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We can sometimes get so centered on the obvious in reading and studying scripture that we miss the main point of it altogether. Jesus is not condemning public prayer here. He is condemning the REASON for which the Pharisees' are doing it. They are doing it to gain the praise of men. They are in essence praying out loud so that onlookers can see them and say "Wow he is a spiritual/Godly man"... This is what Jesus is condemning we are not suppose to pray with an ulterior motive of gaining praise from others.
Jesus did not condemn praying loud at all. What He focused our attention was on 'why' and 'how' we should pray. If it is to show others that we are 'holier than thou' then this is what He had to say: 'And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full (Matthew 6:5)'. This reward refers to the 'holy and pious image' they would have created among the men who saw them pray. The second issue is 'what' the prayer is about. Jesus referred to a parable where a Pharisee and a tax collector went to pray. "The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God I thank you that I am not like other men - robbers, evildoers, adulterers - or even this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get'. But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me a sinner'. If we examine this example, the Pharisee was praying quietly but the tax collector, by beating his chest, would have been making a public display of his praying. However, in the Pharisee's case, even if he had done all those things that were laid by the law, he wasn't asking for anything. Instead he was really making judgements about himself (favourable) and about the tax collector (unfavourable) and TELLING God of the judgments he had already made. It was a statement of arrogance, not a prayer. That is why Jesus commented about the tax collector, even though he was loud, of being the righteous one. 'I tell you this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God (Luke 18:10-14)". The question is not about loudness, public display or quietness, but about the reasons for our praying. We are addressing God the Almighty, who created all of us. Instead of asking for His forgiveness for our sins or/and seeking his favour, all though His grace, if we do anything else for any other reason i.e. other intentions, whether loudly or in quiet, then we are not praying. In the case of the tax collector he was beating his chest for his sins but he was repenting and not doing it for any other reason. That is why the purpose of why we pray is so important and that it turns into how we pray. A prayer is where we are asking our creator for forgiveness for departing from his ways or/and seeking help, all through His grace. When we pray we have to be in unison with Him (I struggle with it sometimes as my mind drifts into other things while I pray) with no other intentions. It has to be a a single humbling exercise on our part for we are the product of creation and not the creator. 'For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled and anyone who humbles himself will be exalted (Luke 18: 14)'.
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