R posted a video declaring, Do agree you should be allowed to pray wherever you are? Never let anyone tell you not to pray… No matter where you are! Do you agree?
The video that showed various groups of people praying in public and making a very big show of it, in some cases being sure that there were television cameras recording their actions.
I responded: “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Matthew 6:5-6
He replied: Guess this means we don't pray together Sunday's in church, hey Jim????
Me: I think Jesus meant to make an exception for praying in the synagogue. But you should ask him that question. I'm just quoting him.
That ended the exchange, but I have been thinking about it in the days that have passed. It's actually a very good question. I think it needs to be explored further; so I have done so and here is what I have concluded:
By combining Matthew 6:5-6, which refers to the public show of prayer, with other passages, the meaning becomes quite clear.
9And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. 11The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 12I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. 13And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. 14I tell you, this man went down to his house justified ratherthan the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
This is clear enough. Ask yourself if you are praying to make sure that everyone, including God, knows what a great prayer and wonderful person you are or are you praying sincerely to God? It's a question of the target. Is your prayer a communion with God or bragging to your audience?
This is true whether you are praying in the privacy of your chamber or in the temple.
Or, to put it another way, don't let anyone tell you you can't pray anywhere you want anyway you want, not even Jesus!
Although the first portion of the Matthew verse I've already quoted does not directly refer to prayer, it does refer to doing things privately not publicly. I believe this is relevant.
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
I believe that this indicates that it is not so much the privacy that is so important as is the sincerity. You should avoid public displays not because they are inherently offensive but because of very serious temptation to show off, to brag, to seek self justification, to seek worldly rewards rather than sincere communion with God.
I conclude that sharing prayer with your fellow believers during services may be good or bad, depending upon your intent. Sincere humility and love of God are pleasing to God. Shows and displays displease God. Even internal bragging and self justification displease God.
In short, motive is everything and God knows your motive.
This is why I try not to make a great show of public prayer. As I have noted in earlier posts, I require myself to pray whenever I hear a siren. I am often out in public when I hear one. Keeping in mind my feelings about the subject, I try not to pray too obviously. Not being a completely orthodox Catholic (American and European Catholics frequently aren't) doesn't preclude me from using the sign of the cross when I pray. In public I try to do it in a subtle manner with very small gestures which are unlikely to be noticed by those around me. If I feel I am too closely observed, I make the sign of the cross in my mind rather than as actual physical gestures, simply holding my hand up near my face as if being thoughtful. This permits me to meet this religious obligation without making a public show of it.
Contrast this with examples like those of Mr. Tebow, who makes a great show as he prays in front of millions, and I think it's easy to see why I am suspicious of his motivations. Then look at members of Congress who obviously exchange public prayer for votes...