Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, "God, I thank You that I am not like other men--extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess." And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, "God, be merciful to me a sinner!" - Luke 18:10-13.
Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. - James 5:16.
I have been spending a lot of time with my Dad the last few weeks and I have picked up another little pearl of wisdom from him. As we were driving over to see my Mother at the nursing home, we passed a house in the country, which had a nice white wooden rail fence around the edge of the property. The fence was made with three one by six boards in each section between the posts. I had driven by the fence many times and had always admired the way it looked. My Dad had a different thought about it. He said, pointing at the fence, "A fence like that is just for show - it doesn’t really serve any purpose."
Actually, I think the fence can serve a purpose although it might not be the best kind of fence to keep in cattle. Thinking about this I realized that people do many things "just for show," myself included. Jesus tells of the prayers of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. I have pictured the Pharisee as being surrounded by others when he begins to pray loudly, "God, I thank You that I am not like other men…." He brags by insinuating his higher level of holiness, brags of his fastings and his financial giving. You have to wonder if he really fasts, really tithes, and is really holier than the Tax Collector and others he mentions. Or, is all of the praying of the Pharisee - "just for show?" Or, if the Pharisee does try publicly to present a life that is holier, and actually does fast and pray - is it all "just for show?"
Public praying can be a challenging and it can be intimidating. Usually my public prayers are not like my private prayers; because when I am praying privately, my prayers are more like a conversation. The temptation with public prayers is to pray "just for show." Meaning that we would pray thinking of what others would think we ought to pray about or to in some way impress someone else.
We can carry this thought even further to how we present ourselves to our brothers and sisters in Christ. James indicates that we ought to be open with our fellow Christians about our "trespasses." Revealing our trespasses, i.e. our sins to others will also reveal our own lack of perfection and automatically drop us to the level of the Tax Collector (Which is where we all are anyway.). The temptation is to present a front of everything being perfect in our lives when the truth is that everyone knows that no one is perfect (Except for our Lord Jesus - Romans 3:23; Hebrews 4:15). This persistence in keeping up a front of perfection "just for show" is perhaps the greatest obstacle to true Christian fellowship.