MOTIVE

What is the motive behind your daily routine?

What is the motive behind your work performance?

What is the motive behind your spiritual disciplines?

What is motive?

What does Jesus in Matthew 6:5 have to say about motives and prayer?

Motive may be defined as something (such as a need or desire) that causes a person to act.

What is the motive at work in the following verse?

ESV  Matthew 6:5 “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.

The person speaking in the verse above is Jesus.

Jesus is instructing His followers to guard against practicing their spiritual disciplines to impress their fellow humans.

The practice of  praying publicly on street corners or even in religious spaces with the motive to show off in front of fellow humans is described by Jesus as hypocritical.

Consider the following definitions of the word hypocrite:

  1. A person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion
  2. A person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings

Jesus is saying that public praying should never be done from a motive of wanting to be seen by others.

Consider a passage from Luke where Jesus illustrates the above with a specific example:

ESV  Luke 18:10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

The Pharisee in the Luke passage is exalting themselves above the tax collector.

The tax collector humbles himself before the Lord and prays for mercy.

Jesus indicates the tax collector was justified and exalted by the Lord.

Jesus further indicates the Pharisee will not be justified nor exalted by the Lord.

Compare again our verse for today with the passage above:

ESV  Matthew 6:5 “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.

Jesus is saying that praying to exalt oneself for human recognition is hypocrisy.

The reward for such hypocrisy will not be given by the Lord but only by those who fall prey to the person’s falsehood.

What should our motive be then?

Our motive should be to honor the one to whom we are praying, not ourselves.

Reflection Questions:

  • How can remembering the proper motive in our praying impact our motives in other areas of our life?
  • What is the difference between humility and low self-esteem?
  • Did you notice Matthew 6:5 starts out with “and when you pray”?
  • Do you pray regularly?
  • Do you pray publicly or privately?
  • Why do you pray?

Leave a comment on the blog to generate some group discussion.

Email me at [email protected] if you have a private question.

We will continue our study on prayer in Matthew 6:6 next week.

Blessings,

Barbara Lynn

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