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Self-Interest Versus God-Interest

In Matthew 6:5-8 NLT, Jesus is warning about motives again. We should practice God-interest, not self-interest. What does God want us to say? What or who does God want us to be concerned about? Don't pray or act to impress others.

Jesus told the crowd in this part of His sermon, “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. When you pray, don’t babble on and on as the Gentiles (also written as 'people of other religions') do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!"

Jesus isn't telling us we should never pray in public. He's saying we can be our authentic selves when we're alone with God. For myself, I also get a metaphorical message from this - to search my heart (a very private place that God knows better than anyone else) making sure my motives are right before I approach God in prayer. And then when we are asked to pray in public or need to pray in public, we should do it with humility; we should do it to honor God and not ourselves - not to be seen as pious. He knows authentic from a performance. So, if asked to pray in public, remember to pray to God and not to impress those who are listening.

These religious leaders Jesus was referring to prayed publicly so others would see them as righteous. It was an act. These weren't heartfelt prayers. And their chants (repeating words again and again) were mere words they repeated for their audience (people walking by as the religious leaders who were standing on the street corners). 

That being said, there's nothing wrong in asking God for something on a regular basis when our motives are in alignment with His will. Obviously, we won't get a million dollars dropped in our laps or we won't shed 20 pounds simply because we asked for it over and over again. Because money is often idolized and will draw you away from God. And some of the things we want, like weight loss, requires work from ourselves. We can ask Him, though, to give us the willpower and His strength to lose the weight we need to lose or to help us figure out how to get out of debt. 

God-interest
image courtesy of Hannah Busing via Unsplash

Pray with patience, especially if God's answers to your prayers seem to be taking longer than you want them to. Always remember that God knows what's best for us - not only what we need but when we need it. So, waiting is part of the process. And we should accept, "No," when God doesn't want us to have what we're asking for. We need to trust Him whichever the case may be.

That's all for today. We'll continue this prayer conversation in our next Red Letter discussion.

Praying God will bless you,

Patricia

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