Don’t Pray Like a Pharisee
By Joe McKeever
“And when you pray, you are not to be as the hypocrites… Therefore, do not be like them…” (Matthew 6:8).
If you expect to be the next generation of hypocrites, you need to give me your full attention. The old Pharisees will be passing off the scene before long, and we’ll need a new class of the double-minded–you know, the play-actors–ready to step up and fill their ranks.
Tongue firmly planted in cheek now, everyone? All right. Let us proceed…
It’s not easy being a hypocrite. Praying like a hypocrite–the Pharisaical model–is not for the weak of heart. Only the top 10 percent of the class will be able to meet the stringent requirements. Consider, for example…
First – A Pharisee must be able to pray effectively in public (Matthew 6:5).
He does it in public because that’s the whole point: to impress people.
Second – A Pharisee piles up flowery words and pet phrases which mean little but sound mighty impressive (Matthew 6:7).
Now, we’re not sure if God is impressed by high-sounding rhetoric. But one thing we know for sure: most people are.
Third – A Pharisee measures the effectiveness of his prayers in several ways, but mostly by the length.
Pharisees think they will be heard “for their many words.” (Matthew 6:7)
Once you have mastered the art of impressive prayer language, you will soon be able to string together massive amounts of this filler. Eventually, you will be able to boast about all the time you spend in prayer.
Fourth – A Pharisee calls attention to his achievements and faithfulness in prayer.
Here’s how it’s done: “O Lord, how we thank Thee that I was able to finish my doctoral work last semester. Thank you, Lord, for my new book which is being published next week, and for the acclaim it’s already receiving from critics. And how we praise Thee, Father, for the lovely new car we were able to purchase since I received the raise in salary. How great Thou art, O Lord. It’s such a joy, therefore, to tithe our income to Thee and give beyond the tithe…”
Finally – A good Pharisee will find occasion to belittle other people in his prayer (Luke 18:11-12).
“Lord, I thank Thee that I am not like other people. They’re swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector…”
So, How We Should Really Pray?
This is just so much foolishness, of course. No one should want to pray meaningless prayers. It’s the faithful prayer of the righteous which goes straight into Heaven and is welcomed at the Throne by the Father. Let us pray with faith to a loving Father through His Son our Savior the Lord Jesus.
Let us get serious about prayer. After all, a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways and should expect nothing in prayer. Perhaps we should begin by praying, “Unite my heart to fear Thy name,” from Psalm 86:11.