Scripture: Matthew 6:5 CEB
“When you pray, don’t be like hypocrites. They love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners so that people will see them. I assure you, that’s the only reward they’ll get.”
The pomp and circumstance is almost always predictable. The attendees are dressed to the hilt in way too expensive clothes and wearing way too expensive jewelry. A lot of the times the clothes and jewelry are on loan from the designer. The smiles are big and the poses held while dozens of cameras click and flash. The scene is all preparation for an even bigger event being held inside some big, fancy theater or auditorium. To a certain degree it is just surreal. These elaborate awards ceremonies honor actors, directors, editors, sound effects, digital effects, wardrobe designers, cinematographers, set designers, musicians, entertainers, songwriters, producers, and the list goes on. More recently event sports have entered the fray with the ESPYs. We love to watch the big celebrations for these awards; it’s quite a show for everyone to see.
In the award shows mentioned above, the winner will head home with an Emmy, Tony, Oscar, ESPY, Grammy, or an AMA. They also will receive the accolades of the awarding body and the adoring public. There is an increased amount of attention and fame that goes along with winning as well. The issue with this all is that it is a fleeting recognition. Can you recall the actor who won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 2014 in the next five seconds? Neither can I. All the very expensive glitz and glamor is for one night. All the accolades last for a time. The reward, or award, received for being the winner is more of a show than anything. Yet, people work very hard for the honor. It is something very desired in whichever field the award is the pinnacle of recognition. It is great theater.
There were a group of religious leaders in the time of Jesus who would have loved these award ceremonies. The Pharisees and the Sadducees loved to be looked up to and seen. They would wear fancy outfits and pray fancy prayers. Jesus said they did this “in the synagogues and on the street corners so that people will see them.” They were seen for sure and some people truly thought that was what it was all about. Just like some people may think the awards ceremonies are what acting, singing, playing are all about. Of course, we know that there are many great entertainers and athletes who become the best in their discipline because they love it; then the accolades follow. But Jesus is saying to be weary of those religious leaders who are seeking attention and accolades for themselves. They are doing it for the wrong reason. The accolades of human beings will be the only reward they will receive.
Jesus goes on to say, in verse six, that it is better to pray to God in solitude. It is best to meet in private with God and reveal the desires of our heart and listen for what God desires for us. When we do this our reward is eternal. This type of prayer keeps us focused on building God’s kingdom and not our own. Today make time to spend in private, your prayer room, with God. Seek no other reward than those sacred moments with God. Then go out and serve others, sharing the love, grace, and mercy of Christ humbly. Do all of this without seeking recognition or praise. In this, Jesus will be glorified and his love will be made real.
Prayer: Lord, Jesus, I want to spend time in prayer with you today. Guide me through your Holy Spirit to see the ways I can serve and not the ways I may be served. May everything I think, do, and say bring all honor, glory, and praise to you God. May my life point people to you today. In the name of Jesus. Amen.