SHOULD WE PRAY IN PUBLIC?

Well Jesus says that we should not. (Mat 6:6 NIV)  But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. It is a command that is not obeyed by anyone.

We read accounts in the Bible where Jesus told someone not to do something, such as the leprous man in Mark (1:40-45) and they did it anyway. We say to ourselves that we would not do something that Jesus forbid and yet we pray in public.

We are told what the results were when the man that was healed disobeyed Jesus. It didn’t hurt the man, but it did impede the mission of Jesus. (As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places.)

It seems to me that praying in public has the same result. It doesn’t hurt us, but it can impede the “Great Commission”.

Suppose someone who is not a believer visits a Church and the congregation prays for the healing of someone. The unbeliever doesn’t have any faith in God. He doesn’t realize that God is in control and that God might not grant the congregation’s request. If he comes again the next Sunday he may think that if God will not grant the passionate prayers of the whole congregation then there is no God, or no God that he wants anything to do with.

I have a hard time praying about anyone’s health, even in private. I do because I do not like it when anyone suffers (especially me), however it might be God’s will. I know that God knows everything, so God knows who is sick. He doesn’t need me to tell Him.

Every time I pray about someone’s healing I remember the account of Hezekiah. When God told him it was time to die he threw a fit and prayed that God would not take his life and God granted his request. Hezekiah was a good example until he did not accept the will of God, but after that he sinned greatly. God sometimes grants requests that are not in His will so be careful what you ask for.

I view prayer as a private conversation between me and God. It is only what I have to say to Him as He has said everything to me that He wants me to know, through the Bible.

I do not include praise and thanks as prayer. I believe God should be praised and thanked in public and that is the only kind of prayer (if you consider it as prayer) that should be public.

I’m not trying to make waves, I am only trying to explain my understanding of why Jesus said do not pray in public.

13 Responses to SHOULD WE PRAY IN PUBLIC?

  1. peacefulone says:

    Blessings and Love to you. I just want to say that many interpret this as an illustration of the point of not being “showy” when you pray. Trying to make it obvious that you are praying outwardly. So that means we’ve got to interpret the GReek or the Hebrew Word for
    publicly.” THe Message Bible Interprets it and makes it more clear:

    Matthew 6
    The World Is Not a Stage
    1 “Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t applauding. 2-4″When you do something for someone else, don’t call attention to yourself. You’ve seen them in action, I’m sure—’playactors’ I call them— treating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds. They get applause, true, but that’s all they get. When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. Just do it—quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out. (end of passage)

    Anyone who is concerned about being “seen” praying; may have lost the focus on God. Our focus must always be with our hearts and our minds.

    I am so thankful that you addressed this. It helped me and I may address it on my Prayer Blog. Blessings E

  2. astudent says:

    peacefulone,
    Thanks for the comment. You have helped me also as it made me think more on the subject.
    I am aware that the general consensus of the meaning of the verse is only based on Matthew 6:5. However there are a few problems if that is the only meaning accepted.
    First, if anyone obeys the specific instructions in verse 6 there can be no public prayer. This bothered me when I would hear a minister pray in public. I know most prayers are made to honestly help someone, however Jesus said pray in secret so that is how one should pray. Second, I don’t understand how a public prayer can result in helping someone when verse 6 says, “Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” A public prayer is not done in secret.
    I have been witness to physical healing when a congregation prayed for it, but I wonder if there isn’t some sin, or sins that have resulted because of it. If Hezekiah had not prayed for life (against the will of God) then he would not have showed all of the treasures of Judah to the Babylonians and Manasseh would not have been born. Sin always hurts others and it was a sin for Hezekiah to ask God not to take his life, though I am sure it didn’t seem so to Hezekiah.
    It seems as though we are always looking for a reason that some verse, or verses doesn’t apply to us. These are verses where we have convinced ourselves that it is a good thing to do, (pray in public) but it can not be done if obeying Jesus and trusting God are our main goals.

  3. james says:

    god answers prayers in 3 ways…. yes, no or wait and see. its pretty common, my cat answers prayers in the same way.

  4. astudent says:

    Aw, come on James, there has never been a cat that said yes to anything except “Do you want to eat”.
    Seriously though I use to think the same way, but now I have thoughts such as “Why did you ask that” and “Don’t you know that I already know that”. It is considered wrong to answer a question with a question, but I believe God does and I believe those thoughts are from God and not from me. Jesus often started a conversation with a question even though He already knew the answer.
    Something like, “James why are you praying to your cat?”

  5. A Hendrix says:

    We give thanks to God in prayer:
    Philippians 4:6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

    Praising Him: “…Hallowed be thy name…”Luke 11:2
    Psalms 42:4 When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me: for I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday.

    “Come ye who are heavy laden and I will give ye rest” We come to Him with our troubles in prayer:
    Psalms 62:8 Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us.

    Praying together as true worship (not as show as the “hypocrites”):
    2 Chronicles 30:27 Then the priests the Levites arose and blessed the people: and their voice was heard, and their prayer came up to his holy dwelling place, even unto heaven.

    Pray for one another:
    James 5:16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

    I believe public prayer is acceptable for purposes of worship/communication with God, not worldly attenton like the scribes and Pharisees as Jesus described:
    Matthew 18:20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

    David prayed publicly praising God:
    1 Chronicles 29:10-19 Wherefore David blessed the LORD before all the congregation: and David said, Blessed be thou, LORD God of Israel our father, for ever and ever. Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all. Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name. But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? for all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee.

