“I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (1 Timothy 2:8)
Is public prayer wrong? Did Jesus teach against public prayer? Why did Jesus say to pray in your closet? Let’s take a look.
Jesus said, ”When thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men.”
The focus in our Bible reading is on hoping to “be seen of men,” not on praying publicly. Jesus is addressing the problems of hypocrisy and pride, which are common to the human heart. To combat this problem, we are to pray secretly rather than to pray publicly just to be seen of men. Jesus was not against praying in public or even others knowing what you are praying or when you are praying.
When the man Daniel, called “a man greatly beloved” by God, knelt to pray by his window facing Jerusalem, it was not to be seen of men. But obviously he was seen of men; otherwise, no one would have known of his petition to another King. After the king signed the decree, evil men watched to see if Daniel would pray next to the open window once again, and you know the rest of the story.
Jesus himself took three of his disciples with him to pray in the garden. The early church prayed together in public. Martyrs raised their holy hands in prayer and petition as they were being devoured by beasts.
No, Jesus was not against praying in public. He is against hypocrisy. He is against pride. The desire to “be seen of men” is still revolting to Him. Let us walk in the spirit of Jesus Christ with humility, meekness, and transparency.
~Harold R Troyer