Did Jesus Teach Us To Pray In Public?

All over the world, you see Christians pray in large groups in public areas. But, I don’t recall that Jesus ever taught us to pray in public. Did he? Let’s examine this.

I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.

1 Timothy 2:8

In October of 2014, the Williamson County school board in Tennessee considered changing their moment of silence to public prayer. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has declared that prayers at school board meetings are unconstitutional – “the practice of opening each school board meeting with a prayer has the primary effect of endorsing religion.” Although I have nothing against prayer, I’m not at all certain that Jesus would approve. Let’s look at a few verses from Jesus himself.

Jesus Said Not To Practice Your Righteousness In Front Of Others

In Matthew 6:1 he says “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” Although this verse doesn’t explicitly talk about prayer, it appears to show that showing your piety in public is a no-no. And what Christian would want to take that chance of getting NO rewards from God?

Jesus’ Guidelines For Praying

Starting a few verses later at Matthew 6:6-13 Jesus specifically gives his guidelines for praying. To summarize, He says:

• Don’t pray in public like the hypocrites where you can be seen by others.
• Do pray in your room (closet in the KJV) with the door closed.
• When you pray, don’t babble on like the pagans. He doesn’t like a lot of words.
• This is how you should pray (what we know as the Lord’s Prayer).

“But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

Matthew 6:6

This Is How You Should Pray – Or Else!

The feeding of the 5,000 shows Jesus blessing the food in public. When He raised Lazarus Jesus looked up to heaven and gave thanks. But when Jesus wanted to pray, He always goes by himself to pray in private. He never tells people to bow or to raise their hands or to place their hands together. He never tells anyone to get on their knees or to lay hands on anyone. He simply says to go into a private place and say a few words as stated in Matthew 6:9-13. He is quoted as saying, “This, then, is how you should pray.” He doesn’t say that this is an optional way or alternative way of praying, but “how you should pray” or else.

So, the next time you decide to downplay Jesus’ instructions think of the rewards that you’ll be missing out on. Who knows what those rewards are – He doesn’t say. I can only imagine. In my case, it would be a great cup of coffee! Time to get in line for another cup.

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