“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites.” (Matt. 6:5)

IN 2004 THE ACTOR CHRISTIAN BALE played the character of Trevor Reznik in The Machinist. Reznik was haunted by insomnia and his physique had been whittled down to skin and bone. To prepare for the role, Bale starved himself to lose pounds so his body would fit that character. The actor went from 184 pounds to 121 pounds in four months. Bale is not the only actor in recent history to go to extreme measures to prepare his body and mind for a role. That’s what actors do—they pretend to be someone else. Good actors make us forget who they really are and convince the audience that they really are the characters they portray.

The word hypocrite is derived from a Greek word related to acting. While the crowds in Jesus’ day applauded their flashy leaders for their religious performances, Jesus realized that they were merely performing, pretending to be someone else. Jesus reminded them that worship and prayer are not a show for the crowd and that public acting is a total reversal of what God truly wants from us. True prayer, Jesus taught, comes straight from the heart. It has to be sincere to count with God. That’s why He said to pray in secret, behind closed doors. We have no one to impress but God.

The next time you pray in public, focus on speaking to God.

Jarod Osborne is the lead pastor of Warsaw Wesleyan Church. He is also the author of Jaded Faith (WPH).

© 2017 Wesleyan Publishing House. Reprinted from Light from the Word. Used by permission.