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Matthew 6:6 (NIV) says:

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Does this mean that prayer should only be performed in private? If so, why do christians pray collectively in churches and at other gatherings?

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closed as off-topic by fredsbend, curiousdannii, Bear in a Studebaker, bruised reed, ShemSeger May 7 at 19:10

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6 Answers 6

up vote 19 down vote accepted

A bit of context (Matthew 6:5-6):

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

It's primarily instructing us to not pray for the intent of showing people that we're praying, as hypocrites do ("see, I'm praying! look how good I am!"). It instead tells us to do what you can to keep it unobtrusive, and if possible, secret.

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I think it might be 2nd Opinions chapter 7, but I'm not sure. –  The Preacher Sep 1 '11 at 23:07
genuine and being sincere in our prayers –  r3s3arch3r777 Oct 24 '11 at 16:37
Adding to this a little bit: God wants to hear from you all the time, so it would make no sense to discourage His children from talking to him in public. That being said if you are praying to be seen, just like if you're doing charity work just so people will see you, your prayer will not be heard. It's all about intention –  mascaliente May 3 at 18:41

There are some denominations that take that verse quite literally. The Quakers I believe are one faith that doesn't even pray together in their worship meetings. I've heard horror stories of faithful Christian children being practically run out of small towns for refusing to participate in "optional" public school prayers.

Others will tell you that this is just saying that you should be praying for the right reasons, and the letter of the verse can be completely ignored.

I found a good and relatively neutral discussion of the subject at ReligousTolerance. They do point out that generally in the Bible when it says Jesus was praying he was either off alone doing it, or it is ambiguous.

Personally, I think I come down more on the side of the former than the latter. If you feel you can kneel down and pray in public without a thought in your head towards the reaction this activity will bring out of others, then go for it. I personally don't have that much confidence in the purity of my own motives, so I only do it in private or at the designated times during worship.

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As the other answer says, if you read the preceding you may understand the context a bit more. To answer your question more directly, however, let me refer to Matthew 18:19-20

19 Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them. (NKJV)

How could humans agree on what to ask for, if not talking about it? If verse 19 were taken out of context, one could argue that we could agree on what to pray about before actually praying, and then have everyone go their separate ways and pray in private. However, note that verse 20 starts with "For..." which explains why agreeing on something is important.

Check out how The Message reads:

18-20 Take this most seriously: A yes on earth is yes in heaven; a no on earth is no in heaven. What you say to one another is eternal. I mean this. When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action. And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I'll be there.

Now, I'm not sure if these two verses alone are the entire basis for corporate worship and prayer, but it does give us the idea about praying together at least.

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There are very few (if any) examples in the Bible where Jesus explicitly prays out loud. There are times when he will pray in public (e.g. giving thanks to God before feeding the 5,000), but it doesn't explicitly say this was done out loud. In fact, most of the times we see Jesus praying is when he removes himself from the group of disciples.

One argument people often use in favor of public prayer is that the Lord's prayer is spoken from the first-person plural perspective (i.e. "we", "our"). However as it's translated into English at least, the "we" pronoun is vague as to whether it means:

  1. "Me and you" (which would indicate a more public prayer), or
  2. "Me and the rest of human kind" (which could be more consistent with a more private prayer acknowledging our connection and responsibility for other people).

I personally prefer to think of it as the latter interpretation. If prayer is indeed intended to be both private and silent, then it is free of the barriers of language such as vagueness and context. It is a direct conduit of your thoughts to God uninhibited by the clumsiness of words.

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This is a good first post. It is well thought and refers to Scripture. Welcome to the site. We are always happy to have new people. We are a bit different than other sites so please see the help center and tour pages. Look around too at the newer content and see what we typically prefer. –  fredsbend Jul 19 '13 at 19:00

Praying is one of the most beautiful thing a person can do, especially a Christian. When we pray we show God how much we need Him and how close we are to Him. God knows our hearts and minds. However, that doesn't mean we shouldn't pray to God. Rather we are alone or with a group of people. Now, praying is a Christian value and therefore it should be apart of our everyday lives. When we don't pray we get weaker, therefore, the enemy have room to come into our space and draw us from the Creator. We don't want that. We ought to pray unceasingly, also, giving thanks to the Lord for everything. Without the Lord we are breathless and cause us to be in need of help.

Praying publicly can nor make or brake a Christian. God will not be upset with our action because Jesus loves when we pray. But, we ought to be careful of our motives. Are we praying for attention and fame? Or, are we praying to make known to others we are spiritual? Repeatedly, God knows our hearts and minds. Whatever we say or think God knows before stated. Therefore praying shouldn't be a public practice. Praying is between God and the individual, not men or anyone else. However, if you are at a friend's house or in church that's different. Lastly, it's really up to the individual, if you aren't sure about this issue pray and ask God to help you decide, and let the Holy spirit guide you. Bye.

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Welcome to C.SE. When you get the chance, please check out our tour and specifically How we are different than other sites. This is a good pastoral answer, but not a great academic one. If you could reference this answer as if you were answering an academic rather than giving good pastoral advice, it would fit better on the site. –  Affable Geek Jan 26 at 18:53

It plainly reads prayer should be personal and private. There is no mention of prayer in public and your intentions. That interpretation is from man and churches who want to flaunt but state they are not.

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But what does 'private' and 'public' mean? Should we never even pray in church? –  curiousdannii May 4 at 3:06

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