“But when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites ..." (Matthew 6:5-8)

“But 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. 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. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him." (Matthew 6:5-8)

Does Jesus want us to have a private relationship with God?

This is one of Jesus' most important statements regarding our relationship with the Supreme Being. This is because developing a treasured relationship with the Supreme Being is a personal matter between ourselves and God only.

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 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 cannot be focused on our relationship with Him. Why? Because we must be aware of how we appear to others. How does that happen?

Are we praying in the right way? Do we fold our hands or bow or kneel? Do we close our eyes?

These elements bring our focus away from God. The main concern is: 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 acting on a stage because our consciousness is focused on how we appear to others rather than on our relationship with the Supreme Being.

Jesus also discusses the ‘babbling’ of many words. This means making a show of prayer in order to impress others. 

Jesus' statement can thus also be applied to those who seek the approval of others by 'speaking in tongues.' Why does a person need to speak in tongues? Does God not understand English or whatever our native language is?

The quest for respect and admiration of others is ultimately self-centered. This is the same quest that pushes most athletes to win contests. It is the quest of businessmen who want to earn more money and be the boss. It is the quest for many politicians to seek higher and higher public office. 

The respect and admiration of others becomes a primary focus because we each need love. But in this case, love is being confused with fame and fortune.

We know this because fame and fortune do not satisfy the soul. Those with fame and fortune seek more. Their fame and fortune aren't enough for them. They need more because they are not satisfied.

Real satisfaction can be achieved through establishing a relationship with the Supreme Being. This is the purpose of prayer according to Jesus.

But what is prayer?

Is prayer for asking for stuff?

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.

Can we pray in public?

Jesus is advising against public prayer because it comes with the risk of one gaining the attention and admiration of others. But that doesn't mean we cannot pray in public.

Certainly, we find that some teachers may pray in public in order to lead their followers. Jesus made public prayers multiple times, for example.

The difference is whether the intent of the prayer is to win the approval of others, or a sincere attempt to connect with God. When done in public, the latter can be done with a minimalist approach - trying to avoid grandstanding.

Gaining attention and 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.

Again, we 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 truly loving relationship with the Supreme Being that can fulfill 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.

Why should we pray?

Prayer is a means to help us 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 Abba, 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 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 waiter or delivery person.

God 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.

As Jesus prayed just before his arrest our prayers should be used to ask God if we can get closer to Him, to learn to love Him, and to learn to please Him with our lives. These are requests that reciprocate love. The Supreme Being is pleased to answer these requests because He enjoys love. He enjoys the exchange of loving relationships, just as we do.