“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
Our passage above is the second of three open rewards for things done secretly as an act of sincere devotion to God the Father. The first is giving and the third is fasting.
The proper motive behind all three stand in stark contrast to the self-serving arrogance of many leaders at that time. “To be seen” by others thus drawing attention to “how righteous” they were fed their pious egos. Needless to say, humility and sincerity were in short supply.
The Showy Pride of Holiness
“The publican will find that his danger is not from the Pharisee beside him, who despises him, but the Pharisee within who commends and exalts.” – Andrew Murray**
The Pharisees works of righteousness were not motivated by any desire to please God. What they were really after was the honor and high esteem of others. They valued their own reputation for piety more than the glory of God. The very act of their showy pretentiousness and the accolades that followed was their reward. Jesus said as much in 6:2, 6:5, and 6:16,
Prayer is the heart and soul of all we do. It’s been said that “prayer is to the believer what breathing is to the lungs.” Fake breathing will not sustain real life for long. Without genuine heartfelt communication with God the Christian life soon dies to the purposes of heaven. Ulterior motives in the act of praying becomes just that – an act.
Jesus made it quite clear in John 15:4-5 , when he pointed to maintaining an “intimate sincerity” in his presence as the only means of being rewarded openly (bear much fruit).
Humility Before Honor
“Before a downfall the heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor” (Proverbs 18:12). Make no mistake about it, the wisdom and power behind our fruitfulness will be found in our heartfelt desire to please God in our time alone with Him. History is replete with the accounts of men and women who accomplished great things for God. The source of their effectiveness is found in the high priority they placed on being alone with God for His Glory, and not their own.
The fruit of their secret motive of wanting people to be drawn to Christ, became apparent when God gave them the desires of their heart. This truth works both ways.
All our efforts are of no eternal value without this vital communication with heaven being driven by the proper motives. We read in the New Testament record that believers were inspired and guided in prayer…God only gives that kind of grace to the humble. It was in their sincere and honest praying that God shaped their values, sharpened their gifts and talents, developed their character, and poured out His blessings publicly.
Their vision, their planning, their success in planting Churches and advancing the kingdom; were birth from their desire to have God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
The powerful men and women of God throughout history were no different than you and I. They simply desired God to have His way when they spent time alone with Him; asking questions and receiving answers, pouring out their hearts and receiving wisdom to carry out His plans. The effectiveness of what transpired in secret, was plainly seen by all… their fruitfulness was God rewarding them openly.
So, follow Jesus into your prayer room, shut the door behind you, pour out your heart to God, desire His will to be done in His way. What transpires between you and God in private, will cause God to reward you openly. Be humble, Be captivated by His love for you, enjoy His Presence, and Be Encouraged! -JSP
* Image from http://howard-carter.blogspot.com/
** Humility by Andrew Murray (Whitaker House 1982) 52