“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”
Jesus now turned to the practice of prayer.
“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites.
A hypocrite produces an outward show that does not represent what he is inwardly. He pretends to be something that he is not. Praying for the purpose of public notice violates genuine spirituality.
For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men.
Religious leaders loved to pray in public in order to gain approbation from men.
Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.
Praying to gain attention from men has its own reward but not reward from God. The Greek says that they are paid in full. They receive their reward on earth in time.
The “you” here is emphatic, making it a strong contrast to the prayer of religious leaders.
when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place;
A person who executes true prayer without an ulterior motive does it privately. He addresses prayer to the Father and does not pray with the consciousness of people listening to his prayer.
The issue here is not public prayer per se but ostentatious public prayer. Jesus Himself gave thanks for food before multitudes. The point is motivation for prayer.
and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.
God rewards genuine prayer. He knows the motives of our hearts and rewards us accordingly. He will miss no point of reward. This reward may be the reward of answered prayer.
This is not a prohibition of public prayer. There is a place for public prayer (Ac 2:42; 12:12; 13:3; 14:23; 20:36; 27:35;1 Ti 2:1f). However, even in public prayer, prayer should be addressed to God and not with the foremost consciousness of the listening audience.
But “he who glories, let him glory in the Lord.” For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends. 2 Co 10:17-18
There is nothing genuine in ostentatious prayer.
Prayer is not for the purpose of calling attention to self by public exhibition. Public prayer is proper if done with the right motives.