“The next day, as they went on their journey and drew near the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour.”—Acts 10:9 (NKJV)
Yesterday we looked at sanctimonious public prayer, which happens when our public prayers are more about highlighting our own holiness rather than pointing to the holiness of God. It is something Jesus warned us not to practice. Being sanctimonious, or spotlighting our spirituality, can take us down an ugly path to pride, a place God would not have us go.
On the other end of the spectrum is “secret prayer,” those words we lift up from the depths of our heart in private, like Peter did in today’s verse. This is something Jesus encouraged. For example, take a look at Matthew 6:6 (NKJV): “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”
Jesus is the perfect role model for us because He practiced what He preached. Many of His public prayers were brief: John 11:41-42; Matthew 11:25-26; Luke 3:21; Luke 22:32; His prayers in the Garden; and His prayers on the cross (just to name a few). Yet all the public prayers recorded in the Gospels show a heavenly-minded Jesus with a heart for others.
Jesus also took to private prayer. Luke tells us that He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed (Luke 5:16). And in Mark’s Gospel, we see Jesus rising early in the morning and going to a secluded place to pray (Mark 1:35). Routinely, Jesus would escape the demands of daily life to find solitude with His Father.
Today, we might refer to this as a time to reboot. Time alone with God enabled the man in Jesus to refresh His spirit and regroup His thoughts. He knew the importance of being still before God and developed a heart that believed “not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42 NKJV).
Furthermore, great riches lie on the other side of secret prayer. Recall those “rewards” Jesus referred to in Matthew 6:6. These treasures exist. They are displayed in a more intimate relationship with God (1 Corinthians 2:9), godly wisdom (Proverbs. 8:11), and the joy of seeing answered prayers that significantly impact the course of human life (Luke 22:42). Great battles have been fought in secret on the knees of godly people: Moses, Hannah, Nehemiah, Peter, Paul . . . and you!
So, what we see here is the importance of both public and private prayers. The real key with public prayers is the heart of the person praying. What are you doing it for? Who are you doing it for? Are you doing it to be praised like the people Jesus admonished in Matthew 6? Or are you doing it like Jesus did . . . 1) to the Father, for His glory, and 2) for the benefit of your hearers?
You see Jesus doing this often. One such example is John 11:41–42 (NIV), where He prayed, ""Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me." Every time Jesus prayed publicly, it was always with this dual purpose, and so it should be with us . . . for honor and glory to God and so that the Holy Spirit may draw others to God through our prayer.
So, the next time you are compelled or asked to pray in public, check your heart, check your motives, and pray in private for the Spirit to work in your public prayer.
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