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Archive for January 9th, 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr. Tebow’s discussions of his faith and Christianity, John 3:16 under his eyes and public prayer on the field has been all over the media.  I think his public witness has to be distinguished from the ‘tebowing’, the mocking reference to his praying, that is personal praying which the Lord has some pointed things to teach (along with alms-giving and fasting):

 1“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven… 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. 6But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (St. Matthew 6)

Now giving one’s witness in a press interview and John 3:16 under his eyes is his option as an American with 1st Amendment rights (and personally I think it is great to stick it to the rather anti-religious media), and so is praying.  But in terms of what the Lord teaches about praying, especially personal prayer, He has a stern caution for those whom He has called when personal praying is seen by others as we just read in His Sermon on the Mountain.

First:  I think it is important to make a distinction between two forms of praying. 

  • There is praying together as the Church in public which is our part of our vocation of as His Church, His Body.
  • There is praying individually, or in private, which is also part of the Lord’s vocation and command to pray.  Our Lord makes an important distinction about private praying:  it is private and not to be seen by “men”.

Such personal public praying, as done by Mr. Tebow, is obviously done on the rather immense “street corners” of national media. There is a great spiritual danger in such displays of personal public praying for the person so praying and our Lord is quite explicit: he has his reward.  He is showing us his piety and so has his reward.  But the true and only reward of prayer is the Lord.  The Lord is our reward.  Go your room.  Shut the door.  The only eyes watching that count are His and He delights that His sons and daughters pray and talk with Him.

Seeing a person so individually praying in public results in one of two responses: “I’m not a good person like he is, I’m no good” or “Boy, I want to be a good person like he is and I will”.  The result is despair or pride.   But notice:   Who’s missing?  What prompted this posting was something I heard on the Today Show this morning after the Denver Broncos upset victory over the Steelers, the reporter, Natalie Morales said, “I guess we are all Tebow believers now.”  I took that to mean: believing in Timothy Tebow.  The Lord is missing.  The issue of prayer is God not the one praying and an individual taking private prayer public does not engender the true issue of prayer: the Lord. Instead, as the Lord said, that man has already received his reward. Again:  The only eyes watching that count are His and He delights that His sons and daughters pray and talk with Him.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer commenting on the cited text from Matthew regarding alms giving: “The Pharisee who rendered thanks to God for his own good deed (Luke 18: read here a touchdown: not in Bonhoeffer!) was still the man who lived in the knowledge of good and evil…the situation is clear: knowing of Jesus a man can no longer know of his own goodness, and knowing of his own goodness he can no longer know of Jesus.” Praying private prayer in public shows forth my good deed for others and I do not want to know of Jesus Christ alone, but  MY spirituality, for even my spirituality and  my “goodness” is redeemed in Him alone and becomes no longer the issue.  The issue is Jesus Christ alone.

Now the spiritual danger for us watching such a public display of private prayer, to be seen by men, is, yes, we see it.  And despair over our own spiritual lacks can quickly turn into disdain and even hatred of the one misusing private prayer.  We can become a kind of Pharisee in this:  “Oh, I’m glad I’m not that holy-roller!”  And the feelings become worse and it’s devilish. And so pray, Lead us not into temptation and deliver us from the evil one.

Mr. Tebow looks like the Thinker by Rodin!  Yes, such displays of private prayer in public (BTW:  this goes for every tele-evangelist who so prays in front of a camera) makes one think about personal prayer. And I hope and pray that we all go to our rooms,  shut the door and seek the Kingdom and  your Father who is secret will reward you with the greatest gift possible in prayer:  Himself.

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