By Bob Walters
A lamentable yet inescapable fact of modern life is that non-believers and non-sharers of faith forthrightly reject meaningful public prayer.
Just read the relentless, frequent, and predominantly faith-rejecting mainstream media commentary. Take your prayer life into a closet and stop annoying the rest of us while you’re making a fool of yourself praying to an invisible god, we are scolded. After all, it is piously (and ironically) claimed, Jesus said so.
Congregants in the prayer-bridling “commentariat” cite Jesus’s words in Matthew 6:6: “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.” Elsewhere Jesus instructs those He has healed or who have witnessed His miracles to “tell no one.” In His beautiful prayers at Gethsemane (John 17) before His arrest, trial and crucifixion, Jesus withdraws (Mark 14:32-35) to pray privately to His Father.
Hence, Go pray in private. Let’s examine that.
In Matthew 6:6, Jesus is adamantly telling the crowd not to pray as the hypocrites in the temples, who pridefully prayed loudly for their own glory, not reverently for God’s. Then, in Matthew 6:11, Jesus teaches the humble Lord’s Prayer, which begins with “Our Father” – note the plural, not singular, “Our” address of this most famous of prayers. We pray to be in relationship with God the Father through Christ our Lord in the Holy Spirit … and with each other. The entire Kingdom is involved. Even “private” prayer is a community thing.
Jesus’s mission on earth was to reveal and seal mankind’s salvation, not to trumpet that He was the Son of God. Jesus knew that His miracles could overshadow His mission: restoration of mankind’s divine fellowship, not temporal tricks and comfort. So He often said, “Don’t tell.” Jesus’s actions, example, teaching, life, death, resurrection – now joined with scripture, prayers and faith – are the only, and in my mind entirely sufficient, “proof” we have.
Yes, Jesus regularly prayed by Himself. But His primary instruction after His resurrection is in Matthew 28:19: “ … go and make disciples of all nations.” That is anything but an entreaty for exclusively private faith and prayer.
Even the smallest faith and prayer can grow into eternity. Why would anyone argue to keep that truth private?