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The desire for praise from other people is a hard one to surrender. Social media constantly grabs at our hearts to post every part of our lives, the good, the bad, and the ugly if we want to be deemed “authentic.” Culture praises those who prioritize productivity and do good for all to see.

In Matthew 6, Jesus paints a different picture as He teaches His disciples the way of the Kingdom. He instructs them how to pray, fast, give to the needy, view money, and think about material things. Jesus calls the people of His Kingdom to not act like the Pharisees and hypocrites who act for the praise of others and live anxiously over the things of this temporal world. People of the Kingdom live differently, looking to their Father and eternity for their reward.

In verse six, Jesus teaches His disciples specifically how to pray. How is their prayer life supposed to look different from the hypocrites who stand in the synagogues? Jesus’ disciples are to pray to the Lord in their room with the door shut, seeking Him in secret. Now, I don’t believe this is Jesus saying He is against praying out loud with other people. Just like any other act of obedience, He simply cares about the motivation behind it. The heart motivation of prayer should be to seek the Lord alone.

Christ invites us into an intimate relationship with our Father when we are obedient to pray this way.

This type of obedience is the work of the secret heart that David prays for in Psalm 51:6 (ESV) when he says, “Behold you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.” What a beautiful reality that the Lord grants us wisdom as we seek Him alone, not concerned with the thoughts or praise of others watching us.

Growing up, I did everything I could to hide my sin out of a desire for people’s praise. How would people believe I was a good Christian girl if they knew I wasn’t perfect? Knowing verses like Matthew 6:6, that our God sees and rewards in secret, was terrifying for me. I was the hypocrite that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 6:1-5, who did the things of God that I might be praised and accepted by people. While I did love and believe in God, I wanted to make sure others knew that.

You might be thinking, “What an exhausting way to live,” and you would be right. You see, my issue was that I had a very shallow understanding of how good the gospel is for sinners like me. I was missing that, throughout all of Scripture, the Lord is concerned with a righteousness that starts on the inside.

Luke 5:15-16 shows us a picture of Christ living out His own command of praying to the Father in secret, but it does more than that. This picture of Christ offers rest and hope for the former Pharisee and hypocrite like myself. It reminds me of the sufficiency of Christ’s life. Every time I fail in living as a disciple of His Kingdom by seeking promotion, approval, adoration, or satisfaction from the world, I’m reminded that Christ didn’t! He made provision for my sin, not only in His death but also in His perfect life.

What about the reward that the Father gives in Matthew 6:6? The hypocrites who sound their trumpets in the streets have received their desired reward, the praise of others (Matt 6:2). The Father’s reward is far more beautiful because it’s Himself and His kingdom! As we turn away from the temptation to seek the praise of others, we are free to seek more of Him within the quietness of our heart.

Take some time to get alone with your Father and pray. Confess to Him areas of your life that are motivated by a desire for praise from others. Ask Him to reveal more of Himself to you and remind you of the gospel, that you might have greater intimacy and worship with Him.

 

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Week 2 Challenge:

Fasting is meant to empty our lives from distractions. But, for it to be effective, we must fill that emptiness with the things of God. This week, take time to intentionally fill the gap you have created with prayer, Scripture, seeking wisdom, being filled by the Holy Spirit, and asking God for boldness.

Week 2 Reading Plan:

Find it in your journal or on the LGG App!

Week 2 Memory Verse:

Memorize Scripture with us for Week 2 of our Lent Bible study for women!

Jenna Rea

Jenna Rea

Jenna finds it a joy to study God’s Word together with others. Recently married, she is pursuing a M.A. Theological Studies at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. She currently works for an amazing ministry called Scarlet Hope that exists to share the hope and love of Jesus with women in the adult entertainment industry.

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