People who are uncomfortable praying in public tend to love Matthew 6:6 because Jesus advocates praying in secret. However, Christ’s point was not our location but our attitude. His admonition wasn’t to avoid public prayer; rather, it was a warning not to pray hypocritically by seeking the approval of others.
We may be quick to think we’d never do that, but in reality, corporate prayer can be intimidating to many believers. We wonder how we sound to others: Did I say the right things? What did they think when I stumbled on my words? Was my prayer too long? Too short?
Generally, our problem is less about trying to impress others with our eloquence and spirituality than it is about feeling self-conscious, tongue-tied, and inept. However, if our focus is on how we sound, we may still be praying like a hypocrite because all we can think about is ourselves and other people’s perception of us. Although we may not admit it, we want their approval.
But the Lord never calls us out for being inarticulate or using bad grammar. He’s listening to the motivation of our spirit. How well we speak doesn’t matter if we’re truly talking to Him and not other people. When our focus is on God, His Spirit unites with ours, and those who hear are drawn into that sweet communion.
The solution for hypocrisy is not abstinence from all public prayer. Whether we pray in a closet or in an auditorium filled with people, we must remember that we’re speaking to an audience of one, and He delights in hearing from His children.