"Tychicus will tell you everything." Ephesians 6:21

January 28th, 2014 by Dennis Fuqua

Hypocrites and Pagans

I love the fact that Jesus tells us how to pray and He tells us how not to pray.  He knows more about prayer than we do and we are wise to listen to His specific instructions and follow them.  Before Jesus tells us how to pray in Matthew 6 He first tells us two ways He does not want us to pray.  Jesus does not want us to pray like hypocrites (Matt 6:5) and He doesn’t want us to pray like pagans (Matt 6:7). 

Hypocrites and pagans.  Those sound like two pretty nasty words!  But let’s not miss the specific instruction of Jesus here.  Jesus is saying much more than “Don’t pray like bad people.”

You probably know that the word “hypocrite” is normally seen as a derogatory word.  But it simply means “actor.”  Actors aren’t bad in and of themselves.  There is a place for acting.  But that place is not when we are praying.

The word translated “pagan” or “heathen” or “Gentile” basically means one who is “not from these parts.”  That is they don’t know what we know.  And specifically they don’t know the one true God.

The first warning has to do with how we see ourselves – that we think we are more important than we actually are.  The second has to do with how we see God – that we think He is less important than He actually is.

We should not see ourselves as being more important than we actually are.  We should not pray in a certain manner because we want people to know how good of a “pray-er” we actually are.  That is an inadequate reason for praying.  If we pray to be heard or seen by those around us, it is like Jesus says, “Go ahead…  I hope it goes well for you.  If that is why you are praying… you have already received everything this prayer is going to accomplish.”

Likewise, when we pray, we should not see God as being less than He actually is!  We should not think we are praying to an inadequate God!   We shouldn’t pray as if God requires a certain formula, needs our help to know what He should do, or needs us to convince Him that our ideas really are the best ideas.  This is how those who do not know God pray.  Those who know the One, True, God get to pray differently.

We get to pray, not to an audience, but to our Father!  We don’t have to pray for the ears and approval of others.  We get to pray for the approval of the One whose approval really matters!

We don’t have to pray to a God who needs us to inform Him, convince Him, or help Him.  We get to pray to a God who already knows what we need (See Matt 6:8) and is already both able and willing to meet our needs (See Matt 6:30) and much more!  (See Rom 8:32)

So, when we pray, if we shouldn’t try to impress other people, are not trying to inform God or convince God, then what’s left?  Why should we pray?

Very simply, to align ourselves with God’s good purposes.   To line up our heart, our spirit, our thinking, our desires, our words, our motives, our attitudes, our actions – our everything (!) with what He wants to do in us and through us.  I suggest, this is what the Scripture means when it calls us to pray according to God’s will.

When we do this, there is no need to pray like the hypocrites or the pagans.

Thank you, Tychicus

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