“They Love to Stand and Pray”
It is possible for a person praying a public prayer to offer encouragement to others; when we pray with each other and before each other as an expression of our common faith and of our community identity we can encourage each other.
It is possible for a person praying a public prayer to offer edification to others; when someone prays publicly as a way to help others learn how to pray, beneficial education can be shared, particularly when the spirit and attitude of the one leading in prayer is genuine and humble.
But it is also possible, as Jesus points out, for a person praying a public prayer to seek exaltation for herself or for himself; given the way that we are, it is possible for that self-centered motive to be present in us even when our conscious purpose in praying in public is to offer encouragement or edification—our ego might be seeking exaltation whether or not we set out to do so.
So Lord, teach us to pray. And when we are called upon for any reason to pray in public, remind us that in our prayer we are talking to you and not to anyone else, that we should be careful how we pray because even though we are not talking to the others who are present they are nonetheless listening, and that while it is possible that others might somehow benefit from the prayer they hear us pray, we are in no way and at no time to pray so that they might hear us and somehow be impressed with our piety or spirituality.
Help us in our praying to want to be—and to be—genuine but not impressive.
“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.” (Matthew 6:5)