In Matthew 6:1-4 Jesus taught us how not to practice our righteousness, mainly in terms of our giving to the poor. Then in verses 5-8, He tells us how not to practice our prayers. He said,
“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. 6 “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.
7 “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. 8 “So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.
From this passage we may identify two sins while going to prayer, or even in prayer. The first is that we may pray to be known and seen by others. We can call this sin…
1. Putting the Focus on Self When We Pray
So, first of all, when you hypocrites pray you are anxious to be known by others as being a great prayer warrior, or a holy man of prayer. Perhaps in your prayer group you get pleasure knowing that people think of you as a person of prayer. And so, thinking that they may regard you that way, you do everything possible to support their thoughts. Thus, you are quick to be the first to pray, and you will pray extra loud so that they can hear you.
But not only is the prayer-hypocrite anxious to be known by others as a person of prayer, he also wants to be seen as a man or woman of prayer. So, you may position yourself to be seen praying. Do you have a prayer room in your church? Do you enjoy having people see you go into the prayer room?
Prayer should not be that way. Prayer, Jesus said, is to God only. It is not for the eyes and ears of others. We should work on not being conscience of each other’s praying—that is, how they pray. Rather, when we pray, we should be carried on the wings of prayer so that we are always thinking on God.
The second sin we often commit in prayer is…
2. Thinking Too Much on The Form and Length of Time We Pray
We think that we will be heard for our beautiful words of prayer. You may think of this as “vain repetitions.” Perhaps you have heard of the terms “counting beads,” or “prayer wheels,” or “walking a labyrinth.” And many take great pride in repeating prayers over and over, thinking that this impresses God or others, or even yourself.
In all of what is said here, it is all the sin of self and pride—even in prayer. It is the sin of self-worship and self-adulation. When we try to worship God in our pride, we are actually worshipping self. Now we know that the best picture of man is to look at him on his knees waiting upon God. But even in that picture man sins if he thinks about himself as performing a holy act before God. Hence, sin is something that follows us into the presence of God.
So, when you pray try to shut out and forget yourself or what other are thinking about you. Instead realize that you are in the presence of God and that He is listening to you and wants to meet your needs. Realize that He knows all your needs already and He desires to give you what you ask for.