In Jesus’ day, prayer had become a spectator sport. He criticized the “hypocrites” who tried to impress others with their public show of devotion. The word hypocrite was actually used for actors, who in that time wore masks. For many people today religious devotion is still a show. They’re trying to impress others with their piety rather than authentically bowing before the Lord. It was a show, a sham—a work of art, even—but it wasn’t true prayer. Those hypocrites got the applause they sought and nothing more. True prayer is an honest encounter with the living God. You’re not performing—for Him or anyone else. You’re just talking . . . and listening.
Sit in silence for several minutes, focusing on God, not on you. Yes, it’s hard to be quiet, but this is not about how good you are at meditation. You are not trying to succeed at devotions. You are just opening your heart to God.
God is continuing his good work in you, growing you, transforming you, helping you conform to the image of Jesus. So let Him point out the falsehoods. Do you pretend to be godlier than you are? Are you satisfied with a public image of religious devotion rather than actual devotion to the Lord of life? A word of caution: Sometimes we Christians pride ourselves on being humble. That can be just as much of an act as public oratory. Bare yourself before God. Put down your mask.
The Bible tells us that our good lives can be a beacon to others. But of course we are still sinners, and our lives are not always good. As a result, some of us make a terrible choice: we pretend. We assume we can still be a good testimony to others if we cover up our faults and pretend to be more righteous than we are. That is dangerous thinking. We live in a world of strugglers. People grapple with guilt, doubt, disappointment, fear, and frustration. They don’t need to see a carefully manicured portrayal of Christian life. They need to see a fellow struggler who authentically interacts with a real God. Take this time to talk with God about those people in your life. Is there anyone you need to be more honest with? How can you share the realities of your up-and-down life with such a person and be truly helpful?