Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

Conspicuous Prayer

Matt 6:5-6 is the second example of the principle of “no footprints” found in 6:1. It concerns prayer and its central idea is simple and profound: let not our prayer lives be “conspicuous prayer.” We all know what “conspicuous consumerism” is: wear Nikes, wear Uggs, wear Tiger Wood golf hats … wear things that get you some notice. Prayer, Jesus says, is not to be like this.
Instead, Jesus says, prayer is to be a private thing: hide, seek shelter, seek anonymity, enter into some secluded part of your home so no one knows what you are doing. Of course, this is all exaggeration to make the singular point that needs to be made: hypocrites find themselves conveniently in public places at the hours of prayer (Jesus is talking about the afternoon prayer time, roughly 3 PM when the afternoon sacrifice was offered) and, “while we are here, we might as well pray.” In so doing, they seek congratulations as conspicuous pray-ers.
Sometimes we have to pray in public; Jesus taught his followers a public prayer (it follows in 6:7-15). So, Jesus is not prohibiting public prayer but warning about praying in public in order to be seen.
It’s a matter of the heart, but seeking privacy is a good way to train the heart to beat for God.

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Ted Gossard

posted January 12, 2006 at 9:12 am

So true. The way I can (and have) violated this is being concerned how my prayer sounds in public. Instead of simply leading us in prayer, as we have the responsibility to do at times.
Yes, we want such prayers to be a ministry to help us all to pray to God then, etc. But often the best prayers and most eloquent are those that may stammer, but come from a broken and humble, at least, heart, as we are truly seeking God.

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posted January 12, 2006 at 10:14 am

As a former youth pastor this is what bugged me about the See You At The Pole event. It became a very comercialized and public prayer event. Most times very little prayer was done, it was more of refreshements, bands, skits…ect. I’m sure it began as a humble desire to pray but it became much of what this passage seems to warn against.

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Jamie Arpin-Ricci

posted January 12, 2006 at 10:41 am

This is excellent, in that it confronts how deeply our personal and communal faith has been informed by consumerism. We end up measuring our success in prayer by how many nods or “Mmm-hmm”‘s our inspire. Great post.
P.S. However, being married to an Aussie means that wearing Uggs is as normal as wearing socks. Aussies find the trend here… humourous.

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posted January 12, 2006 at 11:16 am

To pray without ceasing requires anonymity. Both night and day, our faces need only reflect the radiance of the Father. In as much as He is seen, His love radiants, and His glory is evident, we are safe to pray like maniacs, hid behind His grace. When constant prayer of the heart ceases, it is then we appear to be standing in the middle of the room for all to see.
Pray without ceasing… a command, an exercise, a discipline in anonymity. Anonymity that makes a spectacle of God’s presence.

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posted January 13, 2006 at 12:17 am

As an Aussie I can concur with what Jamie says. I just seems weird to see Ugg boots listed in the category of conspicuous consumerism along with wearing Nike. Here they are very casual everyday attire, in fact they have often been associated more with a lower socio-economic class of people here. Very strange indeed.

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Scot McKnight

posted January 13, 2006 at 8:16 am

Jamie and Baggas,
They are not cheap here.

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