And when you pray, you are not to be as the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners, in order to be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will repay you. (Matt 6:3-4)
When I read this, I wonder if all corporate prayer is sin. Are we just ignoring Jesus’ words when we gather and pray together?
I don’t believe this is the case, and I will share a couple things here that would indicate that some praying with others is recommended.
First, there are times when Jesus did pray in group settings. It was admittedly not often, and it was more often than not giving thanks.
One of these times that is at the raising of Lazarus
And Jesus raised His eyes, and said, “Father, I thank Thee that Thou heardest Me. And I knew that Thou hearest Me always; but because of the people standing around I said it, that they may believe that Thou didst send Me. (John 11:41-42 NASB)
It almost sounds like Jesus just did exactly what He said not to do in Matthew 6. He just told the Father that He was thanking Him publicly so others would hear.
Understand this, Jesus does not say one thing and do another. You must get this. There is no “because He was Jesus” excuse. He walked in all righteousness, so nothing He ever did would contradict something He had for us to walk in.
When something strikes you as “do as I say, not as I do” it is time to dig a bit deeper. Jesus, the God-man never gave us either instructions or example that we were not intended to follow. [Tweet This]
So what is up? You will notice that Jesus is not drawing attention to Himself in His prayer here. Rather, He is giving glory to the Father for the miracle He has seen the Father do. (Jesus said He only did what He saw the Father do)
As in the aftermath of the Mount of Transfiguration, where the boys could not cast the demon out of the boy, Jesus does it instantly, and then tells them this kind does not leave without prayer and fasting, the implication is that Jesus was prayed up.
The same is true here – Jesus is prayed up. We know that He knew Lazarus was dead, and had already received the plan from the Father. Here He is publicly giving thanks for what the Father had already accomplished, and all were about to see.
Next time we will look at exactly what Jesus was prohibiting in Matt 6, since clearly some public prayer is called for.