By Vexen Crabtree 2016
In Matthew 6:5-6 Jesus says you should pray in private so that others cannot see, behind closed doors, in secret and not in public. All four gospels describe Jesus as practicing what he preached: always praying in private or sometimes just amongst the disciples. Matthew also says that Jesus instructed that prayer not be repetitious, with 'much speaking' 'as the heathens do'. The criticism is made many times of those who bring attention to their own prayers: Prayer should be private. These instructions occur in no less than 18 places in the New Testament. Christians who make vocal their prayers for others are rebelling against God's wishes, as are those who prayer in repetitive chants or routines, something which is fairly common in Christian liturgy in most of Christendom.
There are many more versus about praying in the Bible. The author of Timothy urges that Christian men "in every place" pray for other people (1 Timothy 2:1,8). According to Jesus if Christians have just a tiny bit of faith, their prayers will come true, including such miracles as moving mountains and trees. For an example from each gospel, see Matthew 17:20, Mark 11:24-25 , Luke 17:6 and John 14:14. Critics do not have to do much work to find that these verses seem to be untrue. They are contradicted by the infamous unforgivable sin of 1 John 5:16, wherein it says that there is no point praying for others to cease committing deadly sins. There are contradictions and absurdities in what the Bible says about prayer. Not only that, but as God acts perfectly, it seems that prayer cannot change anything in the world: God is already going to save the sick, remove a cancer and end poverty. This is why in 1 John 5:14 it says God only listens if we ask what is already in accordance with its will. To pray is to doubt god's perfect choice of action. Forgetting that God is all-knowing, Philippians 4:6 says you should let all wants be known to God, in prayer. The 100 verses that describe prayer are relatively incoherent, and most don't reflect Christian practices today.
Matthew 6:5-6 lays out some rules about praying. It says that you should pray in private, "but thou when thou pray, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut the door, pray to thy father in secret, and thy father which seeth in secret shall reward thee".
Christians are to pray in private, with their room door closed. Matthew implies that Christians do this because Christians trust that God knows their secrets, and rewards their trust in it. Matthew precedes this with a description of how hypocrites pray in public where other people can see them praying, "that they may be seen". Praying to God in order to appear good is a way of wearing the "good guy badge" to gain social esteem - a term Satanists use to ridicule self-serving behaviours of white light religionists.
Many Christian scholars and, most of all, most Christians plainly and simply ignore these instructions1. They pray in public, for display, on television and in the media. How ironic is it that a Christian prays in public, displaying their affiliation to God, yet they ignore the instructions they believe their God has sent them? They are rebelling against God, whilst pretending to be serving it!
“The three passages, with their obvious formal similarity framed into the same speech, show that Jesus considered prayer, almsgiving and fasting as being matter between God and man, and that these actions should be performed without witness. He does not only tell his disciples what not to do, he says quite explicitly what he expects them to do.”
Reynolds goes on to point that Matthew did not merely write down Jesus' teachings, he also wrote down his actions. And not only Matthew, either, but Mark, Luke and John all have Jesus pray exclusively away from the public. "We read that 'he left them', 'he departed', 'he went a little further', 'withdrew himself' to pray (Matthew 26:39, 26:42, 26:44; Mark 1:35, 6:46, 14:32, 14:34-35, 14:39; Luke 5:16, 6:12, 22:41). He also prayed, not publicly, but in the presence of his disciples in John 11:41-42, 12:27-28 and 17:1-26"2.
One story, not involving Jesus, is told by the author of Acts of the Apostles. Peter and John "went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour", but they specifically did not pray. They disrupted the Jewish prayers (by doing a good deed) and preached briefly to the people of the nation of Israel. Read it in Acts chapter 3 to 4:4. This act of not praying with others reinforces that authors of the Bible envisioned Christians praying privately, not in groups.
The Bible says to devote yourself to prayer (Colossians 4:2) and "pray continually" (1 Thessalonians 5:17) even if you are married (1 Corinthians 7:5). Forgetting that God is all-knowing, Philippians 4:6 says you should let all wants be known to God, in prayer. Sometimes, the business of prayer in more important than leadership or direct action; in Acts 6:1-6 the Christian community is said to be threatened by the Grecians because of the growth of Christianity. "The twelve" got together and spent their time praying, leaving this matter to others to solve.
When praying you must be imaginative and not waffle on too much, because:
“But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions as the heathens [nations] do. For they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking”
“Jubilantly, Protestant theologians use this injunction as a stick to beat the Roman Catholic with. The endless litanies of the Catholic ritual, the rosary repetitions, the prayers recited as penance - all these practices are condemned by these words of Jesus.”
John 15:7 says that if Jesus' words remain within a Christian, then, his prayers will come true. Likewise, 1 John 5:14-15 is also very hopeful - God will listen as long as you have confidence in him. More versus that clarify when it is that a prayer will come true; it requires that you ask in the name of Jesus, and that you have a tiny bit of faith equivalent to the size of a mustard seed.
“Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”
Matthew 21:21-22 (NIV)
Given the amount of praying Christians in the world, it seems that surely by now all diseases would be cured, all hatred gone, all people would be converted to Christianity, and God's will would be done everywhere. Clearly, either Christians are not praying for these types of things, or, prayers are not actually coming true after all. Some might say that because the verse above says if you have faith and if you 'do not doubt', then all of us imperfect humans have some doubt and therefore prayers don't come true. But multiple versus state that all you have to do is ask - it doesn't say that the bar is placed particularly highly so that this is difficult or impossible for the average Christian. All four of the gospels in the New Testament tell exactly the same story:
“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
Mark 11:24-25 (NIV)
“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”
“[Jesus said:] You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”
Matthew 18:19-20 says that wherever two or more Christians gather, Jesus will be in their midst, granting whatever they wish for. In fact, the Bible says that you only require the smallest amount of faith for your prayers to come true:
“He replied, "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you.”
Luke 17:6 (NIV)
“... if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
Current edition: 2016 Apr 23
Originally published 2005 Mar 224
Parent page: Christianity
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The Bible (NIV). The NIV is the best translation for accuracy whilst maintaining readability. Multiple authors, a compendium of multiple previously published books. I prefer to take quotes from the NIV but where I quote the Bible en masse I must quote from the KJV because it is not copyrighted, whilst the NIV is. Book Review.