When we pray in front of others, making a show of our religiousness, we have already received our reward because others see us, and the respect that we gain by their seeing our religiosity is already fulfilled as soon as they see us.
When we pray to God in front of others, our consciousness is typically not on our relationship with Him, but on how we appear to others. Are we praying in the right way so as to earn their respect? Are we praying in such a way that allows us to fit in and be accepted by the group? If these questions are rolling around our mind, we might as well be playing football because our consciousness is upon ourselves rather than the Supreme Being.
Jesus also discusses here the ‘babbling’ of many words, as if God cannot understand our hearts.
The need for respect and admiration of others is self-centeredness. It is the quest that pushes most athletes to win contests. It is the consciousness of businessmen who want to earn more money and be the boss. This is the motivation for many politicians as they seek higher and higher public office. This is the intent kids have as they yell. The attention and admiration of others is the main focus of many of us, because we each are seeking love.
The irony of this is that praying to the Supreme Being should be a communication - an exchange of a relationship. What is that relationship?
For most, praying is a request: "Gimme this, gimme that. (fix my leg or make me rich or whatever) And don’t forget to get this or that for my brother or mother.” What kind of communication is this?
When we are praying, 'God do this for me,' and 'God do that for me' we are treating God as if He is our genie - as if he is our super-waiter - just waiting around to go fetch something for us.
This is not a relationship of love, or even of friendship. It is the relationship of usury. Such a relationship is conditional upon God getting me what I want when I want it.
And many will stop praying and reaching out to God when they don't get what they want from Him. When they feel He is not giving them enough, they stop. This is a conditional relationship. It is a business relationship.
Yet a true loving relationship with the Supreme Being is the only thing that will truly fulfill us. But this sort of relationship is not the same as usury. Such a relationship is symptomized by caring what God wants - and asking Him what we can do for Him rather than being focused on what He can do for us.
And for most of us in the physical world, because such a relationship with the Supreme Being is missing from our lives, we remain empty: Unfulfilled.
And when this relationship is missing, we seek to replace it with the temporary and unsatisfying attention from others. This is what Jesus is discussing as he talks about making a show of prayer.
Gaining the attention or respect from others is certainly available to those who want to act religious. We can cry and pray on the street corner so that others will see just how devoted we seem. But this attention will not fulfill us.
We can see this in the lives of so many famous people who have the attention and admiration of millions of adoring fans. These "stars" are still not satisfied. They still are empty. They have the attention, but they are empty to the point where many have committed suicide or overdosed on drugs, alcohol or both. And those who remain will try to evade the public in order to retain some privacy. Such is the attention of others - it is not fulfilling. It brings no happiness. We might think it will. But it doesn't.
Why do we still seek it then? It is a perversion of love. We all seek love. We can thus be easily tricked into thinking that the admiration of others is the same thing as love. Yet we know that most of these "admirers" are actually envious. The admirer of a famous person often is simply jealous of their position and accomplishments.
It is only a true loving relationship with the Supreme Being that can fulfills us. The admiration of others —though possibly providing a glimpse of the relationship we once had with God—simply does not fill our need for love and devotion.
We all want to serve and exchange love sincerely. This is part of our constitution.
Prayer is the means for us to re-establish our relationship with God. Through prayer we can reach out to the Supreme Being. We can say His Name, whether it be God, Jehovah, Eloi or Allah, and we can begin to re-establish the loving relationship that we once had with Him.
Should we sincerely ask to come to know the Supreme Being and learn to love Him - He will begin to guide us back to Him.
Everything we have, the Supreme Being has given us. He also knows our intentions and knows what we need and want before we even express it. Therefore it is futile to ask the Supreme Being for a list of things as if He were our order-supplier.
He is already taking care of our needs and wants automatically through the provisions of nature - according to a combination of our consciousness and the consequences of our prior actions.
Our prayers should be used to get closer to Him, to learn to love Him and to learn to serve Him and learn to please Him. These are the only requests that are pleasing to Him. The Supreme Being is pleased to answer these requests because He enjoys our love. He enjoys the exchange of loving relationships.
(For a translation of Jesus' statements from the Gospel of Matthew without institutional sectarian influence, see the Gospels of Jesus - translated from the original Greek texts.)