5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
Jesus provides us here with instruction on personal prayer. Like the whole sermon from Jesus, it tells us how to respond to his saving work for us. It also teaches us why we need that saving work; we can never live up to the standards of our God.
There are three important matters Jesus brings to our attention. The first is that personal prayer is not a spectator sport with each of us striving for the reputation of prayer champion. Second, he tells us that personal prayer is a private matter between us and our God. The Lord calls on us to remember whom we address in prayer and to recognise that he knows all things. The prayer is not to provide him with information, it is, in a unique way, to engage in a conversation with him. Third, with the right understanding of what we are doing, we are to pray by speaking in a normal way. It is no time for repeating a formula or just bombarding him with pious sounding words. He wants a sincere expression of thoughts from the one he loves.
Private prayer is hard and best learned by humbly doing.