are still performing, thinking you'll get God's attention. May be in private, but you're not praying, you are still play-acting. But who is your audience ?

Answer that question with two quotes: 1) Lloyd-Jones: "In prayer to God...I have to shut out and forget people. Yes; and having done that, I shut out and forget myself...There is no value in my entering into the secret chamber and locking the door if the whole time I am full of self and thinking about myself, and am priding myself on my prayers. I might as well be standing at the street corner. No; I have to exclude myself as well as other people; my heart has to be open entirely and only to God...Therefore other people, and self also, must be excluded and locked out."

2) Lewis, (Screwtape:) "Whenever they are attending to the Enemy Himself, we are defeated, but there are ways of preventing them from doing so. The simplest is to turn their gaze away from Him towards themselves. Keep them watching their own minds and trying to produce feelings there by the action of their own wills...When they meant to pray for courage, let them really be trying to feel brave. When they say they are praying for forgiveness, let them be trying to feel forgiven."

The Dilemma! Do you see the subtle danger? You can shut yourself up in your room and pray, but you're still play-acting. Who is your audience? You are! Performing for yourself! Focus isn't on God at all! Whether you pray in public, or in private, there is a danger of play-acting instead of praying. How can we be cured of this disease of hypocritical prayer?

Application: The Delight! To cure the disease of hypocritical prayer, the question you must always ask before you begin to pray is, "Who is my audience?" Linger over that question; let it arrest you, humble you. Remind yourself who you are talking to! Jesus reminds us! (Read Matthew 6:6,8.) The Almighty God is condescending to meet with you! Jesus teaches us to approach God like a child approaches their father. God knows you. He cares about you. He has promised to draw near to anyone who dares to draw near to Him. Prayer means you can talk to God! No need to impress, no play-acting, just enjoying time with your Heavenly Father! May God raise up people here at East Side who seek His face in prayer above anything, everything else, especially human approval!

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© East Side Church, 2013