5 “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Matthew 6:5–6, NKJV).
Why do you pray? The Lord knows the reasons and motives of our prayers; He is the One who “knows the hearts of all” (Acts 1:24). Jesus knew many people pray so others will view them as religious and pious. They choose conspicuous places to petition heaven’s throne. Their desire (to be seen by men), once achieved, is their only reward. Citizens of the kingdom of heaven understand prayer to be intimate communication with their heavenly Father. It is a time to pour out thanks, adoration, petitions, and pleas to the throne of grace (Heb. 4:16). There we find the divine assurance of mercy, solace, and peace. Our Father is in private places. He sees, hears, and openly rewards our humble prayers (Phil. 4:6-7). Prayer is not a ritual; it is a retreat to commune with our Father. Keep pure motives when you pray. God sees the purpose of our prayers, so seek His approval when praying to Him. Remember, it is God who answers our prayers, not people. So pray to be seen by your heavenly Father.
But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, “Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? (Mark 2:8, NKJV)
Do you have a secret? Only you know what it is (you’re sure of that!). Oh, but you would be mistaken. The Lord Jesus already knows your secret. He knows what’s in your heart. He even knows the motives, intentions, and reasonings that are going on in your head as you work out how to conceal your secret. These men “reasoned in their hearts” that Jesus was a blasphemer because He told the paralytic man, “Son, your sins are forgiven” (Mk. 2:5-7). Jesus knew what they were saying to themselves in their hearts. And, the Lord knows what is going on in our hearts, too. When all is said and done, He will judge our both our hearts and our deeds. “I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings” (Jer. 17:10; 2 Cor. 5:10). What is in our hearts drives our words and our actions. By purifying our hearts and cleansing our conduct we are able to draw near to God and have His blessed presence in our lives. James wrote, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (Jas. 4:8). We must remember that God will judge “every secret thing” according to the gospel (Eccl. 12:14; Rom. 2:16).
12 Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. 13 Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; Let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and I shall be innocent of great transgression. (Psalm 19:12–13, NKJV)
It is vital we understand our transgressions so we can repent, be forgiven, and guard against continuing to practice them. God’s word identifies our sins, converts the soul, enlightens our eyes, warns us against iniquity, and assures reward to those who keep His commands (Psa. 19:7-11). God’s word helps us avoid “secret faults.” By learning His truth we are helped to perceive sins otherwise hidden from our consciousness. Furthermore, we are warned not to try to hide our sins, because secret sins are not secret to God (Psa. 90:8). “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Num. 32:23). Understanding our errors through God’s word also protects us from “presumptuous sins.” Willful, high-handed sin is tantamount to rebellion against God (Deut. 1:43). David did not want sin to rule him, either by hiding it or by arrogantly committing it. His desire was to be blameless (upright) and innocent, cleansed by God of his transgressions. Similarly, Christians must not be ruled by sin (Rom. 6:12-15). We died to sin when we were baptized into Christ’s death (Rom. 6:3-4). If Christians continue to practice sin, whether by hiding it or by arrogantly rebelling against God’s will, the result will be eternal death (Rom. 6:1-2, 21-23).
Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king’s house. And from the roof he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold. (2 Samuel 11:2, NKJV)
Solitude is not necessarily conducive to godliness. Isolation can give rise to temptations of the flesh. King David should have been leading his army on the field of battle. Instead, he stayed behind in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 11:1). Restless and alone, he went to the cool of the roof and saw the beautiful wife of Uriah. This was not a mere glance; David gazed upon her, inspected and gave attention to her beauty while she bathed. He lusted after her, inquired about her, and took her into the bed of adultery, then murdered her husband (2 Samuel 11:3-17). We must never let down our guard against sin’s temptations. Sins of the flesh often begin in the secrecy of darkness (John 3:19-20; 1 Thessalonians 5:5-8). Pornography and all manner of sexual immorality thrive when people are alone (or think they are alone). Private sins never escape God’s attention. God saw what David did (2 Samuel 11:27; Hebrews 4:13). If you are struggling with private sins, hold yourself accountable to someone you can call on for help. Pray for God’s help (Hebrews 4:16). Get busy doing God’s work. Don’t isolate yourself and give the devil a place to exploit. Build a wall of protection around your heart. If you have already yielded to sin, you can repent and be forgiven. David did, and God forgave him (Psalm 32:3-5).