FAITHFUL WORDS Dr. Kenneth L. Faught A Father who wants us to pray “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men….” (Matthew 6:5). Jesus gave us a Model Prayer, but even before he did that he reminded us that we have a heavenly Father who wants us to pray. How do we know God wants to hear our prayers? To begin with, Jesus said, “When you pray.” Jesus did not specify a particular time for prayer. The Jews observed regular times of prayer throughout the day. In Christian monasteries regular hours of prayer are observed, beginning at 3 A.M.! Many Christians pray upon awakening, before meals, and at bedtime. Often we find ourselves praying when we face crises or important decisions. The apostle Paul advises us to “pray without ceasing.” Prayer is such a personal thing. There is no time when and no place where we cannot pray. Jesus also tells us what not to do when we pray. He warned us not to be like the hypocrites, no doubt observing the Pharisees who liked to make long, showy, public prayers. Don’t “act” like you’re praying – really pray! Don’t “show-off”, but humble yourself and seek God’s will and way. He also warns us not to use vain/empty repetitions like the pagans. While Jesus is not prohibiting the reciting of prayers, like The Lord’s Prayer, he is steering us away from any tendency toward mindless, empty, meaningless ritual. Jesus further tells us what to do when we pray. He said, “Go to your room and shut the door.” He was describing the “prayer closet”, a private place where we can eliminate external distractions and deal with internal distractions. It might be a bedroom, an office, a garden, a patio, or a den. He is reemphasizing our need to “pray privately.” Again, while he is not offering a prohibition against all public praying, as in church, he is reminding that public prayer is no substitute for private conversations with God. Jesus teaches us that we should opt for the long-term pay-off in prayer, praying not for public applause but for God’s approval and blessing. What do you hope to gain by your prayers? Dr. Faught is Pastor of The LaFollette United Methodist Church.