5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
The hypocrite wants other people to see that they are praying. They pray on the street corners or in the synagogues, which are not bad places to pray in themselves, but they have been chosen so that other people can see. We might think that praying is a beneficial act in and of itself, but prayer is only a big deal because of the One we are praying to. The hypocrite may be speaking words about God, and it may even sound as if his prayer is directed to God, but, in reality, he is praying to the audience of others and the focus of his prayer is himself.
Am I a hypocrite? Am I more likely to pray when others are present because I want to impress them? Or am I less likely to pray in front of others because I’m so concerned about what they will think? How does my private prayer life compare to my public prayer life? Do I pray just because I think I should? Is my focus on what is being prayed more than the person who is being prayed to?
If I am a hypocrite when it comes to prayer, I don’t need to just discipline myself to pray more as if God is someone else to impress with my prayers. My prayer does not make me acceptable before God, neither does the motivation behind my prayer, Jesus does. When I rest in that fact, prayer becomes less of a discipline and more like a child approaching a loving Father.