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.” (Matthew 6:5–6 ESV)
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus transitioned from His instructions on righteous works to righteous prayer. Today’s text provides general instructions pertaining to prayer. It contains not only how believers in Christ are to pray, but also how they are not to pray. However, there is never a question that Jesus’ disciples are to pray.
To begin with, Jesus warned against prayer hypocrisy. As with good works, prayer is not about being seen and heard by others for the purpose of impressing people. Such prayers are done by those who desire to be seen. This type of praying is displayed by the tax collector (Luke 18:9-12). As with good works done in this manner, there is no eternal reward from God for such praying.
“Jesus then spoke about the practice of prayer, which the Pharisees loved to perform publicly. Rather than making prayer a matter between an individual and God, the Pharisees had turned it into an act to be seen by men—again, to demonstrate their supposed righteousness. Their prayers were directed not to God but to other men, and consisted of long, repetitive phrases (Matt. 6:7; Luke 11:1-4),” explains Dr. John Walvoord.
Jesus then instructed His disciples how to pray. As with good works, Jesus did not speculate as to “if” believers in Christ pray, but rather “when” they pray.
Righteous prayer is done in secret. Righteous prayer is done by oneself in a room with the door closed. The word room (ταμεῖον; tameion) refers to a storeroom or an inner room. This is a room with no windows. With a closed door, it is a room filled with darkness illuminated only by the light of prayer to the Father of lights (James 1:17; I John 1:5).
Jesus commanded His disciples to personally pray this way. Secret prayer is offered to God the Father who is in secret. Such hidden prayer God privately rewards.
“Jesus says we must not pray “to be seen by men,” but He does no forbid public prayer. Daniel, Ezra and others prayed publically. Jesus let His disciples see Him pray. The apostles and first Christians often gathered to pray together (Acts 2:42-46). They heard each other pray for boldness in their testimony and for success in their mission (Acts 4:23-31; 13:1-3; 14:23; 20:36). When disciples pray, they simply do not care if anyone sees it or not,” explains commentator Daniel M. Doriani.
Hypocritical prayers want to be seen. Jesus said, “Do not be like the hypocrites.” Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Soli deo Gloria!