    Good luck with your walk ;)

  6. A Hendrix says:

    After studying, I have noticed too that all “public” prayer in the Bible was done during worship (in a temple,with other believers, etc) and not out “on the street corner”. I have never prayed outloud on a street corner for everyone to walk by and hear (nor would I ever consider it), and so had never thought about whether it would be “right” or not, but I do believe it would NOT be after reading the scriptures. There is no fruitful purpose for a Christian to ever do that (or stand on a street corner holding signs). Thank you for bringing this to my attention.

  7. astudent says:

    A Hendrix,
    You have an open mind. It takes one to learn because some things that seem obviously right are sometimes not. These thoughts about praying have caused me to rethink if we are supposed to pray about physical healing at all. I will publish another post when I am reasonably sure of my doubts. I don’t think it would be wrong to praise and or thank God anywhere, even on a street corner. I don’t consider that as prayer. I wouldn’t do it because the unbelievers wouldn’t understand. David was chastised by his wife for such a display and I think most people would make the same mistake as David’s wife did. Because I believe it would cause others to make a mistake it would be wrong for me to do it. However, I would not condemn anyone else for doing it. However the only street corner ministries that I have heard are those telling others they are going to hell. You can see that I agree with you I don’t think there would be any fruitful purpose in it.

  8. Jake says:

    I think this from James answers your question of public prayer, as in during worship, as well as your other post about praying for the sick!

    13Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.

    14Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:

    15And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.

    16Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

    It is clear that we are to pray for one another and in the presence of other people in the church.
    This is also part of the edification process that comes about as a result of fellowshipping with other believers.

    Love in Christ Jesus
    Jake

  9. astudent says:

    Jake,
    Thanks for the comments and thoughts.
    It seems to me that these verses (James 5:13-16) are speaking of spiritual sickness, not physical. In 13 the word afflicted could mean many things (The NIV says “in trouble”) and in 14 the word sick could be taken either way, spiritual or physical, but the result of the prayer is the sick are saved. If prayers and anointing with oil healed physical illness there would be a line to the door. As I understand it there is no line because most of those who are spiritually sick do not want to be healed. Just as a side bar, I believe that the oil is symbolic of wisdom and knowledge.
    There is a difference between the elders of the Church and the whole Church praying about something. As I said anyone may be in the pews and it may discourage them if they do not yet believe. To me it becomes a matter of which is more important, the physical health of someone who has turned to the Lord or the spiritual health of someone who has not and I see danger for them in public prayer.
    There is a verse that must be reconciled with any verse that one would think approves of public prayer and that verse is Matthew 6:6. Jesus was specific about going somewhere that is private. If praying like the hypocrites was the only consideration it seems to me there would have been no reason for the verses. Jesus could have just said don’t be a hypocrite. The verses (Matthew 6:5-13) are about prayer and how to pray and they say do it in secret.

  10. hannah says:

    I do pray for my friends and their families and their health, but not in terms of ‘please make them better’, so much as ‘please let my friends feel and accept your will’. I have friends who are desperately trying to have a baby. I pray fro them every Sunday. I pray that they will find peace and that God will grant them the patience they need and let them see his will. Maybe they aren’t supposed to have biological children, maybe they should foster or adopt or volunteer in children’s charities. It is not for me to know these things. But, I do pray that God helps them to see his way and that they can accept his will. I do not feel like this is selfish, as I’m not saying ‘god, please give them a baby’. in regards to prayer in public; I agree that prayer in a public venue such as temple or church is different than praying in a public place, such as a restaurant or school.

  11. astudent says:

    Hanna,

    Wow, you really have a good understanding of prayer. It truly is God’s will that should be first and foremost in our prayers and not what we want, or think should be.
    Many people would pray over and over that God would give the couple a child, but your approach is about as perfect as I can imagine. As you said we cannot know everything, perhaps if the couple were to have a child that child would not accept Jesus. It would be better not to bring a child into life that would only live the first life.
    I am only pointing out one possibility, but there are many and only God knows them so it is God’s will in the matter that is more important than ours and it is God’s will that should be stressed.
    Perhaps that is what bothers me when I here prayers that ask God for something. Tacked on at the end of the request it is said, “But your will be done” when it should be the main part of the prayer and any request should be tacked on at the end.
    It is said that I am too critical and it may be true. I am so critical that I am critical that others are not as critical. I have tried to find some error in your comment and I have failed. Hallelujah, I do love it when I fail.
    Thanks for the comment.

  12. alma holley says:

    The most important thing to do is to pray and allow God into your heart. When and where is of less importantce.

  13. astudent says:

    alma holley,

    I agree that where and when is less important if you are speaking from a selfish position. We all usually think of anything from a point of view as how important it is to us, but if you think about prayer as doing what God wants then it is very important that we do not pray in public. God said not to pray in public. Instead of trying to justify our own feelings about prayer I believe we should honor God by doing what He wants, whether we agree or not. That is not to minimize the importunateness of prayer as God says pray always.
    I view prayer as speaking directly to God and I would not eavesdrop on someone else and I would not like someone eavesdropping on my conversations either.
    Because God knows our thoughts it is possible to pray in public and yet pray in secret.

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