Sunday, February 8, 2015

Sunday Message for Christians who Believe in Public Prayer

Dear Conservative Christian,

Thank you for joining me a second week in a row, friend, for this special Sunday message. Last week we covered Matthew 25, and the moocher nation. Today, at the kindly suggestion of DailyKos user zenbassoon, we shall return to Matthew. This time, we'll open our Bibles to chapter 6.

The topic is the hypocrisy inherent to open displays of religiosity -- and, dear conservative reader, I must give you fair warning: you may be a little alarmed by what your dear Lord and Savior has to say on the matter.

1 Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.

2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:

4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

5 And 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. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.

Alright, I trust you've had sufficient opportunity to pick yourself up off the floor after that shock? Good. So, let's dive into the substance of this piece. What is Jesus saying?

Well, in a nutshell, that insisting on praying in public is hypocritical showmanship. Boasting about how charitable you are is too. The prayer rallies, the public prayers before meetings, the national days of prayer...all this religiosity in the public square, that conservatives insist must happen for the sake of our nation, is actually hypocritical and runs contrary to the will of God. People who do that do not actually garner God's good will. I mean, at least if you take the word of the radical speaking in Matthew 6 as truth (who was that guy again?).

The right way to pray is to do it in private, in seclusion, without audiences (and cameras and publicity). I know, that's disappointing...how can you show off just how much the Bible means to you, if you're forced to act like you believe it?! Still, according to the Bible, it's the people who pray in secret who can look forward to rewards from heaven; the hypocrites who have to show off as they pray are out of luck.

And that, beloved, is our Sunday message. Check back next week for another – and thanks to all who offered suggestions!

Have a wonderful day,
This humble atheist

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