Few things have shaped my spiritual life like being a parent. I think this is one of the many reasons Jesus refers to God as Abba (father), to create a sense of relationship that we can grasp. It's not always easy believing in, living for & talking to an unseen God.
Sometimes the relationship (when I'm focused on myself or my feelings) can seem very one sided.
As a person who people look to for spiritual guidance/leadership, it's also easy to fall into role playing. Being the person they want you to be or faking that you are connected with God more then you might currently be. Spiritual leaders, after all, are just normal people who also experience abundance and drought in their relationship with God.
In Matthew chapter 6, Jesus changes the focus of the message from contrasting what the people have been taught (by their spiritual leaders) to what their spiritual leaders practice.
Yesterday we talked about the heart and how it can be corrupted. In verses 1-4 Jesus gives us examples of that corruption, starting off by talking about these leaders acts of generosity, and how they are doing charitable works more for the people watching instead of for the person they are helping (or as an act of love/obedience towards God).
Jesus then moves on to their personal prayer life. Here Jesus says in verses 5-9,
“And when you come before God, don’t turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat? Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace. The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply." (MSG)
Going back to my earlier point of being a parent, I treasure and value the intimate times that I have with my children. When they are being real and our relationship is honest. While I haven't experienced this with my own children, I do remember the influence that my friends and peers had over my actions. It's very tempting in these moments to be someone you are not because we want the approval/respect of the people around us.
I have also fallen into the trap of "prewriting" my prayers when I am public speaking so I sound more spiritual and for the approval of those listening.
There isn't much to say about Jesus' words here on prayer. When you are alone, one on one with Abba (God), away from the temptation to preform, it's not easy to role play. It's not easy to do anything other than being transparent and real. Here we can share our fears, hopes, desires, plans, thoughts, etc.
This is right where God desires us to be when we come to Him, like a child who crawls into their parent's lap.
Spiritual Action Steps:
-Read Matthew chapter 6 and ask God to use the words Jesus says to speak directly to you about your relationship with Him.
-Reflect on what you read. What stands out to you? What caught your attention? Reread those verses.
-Spend sometime today away from others and alone with God.