Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father in the Heavens.
Thus when you give alms, don't sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly I say to you, they've received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret; so [only] your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they've received their reward. When you pray, go into your room and shut the door to pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.
In praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, thinking they will be heard better if they use many words. Don't be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.
In Rabbinic Judaism they make the same distinction, except that they do consider a public gift for personal glory to be better than no donation at all.
Quakers may make too much of a virtue of such reticence, in that often you don't find out what a Friend has been doing until they've died and stopped doing it.
Especially in the case of prayer, I would rather hear it more often -- because I've only known one occasion when one of the older members prayed in Meeting; and by that point the group had wandered far into despair over the crummy State of the World. It isn't so much that we'd need some person to 'lead us in prayer' as that we really need to know there's at least one person present knows the presence of God and knows Who to petition for redress. Great length, putting words in our mouths (or God's) is a flaw, but so is lack of faith. Prayer, like any Message, would need to be something a person is moved by God to say -- but the example and the expectation that we can potentially be inspired to this might help a lot sometimes.
I've come to the conclusion that if a long prayer isn't for purposes of self-promotion it's too build up our faith by quoting all the scriptures that promise God will answer prayer. Personally having been guilty of both types of lengthy petitions I have found most of my prayers that have been answered were of the short variety, such as "Help".
Yeah! The Help prayer! I do notice that sometimes when praying alone in my spot by the river, talking aloud about an issue, sometimes primes the pump, and tells me what to pray about in greater detail, as also giving me direction as to what my present attitude and action should be, and also calls me to notice where I have gone astray, in attitude and action. So, in being alone, sometimes a great deal of detail comes to mind, and also many times, the issue that I thought I was in prayer about, recedes and another issue comes forth.
I have recently recovered from a long period of doubt about whether there is a person G-d. I will not go into the philosophical details. I will only say that finding out about my Jewish heritage seemed to shake my head up a bit, and loosen the philosophical distance I was experiencing, and caused me to remember, without intellectualizing, the Presence of G-d. Forgive me if I am still a bit confused. When talking from a Jewish context I tend to write G-d just out of respect for that deeply held tradition, but then on Quakerquaker I sill sometimes put the O back in. Nevertheless. . . my burden feels so much lighter these days.
It seems to me I'm always doing the 'Help!' prayer -- Maybe only implicitly, but tomorrow I'm off to the dentist, and that adds a certain urgency I'd usually rather not think about too much.
That is, in the scale of life itself this is a pretty minor occasion -- and I know that God will do what's best.
So what I'm really worried about seems to be: "What if I don't like that!"