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.
7 And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do.For they think that they will be heard for their many words.
8 “Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.
vain repetitions (v.7) = babbling, speaking without thinking
openly (v.6) — this probably belongs here, although it doesn’t appear in some manuscripts
The issue here is obviously motive. The Lord was telling the Jews that if they pray to impress others, the regard of others is all the reward they could expect to receive. But I also think that He’s telling them to pray in secret so others don’t think they’re praying to impress people.
My commentaries hastened to add that the Lord wasn’t forbidding public prayer, just public prayer with the wrong motives. This is something I’ve often wondered about. There are examples in Scripture of believers praying together, but are there examples of the sort of public prayers so common today in which one person takes requests and then prays publicly on the behalf of the others? I’m not aware of any.
And as with giving in the previous verses, under the law people prayed and God responded with rewards, or blessings. Under grace, we pray in response to who we already are and what we already have in Christ. Prayer will result in spiritual blessings — peace, wisdom, patience — but as a means to tap into things we already have access to in Christ.