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)
No, this is not an excuse for anyone to attend “Mt. Pillow Temple of Rest Worship Center” (I borrowed this from my friend and frat brother Dr. Christopher Wyckoff) or “Bedside Baptist Church” Sunday morning. Except for illness, inclement weather, lack of transportation, work schedule, or some other legitimate reason; I believe every Christian should attend worship somewhere on the Lord’s Day! If you had issues with a church that didn’t do right by you, pick another church. If you are away from home, chances are there is some church of your denomination or faith within driving distance. If you belong to a faith that frowns upon going to a different church and you know your’re going to be out of town and it is absolutely not feasible to go anywhere else but where your host is going to, talk with your minister ahead of time. But, a nonchalant attitude towards gathering with the saints together before God is inexcusable! For the church’s first 300 years, Christians risked being thrown to the lions and having their heads chopped off for meeting in catacombs. Christian slaves in America had to risk being discovered and beaten going to their “hush arbors.” Ethiopian and Eastern European Christians faced prison and torture when discovered worshiping in secret when communist ruled those countries as in China as we speak . And today, our brothers and sisters in Egypt, Syria, and other nations are coming together in churches that were bombed and gutted by fire by Muslims who have a skewed interpretation of their faith. And you are going to sit your mentally and physically healthy behind at home because “I don’t feel like going to church; I can read my Bible and pray at home; the church is full of hypocrites?” Staying away from church when you are capable of attending and calling yourself “Christian” makes you just as much of a hypocrite as the hypocrites who are in church.
But, is going to church and religious conferences supposed to be the highlight of our faith? Though being a devout Jew and attending regular synagogue worship, Jesus declares that the greatest and most instrumental place one is to pray and spend time with God is in his own home and room. Worship in this place removes the element of hypocrisy as you are alone with no one to put on airs in front of. There is no one in the pulpit in front of you nor the pews among you to impress with or pressure you into acting holy. It is when we are one-on-one with God that we are able to wrestle with and overcome our sins. Notice that Jesus overcame Satan and committed Himself to the crucifixion not among the multitude that he taught on a mountain top nor in a synagogue. No, He was alone in the wilderness. Now, if you have a personal wilderness to go to, go ahead and do that. But, we all have a room in our homes we can go to. So, Go home.
Go home into your room and shut the door. The living room is where special guest are entertained. The family room is where loved ones enjoy TV and games. You have a cup of coffee with a neighbor in the kitchen. Any one can see and hear you in these places. Not everyone is allowed in your room. And when you shut the door behind you, you have created a place where you can show and say any and everything you want to before God. There are somethings you might not want to say and show in front of company, neighbors, or even family. There are things about all of us that we ought to be discrete about. It is not wise to tell everybody your business. Nor is it wise to deceive yourself that you don’t have any issues to bring before God. It doesn’t take a Ph.D to have that kind of wisdom. Discretion is common sense. And even in those traditions where confessions are made before a priest or minister, what good is it to practice the public sacrament without seeking God in private for His direct holy solution? And even if you can speak in tongues and interpret everyone else’s, what good is it if you don’t talk to God and hear from Him for yourself by yourself? And sure, you can feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, visit the sick and imprisoned. As Christians, we are supposed to do these things. But, what good is it to meet the physical needs of others and ignore your spiritual needs? You should keep doing the one without ignoring the other. So, go home.
God rewards those who come to Him in prayer at home. Of course Christians should come to Sunday morning worship. It is good for believers to attend various conferences, convocations, and the like. We ought to meet brothers and sisters from other places, exchange ideas, and hear from and be inspired by other speakers. But, trying to sell these events as the greatest thing we can ever attend is over-reaching. Chances are that if one church group has a conference that will “take you to the next level,” some other group will have a convocation that will “birth you to a new breakthrough.” While churches, denominations, and fellowships of all stripes bombard the faithful with slick advertisements of “life changing” gatherings; Jesus directs us to the most significant place to meet God and promises that if we do so as He directs, we will receive far more than tote bags and wrist bands that we can show to the folks back home. Go home to your room and closed the door. The Father in heaven may give a few glimpses of Himself in the convention centers. But, the Father IS in the secret place. He who comes to Him in secret will be openly rewarded. Attend a conference if you can. Attend Sunday worship as you should. But, in the words of Public Enemy, don’t believe the hype about how “The Anointed Voices of the Rem-ah Mass Choir, The Shabbach Praise Team, and Fire Baptized Agape Preached Word from First Presiding Prelate His Holiness Apostle Bishop Pookie Pook will give you an Overflowing Shondo Birthed Blessing that will Take You To The Next Level!” Go to church. Go to a conference. Do good to those who are less fortunate. Go home to your room and pray as instructed.