Joyce and I had a little baby who became critically ill, and there in the corridor of that hospital I dropped to my knees to pray. I didn’t care who saw me; I wasn’t praying to be seen of men.
Jesus is not opposed to public prayer at all. What Jesus is opposed to is praying to be seen of men. He said, “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.”
It’s like the story I heard one day of a young lawyer waiting for his first client. He hears someone walking down the hallway and thinks “Ah ha, perhaps this is a client that I can impress.” So he picks up the phone and pretends to be talking to someone on the other end.
He says, “Yes. No. I’m sorry, I cannot see you tomorrow. I have a heavy corporate case. If you will talk to my appointment secretary, I may be able to help you. I’m very busy. Thank you, sir. Goodbye.” By the time he hangs up, the person walking down the hallway appears and he says to him, “Now sir, what may I do for you?” The man replies, “Well, I’m from the telephone company. I came to hook up your telephone.”
Now, that’s the kind of prayer our Lord is talking about: when there is nobody on the other end of the line. We’re just simply praying to be seen and heard of men.
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