Religious Pride and Deception 13.

Jeremiah 8:8 “How can you say, ‘We are wise, And the law of the LORD is with us’? But behold, the lying pen of the scribes Has made it into a lie. 11 “They heal the brokenness of the daughter of My people superficially, Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ But there is no peace.

Matthew 6:1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. 5 “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 6 “But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

The scribes and Pharisees were proud men and in that they had become proud of their religion and of their holiness. When an unconverted heart achieves a level of holiness that it thinks most others cannot attain to, it will be proud and insufferably proud at that. Thus, as with alms, the prayers of these men became a way for them to gain the attention and honor of men.

II Chronicles 7:14 gives us the proper order of prayer. 1. A person must be a child of God in order to truly pray. 2. A person must humble self in order to pray. 3. True prayer is a seeking of God’s presence (face). 4. True prayer is a humble person seeking the face of God and is also a person turning from his or her wicked ways. But the scribes and Pharisees were the exact opposite of this. 1. They were not children of God, but instead they were children of the devil. 2. They did not humble themselves to pray, but instead they were filled with pride as they “prayed.” 3. They did not seek the face of God in prayer, but instead they sought the attention and honor of men. 4. Instead of turning from their wicked ways, they were encouraged in them by their hypocritical “prayers.”

What is so clear from this is that the prayers of the scribes and Pharisees were nothing but acts of pride and self in seeking themselves. They were not praying to God, but instead they prayed to themselves: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.11 “The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 ‘I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get’” (Luke 18:10-12). The prayer that Jesus described in the text above (Matthew 6) is precisely that of men praying to themselves instead of God.

But surely that type of prayer has been exposed and no one is guilty of that today. Or perhaps it is more common today than in that day. We can pray wanting others to notice our theological acumen, our fervor, our knowledge of spiritual things, our humility, and our heart for God. When we “pray” and we are not seeking the face of God for the glory of God, we are seeking ourselves in prayer. When we pray, even for apparently spiritual things, we can simply want others to see how spiritual we are. We can pray wanting others to notice us for many reasons, but if we want the attention of others we are not seeking the face of God.

But our wicked hearts are so deceitful that we must be careful when we go into our closets. We can desire to go into our closets to pray and yet do so in an effort to be able to tell men about what we have done. We can go into our closets out of a secret pride and in an effort to show our self-righteousness to self and God. Since men are men, though that seems obvious, we can try to impress ourselves by our prayers rather than God. We might even be foolish enough to think that we can impress God with our prayers.

The heart of man is so deceitful and no one but God can show man the depths of his own heart. We should seek the Lord in poverty of spirit and a good sense of our inability and helplessness in prayer and ask Him for grace in order to pray. The natural heart cannot pray this way and neither can the regenerate heart truly pray apart from Christ and apart from Christ. We have no sufficiency of our own to pray or do any spiritual activity in the slightest. We must have grace to do any spiritual activity as we can only do what we do from the flesh or from the strength of grace. True prayer must be moved by grace and out of love for God. True love for God can only come from God.

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