“When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you." Matthew 6:5-6 (NLT)
We have such a tendency to skim over texts we know well and not read them like we are reading for the first time. I am certainly guilty of this. But today, something different caught my eye. The word reward. It shows up in two places.
The first place is in verse five where it says that if you are praying not to connect with God but to get attention that will be your one and only reward. People will notice you and you will be praised for your many, eloquent words but that is where the fulfillment will end. Just thinking about that sounds like such a letdown. It will be short-lived and hollow.
The second place the word is used is in verse six where it says if you go off by yourself, have a one-on-one with God, just you and him he will reward you. There is no show. You don't have to have a lot of fancy words. You don't have to appear to have it all together (let's face it....he knows we don't have it all together). You just have to be you. You can be as open and honest as you want. You can spew your hurts, frustrations and disappointments and shout out your praise. This is about the connection; this is about the relationship. And no one will know except the one that counts.
The reward you get? You get some one-on-one time with the King of the Universe. You get to be real (for maybe the only time that day). You get to shift your focus from the burdens you have to the God who can and does make a difference. And in those quiet moments you know you are loved.
I love the way The Message puts verse 6. "The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace."
Two behaviors. Two rewards. Two totally different outcomes. Which one will you choose?