Thursday, November 15, 2012

Jesus said we should not pray to be "seen by others". Does this mean it is a sin to pray in restaurants before you eat?

The passage that the questionnaire referenced is (Matthew 6:5-6). In this passage Jesus taught:
  • “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may 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, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you".
This particular passage is an example given by Jesus to show the sin of hypocrisy. A few verses before in (Matthew 6:1) Jesus said “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven".
  • Some of the religious leaders among the Jews in the first century would pray for the purpose of being seen by others. 
  • They didn't really care about praying to God, they just wanted people to notice them and think they were holy. They looked good on the outside, but were sinful on the inside. 
  • Jesus would later go on to say to people like this "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness" (Matthew 23:27).
Answer:
  • There is nothing wrong with praying in public places as long as your intent is to talk to God and not to show off how religious you are. I will often pray before eating in a public place. When I do pray in public (like with a friend at a restaurant), I do not do it in a loud or disruptive way.  
  • This principle would apply when praying in many different places (such as leading a prayer in church or at a Bible study). If a person is praying in a way that that takes the attention away from God and puts it on themselves, they are sinning.
  • If one is praying in public and they happen to be heard (unintentionally), they have done nothing to be ashamed of.


by Cliff Sabroe