Focal passage: Matthew 6:5-18
In my household the Christmas season is a joy for many reasons, one of which is our daughter’s annual Nutcracker ballet recital.
Last year Eden, wearing her prized tutu, played the part of a butterfly in the classic Christmas ballet.
I, along with all the other dads, acted like it was all cute and fun, as I fought to hide the golf-ball sized lump in my throat.
Then at the end of the show we all erupted with applause because we were so proud of all the work the little ones had put in for this performance.
When I saw Eden after the show I gave her flowers and told her how proud I was of her performance. I told her she made a beautiful butterfly and that her act was spot-on.
I affirmed her because the whole point of the recital was to communicate a story through acting and performing for the audience.
This type of acting is not deceptive acting, but artistic acting. And as an audience we showed our appreciation by giving approval through applause. When it comes to ballet, movies or screenplays, acting is an artistic expression.
However, in contrast, when it comes to approaching God in prayer, Jesus warns us against acting and performing. Though a real temptation, the goal of praying is not the applause of an audience or even of God.
Instead Jesus calls us to pray in honest, humble dependence on Him. Therefore we must be careful when praying in public that we are not praying with our hearts focused on what others think of our prayers. We must not pray to impress others (Matthew 6:5-6).
We also are not praying to impress God (Matthew 6:7-8). Therefore, we do not need pray in King James English as if He’s going to give applause for the type or amount of words we use.
Instead, we speak honestly and humbly to God our Father who loves us and knows what we need even before we ask (6:8). We go to Him not to impress Him, but because our hearts need to be with Him.